There are many ways you can travel or study abroad and not break the bank. By being in the Netherlands for 6 months, I am actually saving money.
I came here with a budget of $6,000 USD, or €5,300 after being converted from dollars to euros. Five months ago that didn’t seem like much and I was right. That budget would have left me with a little under a thousand per month to afford rent, food, travel and extra expenses for six months. Despite knowing this, I was determined to make it work.
Since arriving back in January, I have been able to afford traveling to England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, Ireland and soon to be added to the list: Malta.
I have also been able to treat myself to the occasional dinner out with friends, movie tickets, concerts and day trips around the Netherlands.
Even with all of these nice extras, I’m going home with money in my savings!
I couldn’t believe it either, and I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for these money saving tips and tricks:
I will forever be grateful for stumbling across workaway.info. More information about this useful website can be found in my previous blog post here, but this website has been my key to saving thousands of dollars.
In short, you pay approximately $30 for a two year membership on workaway.info, and with that membership comes endless opportunities around the world.
Whether you’re traveling for two weeks, two months, or two years, there’s a workaway position that’s perfect for you. Most of the volunteer options listed on the website are working in hostels (what I’m doing), working on a farm, or teaching English to a family and living in their home. While all of the positions vary slightly, they all promise free accommodation and food in exchange for your volunteer work!
Since room and board is the biggest expense in any trip, this website was a huge help and probably the only reason I was actually able to study abroad. Living in the Netherlands can be expensive!
2. Cheap airfare
Flying from the United States to anywhere in Europe is way overpriced.
Luckily for myself, being from Detroit means I’m really close to Canada, and flying from Canada to Europe means saving $500 on airfare. I wish I was kidding!
For a round trip ticket from Detroit to Amsterdam, I was looking at spending $1300 or more for the dates I was searching. When I purchased my ticket from Windsor to Amsterdam, I only paid $850. It’s still disgustingly expensive, but I’ve seen worse.
If you’re able to fly from Canada, seriously consider it.
If you’re flying from Europe to the U.S., consider flying into Boston and then to your final destination. For some reason Boston is really cheap and I’ve found tickets from Amsterdam to Boston for $250, depending on the dates. Although this means you won’t be flying direct, it can save you so much money in the long run.
One tip I wish I knew before arriving: do not book a return flight for such a long trip.
Plans change and I’m a walking example of that.
Instead of getting on my return flight June 11th, I am now getting on a flight to Malta instead!
Obviously when I booked my flights back in December, I had no idea I’d end up living in Malta. I would have saved myself some money by booking a one-way flight, but those things can’t be predicted and I was better safe than sorry.
I’ve learned my lesson, and I won’t be booking my flight back to the U.S. until I’ve arrived in Malta. Who knows what I’ll want to do once I’m there?
Also, when you’re flying from country to country across Europe, your best bet for cheap airfare is Ryanair or Aerlingus, depending on your destination.
3. Pack basic clothes and don’t bring accessories!
Clothes in Europe can be expensive – so expensive it hurts not only my wallet, but my heart as well.
My first month here I made the mistake of buying all of these fancy European clothes because I wanted to “fit into” this new European culture I was exposed to.
Except here’s the thing: most of these people wear basic colors (black, white, brown) and make their outfits unique through accessories. And the accessories can be cheap!
The H&M accessory section has become my new best friend. Whether I’m looking for jewelry, a scarf, or some shoes, I know I can go to H&M and find something that will be in my budget. This has proved to be helpful on more than one occasion, but specifically when I wear the same black shirt five days in a row and try to make it look like a new outfit every time. Not kidding, wish I was!
4. Cook your own food
As a part of my workaway agreement, I am able to order practically everything from the supermarket, apart from meat, and it’s all covered by my employers. Even wine!
Because of this, there is almost no reason for me to eat at restaurants or order take-out (although sometimes I have to splurge).
Food at the restaurants in the Netherlands can get really expensive, really fast. A simple burger and fries for €16 can turn into a $20 meal after the exchange rate and fees. No thanks!
5. Do as many free or discounted activities as possible
If the local bar offers drink specials on a Tuesday, don’t go there on a Thursday and pay double the price. That’s just silly.
If it’s a nice sunny day, go for a walk, ride a bike, or have a picnic in the park. Some of my best memories in the Netherlands have been on days where I didn’t spend more than €5, and that money went toward having beers on the canal.
When you’re surrounded by good company, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great time. Sometimes all you need is each other.
Too cheesy? I think so.