Financial survival guide for international students.
It can be difficult to manage your finances as an international student. However, with some basic planning and understanding, you will not only have enough money for utilities and other expenditure, but also to reward yourself once in a while.
Set up a local bank account
To avoid international bank charges, start with setting up a bank account in your new country. Since, account charges and benefits vary from bank to bank, make sure you read the fine print carefully. Ask your IDP counsellor for advice on leading bank accounts in your destination. They can also guide you on how to ensure you are set up with a reputable and cost effective option that allows you to send and receive money internationally easily.
Create a budget
Start with looking at your current financial situation and create an expenditure list accordingly. Include factors like:
- Monthly rent
- Food and groceries
- Credit card bills
- Phone bills
- Electricity bills
- Internet consumption
- Insurance payments
- Study material
- Recreation and travel
- Personal expenditure
Do not forget to keep space for emergencies or unexpected expenses in your plan. Include how much you intend to spend and save for the end of the month.
Be smart with your money
One of the top struggles of students (especially international students) is saving money and trying not to spend too much. Being a student who is living and studying away from home, you should try and save as much money as possible as studying overseas can be an expensive process. Understand the difference between your wants and needs. If you are confused, make a priority list and spend accordingly. You can reduce your expenses by:
- Sharing your living space
- Restricting credit card usage
- Going for second hand books or digital editions
- Getting local transport passes
- Shopping during holiday sales
- Purchasing from local stores instead of high-end chains
Most countries allow international students to work part time for up to 20 hours in a week and full-time during semester breaks. Check your student visa if it permits you to work. With an additional income, you can manage your expenses well and also learn skills that will look good on your resume. Keep in mind that you will also have to pay a little tax on what you earn - so, plan accordingly.
Take advantage of your student status
Using your student card makes you eligible for many discounts like on transportation, restaurants, shops, movie tickets and tourism events. Simply arrange to receive your student card as early as possible so you can start using it from the very beginning of your semester. Transportation discounts will also help you save hundreds of dollars yearly! There are some websites dedicated to offering student vouchers and discounts, so make sure you check those out. Sometimes they even point you towards birthday rewards!
You can also speak with your IDP counsellor about availing the IDP ISIC Student benefit card, which unlocks thousands of special offers for full-time international students.
Choose social activities wisely
This means that you should be careful with doing things that might add up to a lot of money in the long-run. For instance, if you always hang around friends who love to go out, and shop frequently, you may end up blowing your budget way sooner than expected. Don’t be ashamed to say no to certain social events, or suggest a more affordable alternative. If you explain to your friends that you are on a travelling budget, they will usually understand that you cannot always spend a lot of money. A great yet cheap way to socialise is by inviting friends over or going to their place. Establish a budget for the evening and everyone can contribute in it.
Let your city entertain you
When you are in a new country, there are hundreds of fun and exciting places that you can visit that don’t cost too much. You can always look up places on the internet that are free or cheap to visit. For example, there are museums and exhibits that are open to everyone. You can also always check online for promos and deals that you will be able to enjoy at discounted prices.
Being able to save up money is a great thing, but you also have to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with rewarding yourself every once in a while for all the hard work you have put into saving. Just remember to keep it under control and always try to have money saved up for emergencies and any unforeseen future expenses.
Prepare your meals at home
It is smarter to cook your own food instead of frequently eating out or ordering food to be delivered. In fact, use your eating-out’ budget to visit a local market and buy fresh ingredients at a cheap price. You may be able to cut down your food budget by 30 – 50% just by this simple step. Plus, it is a much healthier option.
Quick tip: As a student, you may not have time to always cook, so a smart option is to choose to cook in large quantities and keep extra meals in the fridge for reheating when you need to. This way, you don’t have to cook every day.
Go for a ride
If your university or school is close by, get yourself a bicycle and ride your way down. This would not only save on your transportation money but is a healthier and cheaper option.
A friendly advice: If you lay your ground rules while spending money and stick to your budget as much as possible, you will not have to worry about graduating with huge debts. Plus, it will also make you money wise ahead of time besides understanding how to handle responsibilities.