As students, the majority of us will be familiar with the feeling of when paying for things becomes somewhat like a game of ‘card roulette’- usually around the time you’re awaiting that longed for text from student loans. Somehow we all seem to muddle on through, but this kind of uncertainty is the last thing you want as you embark on a year/semester abroad.
You’ve completed the mountains of paperwork, risk assessments, and (hopefully) a fair bit of legwork about your destination, so why not take the same organised approach to your money? It’s probably worth noting too that I’m no Martin Lewis, so I will stick to a few basic tips that got me through my year abroad (just about).
- First off, it may seem blindingly obvious, but be sure to double check the currency that you will be using during your year/semester – It wasn’t until a couple of months before I left for Copenhagen that I clocked Danish Krone was actually the accepted form of currency, as opposed to Euros. Judging from the couple of people who visited me and made the same assumption, this is a more commonly made mistake than you would initially think.
- If possible, try and set up a bank account before you leave the UK that allows you to make transactions abroad for free – I assumed that banking was something I would simply figure out once I’d moved and completed all the necessary citizenship registrations, but was surprised to learn that setting up a bank account in Denmark is a lot more complicated than it was back home, not to mention pretty expensive too. Obviously this is all dependent on where you’re moving to and whether you’re planning on working as well as studying, but I would say the easiest options here, at least while you’re finding your feet in the first month or so, are setting up an account with a provider such as Monzo, which seems to be growing in popularity amongst students and can be used for free anywhere in the world. If you’re based in Europe, then I would also recommend Metro Bank, as you can pop into your local branch and walk away with your new account and bank card on the same day.
- If you don’t get around to setting up a bank account before you leave, just be wise to which cash machines you are withdrawing money from, keep track of exchange rates and always aim to withdraw larger sums of money, but less frequently. Most importantly, don’t be panicked into exchanging your currency at those counters at the airport, however convenient it may seem.
- This piece of advice is courtesy of my lovely Mum – every time we travel abroad she keeps a little list of currency translations (her ‘ready reckoner’). This may be a little outdated now, when you can simply translate currency on your phone in seconds, but the idea remains the same – familiarise yourself with what your spending translates into, so you don’t kid yourself into thinking £8 a pint is sustainable.
- On a similar note, it always pays (literally) to keep track of your weekly outgoings and set yourself a rough budget based around this. Admittedly, I wasn’t great at sticking to said budget during my time abroad, but tracking my spending proved pretty useful for ensuring I didn’t blow all of my Erasmus loan at once (tempting as it was), and therefore I didn’t have to restrict myself too much from going out and enjoying myself come the end of the year.
- I hate to say it but, it’s always best to be a little prepared for the worst; so just make sure you know how to either freeze or cancel your cards if needs be and write down any useful contact numbers. I would also advise double checking whether your travel insurance covers accidental loss or damage; it’s worth noting that some insurers have clauses that exclude cover for incidents that happen after ‘excessive alcohol consumption’.
Always do as much legwork as possible before you arrive – from the rough living costs you can expect from your destination, to the countless number of blogs recommending cheap eats and free tourist attractions – so that ultimately you can spend more time (and save more money) exploring your new home! Since the golden rule of studying abroad seems to be ‘say YES to every opportunity’, hopefully these tips will help you to do just that!