5 Ways to Save Money as a Student Overseas
Studying in a new country is an exciting prospect. It gives you the opportunity to learn through experience, as well as through books. You get to meet new people, try new things, and learn how to get by on your own. If you are in a position to do so, take the leap.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t in the position to study overseas. The main reason for this is financial. This is especially true if you come from a developing country and want to study somewhere with a much stronger currency. But even if your currency is strong, you'll find a whole lot of expensive obstacles. You've never had to manage your own money, and there are things you'll need to splurge on in order to get by.
The following 5 tips give overseas students a start in saving money and instead focusing on what’s important.
1. AVOID student loans
This might seem obvious. If you don’t have to take out a student loan, don’t do it. But the point here is that, even if it seems necessary, avoid student loans at (almost) all costs. What students have continuously learned over the past few decades is that institutions care more about their money than their well being. You're not being given a loan out of the goodness of their hearts. Student loans will dog you even if everything goes according to plan, but chances are your 4 year degree will take 6 years, or something could get in the way of completing it at all. Do everything you can to find another way.
2. Apply for scholarships
Many prospective students have the impression that only geniuses and athletes are given scholarships. But the truth is that there are scholarship opportunities for most students. This is especially true when you are studying abroad. Universities and colleges often provide subsidies for international students. Check with the institutions you wish to study at, and apply for every scholarship available, not just the most attractive.
3. Choose cheaper international money transfer providers
One of the major reasons students overseas struggle financially is that their money is dented by fluctuating exchange rates and transfer fees. It is hard to budget wisely when the money you’re sent has a different value each month. Big banks and services like Western Union also cut into that money with prohibitive fees. The smart option these days is to use cheap international money transfer providers. These foreign exchange companies are superior to banks, in that they charge much lower fees and provide you with better exchange rates. Companies like OFX, Transferwise, and CurrencyFair have exposed the common practice of banks to hide extra fees in what they claim are “competitive exchange rates” (here is how they compare). The truth is there is only one exchange rate, and any variations are designed for the banks’ profit. These companies also offer options to settle for one rate for a long period of time, so that your monthly allowance does not change.
4. Ask for student discounts
Many new students are unaware that they qualify for student discounts. This is a fairly easy way to save money. Speak to your university and ask them which stores offer student discounts. They will give you a list, and by simply carrying around your student card, you'll save money on many of the basics.
5. Compare prices and take advantage of sales
While it’s understandable that students like to do all their shopping in one place, if you really want (or need) to save money, take the time to compare prices. Look for sales, and if there is a “price checking” website for your location, make good use of it. One good way to save money on perishable foods is to shop towards the end of the day. Fruit and veg stores, bakeries, etc. all need to get rid of stock that won’t be fresh the next day. They’ll sell it cheap and sometimes give much of it away.
Stay disciplined, stay alert, and keep up
Ultimately, in order to keep up financially as a student overseas, you need discipline. Don’t spend your money impulsively. Keep a careful budget so that you know exactly what you're spending, and always look for more affordable options.
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