Budget Planning: 6 tricks to rocking study-abroad success on a budget

Nobody comes to Europe with a pile of extra cash, at least not on The Village. Instead, students come with mostly loans and some savings and scholarship money as what they’ve got to live on.  The money question every year is usually this: “how can I live all semester on the money I have and not miss any fun because my budget is tight?”  Here are our 6 time-honored tricks:

1) Build a budget for the whole semester and manage it carefully every week of your stay.

Some weeks of the program will cost more than others. When we’re in Montrichard, you’ll have access to affordable meals out and to a kitchen of your own. The month here can be your budget’s friend as long as you plan out how much you can spend each week and stick to that amount. One night you may go out in Tours and spend more than you want. That’s OK as long as you dial back the next night or three to return to the spending amount you’ve set for your week and your month.

2) Break your budget into at least 2 categories: regular living and travel living

You will spend more during your two weeks of VisionQUEST and on Fall Break.  Likewise, your weeks in Paris and London will cost more than two weeks of living will cost in Montrichard.  (Barcelona can go ether way, but it will surely cost more than Montrichard.) As you look at your total amount of spending money and build your budget, look at how you can keep your “belt tightened” in Montrichard to free up more money to put into  your VisionQUESTs.

3) Watch your alcohol intake carefully and consider putting “party” money into dinner money

Nobody comes to Europe to miss the fun. But our students who come and start ordering American style drinks and partying more than they should are almost always our students who are low on funds by the final month of the program. Instead, look seriously at how eating the European way might be your better investment of funds than going out to party. Meaning: in Paris there are countless little bistros that have a 2 or 3 course dinner option for you that will take 3 hours to enjoy and cost about $15. Alternatively you could spend $13 on a single Mojito, still be hungry and have lost your budgetary inhibitions. The student who does a nice dinner and has a glass of wine spends less than $20 on a whole Parisian evening. The student who does her night out in a partying way can spend $35 – $50 in a night and have a headache to manage the next morning in class.

4) Consider doing fall break in France to reduce your travel time and costs or even staying back in Montrichard to do a day trip or two.

You’ll have 2 full weeks of VisionQUEST to cross Europe as you want. While Fall Break is built to give you a long weekend to travel, it can also be a brilliant time to either explore France beyond the Loire Valley (but NOT go as far as Amsterdam or Munich) or to use Montrichard as your base camp and where you sleep but strike out on cool day trips to see more of our gorgeous region and spend very little money as you do it.

5) Plan VisionQUEST so you’re traveling less but seeing more.

A brilliant VisionQUEST 1 that will let you travel well but see a ton would be a dual voyage to Brussels and Amsterdam. Both are easy to get to from Montrichard and both can be seen well in a week and each connects easily to Paris, so you can reconvene with The Village there to start our JOURNEY course.  Ditto a VisionQUEST 2 that does Galway and then Dublin, and then has you grab a flight to Barcelona.

6) Adopt a mindset that’s about mindful experience over ticking off bucket list boxes. (Most mindful experiences are free.)

Our students who do the best with their budgets tend to be experts in finding simple and free ways to meet locals as they travel and find cultural nourishment as they do so. Have you ever seen the sun rise over the Cher River? Have you ever hiked for an afternoon to a tiny town with an old monastery that was founded a thousand years ago? Have you ever walked up the steepest hill in Paris to see the tiny square up there where artists gather still to sell paintings like Picasso and Matisse did in their era? Have you ever walked the Sunday antique stalls along Portebello Road in London, looking for the locations that were used in the film about wee Paddington Bear? Or wandered through London’s Camden Town to find where Bob Marley lived or The Clash bought their Doc Martens?