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Study Abroad student’s budget; how do you do this?


Ginevra
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DD is almost entirely set to go to France for next semester, beginning Jan 2. She has purchased her flight over and her train ticket from Paris to her SA locale. I will pay her tution and R&B this week, which is very approximate to her normal tuition and R&B. While staying there, she will be responsible for paying for one meal a day (assuming she eats 3/day), transportation and incidentals. She will pay for her flight home again.

 

I am getting a credit card that she will be able to use while abroad. I don’t know whether to fix a budget for the card and she will have to pay everything beyond that amount, or just see how she does with it without a hard boundary? I also don’t know what is a reasonable amount. My initial thought is around equivalent to $250/month that I will cover; beyond that is her responsibility. But I don’t know how generous or stingy that actually is.

 

ETA: what the hell? Half my post just vanished when I posted!

 

Basically, the question is: hard budget for the credit card or see how she does with it?

Edited by Quill
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$250 a month includes one meal a day and transportation and whatever? That's just over USD $8 per day.  Can she eat a meal in France for USD $8?  I think you need to investigate what things costs there. The U.S. Dollar is extremely strong here in Colombia (a blessing for our family) and I assume/suspect it is very strong worldwide. That helps a lot.  

 

Your DD needs to check, with people who've been in that city recently, to get a feel for current prices. Especially for that one meal a day. 

 

My guess is that you may need to increase her Allowance to about USD $600 a month, which would be about 20 a day, but you need to look into it, before giving your DD a huge increase from what you are contemplating.

 

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$250 a month includes one meal a day and transportation and whatever? That's just over USD $8 per day. Can she eat a meal in France for USD $8? I think you need to investigate what things costs there. The U.S. Dollar is extremely strong here in Colombia (a blessing for our family) and I assume/suspect it is very strong worldwide. That helps a lot.

 

Your DD needs to check, with people who've been in that city recently, to get a feel for current prices. Especially for that one meal a day.

 

My guess is that you may need to increase her Allowance to about USD $600 a month, which would be about 20 a day, but you need to look into it, before giving your DD a huge increase from what you are contemplating.

Yeah, but I want her to bear some of the responsibility. That was what the vanished part of my post talked about. She has saved money for years to be able to do this trip and expects to pay for much of her incidental costs. So, I was thinking of an amount that would be my paying for about half of her incidentals, and if she wants to do something “posh,†she will have to fund the posh thing.

 

But I am sure you are right that 250/month is probably too litlle, even for half. The agreement I had to sign for the student visa was that she would have access to 650 Euros/month. So I assume that is enough to not starve or be stranded.

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She could get by for $8 a day, but it would be really survival level- kebab trucks and such.  Not bashing, that's how I survived my France study abroad!  :-D  I would also occasionally buy a whole baguette per day and a block of cheese for the week and survive on that for way cheap.  Our study abroad school had a cafeteria with fridge where students could store food.  

 

For my study-abroad, we had to join a local club as part of our integrating into society/culture.  That came with fees.  I think my rock climbing club was very cheap, something like 25euro, but my hole-in-the-wall gym was pricy, like 150 euro for the semester.  

 

I got a massive ear infection and had to get emergency treatment.  In this particular city, there was an on call doctor who did house calls for people who did not need to get to the ER.  I had to pay him out of pocket, and the pharmacy as well.  That took a HUGE chunk out of my budget and my mom had to refill my account from the US.  For practicality reasons, it may be better to give your dd a spending budget, but not actually put a set amount on the card, just in case of emergency.  

 

Anyway, this was 15 years ago and I had $2000 for my 4.5 month semester.  I had to purchase my own lunches and two meals on the weekend if I recall.  I was not a clubber/partier, and my friends and I just basically loitered around in our free time.  :-)  I spent about half my budget on a rock climbing trip, so really I could have squeaked by with $1000, but again, we're talking about baguettes and cheese 8 out of 10 lunches...  but that's part of the fun.  

 

As for what you should do, it would depend on your kid.  Can she log her purchases for a couple of weeks, then you two decide if they seem reasonable and then build a budget for the rest of the tirp?  If you give her "unlimited" access, will she abuse it?  

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She could get by for $8 a day, but it would be really survival level- kebab trucks and such. Not bashing, that's how I survived my France study abroad! :-D I would also occasionally buy a whole baguette per day and a block of cheese for the week and survive on that for way cheap. Our study abroad school had a cafeteria with fridge where students could store food.

 

For my study-abroad, we had to join a local club as part of our integrating into society/culture. That came with fees. I think my rock climbing club was very cheap, something like 25euro, but my hole-in-the-wall gym was pricy, like 150 euro for the semester.

 

I got a massive ear infection and had to get emergency treatment. In this particular city, there was an on call doctor who did house calls for people who did not need to get to the ER. I had to pay him out of pocket, and the pharmacy as well. That took a HUGE chunk out of my budget and my mom had to refill my account from the US. For practicality reasons, it may be better to give your dd a spending budget, but not actually put a set amount on the card, just in case of emergency.

 

Anyway, this was 15 years ago and I had $2000 for my 4.5 month semester. I had to purchase my own lunches and two meals on the weekend if I recall. I was not a clubber/partier, and my friends and I just basically loitered around in our free time. :-) I spent about half my budget on a rock climbing trip, so really I could have squeaked by with $1000, but again, we're talking about baguettes and cheese 8 out of 10 lunches... but that's part of the fun.

 

As for what you should do, it would depend on your kid. Can she log her purchases for a couple of weeks, then you two decide if they seem reasonable and then build a budget for the rest of the tirp? If you give her "unlimited" access, will she abuse it?

Logging purchases is a good idea.

 

She has a good head on her shoulders and is very unlikely to abuse the access to money. But I do also want to encourage problem-solving; for example, she would be very likely to buy a bagette and a block of cheese to last her a week, but not if she gets complacent, thinking there is ample money access, so why scrimp? She paid for her flight herself, and by doing so, she searched high and low to get a great flight rate, and she foreswore a few things that would have been nicer, but cost more (i.e., she is flying out of Dulles instead of the preferable BWI). So, I want to “encourage†her to think frugally about the things she wants to spend money on while away, and I think that is less likely to happen if she either has a cushy budget or her access has no hard limits. But at the same time, I don’t want her to be under terrible stress, especially if something happened like that ear infection; I will definitely help her pay for necessary care, of course.

 

I do like the idea of saying, “I’m not sure where to set your spending budget, so report your expenses for the first two or three weeks and we’ll come up with a goal number.â€

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She's going to have a blast. This is making me nostalgic. :-) The most important thing for her to remember is not to spend euros like dollars. The extra 20 cents per euro to dollar adds up FAST!

I will remind her of that!

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My guy earned his own spending money for his Study Abroad.  We just made sure we had access to his bank account so we could put more in just in case he ended up needing more for whatever reason.  He has not needed it, but who knows?  He has a couple weeks left.

 

When we visited we didn't end up using all the spending money we brought along due to his host parents feeding us so well (less eating out cost) and just taking along more to be sure we didn't run out, so we let him keep the extra.  I believe that was close to $500JD or about $725USD.  We told him we wanted him to splurge a little with those funds helping both the local economy (paying cab drivers a little more per trip) and making it so he could do more than he was doing on his own (seeing more ruins, etc).

 

I'm not sure what we did helps you out, but just sharing how we handled it.

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My guy earned his own spending money for his Study Abroad. We just made sure we had access to his bank account so we could put more in just in case he ended up needing more for whatever reason. He has not needed it, but who knows? He has a couple weeks left.

 

When we visited we didn't end up using all the spending money we brought along due to his host parents feeding us so well (less eating out cost) and just taking along more to be sure we didn't run out, so we let him keep the extra. I believe that was close to $500JD or about $725USD. We told him we wanted him to splurge a little with those funds helping both the local economy (paying cab drivers a little more per trip) and making it so he could do more than he was doing on his own (seeing more ruins, etc).

 

I'm not sure what we did helps you out, but just sharing how we handled it.

Yeah, she has saved money for this trip. I think she has around $2000-2500, but she can’t spend every bit of that and some of that will go towards her flight home. She has told me she does not think there is enough for her to fully fund everything and I agree it seems unlikely.

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Will she be able to cook or prepare a meal at her place of lodging? And which meal? If she has to pay for her own breakfast - easy peasy to stay in budget. I believe oatmeal is cheap everywhere! Of course if she goes out for every one of her meals then it gets pricey quick. BUT you are not going to know until you know.  You want her to think about how to save $$ - going to the market to pick up and make a meal is a great way to save money. Of course, she will be in France - wine, champagne, coffee drinks - oh my!

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Does $250/month give her enough to travel on the weekends?  I don't know what trains and hostels cost in Europe (my daughter's SA was in China, where they are cheap), but if weekend travel is encouraged, I would make sure she has enough for that, even if I had to float her a loan.

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How far $250/month will go will depend upon where she is in France.  Will it be lunch or dinner every day that she is on her own for?  How substantial will the other meals be?  Will she have food storage and cooking options?  Sometimes there will be a university cafeteria that offers fairly inexpensive meals.  

 

If it were my child I would approach it as, "$250 per month seems reasonable; after you are there for three weeks and we have a better idea of the lay of the land, let's talk and see if that does in fact seem about right."  I would also agree to pay any medical expenses should they arise.  You will probably, also want to watch the exchange rate to see how many euros she is actually able to get for her dollar should there be a sudden change in the rate.  (Also, if she is charging items to the credit card, she will see the euro cost and not the dollar cost until it comes across the bill).  

 

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Here in Colombia, if you eat a meal in a restaurant, IMO it is much less expensive to eat Lunch than Dinner. Many restaurants have what they call "almuerzo ejecutivo"   (executive lunch) where you get (usually) a lot of food and a non alcoholic drink (not a Soft Drink).  Occasionally, when I am out doing things, my wife will tell me to eat Lunch, while I'm running errands. There is, for example, a little restaurant, primarily known for take out BBQ or Fried Chicken, where we have been customers for about 15 years.  I can go in there during the week and eat a Full Lunch, with a bottle of Pepsi (which is extra cost), for approximately USD $3 total.  Even in a mall in Cali, a place I go to once a month, I can eat a Lunch in a restaurant in the Food Court for just a little more than that.  But without adding on a Soft Drink.

 

If the DD of the OP can find little restaurants with fixed-price Lunches, at a low price, she will save a lot of $ during the semester.

Edited by Lanny
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Here in Colombia, if you eat a meal in a restaurant, IMO it is much less expensive to eat Lunch than Dinner. Many restaurants have what they call "almuerzo ejecutivo" (executive lunch) where you get (usually) a lot of food and a non alcoholic drink (not a Soft Drink). Occasionally, when I am out doing things, my wife will tell me to eat Lunch, while I'm running errands. There is, for example, a little restaurant, primarily known for take out BBQ or Fried Chicken, where we have been customers for about 15 years. I can go in there during the week and eat a Full Lunch, with a bottle of Pepsi (which is extra cost), for approximately USD $3 total. Even in a mall in Cali, a place I go to once a month, I can eat a Lunch in a restaurant in the Food Court for just a little more than that. But without adding on a Soft Drink.

 

If the DD of the OP can find little restaurants with fixed-price Lunches, at a low price, she will save a lot of $ during the semester.

Yeah, that’s good advice. I did ask her about a month ago how the two provided meals are provided, but I have forgotten what her answer was. I will have to ask her again how this works. I am almost totally certain dinner is one of the included meals, but I don’t remember if that means she can get it at the university caffeteria or if the home-stay family just generally provides it or let’s the student free-range the fridge.

 

Even at college, where her caffeteria access is unlimited, she frequently does not “officially†eat breakfast. She prefers oatmeal in her room or pop tarts or fruit/cereal bars. So, if breakfast is her self-provided meal, this seems like not an expensive matter at all. I grant you she will sometimes want to go to a restaurant or café, if only because it’s France! Of course you have to eat some real French food.

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When I studied abroad years ago, I had a set budget.  However, I had a credit card for emergencies or special needs. I was careful not to abuse that privilege. 

 

I'm thinking someone with her program should be able to tell you what a reasonable monthly budget is.

 

As an aside, the son of one of my friends studied abroad in Italy last year, and she said he did his incidental traveling around Europe by plane rather than by train.  She said it was actually cheaper for him to fly on Ryan Air than take the train. Thought I'd pass it on...

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OP if your DD can communicate, with 1 or 2 students who are there now, this semester, possibly she can get some suggestions from them, of inexpensive restaurants they have liked.

 

Generally, if I am on the street and hungry and walk by a restaurant or bakery, if there are people eating and drinking and they seem to be happy and are not falling over dying, I know I can go in there and eat and be OK.  That assumes they are speaking the language of the country I am in.

 

If a restaurant or bakery is empty, I continue walking past it...   It could be the worlds greatest restaurant, but it is safer to go somewhere that is popular.

 

Now, my wife, I remember one time we were walking, in another city in Colombia and walked by a place and we ate there, because she liked the smell...  

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My oldest daughter, who went on exchange twice to Turkey, had a card that was linked to a checking account, and we only kept the necessary funds in there so that it wasn't a devastating loss if stolen or whatever, and she could get cash from it. I could also transfer funds into the account with a phone app, so if she had an immediate need it could be met quickly. She had (has) a separate savings account that she could keep the bulk of her money in, and she could also use the app to transfer money from savings to the card. I could also look at the account and get a sense of what she was spending money on, and whether I needed/wanted to supplement.

 

That sort of card isn't useful for renting cars though, so if that is a possibility, the regular credit card is the way to go.

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Logging purchases is a good idea.

 

She has a good head on her shoulders and is very unlikely to abuse the access to money. But I do also want to encourage problem-solving; for example, she would be very likely to buy a bagette and a block of cheese to last her a week, but not if she gets complacent, thinking there is ample money access, so why scrimp? She paid for her flight herself, and by doing so, she searched high and low to get a great flight rate, and she foreswore a few things that would have been nicer, but cost more (i.e., she is flying out of Dulles instead of the preferable BWI). So, I want to “encourage†her to think frugally about the things she wants to spend money on while away, and I think that is less likely to happen if she either has a cushy budget or her access has no hard limits. But at the same time, I don’t want her to be under terrible stress, especially if something happened like that ear infection; I will definitely help her pay for necessary care, of course.

 

I do like the idea of saying, “I’m not sure where to set your spending budget, so report your expenses for the first two or three weeks and we’ll come up with a goal number.â€

 

See, with my generally-frugal kid, I would not want her to be surviving on bread and cheese and kabob trucks. I'd actually want her to be a bit complacent and definitely not skimp on food during a trip that costs thousands upon thousands. If that's the only way a trip can be made, then of course I think you eat the bread and cheese and call it good, but I wouldn't want her to do that just because. Not to mention that a poor diet makes her more likely to get sick, which will cost a heck of a lot more! 

 

I would go in between: a planned budget with her knowing she can exceed it at her judgement. For instance, if she can have a great but unplanned experience by going $20 over budget, I wouldn't want her fretting or turning that down. 

 

Why not just make sure she has at least the allotted amount that the program requests? You said that you are willing to pay half of her costs while there, so that makes it easy: fund her at half the required amount, at least. If she doesn't have enough on hand to make up the difference, I would personally choose to lend it to her, because there's a reason they quote that amount. 

 

You say that she is sensible, and she saved for years to fund the airfare and train tickets and sought out bargains. I'd probably consider her as having the budgeting lesson covered for now. Problem solving will occur in all kinds of ways during a semester abroad, so I'd not worry about that. 

 

You (both) probably need to investigate a bit more to see what typical expenses are. Her program site should be able to help with this: wha tis the bare minimum, what are opportunities beyond the bare minimum, and so forth. And then take it from there. But I would just assume that a kid who is generally smart and thrifty at home will continue to be so in France. 

Edited by katilac
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