How To Save Money While Living Abroad

Nothing hurts more than looking at your bank account and seeing how little you have left. Trust me, my wallet is more broke than my heart has ever been. And while being a broke college student at home is nothing out of the ordinary, it gets even harder when studying abroad. It is so easy to feel like studying abroad is a vacation and get seduced into doing every activity you see. Here, I’ll break down some steps to saving money, so you don’t have to break your bank.


Stick to your budget:

Setting the intention puts the pressure to hold yourself accountable. If you have some extra savings you can dip into if your funding starts running low, you can be slightly more flexible. But if you decide to spend only a certain amount each week, be disciplined and don’t go over unless it is an emergency.

At the start of your week, give yourself a limit for spending. Collect receipts and track spending. Evaluate your spending at the end of the week. If you didn’t spend it all, you can carryover the money into the next week.


Cash Before Credit Card.

Withdraw cash at the beginning of the week or month, and refrain from using a credit card. You can’t spend money you don’t have.

Prioritize Your Big Spending.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to skydive or you’re planning a road trip around the country. Whatever your big splurges are, decide those and do not get pulled into expensive activities just because your friends are doing them. Know that if you decide to spontaneously go parasailing, you may not have the funds to do the skydiving you’ve always wanted.

Student Discounts.

Some stores, restaurants, cinemas, and buses offer discounts for your student ID, so bring that with you everywhere, and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know!

Shop Duty Free.

Duty free is every international student’s and traveller’s best friend. ‘Nuff said.


Meal Prep.

Buy groceries once a week, cook the food and store them in tupperware. This saves time during the week and prevents snacking or eating out.

Keep Your Pantry Stocked.

Along the same lines, you can’t cook all your meals, so just keep excess fresh food or nonperishables on hand so that when you are hungry you won’t be tempted to eat out. It’s cheaper but also more healthy than ordering a $5 pizza.

Go to Cheap Stores.

In New Zealand, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives than your every day grocery store such as Pan ’N Save and Asian Supermarkets.

Farmers Markets.

Supporting local farmers is cheaper than buying produce at the supermarket, and it also helps the environment by cutting down on food transport.


Find Free Activities.

Universities, clubs, and cities offer plenty of free events. Keep an eye out for advertisements to live music, free barbecues, fitness classes, etc. It’s also a great way to meet new people!

Freedom Camping.

Paying $30 for a campground seems ludicrous if you know you could stay at another site for free. With some extra research, you can find campgrounds that allow you to stay for free.

Walk or use get a lift. 

Buses, trains, bikes, or your old fashion two feet will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. If you have friends with cars, offer to share gas with them and have a nice ride together on the way to your destination.


Stick to the Basics.

Having a capsule wardrobe not only allows for a lighter suitcase, but gives you a variety of outfits from a few pieces which will prevent you from needing more clothes.

Bring Your Own Statement Pieces.

If you bring a few bold pieces that you already own, you can save these for special occasions and won’t have to splurge on a whole new item while you’re abroad.

Shop Second Hand Stores.

In New Zealand, these are known as op shops which can have great clothes for as little as NZD$2.00. Sites like TradeMe, or the equivalents of Poshmark or eBay in the US, are also a great place to look.


The key to all of these steps is awareness, accountability and research. Being aware of your spending and holding yourself accountable for it is more than half the battle. The rest is going a little bit out of your way to find things that are better deals than just convenient. Happy spending!

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Morgan is studying at the University of Auckland during the spring of 2017. Follow her adventures as she crosses oceans to spend five months in New Zealand!


  1. For money, also helpful to have an international card like the STA one, can use it in every country for free and you have to top it up so can set a budget! 🙂

  2. These are some great tips! Love the idea of checking out local farmer’s markets, where you usually can find the best prices!

  3. I’ve never tried to live abroad but I have stayed in a country for a couple of weeks and it’s definitely better to use cash instead of your credit card. It’s good to shop for groceries while you’re there as well, instead of eating out every single day.

  4. That’s a great tip about getting cash out, but I would add that if your cash is in a different currency, make sure you UNDERSTAND what you’re spending. I definitely blew through some cash in Dubai simply because I just handed it over without really thinking of the conversions 😛

  5. So many great tips is you are traveling abroad and need to save money. I think finding free activities is a great tip!

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