So you’ve made the big leap and are studying in a new country. But let’s face it: managing finances in a foreign land can be a minefield.
To help students, we’re going to break down the five most common financial blunders international students make and give you the lowdown on how to navigate your way through them.
Abhishek is an international student from India studying in the United States. Abhishek was super excited to start his new life but quickly found himself struggling financially. He’d go out for meals, buy new gadgets, and join every campus event without thinking twice.
By the end of the first semester, he was shocked to see his low bank balance; he had barely enough to pay for his next semester’s textbooks and student accommodation rent.
Realising he needed to take control of his finances, Abhishek decided to create a budget. He listed all his income sources, including a part-time job and financial support from his family.
Then, he noted down his fixed expenses like amber student accommodation rent, utilities, and tuition. He allocated a reasonable amount for variable expenses like food, entertainment, and personal care.
To keep himself accountable, he started using a budgeting app that alerted him when he was close to exceeding his limits. Slowly but surely, Abhishek found himself spending more wisely and even started saving a little each month.
Overusing Credit Cards
Bella is an international student from Brazil studying in the United Kingdom. Thrilled to receive her first-ever credit card, Bella felt like she had hit the jackpot.
She started swiping it for everything—from shopping sprees to dining out with friends. It felt like free money until she received her first credit card statement with an astronomical amount due, plus interest.
Stunned by the reality of her spending, Bella knew she had to make a change. She started by educating herself on how credit cards work, including interest rates and minimum payments. She then made a plan to pay off her existing debt by cutting back on non-essential expenses and taking up a part-time job.
To prevent future mishaps, she set a low credit limit and decided to use her credit card only for emergencies or planned expenses that she could pay off immediately.
Carlos is an international student from Mexico studying in Canada. Carlos assumed that scholarships were only for top-tier students or athletes, so he never bothered to look into them.
As a result, he relied solely on his savings and a hefty student loan to fund his education. By the end of his first year, he realized he was accumulating a mountain of debt.
After talking to a financial advisor at his university, Carlos discovered that there were various scholarships he could apply for, including those for international students, specific majors, and even community service.
Energized by this newfound knowledge, he spent a weekend researching scholarships and grants he was eligible for.
He applied to several, tailoring his essays and gathering strong recommendations. To his delight, he was awarded a scholarship that covered a significant portion of his tuition for the next academic year.
Meet Dina, an international student from Egypt studying in Australia. Excited to send gifts back home and shop from her favourite international online stores, Dina paid little attention to currency exchange rates.
She was shocked when she saw her bank statement and realised she had spent much more than anticipated due to unfavourable exchange rates and transaction fees.
Dina knew she had to be smarter about her spending. She started by researching the best ways to handle currency exchange. She found a multi-currency bank account that allowed her to hold different currencies, minimising the losses from conversion rates.
She also started using a currency converter app to check real-time exchange rates before making any international transactions.
For larger sums, like tuition fees, she looked into services that offered better exchange rates than traditional banks.
Emily is an international student from China studying in Germany. Emily thought she had everything planned out to the last cent. However, she didn’t account for unexpected emergencies like a sudden medical issue or urgent travel back home.
When her laptop crashed during finals week, she found herself in a financial pinch, having to borrow money at a high-interest rate to replace it.
This wake-up call made Emily realize the importance of having an emergency fund. She started by setting aside a small portion of her income from her part-time job and any leftover budget from other categories.
She opened a separate savings account specifically for emergencies, aiming to save enough to cover at least three months’ worth of living expenses. Over time, Emily built up her emergency fund and felt more financially secure, knowing she had a safety net.
We hope this article helps you to identify the five most common financial blunders international students make on their study abroad journey. Preparing ahead and being mindful can go a long way. Therefore, take these suggestions to heart and position yourself for financial success on your study abroad adventure.
How can amber help you?
amber is an online student accommodation platform that helps you secure accommodation of choice on your study abroad journey. Having served 80 million students (and counting), amber is your one-stop shop for all your accommodation needs. Check out their Facebook and Instagram and stay connected!
Archit is an avid writer who is keen to get his doctorate. When not writing, he can be found reading, taking the metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.