STEP 3: Make Your Study Abroad Budget

Camille Cooley - Australia Underwater

STEP 3: Make Your Study Abroad Budget

You are on Step 3 of 5


Budgeting for Study Abroad

Financial planning is a critical step in preparing for your study abroad experience. In deciding if you can afford to study abroad, consider the following:

  • Determine Your Costs- How much money will you need, including the total program cost and your own personal expenses outside of the program budget?
  • Determine Your Resources- How much money will you have?
  • Create A Budget- How can you map out your expenses to ensure you have enough money for what you need? Download one of our fillable program budgets below to help guide you!
  • Manage Your Budget- How can you utilize a budget to save money, keep track of any financial gaps, and make study abroad an option?

Back to top


Determine Your Costs

The first step in budgeting for study abroad is to determine exactly how much your program will cost you. Consider not only the official program cost, which generally includes all expenses necessary for you to participate in the program, but also personal expenses not included in the program fees such as independent travel, gifts, souvenirs, shopping, phone, medicine, haircare, financial responsibilities at home like car insurance payments, etc. It may also be helpful to research how prices in your host country compare to those at home.

A sample list of personal expenses outside of official program costs can be found in the fillable budgets below. Be sure to add expenses to the budget that are specific to you. It is important to consider the difference between  a “want” and a “need.” How much money will you need for things like academic supplies (e.g., notebooks, pens, etc.) and financial responsibilities at home and how much money do you want to spend on shopping and travel?

Back to top


Determine Your Resources

The next step in financial planning for study abroad is to determine how you will pay for the program costs. Whether you’re using financial aid, scholarships, family contributions, or paying for the costs on your own, you need to know exactly how much money you will have available. If you receive financial aid (this includes any kind of state or federal loans) you can get a Financial Aid Estimate for your program to estimate and project your financial gap. After you determine your financial gap, you can begin to plan ways to supplement that gap through scholarships, personal savings, working, etc. Visit Tools to Afford Study Abroad to learn about other funding opportunities. 

Back to top


Create A Budget

Download and use the following fillable budgets to help you identify all of your participation costs depending on your program: 

We recommend you estimate high when calculating any variable and estimated expenses. It is better to have money left over than to fall short before the end of your program.

Back to top


Manage Your Budget

Once you have chosen your program, create a budget (or use our sample fillable budgets) and stick to it! If you receive a financial aid estimate, you can plug those numbers into your budget to see what leftover financial gap you have, taking into account your personal expenses outside of the official program cost. This will help you determine how many if any, scholarships to apply to, how much money you should save before your program, how many extra hours of work you need to complete to reach your financial goals, etc.

***Remember financial aid and scholarships only cover the official program cost, so you will need to find additional sources of funding to cover your personal costs and expenses. 

Back to top


Tips and Resources for Staying Within Your Budget While Abroad 

  • Check out the Ultimate Student Guide To Financing Your Life Abroad by Go Overseas.
  • Ask your bank if they have partners abroad, and what the ATM and credit card fees will be.
  • Use a credit card with a 0% foreign transaction fee.
  • Avoid unnecessary ATM fees. It is often a good idea to take out the maximum amount that you can at an ATM, which you can stash and use over a period of time (ATM fees can add up very quickly).
  • Stay updated on exchange rates. Exchange rates fluctuate often. Avoid falling victim to bad or unknown rates by getting the XE Currency App on your phone or visit www.xe.com to access current exchange rates.
  • Be conscious of your spending to determine if your purchases are “needs” or “wants.”
  • Take advantage of student discounts. Keep your student ID card with you and considering buying the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). As a student, you can often get discounts at museums, when buying train tickets, and at hostels. However, research beforehand if the ISIC card is useful in the country you will be going to.
  • Shop and eat where the locals do. Avoid purchases in areas that have high tourist traffic.
  • Buy your souvenirs and gifts at the end of your program. By that time, you will have a better idea of what the good souvenirs are and will know how much money you still have to spend.
  • Maintain a budget while abroad to ensure you are staying within the financial parameters of the budget you created before going abroad. Use weekly budgets to monitor the spending of your “needs” and “wants” to keep you on track.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle with you everywhere. In most countries outside the US, water is not free at restaurants and those $1 bottles will add up.
  • Cook for yourself (if and when you can). It’s always more economical—and healthier!
  • Find free fun. Many international cities offer free walking tours. Facebook and other social media platforms are also great tools for finding ways to explore your host city and country on a budget.

Back to top