Detail scenic view of colorful houses in Santiago, Chile.

Budgeting and Planning Your Study Abroad

The key to financial preparation for a study abroad program is to start planning as soon as possible and understand the costs involved. Students will work with the Study Abroad Coordinator to budget expenses based on their specific study abroad program.

The following budget planning table is an example to help guide students through the various possible costs of studying abroad and to provide students with a better understanding of the various types of expenses that one might incur while participating in a study abroad program.

Expenses to Consider: Cost
Program Cost: Study Abroad participation fee $400
Program application cost* (programs vary)
Tuition and fees
Books and supplies
Transportation to and from airport (if not included in program cost)
Public transportation
Visa travel documents
Entrance and department fee (if required by country)
Deposit (if required)
Housing cost
Utilities (if not included)
Internet (if not included)
Meal plan (if applicable)
Cell phone
Laundry (if not included)
Exchange fees
Wire transfer/bank/ATM fees
Optional excursions/ independent travel
Emergency cash
Total Estimate Cost

The table above is only a tool used to estimate expected costs. Actual costs will vary from program to program. Meet with your Study Abroad Program Coordinator to determine individual costs and prepare a budget planning sheet.

Budgeting Timeline

12 – 6 months before departure

  • Students should be saving and applying for funds such as scholarships and FAFSA.
  • Meeting with a Study Abroad Advisor is important so that we can get you on the right track.

9 – 4 months before departure

  • Select a suitable study abroad program that fits your budget constraints.

7 – 3 months before departure

  • Apply for the program that interests you.
  • Apply for a passport if you don’t already have one.

3 months before departure

  • After the acceptance to the chosen program, pay for out of pocket expenses such as health insurance, immunizations and fees.
  • Complete and submit all forms to the Office of International Academic Initiatives.

1 month before departure – This is the final stage of financial planning preparation

  • Make sure all payments and paperwork are submitted.
  • Have a credit card and cash saved for extra expenses.

First day of classes abroad

  • Plan out expenses for food, transportation and personal items.
  • Have cash available in your account for withdrawals as needed.

Low-Cost Programs

There are a few factors to consider when looking for a low-cost study abroad program.

  1. In general, exchange programs (in which you pay Montclair State tuition and fees) are less expensive than affiliated programs (ISA, CEA, etc.)
  2. Short-term programs may be less expensive than semester or year-long programs, though this isn’t always the case. A summer semester tuition may replace courses during a fall or spring semester if well planned.
  3. Cost of living also varies from country to country. The cost of living expenses include food, housing, transportation, and other incidentals. There are websites that can be used to explore the cost of living difference.  In general, Western Europe and Australia are usually more expensive than Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern/Central Europe.
  4. The value of the U.S. dollar compared to other currencies changes regularly, so it is important to consider the exchange rate and purchasing power parity before choosing a location to study abroad.
  5. ISA has a list of affordable programs. To view them, go to their programs search page and then click on “Affordable Programs.”

While Abroad – General Tips

  • Check with your U.S. bank before going abroad to find out if they have a partnership with any banks abroad, which could help you with your international transaction fees.
  • If you plan on using an ATM, try to take out enough money to last you for a while in order to avoid racking up withdrawal fees. Of course, be sure to safely stash away large sums of money in a safe or other secure area.
  • Emergency money:  While it’s important to have an outline of expected costs abroad and money allotted for such expenses, it is also important to have extra money available for emergencies.
  • Consider getting a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Revisit your budget while you’re abroad. Determine if you have stayed on track or will need to make adjustments to your budget going forward.
  • Make sure to notify your bank and/or credit card company that you will be accessing money abroad so as not to set off a fraud alert.

Note: The Office of International Academic Initiatives often hosts special information sessions on budgeting and planning each semester. Check the calendar for upcoming sessions.