I ONLY HAVE ONE MORE MONTH LEFT OF LIVING IN ITALY I CAN NOT HANDLE THIS.
For real, I am already fighting the post study abroad depression and I haven't even left yet. Since the semester is winding down so are my funds.
Budgeting has never been my strength, but I have definitely had to increase my budgeting skills here because I can't exactly call my grandma and act hungry so she will buy me groceries fit for an apocalypse stock pile like I could back at home. It is even looking like I will have some money left at the end of the semester to take part in the "treat yo self" philosophy.
So, with that, here are my semester abroad budgeting tips:
The big reveal:How much did I bring?
I saved about $5,000 dollars for extra travels, food, and spending money. The perfect amount for me, but less than some and more than others. It has been enough for me to take a trip three weekends out of each month and pay to do fun activities and tours without hesitation.
How do I keep track of it all?
A very intense Google spreadsheet is the answer for most people... but for me... I just check my online banking a couple times a week. If online banking isn't available for you, you better get good at spreadsheets otherwise you will be in trouble. There was a two week period that I didn't check my accounts and I definitely spent WAY more than I wanted to.
So, where does it all go?
Food: 20% (Mostly groceries and a few cheap meals out a week)
Beauty: 5% (A winter coat was my big purchase, but to save some money in this department I actually learned how to give myself haircuts)
Fees: 10% (Definitely a place where unexpected costs will come up. For example, just last week I had to pay an unexpected bill of about $150 to the Italian Immigration Office as an add on to my VISA fees)
Travel: 65% (This will look different for everyone, but traveling is what was most important to me on this trip, so I decided to save the most money to buy things like hostels and plane tickets)
When you’re planning how much money to bring, don’t just draw a line in the sand and say “that much!” Think about what you want to do while you’re there and how much money you’ll need to support it. Then, work out a solid weekly budget that can help keep you on track. I was lucky enough to receive enough study abroad scholarships to cover my trip, so I literally worked as much as I could this summer to save enough for all of my spending money. I try to spread my purchases out between weeks and knew I needed to be under budget on as many weeks as possible so I had wiggle room to be over budget (by a lot) during my travel weeks.
What are some places to save money?
Definitely eat out as little as possible when you are home, and when you are traveling it depends on how expensive the city is. Luckily, the cost of living in Italy is cheap, but, for example, when I am in Norway next week, it was cheaper to get an AirBNB (renting out someone's apartment for the weekend) and cooking all my food there because eating out is ridiculously priced in Norway. Then there's some cities, like Barcelona, where it was cheap to eat out and cheap to stay in a hostel. Another place to save money is also definitely skipping on buying an international phone plan. I didn't buy one and I have loved every minute of it. It's nice to be "off the grid" for a while and really enjoy the things you are seeing without having to worry about your phone or social media. You can still check everything when you have wifi and just talk to people over Skype, Whatsapp, or FaceTime. There's also plenty of awesome navigation apps that work without data too. My recommendation would be maps.me. But for sure I would say 100% skip the phone plan. You'll save loads of money and have a better experience.
I don’t know about you, but this could be the only time in my life I get to be twenty years old, living abroad with all of my friends. My advice to you? Spend all of your savings. It’s hard to see all your hard earned money spent but, what do you really have to lose? Only the lost opportunities to see some really amazing places, and trying some really great new experiences!
With that, enjoy my photos from Ireland this weekend on my photos page! IT ROCKED SO MUCH. Have a wonderful week and smile a lot because its almost thanksgiving! (That also means a story is coming about me attempting to be a domestic goddess and trying to make the perfect Thanksgiving meal.)
I'm Liz Bixenman, an interior design student living in Rome for the semester. When I'm not doing schoolwork, you can find me wearing a cat shirt, reading a book, and most likely eating more carbs than I'm proud of.