How to Save Money While Abroad

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For some strange reason I feel like Euros are comparable to Monopoly money. They’re colorful and cute and super easy to spend, right? RIGHT. I feel like since I’ve been in Barcelona I’ve been doing nothing but spending all of my (well, my parent’s) money. After a couple of awkward phone calls with my mother I knew I needed to cut out the monopoly money thinking and really start budgeting my money.

It is a lot harder than it seems, but now in my second week of budgeting, and I feel like a pro! Here’s some tips how to budget yourself:

Cook dinner instead of going out to eat.

I am not the best cook, but I’m learning. Cooking is actually a lot of fun especially when you make something good and everyone gets to enjoy it. There are a countless number of recipes online and even if you think you don’t have a lot food in your fridge, Google a recipe with the ingredients you do have. For example, the other day I had goat cheese, and kale. I googled a recipe and made the most delicious dinner ever.

Don’t get me wrong I still like to go out to eat, but I try and limit myself to maybe two times a week instead of every night. I also will go out for lunch and I realized its unnecessary to go out to dinner as well.

The markets in Spain (at least by where I live) are a lot cheaper than an American Supermarket. I’ve gone to the market to stock up and have spent under 30 euros. When you are traveling it might seem harder to not go out to eat, but all you have to do is find a supermarket and you can easily make a small dinner or lunch in your hotel or hostel.


Let’s face it, YOBO (You Only Barcelona Once), so you’re going to want to go out to eat that way you can tell your friends who will study here in the future all of the cool places they need to go. You can easily YELP cool places to go and instead of selecting the ‘$$$’ select the ‘$’ and I guarantee on that list you will find some amazing cafes and restaurants. I found one of my FAVORITE places in all of Barcelona this way (Bo de B). Bo de B is the most amazing food and it hasn’t costed me more than 11 Euros, including patatas bravas, a meal and a drink.

Coins are money too!!!!


In America I hate coins. They are so annoying and just make your wallets heavy and you need at least 10 pounds of coins to even help you financially. Well, in Europe that isn’t the case. The 1, 2, and even the half euro coins can quickly add up and you can surprisingly make a lot of money out of your pocket change. My neighbors came up with a really great system, they put all of their coins in a bowl and then they collectively take from it whenever. Or if they know they’re all going out together they’ll grab some coins and pay for the cab, that way as an apartment they’re paying for it instead of them individually. They also use the coins to get apartment supplies like groceries, paper towels and toiletries.


I just had this realization the other day after I saw on my debit card statement that my little Starbucks run costed me 10 USD. That is appalling considering the coffee wasn’t event that good!! I also thought about it and why am I going to go to a big American company when I’m in Spain and I can get even better coffee for wayyyy cheaper. You don’t want to go home saying “yeah I had Starbucks everyday”. Not worth the money. Yes, it’s comforting to go to an American place, but you’re abroad for a reason.


Add these people on Facebook because without them you’ll spend a ton of money going out. They’re really annoying but actually super helpful because they tell you whats going on that night and that’s usually where all the Americans end up anyway. They sometimes include pre game bars that have really good deals for us. They are definitely people to be friends with because sometimes when you’re out and they recognize you they’ll bring you to VIP.

Take the Metro

The Metro is a lot better than taking a cab. I get the 50 rides for a month and its perfect. Obviously you should be walking around seeing the city, but on nights that the metro is open late you should take it instead of spending money on a cab. The metro is open 5am-12am Sun-Thurs, 5am-2am Fridays and 24 hours on Saturdays.


If you are planning to travel, do it in advance. Waiting until the week of to book your flight isn’t smart because the prices will go up. If you are planning trips through some travel companies, they sometimes do good deals the earlier you do it. I planned all of my trips in the beginning of the semester so I got really good deals, but the only downfall is that your schedule is basically set in stone, unless you get canceling insurance.

Also traveling days can be really LONG, so what we’ve been doing is making sandwiches for the road. I go to the market and stock up on granola bars, fruit and nuts because they are easy to pack and cheap. Instead of getting a gross airport dinner for 15 euros, you can eat a yummy meal and have snacks to last you the entire weekend.

If you book a lot of tours or museums online you can save some money. Even though it puts a time frame on your day, its definitely worth it and it makes it easier to meet up with friends.

Don’t buy everyone a round of shots every time you go out.

In the beginning of the semester I think each of my roommates would buy a round every single place we went. We quickly ran out of Euros and realized it was unnecessary. It’s a nice gesture, but your friends are more than likely in the same position as you and don’t want to spend all of their spending money on shots. I was at a bar once and asked for 2 drinks and my jaw dropped because the bartender responded that it was 38 Euros……

Go on field trips!

IMG_5466CEA and I’m sure many other study abroad programs all have really great field trips set up for you. For CEA I had to put a small deposit down, but it was so worth it. I went on two field trips (Monserrat and Madrid) so far and both were great. I spend the weekend in Madrid and had THE BEST time ever and all I had to do was put down 30 Euros. Its also a good way to get some extra cash out of your parents because you can remind them how “they didn’t even have to pay for the weekend in Madrid” (I haven’t tried this yet, but ill let you know how it goes). They included two museums that you had to sign up for in advanced, which I didn’t do, but they added me to the waiting list and I ended up being able to go anyway. The hotel we stayed at was really beautiful and in a great location, so it was definitely worth it. CEA lets you switch your group if you want to be with your friends.


Bring your student ID card places

I recently just found this little fun fact out. If you bring your ID card around with you, you can get discounted tickets into museums and sometimes you can even get into free. It may only save you 3 or 4 Euros, but if you think about it, that adds up. If you bring your passport and show them your student visa, that works too, but just make sure you’re careful with your passport.

Stay in a hostel

If you do some research and find a clean and reputable hostel, they can sometimes be better than hotels. A lot of hostels offer private rooms, so if you are traveling with a group of people you can request a room together. They are of course some weird and sketchy hostels, but like I said if you do some research you’ll end up happy and saving money. You can meet some really great people from hostels and its really cool to sit down and talk to them and hear their stories. I met this one kid who was my age (20) who is traveling through all of Europe alone for 8 months. I got some great advice from him and I was able to hear about all the amazing places he’s been too…. He was an amazing budgeter too so hopefully he’ll read this and be proud.

Are you here to shop or are you here to travel?

My best friend, Kevin, who is also studying aboard here asked me that when I was saying I needed more clothes. He said, “Really Ali do you need more clothes? Are you here to shop or are you here to travel?” He is 100% right. Although, I really would love to go shopping more than anything, I would rather be able to say I visited another country rather than get a new outfit for Opium. You need to find a balance between going on shopping sprees or getting a new shirt every few weeks.

You actually don’t have to travel every weekend

Some people feel the need to leave Barcelona every weekend to see other places. While I think traveling is really awesome, its also really awesome to get to know the area you live in. You can save some money by staying here because you can cook meals, you know the promoters, you can take the metro, etc. Also how embarrassing would it be when your mom comes to visit and you have to look on a map how to get to the beach????? You chose to STUDY ABROAD in Barcelona so you really should get to know it and start to love it!

Although many people may not be in the same financial position as me, I think that everyone should try and budget their money. I’m still having the same experience as the next girl, I’m just doing it money consciously.

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