Studying abroad can be ridiculously expensive. Aside from travel expenses and college application fees, your university expenses can add up as well. When you have to deal with grades, papers and culture shock on top of it all, cash isn’t exactly something you want to worry about.
Fortunately, it’s possible to keep expenses to a minimum. You don’t have to tighten your belt to the point that you asphyxiate yourself, but you do have to follow one – or all – of the these tips to set your international student budget for college:
Stash Some Cash Early On
Before you set foot on campus, it’s important to have a well-funded bank account already. You’ll need it for initial college expenses like school supplies, student organization fees and mandatory health insurance. Don’t forget to set up a separate bank account for emergencies, in case Murphy’s Law decides to exacerbate your money woes.
Unless you live with your parents, it’s cheaper to live on-campus. That’s because dorm fees usually stay the same throughout the year. Also, you don’t have to blow your cash on cars and/or public transportation.
However, if you have no choice other than to live off-campus, be sure to choose your living space carefully. Ask potential landlords about rental costs, utility bills, Internet connection, furnishings and other expenses you have to shoulder at your place of residence.
Share Expenses With a Roommate
Living alone can be expensive – not to mention lonely. When looking for a place to live, ask your landlord about available rooms you can share with someone else. Be sure to get to know your roommate before you move in; otherwise, you’re going to spend the rest of the year putting up with an obnoxious, inconsiderate person.
On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to end up with a kind and awesome roommate, feel free to tactfully broach the topic of money. Say, “I’m willing to pay for this and that. How about you?” Be clear on how much both of you are willing to shoulder, exactly, to avoid misunderstandings later.
Those brick-sized college textbooks can do a number on your allowance. Find out if any on-campus organization offers “buyback” services; that is, services that allow you to buy secondhand books from upperclassmen. Don’t forget to check your syllabus before you take advantage of buyback services, however; recommended readings might change over time.
If you don’t want to spend a single cent on textbooks, you can always borrow from the library. Just remember to return these on time, lest you incur those “late return” fees.
Make Your Own Food
You don’t have to be a master cook to do this. Heck, you don’t even need a stove, if dorm regulations prohibit cooking inside the premises. There are plenty of quick, easy and no-cook recipes you can try to keep your stomach full, and your brain ready for all those rigorous classes.
Adopt Inexpensive Hobbies
Hobbies don’t have to be expensive, either. If college life is starting to get on your nerves, take a break and learn arts and crafts from the comfort of your home. Most of these require materials you can easily find around the house, so don’t fret about going over your budget. Who knows? You might just pick up a new skill to show off to friends and/or roommates!
Do As Many Chores on Your Own As You Can
When you’re exhausted from college work, the last thing you want is to do chores. But taking time out to sweep the floor, wash your laundry, and keep your dorm a great place to live in can go a long way in lowering your expenses. After all, if you take good care of your stuff, you’re less likely to repair/replace them anytime in the near future.
Ask Local Friends About Cheap Buys
Chances are, your friends are on a tight budget too. As such, they’re probably knowledgeable about the cheapest places to eat, the best places to buy textbooks, and other “hacks” to keep their finances in the black. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends about these; if they really are “friends”, they’ll be more than happy to share their knowledge with you.
Take Advantage of Your Host School’s International Student Calculator
Many university websites have calculators specifically for international students. Use these to determine how much you have to budget every month. If your college/university doesn’t have a calculator for any reason, you can use this general student budget calculator from Bankrate.com instead.
Keep Track of Your Income and Expenses
Know how much goes into – and how much flows out of – your bank account. Set up an Excel sheet to track your income and expenses, or use the best apps for college students to make your life easier. From here, you’ll find out whether you’re going way over budget, what expenses you can cut down on, and whether you have enough room for extraneous expenses.
One Last Tip
All save and no spend makes for a cranky college student. Be wise with your money, yes, but don’t forget to treat yourself once in a while. You’ve done more than enough to keep up with the demands of college life, so you definitely deserve a reward. Also, good luck with college, and don’t let cultural barriers get you down!
Image: Danny Chan