How to manage your finances when studying abroad

Global Citizen By Iwona Gawronska Jan 8, 2020

Studying abroad is a great way to explore the world and to experience new cultures. Most universities around the world offer spots for international students and have vast course catalogs to serve every interest, from astrobiology to David Beckham studies.

However, moving abroad also means making significant changes in your daily routine, including how you earn, spend, save or move money. This will possibly be your first time living alone, cooking, and paying your own bills. We understand that managing personal finances in a new country can be overwhelming and are here to help. Check out our tips!

1. Do your research

As soon as you have decided on where to go for your studies in a foreign country, start arranging your finances. Research your destination to get an idea of the basic costs for studying, living, groceries and recreation. Sites like Numbeo give a great first impression and you can even compare the cost of living between two cities.

Being a student also comes with many benefits that can save you a lot of money. Public transport and cultural events often offer student discounts and tuition can be split into monthly payments. Student dormitories or shared apartments and learning how to cook are also great ways to cut down your expenses.

When moving abroad, keep in mind that different countries have different currencies. Having a better understanding of the respective currency will help you set a monthly budget and calculate how much your savings are worth.

If you plan to use your bank or credit card to withdraw money in your new country, beware of the costly fees and unfavorable exchange rates you might have to deal with. Most banks and ATMs have different fees for withdrawals from foreign cards.

2. What you want vs. what you need

Organizing and prioritizing your expenses is key to managing your finances wisely, especially if you are living in a new country. It might be the first time you are on your own, but with this great freedom comes great responsibility, such as knowing what you would like to buy and what you actually need to buy.

Setting a monthly allowance for different expenses and sticking to it can be a good way to do so. Going to see a movie, pub crawling or traveling to different places might be on your “want”-list, but need mindful budgeting. Rent, public transportation fees, food, and college tuition are  “needs” and should always be on the top of your list.

Western Union makes money management easy. With or the Western Union® app you can quickly and conveniently send your rent or tuition online.  This way, if you are staying for a semester, you can handle your finances with no essential changes to your usual banking activities.

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3. The best things in life are free

If your student budget is tight at the end of the month, explore your new home for free options. Activities like hiking in nearby areas or taking a walk around the sights, are often free and will give you a different perspective of your new town.

In summer you could swap your public transport ticket for a bike and spend a day relaxing by the riverbank. Also, many music festivals offer accommodation and free entry for “helping hands”, where you spend a couple of hours a day working and enjoy the music afterwards.

4. In case of emergency

Whether it’s for a special occasion like your sister’s birthday, your best friend’s wedding, or an emergency expense to help your family back home, there are many reasons why you might need to send money abroad. It is always useful to have a financial safety net to fall back on but also to be able to manage money fast and hassle-free in case of an emergency.

Keep a friend or your parents in the loop of your finances, so that a missed due date for rent or tuition won’t result in bigger problems. If you are in need of a financial injection, you will require a trusted solution. Your sender can transfer money online from the comfort of his or her home with and you can receive your emergency funds for cash pick up in minutes at a Western Union® agent location.

5. Here to stay?

Depending on how long you plan to stay in the country of your choice, it might be useful to open a local bank account, some countries even require it.

Also, a part-time job can definitely help to boost your finances and pay for great plans that might not necessarily be calculated into your overall budget. Student jobs often have flexible hours and can be combined with your class schedule. You can of course work and save up before you go abroad, but working in a new environment can also teach you a lot and be a nice bonus to your CV. Student jobs are offered in a variety of fields and previous work experience is often not required.

Inspired to look for the right city for your next adventure? We made a ranking of the best places to study abroad and added some financial insights for your planning.

Already know where to go and your study abroad experience is all sorted? Take care of your tuition payment or rent by sending money now.