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Financial Mistakes to Avoid: Advice for International Students

Unless you are made of money, sticking to a budget is essential when studying in a foreign land. Aside from the basic costs of living, certain expenses also come with going abroad to study, such as plane tickets, visa fees, tuition (unless you have a scholarship), and more—not to mention the cost of traveling and recreation.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with some of the most common mistakes that a lot of students make when studying abroad—and what you can do to avoid them:

  1. Living like a tourist

While studying in a foreign land is always an exciting experience, don’t forget that you are there to study—not to be a tourist. That said, avoid spending money like a tourist and live as close to the local lifestyle as possible. Eat where the locals eat, avoid the touristy hotspots, and shop in the local markets to keep your spending under control.

  1. Not compromising on housing

Housing is one of the biggest expenses for anyone who travels abroad, student or otherwise, especially if you’re studying in a big city. Having said that, it is essential that you compromise on housing as much as you can. For instance, instead of a dreamy one-bedroom loft in London, choose more affordable accommodation, such as shared housing or hostels that offer long-term stays.

Compromising on housing may mean a little less comfort. For example, you may have to share a room with other students or live somewhere quite a good distance away from campus. However, it’s a great way to save money if you’re on a budget. As long as it is safe, a reasonable distance from your school, and adequately comfortable, it should be good enough.

  1. Not using public transportation

Riding taxis or Ubers is a comfortable way to get around, but it can add a great deal to your monthly expenses. Use public transportation instead and, whenever available, buy monthly passes to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re not comfortable with public transport, consider renting a bike instead or simply walking whenever you can.

  1. Overspending on bars and clubs

For many foreign students, the experience is not complete without partying as the locals do. Although there’s nothing wrong with letting loose every once in a while, don’t let yourself get carried away and blow your budget every time you step into a bar. If you have trouble controlling your spending (especially when intoxicated), leave your credit card at home and use cash instead.

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  1. Not having a budget

Like with regular traveling, not having a budget when studying abroad can mean setting yourself up for failure. Unless you have an unlimited amount of money to spend, you need to organize your finances and figure out how much you can spend on what.

Use budgeting apps to help you take control of your spending, and then stick to that budget as if your life depends on it. Of course, you can always adjust your budget as you go, depending on how much money you have and the kind of lifestyle that you build as you go along.

To avoid feeling deprived, set a budget for recreational purposes so that you can have fun without ending up in overdraft. After all, one of the main goals of studying abroad is to make good memories.

  1. Booking travel at the last minute

Once you confirm your plans to study abroad, book travel tickets as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could end up spending more than necessary on travel instead of taking advantage of early bird rates. Moreover, booking early increases your chances of getting the time slots you want instead of getting stuck with awkward departure times.

  1. Spending student loan money irresponsibly

If you’re studying abroad on loan, you have to make the most out of it. That said, avoid using your student loan for unnecessary things like shopping or going on trips with your friends (although once in a while won’t hurt if you have limits). There are better ways you can spend that money, such as repaying your loan or spending it on things you need for school so that you graduate with as little debt as possible.

Becoming an international student can be expensive, but there is no reason for it to burn a hole through your pockets. To avoid going into debt for tertiary education abroad, make it a point to avoid these financial mistakes as you go along—and always be mindful of what you need over what you want.