Madrid Jacqui O'Bryan 2

Exchange on a Shoestring – budgeting tips!

Jacqueline – Exchange to Comillas University, Spain

Semester 2, 2016

So you are thinking about going on exchange? Or you have been accepted into exchange and just realised you have no money? Great! I am here to help!

One of the biggest setbacks in the decision to go on exchange is the money issue. I get it, I’ve been there. Having lived out of home to study in Melbourne I felt a bit better equipped to dealing with budgeting and living on a shoestring compared to those moving out for the first time when they go on exchange, so here are 5 tips on budgeting for the experience of a lifetime!

  1. If you are lucky your university will have provided you with various accommodation options, so once you have an average number times it by the amount of months you will be staying there.
  2. Does your accommodation include utilities (water, electricity, gas and internet)? If not, try and find the average price online for your destined country, or look at what you or your parents pay at home as a base point.
  3. Food! We all love food, and I can promise you it is the amount you spend on food which will surprise you the most. Some student accommodations will provide meals, but if that isn’t an option for you figure out how much you or your parents spend on food for a week at home and times that by however many weeks you plan on staying overseas. Also look up what an average meal out costs and what a coffee costs too. The first month is the hardest. I promise you will go way over budget, but so will all of your friends. So all put in a few dollars and have a group dinner, it is a lot more fun when you do it yourself.
  4. Clothes, shoes and accessories. The biggest question is, are you buying it before or are you buying it overseas? Before I left I went shopping crazy, only to realise I couldn’t fit everything in my suitcase. And honestly, I regret a lot of the things that I bought with me as well. My host country has everything I may need and at a cheaper price too. So pack the things you already own and budget for the things you think you may need, especially that winter coat, by looking at prices online.
  5. Doesn’t the cost of flights make you cringe? You have to get there somehow. Living overseas is one thing. Travelling while you are over there is a completely new ball game. Weekend trips are a must. And travelling before and/or after could also be a possibility. Try to figure out where exactly you want to go before you get there and look up prices when you are still at home. Try and organise your weekend trips so they fall at the beginning of your trip, I promise you once those assignments roll in you won’t have time to travel.

So add up all your expected expenses and see that unachievable total. It is all good though! Subtract your OS-HELP loan, ACU travel grant and add all your Centrelink payments together and then subtract that too, if you are lucky enough to receive all these things. Now this number is the one you need to achieve.

Now – work, hard.

Pick up shifts on the weekend so you don’t go out, the ruin bars in Budapest are better anyway.

Apply for every scholarship that comes your way, remember that Harry Potter world is a necessary expense.

Move back home if that is an option, free food and no rent, winning! Or start making your friends bring food when they stay the night at yours – real friends feed you.

Reality is better than Netflix and a new camera is better than a new phone.

You get used to the taste of instant coffee.

Cook extra for dinner so you can eat it for lunch too, home brand is the only brand.

There is a free gym outside, and inside if you’re crafty enough.

Clothes are to keep you warm, cool and covered and should only be replaced when your mum yells at you for wearing a shirt with a hole and then gives you money to replace it because you complain you are poor.

Realise you have saved a lot more money than you thought you would and book those extra dream trips for before and after your\ exchange.

Congratulations and good luck!