Budgeting Abroad

Kati Cooper London Center


February 25, 2020

Budgeting can be a daunting task at the best of times, but it's made even trickier while studying abroad. There are so many exciting things to do and see that it can be hard to keep track of your spending. Use some of our helpful tips and budgeting tools to ensure you don't end up eating tins of beans for your last two weeks!


Money Tracking


Use these helpful tools to keep track of your spending habits (in other words, use these to see how much you're really spending at Pret each week):

  • Money Dashboard - Categorises your spending and displays it in eye-catching charts to show where your money is going. 
  • Mint - An app that automatically pulls all of your financial information into one place and makes it easy manage your money. You can also enter and categorise cash transactions, so make sure to hold on to those receipts.
  • Student Budget Sheet - There are a lot of helpful tips to be found on Save the Student. I recommend downloading the Save the Student Budget spreadsheet to stay on track with your spending.


Eating in is key!

During the first few weeks you can expect to be spending more money than usual as you get all the basics you will need for your housing, classes, and cooking. So don't be too worried if it seems that your money is disappearing quickly; it will likely even out soon. One of the very best ways to save money is to cook at home. It is cheaper, and usually healthier, to cook your own food, and if you team up with your friends or flat mates to grocery shop and cook this is also a great way to share the burden. There are plenty of inexpensive grocery stores such as Lidl, Asda, The Co-op, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Even the "more posh" stores like Waitrose will price match with the lower-end stores.

Try to avoid the smaller versions of grocery stores (Tesco Express, Sainsbury's Local, Morrison's Daily) as these tend to be more expensive since you are paying for the convenience of a nearby shop. Bigger is better when it comes to supermarkets, but you may have to travel further afield to find them.

Don't forget to check the "discount" section of grocery stores towards the end of the day, which will have massively reduced items for sale that are going to be expiring that day. This is a great way to get cheap food that is still perfectly fine to eat.

Eating Out on a Budget

Obviously you won't be cooking at home all the time since there is a whole world of exciting cuisine to try in the UK. The Brits might get a bad reputation for their food, but make sure to try a Sunday roast, fish and chips, pie and mash, as well as regional delicacies and an assortment of ethnic foods brought to the UK by immigrants from all over the world. When you do want to eat out, follow these tips to save some money.

  • Tastecard - sign up for a 60 day trial for just £1 and score 50% off at over 6,000 restaurants.
  • Sign up to mailing lists of your favourite restaurants or download their app and you'll often get exclusive deals.
  • VoucherCodes - Use this website or app to get discounts at loads of restaurants (and stores). Basically you should never have to pay full price for a meal!


Local Transport

Many students are surprised by how much it costs to get around on public transportation, but there are a few ways to make it a bit cheaper.

  • Student Oyster Card - if you are studying in London, you may be eligible for a student oyster card which will save you 30% on travel. If this applies to you, you will learn more before you depart.
  • Buses are often much cheaper (and less claustrophobic!) than the tube. Buses may not be popular where you are from, but here in the UK you will see people from all walks of life on the bus.
  • Walk! Many cities in the UK are very walkable and this is also a great way to get some exercise and save money.


You can find some great deals on websites such as EasyJet and RyanAir, but make sure you’re following their travel restrictions (i.e. size of carry-on) so you don't get stuck with unexpected fees at the airport.

Take advantage of websites/apps like Opodo and Skyscanner that search dozens of websites to find you the best available deals..


With the 16-25 Railcard you save 30% on all trains throughout the UK. While, there’s usually a charge for the travel cards, they end up paying for themselves with your first booking so even if you only use it once, it’s worth it.


Although booking a flight every weekend to a new European destination sounds like the study abroad dream (although not very eco-friendly), it can also make your semester very costly. Instead, take the time to see what’s right on your doorstep!

Want to see the coast? Travel to Brighton (often called ‘London by the sea’), Cornwall, or Wales. In need of some green space? Visit The Highlands in Scotland or explore national parks such as the Lake District, Snowdonia, the Peak District and Dartmoor.





Just because you are trying to be frugal does not mean you can never leave your dorm for fear of spending money. There are loads of free things to do in the UK.

  • Check out free museums such as the Tate Modern, National Gallery, Victoria & Albert if you're in London. If you are not studying in London there are still great options like the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester or the Museum of Oxford in Oxford.
  • Take advantage of being a tourist and join free walking tours, which usually run on tips only. This is a great way to see a new place and oftentimes the guides are really engaging since they are working hard for their tips!
  • Time Out - this is a great website that will highlight cheap or even free things to do every day or weekend. If you're ever at a loss for what to do, head here to find something!

Happy money-saving!