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Budgeting & Planning

Study abroad may be your first experience planning and managing a budget – in a different country, in a different currency, on a different calendar, and maybe even in a different language! It is important to plan and stick to a budget and pay attention to your spending. The amount you spend abroad will depend on many variables, including the host country’s economy, the currency exchange rate, what costs are covered by your program, your personal spending habits, and the amount you wish to travel.

Step 1: Learn How Much Things Cost

When choosing a program, consider the cost of living in your desired location. Western Europe, Australia, and Japan tend to be more expensive than other parts of the world. Urban areas are generally more expensive than rural areas. Compare the cost of living in different countries you are considering at

Your program page will have estimated costs for food, airfare, and other living expenses in your host country. (For affiliated programs, contact your provider directly for cost-of-living information.)

Consult country guidebooks and other resources to estimate all expenses you may encounter, including food (groceries and eating out), travel (daily transportation and optional weekend trips), entertainment, laundry, toiletries, and other incidentals.

You are strongly encouraged to connect with returnees who studied in your host country to learn how much they actually spent abroad. You can also read through Northwestern students' blog posts about budgeting abroad.

saya-federbush-returnees-cascade.jpgStudent Perspective

"Although it may seem intimidating to contact a returnee about their study abroad experience, I'm always happy to share my stories and perspective about my time abroad, and I can guarantee that other students are open to sharing their experiences as well!" —Saya Federbush, GESI Costa Rica returnee


Step 2: Plan Your Budget

  • We recommend you use a budget worksheet or budget checklist or to help plan your budget prior to departure. Past students have recommended Mint or Numbeo.

cindy-mei-finaid-360.png Student Perspective

"For a lot of people who wish to study abroad, finances are an important consideration. My correspondence with Krista Bethel in the Financial Aid Office was of great help and reassurance." —Cindy Mei, China: Political & Economic Development and SU Abroad in Florence returnee


Step 3: Plan for Pre-Departure Costs

Some up-front costs related to study abroad occur far in advance of the start of your program, so be sure to budget for these expenses. Learn more about how to budget and pay for these pre-departure expenses.

Step 4: Save Money While Abroad

Check out the Money Management pages for information and tips about how to access money, spend wisely, minimize losses, and make your budget work for you while abroad!