Emily – Exchange to the University of Heidelberg, Germany
Semester 2, 2016
Anyway you look at it, exchange is expensive. For most of us on exchange, visa conditions and study means working a part-time job is out of the question. So instead, you’ve spent months at home saving all your hard earned cash for the experience of a life time which, I can tell you, is well worth it. Nevertheless it can be very daunting to be in a foreign country, supporting yourself financially without working. While travelling Europe and living in my host city of Heidelberg, Germany, I’ve picked up a few pearls of wisdom about spending your pennies wisely.
My first tip is to plan out how you’re going to spend your money. It’s easy to look at your bank account and see all the money you’ve saved and think ‘there’s plenty in there, I’ve got lots to spend’. Realistically however, you have to make that money last for the five or six months that you’re away for. For me it’s been really helpful to set clear budgets — this is how much I have to spend each week, this is how much I have to spend on groceries and this is how much I can spend on extra travel. That way you set yourself limits on your spending.
My second tip is about buying groceries and cooking for yourself. While it’s tempting to spend a couple euro eating at McDonalds a couple nights a week, neither your body nor your wallet will thank you for it. Farmer’s markets run on the weekends in most cities and are a great place to pick up loads of fresh produce, often for much cheaper than in the supermarket. When you cook, make plenty extra and freeze the leftovers for lunches and dinners. That way when you’re tired, busy with classes or don’t feel like cooking, you can resist the urge to eat out and just heat up a home cooked meal.
My next tip is transport-related. Paying for public transport everyday can start to add up, so consider alternate methods for getting around. Walk as much as possible, or even buy a second-hand bike and cycle around your city. When travelling on the weekends take advantage of budget airlines to fly to your destination or, even better, consider taking one of the many long-distance coach services. Last week I took a bus from Belgium to Germany and it only cost me $30 AUD!
My last tip is actually about how you spend your money. It’s all well and good to save as much as you can and be thrifty while travelling, but if you’re paying hefty fees to convert your money then it’s all for nothing! Some banks are definitely better than others for travelling. I’ve found that Citibank is great because I can withdraw my money wherever I go without paying conversion or withdrawal fees. Spend the time researching the travel cards offered by different banks, it’s not fun but it’s definitely worth it.