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Making your Money Stretch When on an International Student Budget

Posted on February 24th, 2017 by Yessica Prato

If you had a twenty-dollar bill, would you know how many or what types of things you could buy in the United States? As an international student, it is important to have a good idea of what a dollar (or twenty) can buy, specially when on a tight budget.

It may seem like technology will take care of figuring out the exchange rate. This is if you have a computer or phone nearby. However, it is important to know when you are being overcharged for things. That takes more knowledge than just knowing that twenty dollars equals nineteen euros*. Here are some tips to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Is that too expensive?

The cost of living will vary based upon your location in the United States. Like in many countries, rent and food tend to be more expensive the closer you get to a city. For example, $20 dollars may buy you groceries for a week in a small US town. The same amount in China (137.5 Yuan*) will buy you food for a week in a 3-4 tier city (small town or rural area). In cities like Beijing or Shanghai, your $20 dollars will buy you roughly the same amount of food as it would in a city like Miami or Los Angeles. However, in Colombia, you can buy approximately three times the amount of food for the same amount of money ($57,900 Pesos*) in a big city like Bogota.

Getting the best deals

If you are trying to save money on your expenses, ask around to make sure you are getting the best deal. Like many college students, you may be on a tight budget, especially if you stay in the US for several years. Many name brand clothing stores in the United States have clearance sales or semi-annual sales. There are also stores that sell past collections from popular brands for a fraction of the price. For instance, if you go shopping for clothes with $20 dollars, this may buy you two shirts in a regular priced store like Old Navy or Target. In India, you could buy twice the amount of clothing for the same twenty dollars (about 1340 Rupees*) as you would in the US in a similar store.

Exchange rates are still important

One of the most volatile movements around the world is money exchange rates. Many factors such as politics, natural disasters, businesses growth, and the overall economy of each country determines currency exchange rates. They change daily and can change many times during the day. Keeping an eye on how much the exchange rates are can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Helpful tools to budget

Nowadays, there is an app to help you budget and save money. Mint is a great and simple app to get you on the right path of creating budget. You can create a budget and it will alert you if you are overspending since it links directly to your bank accounts once you add them. Additionally, your school might offer personal finance counseling to guide you through the finance system in the United States. You can also ask your fellow peers about the average price of things. You may think getting a $20 meal in an average restaurant is a great deal, but if you shop locally, twenty dollars may get you two meals (or more) instead of one.

When it comes to traveling abroad as an international student, one of the most important factors to consider is money. Navigating the exchange rates and knowing when you are paying too much can significantly affect your budget. Your college friends will be a great source of information when it comes to comparing prices on food, clothes and transportation. After all, they are also aiming to save money while they complete their college careers.

*Please note the exchange rates used are based on rates from February 2017

Written by Yessica Prato

Yessica joined the team in 2016. Originally from Colombia, she migrated to the United States in 2005 with her family. While living in Kansas, she attended Kansas State University. Her interest in education and international studies along with her experience in bilingual customer service led her to EIC. She has also had the opportunity to travel to Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. When not in the office, you'll find her immersed in a good book or with her dogs at the beach.

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