How to Budget Your Money While Studying Abroad

Studying abroad, in my biased opinion, is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. That being said, it is an investment that involves large sums of money. Before you leave, you will have your visa, plane ticket(s), tuition, and accommodation paid. However, you will be paying your living expenses as you go, which can be a daunting task. I am here to show you exactly how I managed my money while abroad so you can have an inside look at what your expenses may resemble.

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Have a place for your budget

The first step in managing any budget well is making a spreadsheet. This can be written on paper or saved on a computer. I used the Numbers application that comes on my Mac to create a spreadsheet and saved it onto my desktop for easy access. I have an example of a spread sheet using Microsoft Excel below.

Categorize

Something I did that made seeing and handling my budget super easy was breaking my expenses into categories. I had my budget broken down into:

  • Groceries and Supplies – This was for necessities such as food from the grocery store to toilet paper to my Wi-Fi plan
  • Trips – This accounted for all travel plans I made for my time abroad such as my trips to Rottnest Island and Thailand. This was not set in stone prior to arriving, but a growing list of all the trips I scheduled along the way.
  • Travel – This included all my public transport such as riding the bus and train, which was essential in Perth. You can also include Uber/Lyft and taxi expenses here.
  • Extras – This category was for all the “extras” that were of-the-moment entertainment decisions such as the Justin Bieber concert and music festival I attended, or even just going out to eat.
  • Pre-Paid Card – This is very unique to my circumstance, as AIFS provided me with a debit card that was reloaded with $250 U.S. every month to help offset costs. I kept track of my spending on my own and would compare that to the transactions listed on the card’s website to make sure everything added up.
  • Cash – While abroad, I mostly used card to pay for things. However, I did come over with some cash, and I kept track of my losses when I spent and gains when people repaid me with cash. I do think it is essential to say that most people come with hundreds of dollars of cash, so bring what you feel is necessary. I luckily only needed to use an ATM once when I made a last-minute decision at the end of the trip.

Of course, there are plenty of ways you can break down your budget. Hopefully this guide can help you start that process.

Know Your Budget

The most crucial thing to managing a budget is knowing how much you have to spend. At the top of each category, I wrote a number that I tried not to pass by the end of the trip. If I needed more money for one category, I borrowed from another. Of course, how much you can dedicate to each category is your personal decision. My advice, however, is to give a few hundred dollars to the extras and necessities categories.

Stay Dedicated

 A very important thing to sticking to your budget is to write every single thing you spend money on down, even if it is just a cup of coffee. Be sure to update your budget sheet at least every two days, or you may forget some of your purchases. Also, have it in a visible area so you are forced to remember to update it.

Below is an example of what your budget sheet will look like with the categories, respective budgets and expenses.

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After reading this, I hope you feel a bit relieved and confident to manage your budget while abroad. Remember: stay on top of your budget sheet so you know where your money is going!

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21 Gifts for Someone Studying Abroad

If someone you know is studying abroad and you want to get him or her the perfect present, look no further. Here are some useful and budget-friendly items that your departing friend will love.

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  1. Passport holder – I love mine!
  2. Travel size toiletries – this is useful for long flights or weekend getaways
  3. Travel size refillable bottles – for extra conditioner, shampoo, etc.
  4. City guide book – for those who have not completely switched over to the internet
  5. Space bags – these will come in handy when they are trying to stuff everything in his or her suitcase!
  6. Portable phone charger – an absolute must for long days spent exploring
  7. Power adapter/converter – there are cheap packs that come with several types for a worldly traveler
  8. Journal – so your friend can write about his or her experiences
  9. Neck pillow – to assure comfort on long flights
  10. Luggage tag – so your friend knows which bag to grab!
  11. Toiletry bag – help your friend stay organized in the bathroom while abroad
  12. Phone camera lens – there are lenses you can attach to your cell phone to increase the quality of photos. Some are expensive, though!
  13. Earbuds – something that will come in use on long flights or road trips
  14. Microfiber travel towel – these are quick-drying, lightweight and do not take up much room at all
  15. Stain removing stick – something small that will come in handy when your friend least expects it
  16. Travel money – there are many pre-paid cards that work overseas
  17. Translation tool – whether it be a digital lesson or book, having a guide to the country’s language is always useful
  18. Money necklace – there are different types of wallets that can fit under clothes that are useful for traveling abroad and keeping money and passports safe and out of sight
  19. Card protector wallet – these wallets keep credit and debit cards protected from scanners that crooks use to see through normal wallets and steal information
  20. “Open when…” cards – these will not take up much room and are the perfect idea for when your friend is feeling unsure, missing home or just might need some motivation
  21. Something sentimental – there are so many gifts to remind your friend of home, from a keychain with his or her state or a necklace with sand from his or her favorite beach

Thankful for Study Abroad

This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.

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To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.

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Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.

I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.

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To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.

 

Oz: Soaking it Up

The only concerns I had for my last week in Australia were my final exam and soaking up as much of Perth and Fremantle as I could.

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Mandurah

We take the Mandurah train line to get to and from Perth, but we had never actually been to Mandurah. Some friends and I changed that Monday when we hopped on the line to Mandurah to explore the waterfront. It’s a cute town set with a walkway along the shore and shops and restaurants. After a stroll along the water, we got some tasty fish and chips from the closest thing to a diner I have seen in months.

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Tuesday was spent studying for my final the following day mixed in with some blogging. I ended up being well-prepared for my final, so I am actually not dreading the revelation of my final grade. I celebrated the end of finals with Sierra, Jordan and Lynn by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the movie passes we had won at the very beginning of the semester. The movie was great, as suspected, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. That night, we had our final Murdoch University Village dinner in the form of chicken curry, which was absolutely fantastic.

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The first half of Thursday was spent in the Media Arts Center’s television studio for my own personal practice. However, I have absolutely nothing to show for it because technology hates me (really, it does). However, my sorrows were lifted with a delicious half-price caramel and banana waffle from a restaurant in Perth.

Afterwards, Sierra, Nicole and I decided to be extra touristy and take a tour of the Perth mint, which is Australia’s original and was established in 1899. The gold pouring at the end reminded me of watching glass blowing in Venice.

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The largest gold coin in the world

The night ended on a high note, quite literally. Sierra, Nicole and I went out with the pancake Friday crew to a karaoke lounge and it was one of the best week nights I had spent in Australia. One thing to know about me is I love to sing and I constantly have songs stuck in my head, and being able to scream tunes shamelessly with my friends was much needed and extremely fun.

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Singing with Nicole

Finally, Friday came—our last full day and night in Perth. We spent it by going to the Fremantle Markets for lunch. That night, we headed out to The Court, which is a club we went to one of our first nights out in Perth. Dancing the night away is one of my favorite things to do, and doing that with my study abroad friends made me feel so lucky.

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Saturday’s lunch

Saturday is not easy to think about because it was our last day in Australia. Sierra and I cleaned in the morning and headed to the Fremantle Markets one last time with Brian and Nicole to devour anything that caught our eye. It was a sentimental last Saturday afternoon, or should I say, “arvo,” as the Australians do? Fremantle has to be one of the most unique, fun places to explore and I am so thankful I got to experience it over and over again.

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Cronut

My friends told me I was going to miss the plane because by 4 p.m. I had still not started packing. One of my hidden talents is packing last minute, though, and I proved my friends wrong!

Because we had to leave the village at 3 a.m., Sierra, Nicole and I decided to stay up the whole night and we did that by taking on Northbridge one last time. I love Northbridge because it is always buzzing with people and the energy coming from the streets and clubs, and it is always able to throw a smile on my face.

We went to Mustangs to watch a band Nicole fell in love with the previous week (or should I say the guitarist of the band). I had no idea what to expect from the band and I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything from Taylor Swift to The Killers played by them. I was jumping around like a five-year old high on sugar all night and I loved every second of it.

I could not have asked for a better last night. Luckily, our friend drove us home and we got back an hour before we had to leave, which gave me the perfect amount of time to shower, eat and drag my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, the rest of the crew that we went out with that night pulled up to the village right before we left, so I got to say a second and final goodbye to them.

And with one last hug and a stream of tears, the craziest, most wonderful months of my life were done.

 

Oz: Week 11 of Classes

A week during which I planned to be checking things off of my to-do list turned into a week of work accompanied by a lot of play.

Monday served to be a day of class, homework and recuperating from the amazing Southwest trip from which I just returned. Tuesday was about the same, until my awesome friends told me to meet them at 6:30 and ended up forcing me to go out to eat. I actually had never been pulled out for dinner by friends before, as any other time this could have happened, I would have used the homework excuse (which I did try). It actually ended up being a festive night at Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle, where I was finally able to try its huge plate of half-priced Tuesday nachos. They were some delicious nachos!

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I intended to do volunteer work while abroad, but every scheduled event was during class or I had plans or no way of getting there. I was super stoked Wednesday, because I would finally get to volunteer some time at Rockingham Regional Environment Center at a small cost of skipping my recorded lecture. The volunteers in charge had us busy with our hands all day, as we transplanted grass to the amphitheater on the grounds and then cleaned up some of the dead wood along the center’s walking trails. Not only do I love volunteering my time, but I love the environment and anything outdoors, so it was the perfect day. I am so glad I got to help revive the center!

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I promised Jordan I would go out with her Wednesday after having such a great time the previous week, and she was not letting me out of that, either. So Wednesday night, Jordan, Nicole, Lynn and I headed back to Raffles for a girl’s night out. Once I hyped myself up to go, it was an incredible time.

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Nicole and I

The week ended, or the weekend started, with another round of chocolate and Nutella pancakes Friday morning after a nice exercise session. I really have come to love the people who generously donate their time to make a bunch of hungry university students delicious pancakes every Friday. I always eat my pancakes with one of the volunteers who always has something to joke about. It truly is something I look forward to every Friday; first it was the pancakes, and now it is the people and the pancakes. Today was extra special because an older gentleman just moved into the village and brought bacon and cooked up some blueberry and banana compote that I got to try. It was definitely a successful morning!

Per usual, I ate too many pancakes and retreated to my bed to listen to music before starting the day’s tasks. I had motivation to get some stuff done due to the fun-filled weekend I had ahead.

Oz: Something Special

I switched from having the best week of classes to having the most uneventful week of classes. The only thing I did all week that was not related to conquering my homework or to-do list was watch a British television show with some mates that were accompanied by some delicious onion rings and a game of Uno. However, this is a special week and it will be followed by an even more special week. As I am typing this, my best friend and my world travelling buddy, my Pop Pop, is on his way to Australia!

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It just seems like months ago I was planning this abroad semester and had the hope that Pop Pop would be able to come visit. Well, it was not easy to get him here, and after thinking he would not be able to visit at all, we broke through the ice and planned a trip to Sydney and New Zealand. And by “we,” I mean he planned it and I simply put in my feedback. Pop Pop is a professional trip planner, and I am glad I got to see him work his magic one more time.

If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I am beyond thankful that I have another opportunity to travel with this incredible man. From Paris in sixth grade and Italy and Spain in high school, to our European adventure last year, I have seen so much of the world all thanks to Pop Pop. He is so special to me and so selfless. It brings tears to my eyes that I get another chance to explore a new place with him.

This is probably going to be our last international trip together, as heartbreaking as that is for me. If we had endless time and money, Pop Pop knows I would be flying all over the world with him until we saw every last place on Earth.

I so look forward to seeing him Friday and making our trip just as marvelous as our last. I truly hope Pop Pop realizes how special he is to me and how thankful I am I get to do this with him. I also would not be able to do it without my grandma for letting him go, because she thinks we are crazy for all these travels (Thank you Grandma).

The next time I write, I will be on the East coast!  Here’s to my next adventure!

Oz: Rottnest Island Day 1

Rottnest Island, or what I like to call a little slice of paradise, is located about 20 kilometers off of Perth and is a huge attraction to the inhabitants of the region. I was lucky enough to spend my weekend at the beautiful playground.

I hopped off the ferry around 10 a.m. on Saturday and was given a bike and helmet. From there, I was left to find my way around the island with Nicole, Barry and Sierra. We really had no idea where we were going, where our accommodation was or what to expect. Barry and I grabbed a map, talked to an information lady and we were on our way.

We were encouraged to visit the West End, which is a piece of land jutting out on the western side of the island and boasts magnificent views of the sea. It was a long trek, and unfortunately Barry and I lost Sierra and Nicole along the way. However, once we finally reached our destination, we were able to relax by eating lunch and taking in the beautiful scenery.

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My view for lunch

Barry and I spent the rest of the day checking our different spots along the coast, such as Strickland Bay, which offers phenomenal surfing and the Wadejemup Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perched on the tallest point of the island, and views of Fremantle and Perth can be seen from it.

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Wadjemup Lighthouse

We returned to Thompson Bay to check into our accommodation, which is done at the information center, and grab some food. I was excited to munch on my very first meat pie, which is a popular food in Australia. I was definitely not disappointed. We then biked a bit to explore one of the nearby beaches and watch the sun give way to night.

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Barry and I finally found our accommodation, which was the Kingstown Barracks, a converted military base. We finished the night by mingling with Nicole, Sierra and a few others at the Rottnest Hotel, which is a hotel and bar with live music and good eats.

It was a great first day, having biked over 25 kilometers and checking out the whole island. I looked forward to the next day, however, which would be a more leisurely.

 

 

 

Oz: Fremantle Prison Tour

My week can be summarized by the fact that the most exciting thing to happen to me was receiving my external hard drive in the mail. I suppose shopping in Perth with some of my mates and ordering some mushroom and rocket pizza Thursday night should top that. It has been a slow week for me, getting back to classes after a week off and returning from an interesting outback trip.

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Sierra and I in Perth

The last activity in which I participated before the outback trip was the Fremantle Prison Torchlight Tour, and I only briefly mentioned it, so I wanted to explain a bit more about its history and the tour. The Fremantle Prison, originally named The Convict Establishment, was erected by English convicts between 1852 and 1859. The limestone that constructs its walls was quarried right on site, and the first cell block was inhabited by 1855. It was used as a maximum-security prison up until 1991, despite it being deemed an uninhabitable unit about a century prior.

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Entrance to the prison

The life of inmates revolved around routine. Each day usually consisted with waking up quite early to start a day of work with intervals of eating minimal food. Prisoners often learned traits such as metal and wood work, tailoring, shoe-making, painting, and other trades that could be used once they were released back into society. Fremantle Prison was one of the first maximum security prisons to provide free reading material, its library holding over 10,000 books. Art classes were also offered, and there is still artwork in the prison left from inmates. Religious activity was encouraged at the prison and was seen as an instrument of reform.

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An original 4 by 7 foot cell

Life at the prison was absolutely atrocious with dirty living conditions, bug-infested food and constant danger to one’s life. The tour focused on this aspect of life, and the guide definitely tried using this to spook us. On the tour, we saw the maximum-security cells, the solitary confinement cells, the yards, the bathroom convicts would first enter to be stripped and cleaned, prisoner artwork and the morgue. There were two “inmates” who startled most of the crowd when they jumped out at random times, but I thought it was a bit corny. I think the most morbid part of the tour was when the guide was making jokes about hanging where many people were hung. The scariest part, for sure, was when Nicole and I entered the “most haunted cell” together, because I thought the guide was going to shut the door on us.

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Sierra trying out an old punishment

It was an entertaining and informative tour. I had always wanted to go on a nighttime prison visit, so I am glad I got to check that off my list!

(All information received from Fremantle Prison)

Oz: Back from the Outback

I have returned to Perth from the outback! It has been quite some time since I last posted, and that is solely due to the fact that I was embarking on a 10-day-turned-nine outback camping trip in Northwest Australia. I have so much to say about the trip, but I have to type it up first, since I was not able to bring my lap top. I project that I will post about my adventure in the later half of the year when my travels have calmed. Below is a quick preview of the magnificence that I witnessed.

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Circular Pool at Karijini National Park

The trip was shortened by a day due to a cyclone that rained on us for three days straight, causing Karijini National Park to close and for us to miss out on a day of hiking and a few points of interest. We also were lead to an upset in Coral Bay, where those who paid almost $400 to swim with whale sharks and those who paid $165 to swim with manta rays did not even get to see one. This was due to the coral spawn and the windy weather, which turned the marine beauties away and made it difficult to spot them.

The camping journey was definitely a bit unlucky, but I did have a swell time exploring the massive amount of land Australia has. I was absolutely astounded by the amount of nothingness in WA, and I really appreciated it as well.

Classes have started up again, and my mind is a swirling mess of due dates and facts being crammed in last minute for exams. It was nice to have a break from school after only three weeks of classes, but it definitely did not help with my motivation. Luckily, I only have another three weeks of classes until my next weeklong break and arrival of Pop Pop!

Oz: Third Week of Classes

This week was a big one: March 14 marked me being in Australia for a whole month! Time really is flying by and I feel like I am leaving tomorrow, even though I know I have three months left and so many plans. Another exciting thing that March 14 marked is the day I fly out to meet my Pop Pop in Sydney. I cannot believe that my Pop Pop and I spoke about Australia for so long, and now our new chapter of travels starts so soon. I am pumped!

I have really adjusted to my life down under, from cooking healthy meals and exercising almost every day, to the unfamiliar class set-up and balancing my social life. At first, I was not as excited as I could have been to be in Straya, most likely because I felt like I was running around without a head a good portion of the time. However, I am so happy with my life here. I wish I could do nothing but travel; however, I am here for a reason: to “study.” I do take my schoolwork seriously, of course, as I always have. Nevertheless, I am in no way turning down a great opportunity such as a trip due to homework.

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Campus views

My third week of classes definitely treated me well. I am accustomed to my schedule, and I am still able to fit in an abundance of fun time between my classes. For example, I stayed up late in the library Monday to catch up with the work I neglected during the weekend (because I was too busy having fun). Tuesday, I was lucky enough to catch a few waves thanks to my new Aussie friend, Mitch. The weather was not very nice and the water was rough, but I was still able to get out there for a bit.

I signed up for a village-run trip to the Fremantle Prison for a torchlight tour Wednesday night. It was really interesting learning about the brutal history of the prison, seeing inmate cells and getting a bit startled by some “prisoners” who jumped out at us. Did I mention Nicole and I were forced into the “most haunted” cell in the prison?

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Entrance to Fremantle Prison

After that, Sierra and I decided it was a good idea to go out to the Newport Hotel, since we were already in Freo. We got there a bit early due to the tour ending at 8:30 p.m., but we eventually found our friends and had a fine time.

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Out in Freo

That leaves me with the last day of my school week: Thursday. Thursday consisted of classes, homework, general organization, blogging, laundry and packing. That’s right—packing! The first break of the semester is already here and I am embarking on a 10-day outback trip with other study abroad and exchange students Friday morning. I will have no service, no worries and hopefully nothing but enjoyment.

I do really feel so thankful that I am taking to my new life so well. To be honest, I already get teary-eyed when I think of leaving. It has been a good month, and I look forward to the excitement that the next month has in store.