Although I’ve only been on exchange for a few months, I feel like I (or more so my wallet) have learned a few things about spending money here. For one, I did decide to study in Paris—one of the most expensive cities in Europe—but at the same time, it’s doable. This week I had to create a presentation about “How to Live Cheaply in Paris,” for my French class, so I feel slightly (only slightly) qualified to discuss this subject. While this project was centered around my specific experiences, I’ve developed a list of tips to help anyone planning to study abroad.
1. Budget Budget Budget
When I first came to France I hadn’t drawn out a budget as extensive as the liberal government’s recent changes (badum chhhh), but I did have a sense of how much I was willing to spend on exchange. I determined that it’s important to write down the amount you’re coming with versus how much you’d like to leave with, so that you can plan for various expenses.
2.Life and Travel expenses
This brings me to my second point—learn to separate your costs. Most of my expenses in Paris are food and clothes and well, more food. I didn’t exactly realize how quickly social lunches would add up, but in my opinion gastronomy is part of the experience, right? Due to the fact that the goal is to enjoy life in Paris and also travel, I learned to balance these costs and leave money aside for adventuring!
3.Don’t forget scholarships/grants
Before applying for exchange, I’d suggest looking into the scholarships that both your college and U of T offers for study abroad programs. As well, research different funding opportunities that your country or school of study offers. For example, the French government subsidizes students by offering them a monthly CAF scholarship for housing expenses. While it’s not an obscene amount it’s still helpful when rent costs are high.
4. Should I get a bank account?
This point is a touchy subject for me because I sought out a French account in efforts of receiving the CAF scholarship and so that I could use a European debit card while here. This process was lengthy (to be specific about 2-months of meetings) and ended up not working out due to paperwork needed from my landlord, so I’d say look into different banks before you arrive and know their policies!
5. Learn to say no (but also you only do this once).
Contradictory statements? Perhaps. I have some difficulties with this last point, as my strategy on exchange has been, ‘Dis oui tous le temps!” Although this mindset in terms of spending isn’t always realistic. I’ve learned to “do everything” in moderation, so that I’m able to enjoy my time here, while not feeling stressed about money.
Saying this, I’m definitely not a spending expert and every case is different, but these are just a few hacks I’ve acquired for living cheaply!
Happy saving, à la prochaine—R