Don’t Let Being a Broke Student Stop Your Travels
As college students, we are all trying to get by and have the absolute most fun possible while also spending the least amount of money possible. It’s the classic broke college student story. But, being a college student who cares about how much money you spend while studying abroad takes this game to a whole new level. It is no longer a matter of, “I’ll save money by not Ubering everywhere,” instead it is a question of “I’m traveling to Paris, Madrid and Rome this month, how do I do all of that and not come home with only a dime to my name?” It really is hard and truth be told, to study abroad you need to be prepared with your budget in advance, but there are some ways that I’ve learned to make that money last you a little longer and ensure that you’re still getting to take part in all the fun stuff you want to do.
I think the main thing I have learned from my time abroad is how much budgeting really helps. Keep track of your expenses monthly and then see what an average month should look like and stick to it, while also seeing areas where you could cut back a little. For me, that meant less pastries and coffee at the cafes I study at every afternoon. Keep track of how much each of your weekend trips cost, including flights, housing, and all added expenses. Try to keep the added expenses down to a minimum because you can still enjoy the city without paying tons of money for every museum and exhibit. For your weekend trips, I think the best way to go about added expenses is to bring only the amount of cash that you are willing to spend. I tried this out this weekend and I came home with 10 euros left over and I only used my debit card once. If you keep the idea in your mind that you only want to spend the cash you have on you, it will (hopefully) stop you from using your card and then losing track of how much money you spend. Handing someone actual money will remind you of how much you’re spending and keep you in check when you try to go overboard on the shopping.
In terms of actually planning your weekend trips, I think the best tip is to just check as many different websites and airlines as possible. I usually check Google Flights and Omio to compare and see which one offers the best flight. In terms of housing, hostels are the way to go! Or if you have a big group, an Airbnb could end up saving you more money. Perks to an Airbnb is that you can cook your own meals and save that extra money you would spend at restaurants. When I travel to big cities, I usually like to plan in advance which museums or locations I want to visit. That way, I know which places require that you pay to enter. My goal is to pick one or two big museums or sites in each city and only pay for those. It’s pretty easy to fill the rest of the weekend with free or low-cost activities, especially in big cities where there is so much stuff to do. So to give an idea, in Madrid go to El Prado, in Paris go to the Louvre, in Granada go to the Alhambra, and so on. Pick the popular must-see locations and buy your tickets in advance because you might save more money (and skip the lines) if you buy online. Also, always check for a student discount or for free entry on certain holidays. When I went to Bilbao, Spain, I got into the Guggenheim for free because it was their anniversary! Learn to work your weekend itinerary around what will save you the most money.
Flaunt what you got! By that I mean, make the most of the fact that you are most likely traveling in a big group. Group discounts are your best friend. Truly. Group discounts can be found in a lot of different places. When I traveled to Budapest, we got a deal on a shuttle to the airport that was cheaper for each extra person added in. Then in Morocco, we got deals while shopping because the price for a lot of products was cheaper in bulk, so we just bought a few of the items we wanted and then split them all up afterwards. Basically, what I’m saying is that you can use the group discount in a lot of ways. When shopping, especially in places where bargaining is common, try to get deals with your friends based on what you want. Use group discounts for transportation and for stuff like booking museums as well because if your group is big enough you could get a discount there as well. Also, when out at restaurants, sharing big family style dishes will save you more money than everyone just getting their own dish.
I think the key to saving money is save money on the weekdays in your host country and know how to strategically spend money during your weekend trips. I still have one month to go, so we’ll see how far these tips get me!