Set to be living in a foreign country? You better set a budget so you don't run out of money and miss out!
Running out of money really happens. When I was living in Europe for a semester, me and my ILP group (we were all volunteering in Lithuania) wanted to take a long weekend trip up to Sweden .... but half of our group couldn't go because they simply couldn't afford it! They hadn't budgeted enough money and at the end of their trip they had to miss out.
Seriously, come travel the world
This Traveling On A Budget guide is full of the tips you need
Don't let that be you — use these tips to plan and travel on a budget:
Set A Goal Amount
Do some research and come up with a number to save up for. If you're an ILP volunteer, you can go on the ILP Facebook groups and ask alumni in your country how much they spent and what they recommend. We've outlined what typical amounts volunteers usually spend in their country to help give you a framework to refer back to.
Just remember, this amount really depends on your spending habits and where you are volunteering/going on vacation. One person might only spend $1,000 over a four month period because they're really great at bargain shopping and don't buy lots of gelato or tacos. Another volunteer may spend more than $3,000 because they are constantly shopping, vacationing to expensive places, and eat out all of the time. Knowing your spending habits is going to be the best way for you to figure out if you can make a lower or higher budget work out for your trip.
Keep in mind what part of the world you're living in as well. If you're going to live in Europe, don't ask someone who lived in Mexico how much they spent. It's incredibly cheaper to live in Mexico than it is in Europe! Do some research online for costs of living in different countries (That might even change your mind about where you want to go abroad).
First, Budget For The Most Important Things
Look at your semester abroad — Do you have vacations or time off scheduled? Any flights or train tickets you need to purchase yourself? Personally, I'd rather make sure that I can go on a vacation versus making sure I have money to buy souvenirs. For me, planning out the transportation, lodging, and things to do is going to be more important than spending money in-county on little knickknacks or buying treats after teaching. Once you have a budget blocked out for flights, trains, buses, and hostels, then you're ready to move onto your activities budget.
Really think about activities you want to do and where you want your money to go. Maybe you think it would be the coolest thing to camp on the Great Wall of China instead of just visiting for a day. It's going to be more expensive than just visiting for the day, but is going to be way worth it. Maybe skip out on a bit of souvenir shopping so you can afford to do that big bucket list adventure.
Alright, time to break it all down. If $2,000 is your total budget for spending money while living abroad, and you decide you want to set aside $1,500 for your vacations, then you have $500 for the rest your trip. Maybe spent $300 for souvenirs that last, and $200 on eating out.
Then Budget A Little Extra
You ALWAYS spend more than you planned on. Just plan on that in the first place, and you'll be okay. There's always going to be a more expensive flight, a bus that you miss so you have to buy another ticket, a mix-up with the order which has you paying for a double scoop of ice cream, and that one time you forgot your boots so you had to buy a new pair on vacation. If you're in the mindset that you have a couple of hundred dollars for these kind of emergencies, you'll be set.
Evaluate At The Halfway Point
It's really easy to over spend at the start of your trip because you're excited and wanting to get out there, do everything you can, eat everything you can, and experience everything you can. We don't blame you! Experiencing a new country is more than exciting, but it can get expensive if you're not watching yourself.
If you find that you're overspending, see how you can scale back. Maybe start splitting meals to save money or walk instead of taking a taxi. Stop buying souvenirs and skip out on trying a few new treats until you get back on track.
A Few Other Tips For Travelers On A Budget:
Don't buy souvenirs at the start of your semester.
This might be the biggest tip I can give you. Seriously. Wait to buy things until you've lived there for about a month — you'll see the same souvenirs all over which means you can shop around for the best price (touristy places will have the highest prices!). Plus, once you've been abroad for a while, you'll be more familiar with the exchange rate and will know what a good price is for those cute nesting Russian dolls.
Also, you'll want to buy everything when you first get there ... but after a while, you'll realize what items are really important and you won't waste your money on things you don't really want.
Set aside a budget specifically for eating out (or whatever your biggest temptation is).
If you're living in China, a yummy dinner is only going to set you back about $1.50. Amazing! So amazing that it's really easy to say, "Let's go eat out!" Every. Single. Night. Pretty soon those really cheap purchases add up without you ever realizing it. Think about eating all the free meals you'll get with your ILP program fee (you'll have 3 meals a day provided to you!) and not eating out unless you're out exploring or on vacation.
Travel the world on a budget
Hi! We're ILP, a non-profit organization who sends volunteer abroad to teach English and travel for a semester in countries all over the world. Oh and did we mention that your program fee includes roundtrip airfare, housing and meals? We're focused on having lots of affordable options for volunteers who want to serve abroad, come learn a bit more: