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Santa Clara University

Make Your Study Abroad Budget

Step 1: Determine Your Costs


The first step in budgeting for study abroad is to determine exactly how much your program will cost you. Consider not only the official program cost, which generally includes all expenses necessary for you to participate in the program but also personal expenses not included in the program fees such as:

  • Food
  • Independent travel
  • Shopping
  • Phone Service
  • Passport or Visa Fees
  • Financial responsibilities at home like rent or car insurance payments

Our Best Tips:

  • Research how prices in your host country compare to those at home (such as groceries, renting a bike, taking public transportation, etc). 
  • Estimate high when calculating any variable and estimated expenses. It is better to have money left over than to fall short before the end of your program.


Step 2: Create Your Budget

Download the fillable budget to help you identify all of your participation costs depending on your program. 

  • Be sure to add expenses to the budget that are specific to you.
  • Consider the difference between  a “want” and a “need.”
  • How much money will you need for things like academic supplies (e.g., notebooks, pens, etc.) and financial responsibilities at home?
  • How much money do you want to spend on shopping and travel?

Download the Budget Worksheet

Once you have selected your program, create a budget and stick to it! An important part of the budget worksheet is the final section where you can determine how you will pay for the program costs. Whether you’re using financial aid, scholarships, family contributions, or paying for the costs on your own, you need to know exactly how much money you will have available.

If you receive financial aid (this includes grants, scholarships and any kind of state or federal loans) you can request a Financial Aid Estimate for your program to estimate and project your financial gap by speaking with Financial Aid. After you determine your financial gap, you can begin to plan ways to supplement that gap through scholarships, personal savings, working, etc.

If you receive a financial aid estimate, you can plug those numbers into your budget to see what leftover financial gap you have, taking into account your personal expenses outside of the official program cost. This will help you determine how many if any, scholarships to apply to, how much money you should save before your program, how many extra hours of work you need to complete to reach your financial goals, etc.


  • Financial aid and scholarships typically only cover the official program cost (tuition + program fees).
  • Be sure to find additional sources of funding to cover your personal costs and expenses.


Tips for Managing Your Budget Abroad


Check out the Ultimate Student Guide To Financing Your Life Abroad by Go Overseas


Banks, Cash, ATM's, and CardsMaking PlansFood Abroad
  • Ask your bank if they have partners abroad, and what the ATM and credit card fees will be.
  • Avoid unnecessary ATM fees. It is often a good idea to take out the maximum amount that you can at an ATM, which you can stash and use over a period of time (ATM fees can add up very quickly).
  • Stay updated on exchange rates. Exchange rates fluctuate often. Avoid falling victim to bad or unknown rates by getting the XE Currency App on your phone or visit to access current exchange rates.
  • Maintain a budget while abroad to ensure you are staying within the financial parameters of the budget you created before going abroad. Use weekly budgets to monitor the spending of your “needs” and “wants” to keep you on track.
  • Find free fun. Many international cities offer free walking tours. Facebook and other social media platforms are also great tools for finding ways to explore your host city and country on a budget.
  • Take advantage of student discounts. Keep your student ID card with you and consider buying the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). As a student, you can often get discounts at museums, when buying train tickets, and at hostels. However, research beforehand if the ISIC card is useful in the country you will be going to.
  • Buy your souvenirs and gifts at the end of your program. By that time, you will have a better idea of what the good souvenirs are and will know how much money you still have to spend.
  • Consider connecting with family and friends back home over zoom or social media apps when connected to wifi, rather than using the phone (phone plans abroad can sometimes be expensive!)
  • Shop and eat where the locals do.
  • Avoid purchases in areas that have high tourist traffic.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle with you everywhere. In most countries outside the US, water is not free at restaurants and those $1 bottles will add up.
  • Cook for yourself (if and when you can). It’s always more economical—and healthier!