Paying for Study Abroad like a Boss

by Published

It seemed so simple at the study abroad fair, just pick a program in your dream location and go! Right? Well…it’s not always so simple. You didn’t quite hammer out the details in your 30 second drive by at their table, but now that you’re looking through your pamphlets and swag bags you’re starting to wonder how you’ll pay for everything.

Study abroad isn’t free (unless you’re one of those lucky few to find fully-funded programs), but there are definitely real ways to study abroad for cheap, so study abroad doesn’t have to clean out your bank account. There are tons of affordable study abroad programs to choose from, and a lot of opportunities to save, fundraise, and make paying for study abroad less of a nightmare.

That’s why GoAbroad and IES Abroad collaborated to bring you this fun, interactive Facebook Live event to help give you our pro-tips for how to save and pay for study abroad.

Big Ways to Save Money for Travel

Still a little unsure how to start saving and how to pay for study abroad? Follow these first five tips to kick off your scrimping and saving efforts. 

1. Create a study abroad budget and savings plan (and actually stick to it).

If you’re not familiar with Google and Excel spreadsheets, well friend, start getting real familiar. You need to start by mapping out how much you think you’ll spend on study abroad, including program fees, international flights, housing (if it’s not included in your program fee), food, and budget for all those weekend adventures you’re wanting to take.

More importantly, stick. to. this. budget. At least, as much as possible within reason. If you can give yourself even more wiggle room to work with, great! You’ll want a little cushion for those spontaneous adventures and must-have meals abroad. 

2. Start fundraising (sooner, rather than later).

It’s 2017, so having a fundraiser isn’t about baking brownies, whipping up a batch of lemonade, and hitting the pavement to collect a buck here and there (although, don’t rule out those old-school tactics just yet!). Fundraising is as easy as logging in, telling your story, and sharing with friends and family via social media.

Crowdfunding sites like FundMyTravel are specifically geared toward meaningful travelers, and it’s aim is to help you with paying for study abroad. Create your campaign, include your specific program and university, share your campaign with friends and family, and watch the dollars start rolling in. FundMyTravel also has great tips to help you figure out how to afford study abroad and maximize your fundraising efforts. 

Paying for Study Abroad like a G

3. Scholarships, scholarships, scholarships. 

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but we’re covering all of our bases. With so many study abroad scholarships out there, it seems silly not to throw your hat in the ring for any and all of them. Browse through the GoAbroad Scholarship Directory to find relevant scholarships for your program, level of financial need, and knock it out of the park with merit-based scholarships. 

[Search all Study Abroad Scholarships STAT!]

4. Open an online savings account.

If you’re going to start saving $$$, you need a place to put it. Use apps like Mint to help you create and manage your budget, track your savings, and stay on top of any bills you might have (at home and abroad!). If you just wish somebody could start saving your money for you, you can use apps like Digit, that analyze your usual spending and save money here and there automatically based on your cashflow. It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy, and a great way to help you with paying for study abroad. Both of these apps will also help you keep saving for study abroad and tracking your spending once you are abroad, too!  

5. Scour the web for the best student travel deals on flights.

Paying for study abroad isn’t just about your program fee, and flights sure ain’t cheap. Travel agencies like STA Travel and StudentUniverse work with their partners to offer you the best flight deals on a student budget. You can also find great student deals direct through airlines, you just need to do a little extra digging and ask the right people the right questions! 

row of numbered vintage lockboxes at a bank
You might not need to go as old-school as a lockbox, but an online savings account is the best place to start.

Little Things that Add Up

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork to start saving big, these little steps you can take will really add up— meaning you’ll be all set to pay for your study abroad experience.  

1. Sell any and all old textbooks.

Are you really going to pick up that anthology of Russian literature ever again? It’s not exactly light reading. If you haven’t already, start collecting your old textbooks from semesters past to sell— either at your local bookstore or online through Amazon or Chegg. Your bank account will thank you and you won’t have to keep moving those heavy textbooks from place to place. 

2. Save your change.

It’s old school, that’s for sure, but collecting spare nickels and dimes here and there can really start to add up. You don’t need an actual piggy bank (even though they’re adorable), but putting any extra pocket change into a jar will make your wallet a little easier to carry around, while ultimately still keeping money in your pockets! At the very least you’ll collect a little extra spending money.

[AND, save & compare programs with MyGoAbroad]

3. Pick up odd jobs here and there for extra cash.

Paint a picket fence. Mow the lawn. Clean out an attic or two. Whatever extra odd jobs you can find with a decent paycheck will really help your cause. Become a tasker on Taskrabbit to find work opportunities suited to your skillset. Or, if you’re brave enough, check out local/domestic gigs on CraigsList to make a few more bucks. Just try to avoid any cursed amulets as you clean out the basement in that old victorian house down the block. 

close up of books organized in market bins for sale
Clean out your bookshelves and make some extra cash selling old books and textbooks.

4. Rummage sale time!

Spend a few bucks on posters and puffy paint to hang signs around the neighborhood, make a Facebook event and invite friends, family, and coworkers, and start gathering any and all non-sentimental and sell-able items. It’s rummage sale time! Old books, movies, CDs (if people are still into that sort of thing), furniture, clothes, everything but the kitchen sink that you can put a price tag on should go! Sacrifice it to a worthy cause— your future adventure!  

5. Cancel that gym membership (we both know it’s time).

Come on. You and I know you’re not running on the treadmill three times a week. It’s been years since your last leg day. You’re not even making the trip for the smoothie bar anymore! Put $30-$60 bucks a month back in your pocket to fund your summer or semester abroad instead. 

6. Save those “treat yo’ selves” for when you’re abroad (giving up morning coffee, bagels, etc.) .

Yeah, yeah, we know, “but first, coffee,” but first, think about how much money you’re spending on coffee daily/weekly/monthly/annually! Honestly, you might not actually want to look into this, it’s painful, just stop doing it and save yourself the pain. Skip that afternoon latte or that morning “it’s Monday” pastry or bagel with cream cheese. You can treat yo’self to a .89 freshly baked baguette once you’re studying abroad in Southern France. Trust me, #WorthIt. 

7. Get to coupon clipping.

This is a great way to save money on groceries and things you need to be a living person (shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc.) while you’re still home! Become a member at your local grocery store to start getting those sweet sweet buy-one-get-one deals. 

silver and bronze euro coins close up
Start saving all your excess change. It can really add up quick!

8. Save on transportation.

Drive less. Bike (or walk) more! This is another great two-for-one tip— great for saving before you go AND while you’re abroad. Rather than taking taxis or ubers (or dropping mad cash on gas), hop on those two legs of yours and get walking or pedaling to your destination. You’ll be in great shape – physically and financially – before studying abroad. 

[7 Travel Abroad Scholarships Because YOU Like Free Money]

9. Skip that night out with friends, opt for a casual night in instead!

You know what’s way more fun than going out to drink overpriced cocktails in tight jeans? Sitting in your favorite comfy pants with a glass of cheap wine and some microwave popcorn, binge-watching “Stranger Things” with your best friends. Rather than spending money on nights out, movies, clubs, etc. etc. Look for more fun, free activities around town, or plan your own low-key hangs instead. You’re saving money, but time spent with your besties is priceless. 

10. Save with gently-used travel gear or family hand-me-downs.

You don’t really need that brand-spanking-new, top-of-the-line, hyped up backpack. Your cousin’s old Osprey will do just fine. Besides, that really old school puff jacket your dad took camping in 1985 is probably back in style right now. If your friends and family aren’t quite the adventuring bunch, and you need some gear, check out thrift stores and secondhand shopping sites to get everything you need at a much better price. 

11. Cool it with the happy hours.

Spend less time and money going out for dinner and drinks. A happy hour here and there might not seem like a lot, and hey— those happy hour deals, right? But, they really start to add up quickly. Skip the mule and keep that $8 in your pocket instead. 

12. No more impulse buying! 

We understand how difficult it is to walk through a Target without buying at least half of the scented candle aisle. Especially when you went in there only needing batteries and nail polish remover. But, you need to put those cute shirts down, even if they’re “only” two for $10.

[Get free, custom program advice from an Online Advisor]

fruity cocktails with straws on a patio table with chips and salsa
Skip all those happy hours and eating out— opt to stay in and cook with friends instead, sharing the cost of groceries.

13. Share the cost of video streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) with friends.

Choose your ideal Netflix or Hulu plan, go in with some friends, and suddenly that $8-12 a month is split a few different ways. Now you’re not spending quite as much on that summer OITNB binge, and you get to judge your friends based on what they’re watching! Johnny can’t hide his love of “Gilmore Girls,” your “Recently Watched” forgets nothing. 

14. Ditch paying for expensive cable packages.

Hello? If you’re sharing the cost of Netflix and Hulu, who even needs real-time TV anymore? All your favorite football and basketball games are probably streaming online anyway, so “missing the game” is no longer a valid excuse for blowing a lot of money on an unnecessary cable package just to get ESPN. 

15. Meal plan with friends and split the cost of groceries.

Dinner parties don’t have to be all cloth napkins and Pottery Barn tablescapes. Get together and cook with your friends! Not only is it fun, but splitting the cost of groceries means you save money (and get to pawn off leftovers). Whether you meal plan every week with your roommates, or a couple times a month with your squad, saving that extra $$$ to help with paying for study abroad is ideal— and this way you get to share the clean-up duties!  

BONUS TIP – Move back home! Don’t pay rent!

While this might not be an option for everyone, it’s still a great way to save! Especially if your parents haven’t already converted your room into an office/gym/craft closet yet. Even just taking the summer to go home, live rent-free, and work hard will make a big dent in the cost of your study abroad program! Plus, it’s extra time to spend with your family before you’re off jet-setting around the world. 

Paying for Study Abroad... It’s Easier than You Think

At the end of the day, you know exactly how to pay for study abroad. You hunker down. You work hard. You save up. You snag scholarships. You pack your bags. You go! It seems daunting with those zeros and dollar signs, but making any of these small changes can result in big returns, and makes paying for study abroad less of a barrier. Besides, all those memories are priceless anyway… 

Start by finding affordable study abroad programs