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 expatistan.com.
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.
"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.
- Undergraduate Financial Aid holds one-on-one study abroad budgeting advising sessions each spring quarter prior to summer and fall study abroad departure. Keep an eye on your email to sign up for a session.
- Memorize the conversion rate or use a currency converter app on your phone to stay aware of how much you are spending in U.S. dollars (or your home country's currency).
- Articles & Tips:
- If you are a financial aid recipient, you may also find it helpful to schedule a financial aid appointment to review your aid package and plan your study abroad budget, especially if you might receive a financial aid refund to help with your expenses overseas.
"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