Budgeting & Planning

Step 1: Review Program Budget with Your Study Abroad

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Once you have selected a program, you will create a budget with your study abroad advisor during your program advising appointment. Should you receive financial aid, this budget is shared with the office of financial aid. Your financial aid may be adjusted based upon the updated cost of attendance for the term you are studying abroad.

In your advising appointment, your advisor will review estimated amounts for the cost of attendance, additional expenses, and where to pay your study abroad fees to. At that time, your advisor will also review scholarships and other funding options available to you.

Step 2: Research Costs of Living Abroad

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The cost of living varies greatly by program location.  Europe, Australia, and some countries in Asia tend to be more expensive than other parts of the world. Major cities and popular tourist destinations can also be more expensive in terms of daily living expenses.  Many non-traditional locations, smaller cities, or rural locations tend to have a lower cost of living. There are many online blogs, websites, and country guidebooks that can give you an estimate for all expenses you may have to account for abroad such as groceries, local transportation, entertainment, personal expenses, travel, and dining.  One recommended resource is expatistan.com. We also recommend you connect with UIC study abroad alumni and read blogs and testimonials from UIC study abroad students and other college students who have studied abroad on your particular programs. Make sure to read budget related information provided by your program.

Your program page will have a tab outlining tuition and fees, housing, estimated costs for food, airfare, and other living expenses in your host country.

Step 3: Create Your Personal Budget

Creating a budget and living within that budget while abroad is really important. However, without ample planning this can prove to be more difficult. Knowing what you are spending your money on by creating categories and sticking to those limits will help you stay on track each month.  You can utilize this budget template to plan and track your expenses abroad! Use this tool to calculate budgeted and actual expenses for categories such as bills, meals, local transportation, health insurance, and other personal expenses. You can also begin budgeting several months or years before you go abroad to save monthly and put your savings towards budgeting for study abroad.

Step 4: Money Management

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Before You Go Abroad

  • Contact your bank(s) to let them know you will be traveling abroad. You will need to share the dates and location of where you will be studying.  If you participate in independent travel and plan to use your card in a different location, you may need to notify them you will be traveling in a different country.  It is important to notify your bank because otherwise you may be traveling and your card will be frozen (due to suspected fraud) leaving you with no access to funds.
  • Find out before you depart what your daily withdrawal limit at ATMs is. You don’t want to be assessed overdraft fees while abroad.
  • Check into ATM fees and foreign transaction charges. Some credit cards and debit cards have free ATM fees and or no foreign transaction fees, while others have extremely high fees associated with using the cards abroad.  Some banks have sister banks abroad that don’t  charge fees for ATM usage.  Contact your bank about this!
  • U.S. debit cards may not work in Europe, Asia, or Latin America, especially if they do not have the EMV chip. This is transitioning in the U.S., but it is important to be aware of.
  • Verify your card and PIN number’s compatibility with machines overseas.
  • Make copies of the front and back of any debit or credit card you will be taking with you during your time abroad. In the event that your card is lost or stolen, you will have your banking information and also the international phone number to contact your bank to notify them of the lost or stolen card.
  • Give yourself multiple ways to access your money. Bring a debit and credit card with you. Also make sure someone at home is able to access your bank account in the event that you need an emergency transfer of money.
  • Make sure you’ve enabled online and mobile banking to make it easier to manage your funds while abroad.
  • Create a budget and try to stick to it during your program. Unexpected expenses will inevitably arise, and having a plan in mind for your money while abroad will help you better prepare for these surprises.

While Abroad

  • Be prepared to pay for most of your daily expenses in cash. Use a debit card to access cash from
    ATMs so that you don’t have to worry about packing or exchanging US money.
  • Thefts at ATMs can happen, so be vigilant when taking out money at ATMs. Extracting large sums of money from the ATM and keeping large sums of cash on you (or in your personal space) increases the risk of theft. Be aware of your surroundings when taking out money and cover the pin pad when entering your secure number.
  • If possible, use ATMs associated with banks. If you see a bank, chances are that there will be ATMs right inside or outside near the bank entrance. These ATMs will be more secure and usually have a lower fee associated with their use.
  • ATMS in bars/restaurants or not associated with banks are often independently owned and are a magnet for pickpockets or debit/credit card fraud.  Most are ok, just be mindful of your surroundings when using them and be sure they are certified ATMS before using them.
  • Many countries rely on cash more than credit/debit cards.  Be sure to carry a small amount of cash around with you at all times. Be mindful to keep it in small bill increments to make sure you are less susceptible to pickpockets. You may not be able to use your card for small purchases; some businesses have a minimum on how much can be put on a card.  For purchases that can be made using a credit card, Visa and MasterCard are the most widely recognized.
  • It is not recommended to open a foreign bank account, rely on personal checks, or rely on less commonly used credit card companies abroad such as American Express or Discover.