How to Survive on a Budget as A Student Abroad

By our guest blogger Ankur.

Getting in SOAS was difficult itself but who knew surviving there on a budget was even more painful. Here are some things about living abroad in a budget that I’ve learned that hard way. (long details about strictly using the public transport not included, because it’s obvious and if you already don’t use it, you’re a fool):

Eat a big breakfast, especially if it is included in your hostel room rate. That way you won’t feel hungry until lunchtime when you can refuel with a picnic lunch on the go from a deli takeaway or even a supermarket. Speaking of supermarkets, they are always cheaper for snacks than cafes so be sure to stock up on supermarket snacks in case you feel peckish on the road. If and when offered food, say yes, freebies are a great way to save. Instead of buying expensive bottles of water (also a waste of plastic), opt for a sturdy drink bottle you can refill throughout the day.

Toiletries are so bloody expensive compared to India. I mean, why can’t these guys just use water, here it’s approximately 1 euro for a toilet paper roll which makes it Rs. 72.89 per role. In India, I could have had a proper meal for less! So here’s the trick, I study in a very good college and they make sure that we’re never short of anything we need to study. That also includes “printer paper”, so you get the rest! Since you have already judged me enough, I’ll tell you one more thing, new soap bars in the college washrooms aren’t that bad either.

Christmas shopping. Since it’s their biggest festival you’ll find discounts everywhere – departmental stores, brands, etc etc. This is the time when you use your money to shop instead of partying. To get your hands on the best-branded products for unbelievably low rates. You might have to wait in long lines or ever sleep in front of the showroom the previous night, but trust me, it’s worth it.

If not that, second-hand clothes from selected stores are worth considering. Some stores buy only decent brands and in good condition, they refurbish them and pack like new (these are the places you buy clothes from for not so close friends and relatives if they keep irritating you every time you go back home) .

I download a new application almost every week. Offers and free rides! Sadly, just the first ride is free and the second is discounted and rest all the same. So after two rides, new app. Uber and Lyft certainly do the job well. I also had to download some groceries app as they give you coupons when you sign up.

Most of the times rooms have a central temperature control but if you rent an economical flat sometimes you have to struggle with the weather. In those times use your dressing products, hair dryer does a great job as heater (lucky girls!). Just make sure you don’t keep it running for too long, lest it might catch fire, burn down your flat. Unless, of course you want to enjoy a bonfire.

Walk. Because the weather is mostly good, the roads and footpaths are much cleaner and organized, it’s healthier and yes also cheaper. So yeah just walk whenever possible.

Almost every major city has a long list of free entertainment options, but you might need to spend some time in order to find what you are looking for. Of course, cities such as London actually make it quite easy to stay entertained for free throughout your visit. Almost every museum in London is free, which means it is a dream destination for art and history lovers. If Paris is more your style, you can visit the highly regarded Louvre for free on the first Sunday of every month. Free museum days tend to attract a very large crowd, so be prepared to get in line early or else face the potential consequence of waiting for several hours. You may also be able to find free concerts in a local park during the summer.

If you drink, you shouldn’t. You sure you’re here to study? So you already know this but just in case you don’t, it’s really reasonable online plus free shipping on large orders plus the occasional discounts. Also, there are certain duty-free liquor stores which might be of some help. I’m just saying…

Beer is cheaper than water in some countries and it’s certainly cheaper that fresh juices in most of the western countries. Fruits in the local markets are reasonable though so invest in a little juice maker if you’re that health conscious. Okay let’s be honest, no one is that health conscious.

Very important: If you’re a student, don’t forget your student ID card for endless discounts! Cafes, public transport, bookstores, everywhere.

Withdraw large sums of money whenever you do, because most of the ATMs charge you on every transaction no matter how big or small it is. Even better, try using a Forex card instead of normal international debit/credit card, it’s way more reasonable.  Also reloading money on Forex Cards is cheaper and easier as that can be done online so you are spared of the fees and efforts of making a wire transfer.

There’s a quote which says the more you learn the more you earn, it’s true. The more you learn about the place, the more you save. Research about the place as much as possible. Learn the local language, locals know the best and don’t be ashamed to ask around. Find your local ethnic food neighborhood and indulge in tasty (and nearly always cheaper) food. Avoid restaurants near popular tourist attractions as they will always be overpriced. Black pepper and sea salt, that’s it. That’s all you’ll generally find in the name of Spices. Again this is where the regional diversity of your college helps you. A friend from Afghanistan or Saudi or India or similar countries and you’ll discover the most amazing spices, which flavor your food like never before.

So, this is mostly it. If you think I’ve missed out something, feel free to comment below.

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