Outside Perspectives

3 Ways to Save Money While Studying Abroad

By: Rachel Bowman

Traveling and doing as much as possible, while also spending as little money as possible has been one of my biggest goals while studying abroad. Now that I’m three quarters of the way done, I feel like I’ve had enough experience doing so, so I’d like to share some of my tips for saving money while studying abroad.

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First, let me share a little story of the lengths I’ve gone to in order to save money while traveling.

For my trip to Barcelona, instead of buying the pricier plane ticket that left from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, my friends and I decided to buy a much cheaper round-trip flight to Barcelona that left from the Brussels airport in Belgium. This meant we would have to take a bus an extra two and a half hours to Brussels. But, even with the costs of the bus tickets, we were still saving about half the costs of the tickets leaving from Amsterdam.

That being said, let’s go further into other money saving tips and tricks!

International Student ID Cards

When I first arrived in Amsterdam, I was bombarded with a variety of international student IDcard options. I have three student cards in total now: my University of Amsterdam student ID, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and an International Student Network (ISN) Amsterdam card.

Each of these IDs can get me a variety of discounts, ranging from student discounts at clothing stores to free entry at certain bars to money off bus tickets and hostel rooms. My ISIC card also doubles as public transportation card and gets me a small discount on that.

I would definitely recommend going with these organizations and getting the ID cards because they provide an easy way to save money in a multitude of ways.


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Grocery Shopping

In a city with a high cost of living like Amsterdam, it can become pretty pricey to eat out, so most people tend to make their own food.

Grocery shopping is really intimidating, especially if you don’t have much experience with it. So, with that and a language barrier, feeding myself was a bit of a struggle at first, butI’ve become much more confident in my abilities.

  • Stock up on the essentials so you don’t have to worry about buying them later on. It’s worth it to spend money up front on different seasoning and cooking essentials in order to be able to come up with meals for yourself rather than struggle to cook later on.
  • Eat before you shop and buy only what you need. I’ve made the mistake of going grocery shopping hungry, and I end up wasting money on snacks and unhealthy food I don’t need.
  • Make a list beforehand. This also helps to avoid buying unnecessary items and stops you from buying things that might go to waste.
  • Check out street markets and don’t worry about brands. The produce at the grocery store can be a bit more expensive, so check out local markets for better prices. It can also be tempting to buy brands your familiar with, but typically American brands are more expensive in international stores. While some products may actually taste different (likepeanut butter), other things like oat meal and granola bars are essentially the same, so save a few bucks and go for the cheaper brand.
  • Bring your own bags. In Amsterdam, they charge you to get a plastic bag. Sure, it’sonly a couple cents more, but it’s also better for the environment.

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Getting around

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world and basically every person does it, so it was unavoidable that I would have to get one. Biking is a cheap and easy way to get around. Public transportation adds up fast, and I leave my apartment every day, so I needed the most cost-efficient way to get around.

I spend 25 euros a month on my rental bike, which includes insurance and free repairs, so compared to 20 euros on my public transportation card lasting me a week, renting a bike is a great way to save money.

While I don’t have a strict budget that I stick to, these are some strategies that I personally use to save money. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself every once in a while. Besides, you’re only studying abroad once!

Make sure to follow Rachel’s adventures on Reviewed by Rachel.


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