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Dagan Kay's Tips for Living Abroad on a Budget

Dagan Kay, Class of 2019, studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria during the 2016-17 academic year. A philosophy major who grew up in Europe and a member of the E-scholars program, Dagan cites these guidelines as the key to his extensive travels and rich intercultural experiences while abroad.

Nobody really talks about the money. I was super cheap in Salzburg and that was really challenging at times. For anyone worried about the costs, here's a little inspiration: 

  1. I set a budget and I tracked all of my purchases religiously. 
  2. I traveled almost every weekend (woo!) and spent roughly $600-800 per month if you include our weekly stipends (approx. $20 a week). I'd wager that I fell on the low end of spending amongst the Salzburgers, but I still feel like I spent a lot - roughly $6000. 

Here's basically how I spent my money:

  • I cooked my own food as often as possible. 
  • I ate really poorly when I traveled (like, bread+cheese and snickers for 3 meals a day). 
  • I bought the cheapest beer (except Augustiner. Also, not drinking is a great way to save money but don't judge me). Editor’s Note: The drinking age in Austria is 18.
  • We always stayed in dirt cheap hostels (actual convo: "11 euro a night?!?! no thanks let’s do the 6 euro one"). 
  • I bought a grand total of 5 souvenirs, one of which were lederhosen, totaling something like $200 (seriously, just keep small free things like beer coasters or buy something cheap like pins or just take lots of pictures and print them out later. Who needs tacky bull crap mementos anyway?) 
  • I usually booked the cheapest option to get from place to place, sometimes even opting for longer or more inconvenient trips to save a couple bucks. 
  • Editor’s addition: Do your research and take advantage of student discounts (always ask), free walking tours, museums, parks, viewpoints, and other free attractions
  • I took public transit or walked everywhere (or, if you must Uber, split it!). 

I wasn't always perfect though. Make sure you allow yourself to enjoy what you're doing. I did that by:

  • Enjoying at least 1 meal per trip of neat local food. 
  • Buying tickets to see fine art and other day activities that peaked my interest. 
  • Paying the cover charge at clubs because I love to dance, but I almost never bought drinks while out...

Anyways, I think that even traveling cheaply is expensive (most months were probably closer to the $800 mark), but it can be done! Likely, it can even be done more cheaply than I did, but I think anyone who studied abroad would agree that most of the best moments were completely free.

Once you're rich and famous, go back to those places and spend money on fantastic meals and Ubers and all that…