Travel Countdown Kickoff – Dirty Sexy Money

“Money is only a tool.  It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.”
– Ayn Rand

Alright, minions, so you want to live/go to school in a foreign country (or in my case a “foreign” country, emphasis on the air quotes)?  Where to start?  The answer, as it so often is: It’s About the Money, Stupid.

Know your numbers, research them exhaustively.  Are you going to be able to work?  Do you have to show any amount of money in order to get a visa?  How do you plan on financing your jaunt abroad?  Where will that financing come from?  Living expenses, travel expenses, school expenses, and of course the all-important play money, all of this has to be taken into account.

If it seems daunting, good.  Know exactly what you’re getting into.  I’ve had friends who have bankrupted themselves with studying abroad and just-for-fun travel because they failed utterly to examine what they were undertaking financially.  Even good, lovely, enriching, and personally fulfilling things cost money sometimes, kittens, and only a fool jumps in without a few honest conversations with themselves.

Money makes the world go round, and you go round the world if you're smart about it.

When J. and I were discussing whether or not to go to the UK for school, we had to take a lot of things into account, but the biggest factor was money. We ultimately decided that the prestige of the school, the benefits of international education in an increasingly globalized world, and the (we admit) awesomeness of the opportunity were worth the debt. We always knew we’d have to take out loans for grad school, but going abroad means we’ll be taking on nearly three times as much…and we did not do that lightly. J.’s program is only one year, if it had been more , in all likelihood we would have chosen a US school. Yes, I would have pouted for a few minutes, and then got to work financing that move instead. I’m a do-er.

So, when you’re looking at traveling or studying abroad, be honest about your expectations and resources.  It’s possible to go on very little money, just as it’s possible to spend several times more than you anticipated if you don’t have a plan.  So formulate one.
  1. Do your research, find out exactly what financial requirements you will need to meet academically, for travel, for living, for personal expenses (like food.  Food is important, do NOT forget to factor in food.  I had a good friend do this and did she feel sheepish eating nothing but digestives for days at a time!), and play.
  2. Make sure, after you tally this number, that you account for a little extra.  Murphy’s Law of Travel will mean that accidents and setbacks will occur occasionally, be prepared to meet them.
  3. Know the exchange rate!  When Kiri, Marie, Eliza, AbFab, and I all joined forces living in London, we knew that everyone was more expensive than it looked (a £10 burger actually meant that we’d spent closer to $20 [USD] on our bank statements).  Thus we ate out smartly.  Some of our compatriots ran out of money by foolishly forgetting to convert currencies before impulse purchases.  Learn from their fail, minions.
  4. Secure your finances and funding in good time, last minute scrambles could result in deportation, ending up on the wrong continent, or academic-induced starvation.
  5. Do not, under any circumstances, enter into debt without a game plan of how to get out of it quickly, intelligently, and without damage to your credit score!

Alright, turtledoves, sound off!  What other tidbits can you offer for the would-be scholar/traveler abroad when it comes to financial planning?

6 thoughts on “Travel Countdown Kickoff – Dirty Sexy Money”

  1. Um….small detail….Given the parlous job market, how do you plan to quickly get out of that sort of debt?

    I don’t like academia, and so have never taken an advanced degree. I loathe debt and have never seen my way clear to accumulating a pile of educational debt to earn….? Unless you are going for an MBA, how can you repay it? Are you not thereby adding decades to your debt burden?

    I know, for many fields, an advanced degree is a must, maybe even several.

    1. For J.’s career it’s a must, he’s getting a Masters in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics. Since an Masters is required in his field, and we would like to have international careers, we jumped at the chance for one of the topped ranked schools in the world. The tuition is comparable to the other schools we were considering, what’s going to hurt is the living expenses. But we’ve got a plan, we have between 15,000 and 20,000 in savings – to be untouched while he’s in school, that we can live off of after graduation and use to begin paying back our loans until we both have full-time jobs. We also have no other debt at all, not for cars, education, or even credit cards. It’s not a perfect plan by any stretch, but we feel like we’ve prepped a lot more than most of our friends in similar circumstances. I value your opinions and wisdom, though, if you have any suggestions PLEASE share!

  2. Another tip I’d add to your list is to assume that you’ll need to adapt to local things unless you want to spend way more than necessary! When I moved to the Caribbean, I found that food and toiletries and clothes (even the fully non-brand-name variety) were all two to three times more expensive than in the States. On the other hand, if you learn to live like the locals, you’ll save quite a lot: on the island, for example, local fruit (and rum!) was practically free, and local bakeries and goat dairies were cheap. One of my roommates was suspicious of everything not imported from the states and spent WAY too much money; i risked the local route and not only saved but also got a much more interesting experience!

    As a note to the above thread: currently accumulating debt in another business grad program, but also lacking existing debt, I agree with you and J on the decision. My school, Columbia, is painfully expensive compared to several otehr programs I looked at, but I also decided (after some serious number-crunching) that the price was worth it for the currency the specific program carries. LSE is a fabulous school and if you all make frugal choices, you’ll be able to repay the debt easily.

  3. I have no thoughts. You know way more than I do. But you know this.

    In other words, I was so excited about the Ayn Rand quote. You make my day. 🙂

  4. Agree with the commenter suggesting “live like a local” – I think it’s a much better experience to adapt rather than resist. Part of the whole experience! Of course, you have prior history with London, so this isn’t that big of an issue.

    I like your post today because it made me think of my unknown near future- will I have my job? Part of this prep for job loss has been paying down debt this last year. If I do become unemployed this year, this post prompts me to see what we need to do in case we decide to stay in Europe instead of returning from our vacay! Oh darn!

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