This is the most important thing you need to do before you even consider going on an exchange. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees (wouldn’t that be nice…). The most important thing to remember when making budgets is…BE HONEST. What do I mean by this? Don’t underestimate. Overestimate wherever you are unsure. There is nothing worse than underestimating and realizing you won’t have enough when the time comes. Because hey, it’s always better to have some left over than to not have enough, right? Right.
When creating your budget, make sure that you do as much research as possible for your specific situation. There are many things about your living situation that can alter your budget requirements, such as:
- Am I living in university or private accommodations?
- Will I have a job to provide extra income?
- Are there any expenses that I can share with a friend or partner (or roommates)?
- How much emergency money will I need to bring?
- How will I access my money? International transfer fees can be steep.
- How long am I living abroad for?
- How much do I really eat? Should I budget more for food than regularly (are you a vacuum, eating everything and anything you can find?) or should I budget less (do you not have much of an appetite?)
You must be honest when answering these questions, or your budget will be way off.
I find it useful to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to do my budgeting, because you can link cells. This means that if you change your duration of your stay from 6 months to 7 months (say you just can’t come home quite yet), you can simply change that one cell and it will alter your 6 month budget to accommodate for 7 months. Cool right?! Well I think it’s pretty cool…but then again I love this stuff way too much.
Anyway, this is how I’ve set up my Excel budgeting sheet. I have multiple tabs to stay organized.
These are simply the numbers that I have calculated for my particular trip. However, this is a good format for you to use in order to calculate your budget. It is simply my expenses shown at the top, my income shown at the bottom, and the deficit/extra simply subtracts my expenses from my income. Can you tell I minored in accounting?
I then have another page for my OSAP funding timing, which is simply a schedule I used to sort through what I have available to me to bring with me to Scotland.
As I am too thorough for my own good, I’ve also done a whole ton of research and totally budgeted out all the purchases I will need for the flat, and included this in my budget.
As you can tell, I’m a little over-prepared, and chances are, half of these items will be out of stock when I go to purchase them (oops!). But at the very least it will give me an idea of the amount I will need to spend.
Make sure that you include things like:
- Visa/passport fees
- Travel costs (including air travel and any transit home from the airport)
- Internet/phone costs
- Flat purchases (this may not be necessary when staying in university accommodations)
- Emergency money
- Miscellaneous (clothing, the pub, eating out, any events you wish to attend, etc.)
- School fees and books
Make sure when you are creating your budget that you are using the same currency throughout. If you have cells that are in pounds, then make sure that you multiply them by the exchange rate before adding them into any CAD values.