Studying abroad is a life-changing investment. Traveling the world, exploring new cultures, and making lifelong friends are just a few of the invaluable benefits you’ll experience.

A careful budget is the key to making the most of your international adventure. By staying in control of your finances, you’ll have a more enjoyable and enlightening experience.

What is a student budget?

A student budget is a breakdown of all the money you receive, as well as the money you are spending. It helps you estimate and plan your expenses so you don’t end up spending more than you have.

Student budgeting tools

Before you go, it pays to do some research. See the average cost of living in your dream study-abroad destination. Websites like numbeo allow you to compare living expenses in different cities and countries, so you know what to expect before you leave.

Once you have a rough estimate of the costs of living in your new home, you can enter other expenses, such as tuition and rent, into an online student budget calculator. This will give you a more accurate forecast.

However, you will only understand the true cost of studying abroad once you arrive in your host country. Once it’s installed, you can start tracking your spending with a budget spreadsheet.

What to include in your student budget

Dividing your expenses into essential and non-essential costs is one of the easiest ways to organize your budget.

Basic costs are items or services that you need to buy. You should prioritize these needs in your budget.

Non-essential costs are items or services that you like but don’t necessarily need.

Here is a summary of the essential and non-essential costs most international students face:

Essential costsNon-essential costs
Tuition feesClothing
Accommodation costsHaircuts & beauty products
Utilities (gas, electricity, water)Gym membership
GroceriesDining out
Mobile phone, WiFi, TVHousehold supplies
Insurance (health and contents)Nights out (club entry, alcohol, takeaways, taxis)
Visa application feeMusic and film subscription services (Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV, Spotify)
Books and academic suppliesHobbies (cinema tickets, music gigs, games consoles)
Transport (buses, trains, fuel, car insurance)Sports club membership fees and kit

Having a small emergency fund in your budget is a sensible move. Fortunately, you’ll never need to dip into this jar, but it could cover the cost of urgent medical care or an unplanned flight home.

How to calculate the student budget?

Calculate your total income: This is all the money you receive from loans, scholarships, grants, part-time work, savings, and parent/guardian contributions.

Subtract your essential expenses: Take the total cost of your essential expenses out of your total income.

Calculate your disposable income: The remaining money is what you can spend on non-essential items and services.

Tips on Saving Money as an International Student

Find the cheapest way to travel: buy a bike, take buses instead of trains, and book flights well in advance. If you’re a frequent traveler, consider investing in a multi-purpose travel card.

Seek Financial Support: You may be eligible for a variety of financial aid packages, including scholarships, grants, and bursaries. If you do a little research you can find gold.

Earn while you learn: If you’re starting to feel the pinch, you might want to look for a part-time job. This is a helpful way to pay the bills, but don’t let it get in the way of your education.

Take advantage of student discounts: Many stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues offer student deals and discounts. Remember to show your student card before paying.

Cook from scratch: Eating out regularly can hurt your finances. Cooking at home is a great way to save money and improve your culinary skills. Consider buying frozen instead of fresh, and supermarket lines instead of big brands, to further lower your bill.