Manage your budget

Money matters

As a student in a foreign country, optimise the potential of your wallet by taking on a part-time job or through shared accommodation, suggests Natasha Chopra

“Sorry, I can’t come out tonight. I am flat broke,” is a statement that is commonly made by students studying abroad. These are students who have spent thousands of dollars on application forms, visa, tuition fee, hostel fees, along with air fare, day-to-day maintenance costs, etc. Most of them have either taken an education loan or are self-funded and have to maintain a shoe-string budget. Asking parents for money to spend on food, travelling or socialising is not easy, many say. So this involves a lot of strict monitoring of one’s budget while living and studying in a foreign country.

Know your accounts

Being young and living in an alien environment can lead to a few financial disasters, especially since students are surrounded by peers of their own age, with no adult supervision or guidance. What they fail to realise early is that with new-found independence, comes great responsibility. And living abroad requires them to make smarter decisions and well-informed choices.

A common feeling among Indian students is the need to fit in. This involves getting to know the locals, socialising, joining groups or forums that allow for more interaction outside the classroom, partying, etc. But their budget may not always be supportive of these needs. More often than not, they end up spending more than what has been accounted for.

Here are ways students can manage their money:

*Set a fixed budget for a month and review it on a weekly basis and record the same on a daily basis. This can help you save hundreds or dollars or pounds. One of the advantages of having a clear-set budget is that it helps individuals keep track of total expenditure and know how much they have left to spend and make adjustments accordingly. That way, if they spend more in one week, they can alter their expenditure for the following week and avoid being penniless. This further helps an individual become more organised and in control of his life. Keeping track of how much they have spent at the end of every day enhances their control over finances.

*Increase your budget by getting a job. One of the most common solutions to managing a budget is by earning and funding your own expenses. A part-time job can only supplement monthly funds. It not only makes an individual more financially independent, but it also spruces up one’s resume by adding these years of work experience.

*Always keep in mind the exchange rate. Awareness of how much an item is costing you in Indian rupees is a great way to put you off purchasing something expensive and out of your student budget range. This way you avoid making an impulsive buy!

Knowing that a pound equals Rs 70 approximately will probably put an individual off from randomly purchasing a pair of jeans for £150-170. Isn’t that the cost of a week of groceries, for sure?

*Opt for cheaper alternatives. Rather than staying on campus, which is usually much more expensive, opt for accommodation off campus on a nearby street or area.

In addition to saving money, students can share space too. Move in to a shared accommodation. All common bills such as rent, groceries, electricity, Internet, maintenance can be split between two more students. This means one can save a lot of money and in the process, learn to make adjustments and socialise with their house-mates which can be a great experience.

A technique used by many students is that of investing savings in a college  project or putting their money in a fixed deposit at a local bank. This helps in setting aside some spare cash and earning interest on it while it remains untouched. In times of an emergency, you can use the money saved up. And trust me, emergencies are something you must be prepared for, especially since you are on your own.

These are some of the ways of managing your budget while studying abroad. While these are just a few recommended ways, it is important to remember that some countries and visas do not allow students to work while studying and some courses might require them to live on campus. This does not mean that you cannot save any money while studying abroad. Most student council bodies are very resourceful in terms of helping students live on a budget. Get in touch with the international student body at your university and have them guide you, in any case.

So do not fret. You don’t have to miss out on all the fun experiences, only because you can’t afford it. Set a budget, monitor it and be frugal when you can. This may just help you pay for a weekend getaway with your friends or to shop for souvenirs for family back home!

(The author is the Director of The Chopras.)

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