We all make mistakes, and when you travel across the world there are even more opportunities to mess up. One of the easiest areas to mess up is in managing your money. It is a great time to learn, but a hard one as well.
As a 17-year-old person, I am in the first years of my life where I get to have a job and my own money. Learning how much things cost and how to save your own money is one of the toughest lessons to learn. Luckily there is a grace period when you are young when you don’t have to buy as much as adults. Although this is true when you are traveling there are some differences. There is so much more to do that is new and everything costs money. When living with a host family it is often your responsibility to pay for yourself when eating out, or tickets to things or when you are out with friends.
Before I left on my exchange my parents were constantly worried about me having enough money, telling me how expensive things were going to be. Because they were worried, I did a lot of preparing and fundraisers. I didn’t like doing them and thought it was kind of overkill but I was very glad that I did. You want to have freedom while you are traveling and that takes money. So do some fundraising, get a summer job, and look for scholarships.
Once you are off and to your new country you have a set amount of money. To make sure your money lasts you, the best thing I found to do is find a balance. Instead of getting coffee fours days a week, make it a special thing on Monday. There will be things to do that cost money and you want to be able to do them. But there are also free things to do, like spending time walking around just enjoying your city or town, or watching a movie at home with microwave popcorn.
Even if you think you are doing a good job and finding a good balance you could still look at your bankcard statement at the end of the month and see that you spent way more money than you thought. Before you go, learn the currency conversion from your home currency. Although I thought I had a pretty good idea, when I did the math in my head with some rounding I often found myself spending more on something than I had calculated. I recommend a currency converter app on your phone to make sure you know how much something costs. With my bankcard, there were also some international charges, which could add up. Checking with your bank to find out what the fees are is a good idea.
There will be things that cost money that are worth doing so on your personal budget find a balance. It’s easy to rationalize buying things or spending money sometimes when you are going through a rough time. Some weeks or months you will spend too much money, but you have to be able to notice it and do better the next time. It’s a hard part of traveling but a great lesson to bring home with you.
Fiona MacDonald, from Cantwell, Alaska, is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipient. Learn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!