Editor’s Note: This is the final installment of Abbey’s series on how to save money while travelling abroad. After focusing on saving money on food while travelling abroad and saving money on travel, this installment focuses on saving money on necessities and souvenirs.
Saving Money on Life
- Get a cheap cell phone. Granted, cell phones are typically expensive but they are necessary both in social and safety terms. Do, however, buy a cell phone when you get to where you’re going. International roaming fees (what occurs when you convert your American phone into an international one) are crazy expensive and truly unnecessary, so save money on your experience and get one from the country you’re studying in. There are always several plan options to explore once you arrive so make sure you research those in order to get the best deal!
- Avoid hefty ATM fees by withdrawing a lot of money at one time. ATM exchange rates are hugely expensive (as high as 5% for non-affiliated banks!). You can avoid these fees altogether, however, by asking your home bank what is their European affiliate. When withdrawing money, cover the pin pad with your wallet or hand to add another level of security to your transactions. Sometimes people set up cameras to get pictures of the card number and the PIN so, take steps to avoid this!
- Pay with cash. There is a transaction fee, around 3%, for every transaction you make with a credit card! So, if possible, pay with cash. Speaking of this, only take cash out with you if you are going out, never take your card. It is a huge hassle to replace when you are out of the country and you will most likely be left without it (and without a means to get money) for as long as three weeks. Also, if you only take cash out with you, you set the limit for how much you spend that night, thus enabling yourself to control your finances!
Saving Money on Souvenirs
- Pick a cheap souvenir. This, again, may sound obvious but this is one area that I actually think I got right abroad. Many of my friends chose t-shirts, flags or shot glasses as souvenirs from each place. I chose a postcard. T-shirts and flags can be as expensive as 15-euro and shot glasses were around 5 to 7-euro. Postcards were at most 65 cents. It was a creative way to save money! Not to mention, I got to write about my experiences in that place on the back. It was like a souvenir and travel journal all in one!
- Photos are the best souvenirs. Invest (and maybe impulse save!) in a good camera before you embark on your semester. That way, you can snap shots of all of the amazing places you visited! I came home with over 2,500 photos stored on my computer just from abroad and while my computer is working a bit slower than it used to, it was a fun way to save money throughout my endeavors. Plus, I got to work on my photography skills!
- Remember, invest in your own experience. A semester abroad is truly a wonderful gift that not many people are able to have. I had the opportunity to travel to ten Italian cities and six European countries (France twice) and was so lucky to have been able to see so much of the continent I was residing in. Of course, there will be times that you just want to come home and see your parents, but it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and so remember, invest in that!
I suppose I now can join the group of those people who advise others that studying abroad is expensive, but, speaking from experience, I know they aren’t kidding. In hindsight, I wish I had bought some prosciutto, cheese, olives and bread at the market and hiked up to Piazzale Michelangelo more often to watch the sunset over Florence. I wish I had searched for a cheaper cell phone deal and taken less cabs! Abroad is indeed expensive, but when done right, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to come home with a bit more than $8.62 in your bank account.