“Hey, look! I’ve just woken up with an extra £5,000 to spend on whatever I want!”

Said no student…EVER!

Unless you have a money tree in your backyard or are one of the few who do enjoy such financial freedom, you will probably need to plan in advance for footing your study abroad bill.

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While your friends’ cool pictures of wildlife in Namibia, epic mountain landscapes in Austria, or steaming hot dumplings in China do much for inspiring your travels, they do very little to prepare you for the financial commitment you’ll have to make in order to get there. Even if your study abroad experience is your most expensive purchase to date, preparing for it really shouldn’t feel daunting or troubling. With proper planning and with time on your side, you’ll be able to finance your trip abroad no sweat.

Read on to learn about our study abroad savings timeline, as well as four other tips to help you prepare financially for your time abroad:

1. Get a rough financial estimate.

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Before you start saving for your study abroad experience, you’ll need to decide what your end savings goal is. The overall cost of studying abroad varies depending on a number of different factors, including length and location. Different universities also utilise different methods of structuring study abroad programmes, which, in turn, directly affects the overall cost burden for students.

You should begin discussing your study abroad goals with their academic advisors, your university study abroad advisor, and your parents early on. Even if you’ve yet to decide exactly where you want to go, these conversations can start giving you a ballpark estimation of how much out-of-pocket expenses you will incur.

Again, you don’t actually have to have officially chosen your study abroad programme before you start saving. It’s good to do a bit of field research to see what potential costs you’ll have, but actually deciding which programme you’ll participate in can come later.

2. Make a study abroad budget plan.

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Assuming you’ve already weighed up the pros and cons of the different types of study abroad programmes available to you (and what each means for your wallet), you can now get a jump start on saving for your study abroad programme.

Here is a worksheet we’ve put together to help you financially plan for your semester abroad – be sure to keep in mind the rate of exchange with your home currency!



Programme application fee

Is this a one time fee that is later subtracted from your overall fee?

Programme deposit

What is the refund policy? When is this fee due? Is it later deducted from your balance?

Overall programme fee

What services are included in the programme fee, and what is the refund policy?

Tuition and books

Will this be paid directly to your home institution, the foreign institution, or to the programme provider? How many books or other school-related supplies will you need for your courses?



Passport related costs

If you already have a passport, double check your expiration date and whether or not you have the legal number of pages without stamps for travel.

Visa related costs

Is my visa cost included in the programme fee? Visa fees vary from country to country.

Medical fees

This includes any vaccinations or immunisations required prior to visiting your study abroad destination, and a physical check up for general health from your doctor.

Insurance or travel insurance

In insurance included in the programme fee? Find a comprehensive plan that works for you. Note: this is in addition to your general insurance coverage.

Round trip international airfare

Book no more than 3 months in advance to score the optimum cost. Consider using student resources such as

Crummy baggage fees

We all hate them, but it is best to budget for them.

Suitcase, backpack, luggage, etc.

Buy a nice piece of luggage with sound quality. Trust us, you will thank us later.

Gift for host family

If you are living with a homestay family, bring a gift to share that represents your home country or own culture.

Clothing, shoes, etc.

Invest in good quality footwear for your semester, as well as clothing appropriate to the region’s culture and weather conditions.


You will want to visually document your experience, so come prepared with a camera.

Country/Regional Travel Guide Books

This will be handy for your weekend excursions and general understanding of your new home away from home.

Transportation from the airport to where you need to be.

Is an airport pick up included in the program fee? Otherwise, budget for a taxi or bus to your host campus upon arrival.



Accommodation fees

Are housing expenses included in the programme fee? What is the refund policy?

Accommodation deposit

What are the stipulations for a full refund at the end of the programme?

Food, yummy yummy food

Are meals included in your programme fee? If so, how many? If not, what is the average cost of food in your host country?


Fees pertaining to: a local sim card, WIFI internet, postage, calling home, upkeep of personal cell phone plan, etc.

Fun and entertainment

For when you want to eat out at a nice restaurant and splurge on the nice wine.

Cultural excursions

Budget money for museum exhibits, entrance fees, guided tours, etc. around your host city.


Gym membership fees. Avoid the study abroad 15!


Costs £2-4 per load. Gross, we know.

Personal hygiene

Shampoo, soap, and conditioner, oh my!

ATM or bank fees

For when you withdraw money or exchange cash.

On the ground travel expenses

Subways, metros, taxis, bus, bicycle rental, etc. Plan ahead for your preferred method of transportation.

Travel getaways

Whoohoo! Plan ahead for weekend or longer trips around the region or around your host country.

Souvenirs and gifts

A memento from your great adventure, and some money set aside to buy gifts for your closest family and friends.

Pocket money

For when you really need that double espresso.


Your “just-in-case” fund, which may also double as a replacement fund should you lose anything of significance while abroad (think: rain coat).


This is your overall estimated cost.



Financial aid

Fire up that FAFSA application page, talk with your university financial aid advisor, and consider applying for other federal financial aid packages applicable to your semester abroad.


Apply for scholarships in your host country, your host university, your home country, your home university, anywhere! Be vigilant when looking for scholarships, as there are many out there (and many that get receive few, if any, applicants!)


Any special discounts or unanticipated gifts from generous family members


This is your overall estimated deductions from financial aid.




Time to get a job. Consider a multitude of part-time work or get involved in low-key work commitments on campus.


Save portions of your holiday or birthday monetary gifts and put it towards your time abroad.


Get creative! There are plenty of ways to fundraise for your study abroad programme. A bake sale, GoFundMe campaign, the sky’s the limit.


What other income sources do you have, and how much can you commit to putting aside for your time abroad? Note: sketchyness not encouraged.


This is a summary of your financial commitments to saving.


Subtract subtotal #2 and subtotal #3 from subtotal #1 and voila. This should be 0 or less. If not, you may need to commit to working more, or shed some dollars from your budget for fun or other extraneous things.

3. Budget a little extra.

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Consider the numbers you have used in your worksheet an under-estimation (even if, in fact, they are an over-estimation!). Why? Because your life abroad might be more expensive than you expect, and financial worry is for the birds.

Save as much money as possible before you go overseas; this way, you’ll be able to relax and absorb your new life. We wouldn’t want you to get in a pinch the last few weeks of your programme!

We know saving money is no easy feat, and sometimes requires a bit of sacrifice. You might really want to go to that Beyonce concert with your friends. You might be convinced a spring break trip to Cancun is the only way to spend your precious week off. You might have a cruddy old cell phone in need of a major upgrade, and know you will not be satisfied unless it’s Apple’s latest iPhone.

Despite all of these vagrant wants and desires (seriously, they are not needs), keep in mind the end goal. You’ll be sipping sparkling water in the shade of the Eiffel Tower in no time, and when that moment comes, it will be extra sweet. And we guarantee, in that moment, you will not miss the stories of sunburns and late-night mistakes from Mexico one bit.

4. Follow the study abroad savings timeline.

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Preparing a year in advance for your study abroad semester is ideal. While it can be done in a shorter time span, 12 months allows students to save and prepare at a leisurely pace (and it might not cramp your lifestyle as much).

There are a number of different conversations, planning meetings, and shopping trips that need to happen as you budge. It may sound extreme, but you should start saving money at least one year before your trip. Save yourself undue stress by putting a small amount of money away with every paycheck.

Here is a year long plan to help you stay financially on track when preparing to study abroad.

12 months before departure – Laying the groundwork.

  • Using our handy-dandy financial planning worksheet (or a similar document from your university), estimate your costs for studying abroad.
    • Get a job (or two!) so you can start making good on your commitment to putting your hard-earned dollars towards your study abroad semester.
  • Apply for financial aid.
    • Even if you were unqualified in the past, many students find that applying for federal aid a second time around can be financially beneficial.
  • Apply for FAFSA or a similar programme in your home country.
  • Scholarships #fordays.
  • Tap into any and all resources for scholarship opportunities. Your home university might even offer one specific to study abroad. Consider doing independent research on your intended host country to see if there are any scholarships available for international students.
  • You might not receive a scholarship for the entirety of your programme cost, but every little bit helps, and every little bit chips away at your overhead.
  • Consider opening a savings account solely for study abroad.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.
  • Kick your savings up a notch by organizing direct deposit from your employer.

9 months before departure – Selecting your study abroad program.

  • Programme selection and backup.
  • By this point, you should already have a clear idea of the programme you would like to participate in. Armed with this information, many line items on your budgeting worksheet can move from nebulous estimations to actual costs.
  • Consider having a backup programme in mind in case your number one choice does not pan out, whether due to finances, availability, or other reasons.
  • Apply for your programme! – your first study-abroad related expenditure, whoo hoo! Submit your application materials and your application fee to be considered for programme admission.

6 months before departure – Planning specifically for your programme.

  • Programme fees.
  • Assuming you were accepted into your programme of choice, you will now have to start forking out more costly expenses, such as your programme deposit. 
  • Visa, passport, and other related costs – Double check if you need to visit the consulate directly or if you can submit all of your documents electronically or via the mail (be sure to follow the application instructions exactly).
  • Get your medical expenses in order – health clearance and vaccinations should be taken care of sooner rather than later.
  • Payment deadlines – your programme provider will likely have shared a calendar for when certain benchmark payments are expected. Keep active tabs on these deadlines and work with your parents and financial aid advisors to make sure they are met.

3 months before departure – Start buying all the fun stuff.

  • Purchase your airfare!
  • This is the sweet spot when buying your round trip flight ticket. Be sure to double check (and maybe even triple check) your programme dates to avoid pesky change fees later on
  • Payment deadlines – It is worth mentioning again to ensure you are staying on top of your payment plan with your university or study abroad programme.
  • Equipment – Instead of having one massive shopping trip (and bill) right before your trip, why not start purchasing items bit by bit over the course of 3 months. Shoes, clothes, a proper suitcase, a camera, etc. will all seem like less of a burden if they are not all purchased at once.

1 month before departure – Other odds and ends

  • Get your monies in order.
  • Start your semester with a bit of cash in the local currency already on hand, and educate yourself on how to access funds while you are traveling abroad
  • Emergency cash – Set up a stash of emergency cash for you to access should your credit cards or debit cards stop working or you find yourself in a pickle
  • Payment deadlines – Make sure each of your payments have cleared so that you have little or no balance upon starting your awesome trip abroad!

Bonus! First week abroad

  • Settling in expenses.
  • Meals, transportation, anything you forgot (i.e. hangers, cleaning supplies, shampoo, etc), a special night out, etc. Have cash set aside specifically for these unanticipated costs of adjusting to life in your new country.

5. Small changes, big rewards.

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We get it – you’re young, and being financially responsible isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you wake up in the morning. Even so, there are a number of ways you can cut back in your everyday life that add up to big savings over a long period of time.

Invite friends over instead of going out, and cut back on the drinks, lattes, drugs, cigarettes, etc. Why not try repairing your clothes instead of always replacing them? Avoid using shopping as a method for de-stressing. Have you ever considered selling your stuff online? Who knew that your old coach purse or lucky jeans could earn you so much money. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

No matter which savings schemes you adopt to make your study abroad dreams come true, lalways try to look at the bigger bigger. You’re learning the (kind of boring, but still very awesome) skill of budgeting, saving, and financially planning, which will be useful for….ever. The accomplishment you will feel upon boarding that plane home will be incomparable to anything you’ve felt before. And when you’re cashing in on all of your hard work, you’ll have a lightbulb moment of, “Oh, that’s what Mum and Dad have been trying to teach me all these years.”

In conclusion, study abroad, much like college itself, should be looked at as an investment in your future. Our study abroad savings timeline is not the be-all and end-all of approaches to financing your (or your kid’s) trip overseas. It’s just a general guideline to help you have a better understanding of what your purse is in for.

Image via Shutterstock.

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