WES Advisor Blog

Trusted Advice for Academic and Professional Success

Budget Planning and Management for Students

Thursday | September 15, 2016 | by Kaitlin Ramby

A budgeting sheet with a calculator

Moving to a new country to study is an exciting process. You get to learn in a new environment, meet different types of people, and accumulate valuable knowledge on how to work across cultures. However, when it comes to budgeting for your studies in the U.S. and Canada, it’s important to be aware of the hidden costs of attending college that you may not have planned for.

To help you budget effectively, here is a list of items that you want to be sure to include in your yearly school budget:

  • Course materials: From books to school supplies to equipment, most college courses require students to purchase specific materials for the course lessons. Research in advance the course materials you will need for your classes, and set aside enough money to purchase the items you will need. Sharing materials (if possible) with other students, renting your materials, or reselling them when the course is finished could help you save on costs.
  • Healthcare: College students by law are required to have health insurance. Although many institutions will offer and even sometimes require you to take health insurance through the university, you may want to contact your school before deciding on a health care option while you’re abroad. Ask about their health care requirements and fees, and research your health care options so that you can be prepared to cover those costs.
  • Transportation: Before arriving, you need to figure out what kind of transportation you will be using. For many cities, you may be able to use public transportation, but for other cities, you will need a car. Whatever option you choose, remember to include transportation costs, such as car insurance, parking, gas, public transit fees, etc., into your budget.
  • Living costs: Living costs include rent, utilities, phone bill, and groceries. You should evaluate what these monthly costs add up to for you, so you have enough money set aside to pay for them. Luckily, there are many resources to help you to be aware of living costs and even provide ways to minimize your spending.
  • Social activities: Social activities—whether club sports, a student group, or going out with friends—are those small costs that can add up quickly. Leave room in your budget every month for miscellaneous activities, whether it’s a fee to be part of an organized campus group, going to the movies, or out for meals with friends.
  • Traveling home: The costs associated with traveling home and back can come with a hefty price tag. Depending on how long you study abroad, it may be a good idea to plan in advance how many trips you want to take to go back home. That way, you can factor in travel costs when planning your university budget.
  • Moving/storage: Depending on how long you will be abroad for your studies, and whether or not you will go back home during the summer, you will want to think about the costs of storing and moving your personal items. Research these costs so you know the price. If you have friends who are in a similar situation, ask if they would be willing to split the cost with you.

To manage your school year budget, there are a number of free online budgeting tools to help keep your spending on track. It’s important when budgeting for your degree abroad that you factor in all of the various costs that come with living far from home in a place where the price and the exchange rate may be different. Doing this will help you be prepared, so you don’t have any unexpected costs during the year that put a dent in your spending.

Do you have handy budgeting tips or got caught off-guard by unexpected costs while studying abroad? Share your insights below in the comments.

Kaitlin Ramby

Kaitlin Ramby is the former Digital Content Producer and a Contributing Writer for World Education Services.