Many students who decide to go on an Erasmus+ exchange hope that thanks to the scholarship they will be able to cover all their expenses. However, it is not as simple as it might seem. How can you avoid bankrupting yourself on the exchange? It is worth remembering that the full grant is not paid in advance - before the exchange you receive around 80% - 90% of the amount, and the rest only after you return and provide all the required documents. With this factor in mind, it's a good idea to sit down and plan your expenses before you leave or at the beginning of your Erasmus adventure.
How can you do that? Here are some simple rules:
1. Determine your total and daily budget
To start, count how much money you have to spend throughout the exchange. Then, subtract from that the approximate cost of renting an apartment, public transportation, and other regular expenses (e.g. Internet). Divide the remaining amount by the number of days you will spend on the exchange. It is a good idea to make such a calculation before you leave, especially in a situation where the cost of living in the country you're going to is much higher than in your home country or the scholarship seems to be too low. Such an estimate allows you to determine how much savings you need to make your time on the exchange unforgettable.
2. Don't be afraid of high costs at the beginning
When you plan a budget for your exchange, always keep in mind that during the first few days of your stay expenses may be higher. Despite the fact you will need to buy the essentials of living in a new place, you will need to pay a security deposit for the apartment and often even the first month's rent. If you have the option to pay the full rent before - do so. Then you won't have to remember to leave a multiple of the amount of your monthly rent in your account.
3. Plan your shopping
When it comes to grocery shopping, it's also a good idea to follow a few well-known rules. First of all prepare a shopping list with items that you are sure you will use and eat. Plan simple and low time consuming lunches for yourself. While choosing stores, it is worth making a survey, where the lowest prices are or if there is a market, where you can buy vegetables and fruit. In the supermarket, remember that we often overlook the “shop’s own brand". Private labels also offer full-quality products at a much lower price than popular brands. It is important as well not to go shopping with an empty stomach - it is almost certain that then you will buy a lot more things and spend more money. Remember to always take your receipt and check an exact cost.
4. Think about how often you will be using public transport
If your university and social life is close to where you live, it's worth thinking about a different transport than buses or metro. Set aside the first month to see how long it takes to get from one place to another, and only after that make the decision to buy a season ticket.
5. Time for EuroTrip
Trips are an integral part of every exchange. You can save money while planning them too. Pay attention to accommodation prices and location. Remember that in tourist places, restaurants often offer more expensive meals than three streets away. When choosing souvenirs, it is worth looking around first, and leaving shopping for the last day of the trip.
6. Check yourself
When you're on the exchange, it's also a good idea to keep a record of your expenses, whether in a separate notebook or in Excel. Two paragraphs above we remind you to always take a receipt when shopping, but this applies to every other transaction as well. Once a week, sit down, look through your receipts and see what's taking the most of your money. Maybe that eyebrow pencil wasn't necessary at all? Or you went too crazy the last time you went out with friends and can't remember that too expensive pizza in the middle of the night?
7. Decide wisely on an exchange destination
The most important thing is to choose a country that suits your financial possibilities and to get more information about costs of living in the different cities in the country of your choice. You can ask your local ESN section or search on Google. If you know that despite the different kind of support you will eat only toast with jam every day on exchange in Helsinki or London, maybe you should think about postponing the trip and raising more money or choosing another destination?
Remember, no matter which city you choose, Erasmus is an amazing adventure and it’s really worth experiencing.
Don't let yourself go crazy and allow yourself to have a little fun!