Top Tips for Saving Money while Abroad from IFSA-Butler Resident Office Staff

Studying abroad is a fantastic and exciting opportunity to move abroad, meet new people, explore a foreign academic system and engage in a foreign culture. However, studying abroad can also be expensive. Budgeting and money management are a concern for many students who are about to embark on a study abroad experience.  Below is list of top budgeting tips compiled by our experienced resident office staff across the globe. Have a look and see how you can make your money stretch further!

Dollars and Cents (Sense)!

  • Check your currency calculations and get a good feel for the conversion rate from the outset. There are many sites available, such as this one, for printing a cheat sheet.
  • Don’t go on a spending frenzy when you first arrive until you know the average price of items, the most cost effective places to eat and ideal modes of transport. You don’t want to blow your reserves in the first week on non-essentials!
  • Contact your bank at home in advance to find out what transaction fees and transfer fees will be charged to access your money from abroad. Ask your bank if they have a partner bank in your host country.
  • Opening a bank account in your host country is not always legally possible, but if you can it may cut down on bank charges you would incur by using your U.S. card. By opening an account in your host country you can transfer a specific amount of money from your U.S. account. This will help you keep track of spending.
  • Download a budget app (eg Expense Manager or Mint) to keep a track of your budget and actual amounts spent.


  • Try to find a supermarket to shop at rather than a convenience store.
  • Utilise local markets – farmers or artisan markets are very popular in many towns and cities. Buying local and in season is good for your pocket, the local economy and the environment!
  • Find out what the most cost effective local staple is e.g. rice, grain, potato and see how many different ways you can figure out to prepare it.
  • Always have your University ID card with you – even if it’s not advertised it’s always worth asking for a student discount!

Cooking at Home

  • Cook from scratch. Don’t always buy pre-packaged.
  • Ask your IFSA resident office staff for some cheap recipe ideas with ingredients they are familiar with and are easy to access. Some resident offices have put together a book of recipes so make sure you use them!
  • If you’re living with other people,ask if they want to go on a roster to take turns to prepare evening meals. Cooking one dish for five people is often cheaper than cooking five dishes for one person.
  • Know what your resources are and budget accordingly. Then remember to refer back to it and check regularly on your statements.

Out and About

  • Eating out is expensive, and if you stick to the main thoroughfares even more so! Try to find some gems off the tourist path and you might save yourself a bit of money.
  • Check out the tipping culture in your host country. It is not customary in many countries and will save you some money.
  • It might be legal for you to drink at a bar, but a night out having a few drinks could be better spent on a bus/train/plane ticket to visit a new town or city.


  • Plan ahead for trips and share expenses when you can. Not having an itinerary or leaving booking until the last minute can add significantly to the overall cost of a trip.
  • Utilise local knowledge. While it seems you can Google almost anything, talk to someone who lives locally for insider information.
  • Make use of clubs and societies on campus that organise trips either in or out of your host city (these can include tramping, wine appreciation, museum visits, etc.). University clubs can negotiate group discounts and will often arrange transport too! There may be a cost involved in joining these groups, so find out what this includes to determine if you will utilise the financial outlay to make it worth the money.

Most Importantly:

  • Attend IFSA-Butler events and activities. They are included in your program fee so you have already paid for them in advance. They are a great way to do something you may not have thought of on your own. They include food, and they are a great chance to connect with other students on the programme and, of course, IFSA-Butler Resident Staff!

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