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Off-Campus Study & Exchanges – Skidmore College

How to avoid becoming completely broke while abroad…

Hello readers! My name is Julia and I studied abroad at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. While abroad I was able to partake in plenty of fun activities and travel to breath-taking places. But in order to take advantage of many opportunities I had to make sure that I was keeping pretty close tabs on the bank account. My first word of advice to students about to go abroad is to work your butt off before you leave, so that you can have enough spending money and have the option to do whatever you want without anything holding you back. You can ask any of my friends and they will confirm that I am someone who hates spending money. I am usually skeptical and think “is that dinner out with friends worth the 2 hours I spent coaching little kids over the summer?” In my eyes I was only going to be in this part of the world once, and living abroad for that long of time once in my life. So I was committed to doing whatever it took to make this an unforgettable experience.


How to Track Spending

Going into abroad I knew I wanted to keep track of my spending so that I did not go overboard and end up with the ‘ol $0 in the bank account as a souvenir. My years of hard work to make money could not just disappear no matter how much fun I would have in the land down under.

So what did I do……?

I created an EXCEL! Woohoooo go spreadsheets! (said no one ever but ya gotta do what ya gotta do)

I would track my spending every month, so I had a different spreadsheet for February, March, April, May and June. This way I could compare my month to month spending to see if there were any significant increases. If I realized that the eating out number was increasing I would slow it down a bit and make meals at my apartment more in order to save money. Obviously whenever I took a big trip (camping in the Outback, hiking throughout New Zealand, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, exploring the city of Melbourne) I made sure to limit my spending when I was back home in Brisbane because I knew those trips would make that months expenses high.

Here is an example of a table I would make for a month.

Eating Out
Phone Plan
Trips (flights, accommodation, excursion)
Transportation fees (to school, around Brisbane, etc.)
School fees (printing, books, supplies)
Activities (sports games, concerts, etc.)


Advice for planning trips:


I used whenever I was planning a trip and it was super helpful. I would put in my start location and end destination and the date I wanted to leave and return. The website allows you to sort flight options by cost, travel time, and overall value of all flights from different companies. Generally leaving on days other than Friday or Saturday were cheaper and arriving back in Brisbane on days other than Sunday was cheaper as well. Just as a warning, when you pay way less for airfare a lot of the time you get stuck with some pretty bad companies, where there are numerous delays and issues with flights. Sometimes the major companies like Qantas (MY FAVORITE AIRLINE EVER) offer low-priced options as well if you travel on less popular times.

Places to stay:

When looking for places to stay, I always looked for hostels. IMPORTANT NOTE: Read the reviews for the hostels! Although you are paying less money for accommodation that does not mean you must have rats chew through and make holes in your luggage (true story L). Sometimes it might be worth paying an extra $3 to stay at a slightly better hostel with better reviews. Also, check the location of the hostel to see if it is located near places you want to see. Because in that case you may want to pay a few extra dollars to be in the heart of a city rather than way out in the outskirts.

In closing…

A huge word of advice I have is to use your resources while abroad. Ask friends about trips they have done, read reviews online, and ask locals. You want a good combination of low-cost but also good quality as well. If you are going to spend the money to go on a trip or do an activity you want to make sure it is a good experience. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND BE PREPARED before you arrive at a destination. The purpose of this post was to help you guys organize your expenses, but I do not want you guys to think that the only way to have fun while abroad is through spending money. It is not a direct relationship at all! There were plenty of things I did around Brisbane that did not cost money at all;

  • Free concerts
  • Exploring local parks
  • Local festivals
  • Playing pick-up soccer with locals
  • Going to the local beach to swim
  • Free exercise classes in the park (water Zumba!)

Do not get too caught up with the finances because overall you should be taking in the amazing opportunity you have, but definitely follow some of these tips. Enjoy study abroad!! 🙂


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