5 Tips for Living Abroad on a College Student Budget

5 Tips for Living Abroad on a College Student Budget

When I first arrived in London, my most difficult adjustment was the exchange rate and the difference in cost of living.  Well, after a little over a month in my new home, I've begun to take note of the areas where most of my money goes when I am not paying attention. So in order to help some of you who are considering London for your abroad experience, I put together a quick list of my top 5 tips for living on a London budget:


1. Avoid Eating Out & Cook

 Just like eating fast food can add up at home, it triples abroad.  As always, grocery shopping is always more cost effective.  There are always deals for buying multiple packages of items, and fruits and vegetables are priced really cheap.  Its the equivalent of getting 2-3 meals (or more) for the same price you would pay for 1 meal by eating out.  If you are on the run and have to make a stop to eat, go to the grocery store.  They have "meals on the go" sections and they are relatively cheap compared to the cost of the fast food restaurant.  This is not to discourage you from trying out the pubs or giving unique restaurants a try; just don't make it a habit.  For those of you who have not mastered the art of cooking, microwaves are supplied and pre-made meal options are available at the grocery store also!


2. Buy Weekly/Monthly Oyster Passes

You will be encouraged to "top-up/pay as you go." This is definitely something to use your own judgement for, but you will quickly find that your requirements for work, class, and then your personal explorations will add up quickly.  The unlimited trips you are afforded on a weekly/monthly pass will accommodate those unexpected trips and peak hour costs that can end up costing you more than expected.  Give it a couple of weeks to see what is most cost effective for your needs but if you are like many of us who want to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities this city has to offer, consider the weekly/monthly passes - it is much easier to plan in your budget and you will definitely get your money's worth from it.


3. Shop on Trips Outside of London

The farther away from the city you go, the cheaper things will be.  London is known as a fashion capital and who wouldn't want to buy something that resonates "British Style." But, for the college student, the reality is most of you won't be able to afford it.  Avoid doing your leisure shopping in the city. As an example, I am a handbag fanatic.  I recently purchased 3 bags in Bath, England for the total of 1/2 the price I paid for 1 bag when I first got to London - and we aren't talking a major name brand either.  Getting the idea?  If you must shop in the city, go to the outdoor street markets.  There are plenty! Now, all I have to do is find out how I am getting all of these wonderful finds back to the states.


4. Tons of Festivals are Free...Take Advantage of It!

There are often several going on at one time.  This is a great way to experience the city without spending a lot of money.  It will be very tempting to try and have fun in a way that you can (or can't for those of you who are underage in the states) in the same way you would at home.  But it isn't always necessary.  The city has festivals all the time and many of them are free.  You have the opportunity to experience all types of food, music, and a general view of different areas throughout the city.  I can't say it enough, if you want to feel like you are seeing the most of London, this is the best way.


5. Travel 

London is in the center of some of the most desired tourist cities around the world, including Paris, Venice, and Barcelona.  Now let me begin with this disclaimer: I definitely encourage you to plan for at least one trip to one of these magnificent cities if you can afford it.  However, for those of you who have to be more conscious of your budget, do not feel as though you have to.  England is a wonderful country and there are plenty of wonderful and unique cities close by that are relatively inexpensive to travel to.  So as a note on traveling from London, follow these tips:


 a) Plan your trips and book as far in advance as possible.  The earlier you can book, the cheaper your transit and hostel costs will be.

b) Book in groups.  There are always group deals available so get to know your group colleagues well and plan trips together to get the best deals.

c) Pay attention to your CAPA memos.  There are often great deals being offered for CAPA students and when available, they will definitely let you know about it.  Don't miss out on these opportunities when you are able to take advantage of them.

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More