This is a topic I’ve already had a few questions on, so if I’m not doing it justice, please ask me for more information in the comments!
Here’s the big reveal:
I made approximately 500 purchases in London, totaling $9,000. More than some people, less than others – studying abroad was expensive. (Did I mention the $15,000 in housing & tuition, before the costs of flights, packing, visas, etc?)
How did I keep track of it all?
A very intense Google spreadsheet was the answer. One page to track the date, description, category, second category, and price of each purchase. A second page to add up the costs of each week and convert it to dollars. A third page to take my category data and analyze where my money was going. Then some more pages to track my categories by week, my weekly budget amount, exchange rates, purchases I still needed to make, and the like.
So, where did it all go then?
Food: 30% or ~$2,700 (10% of which was Groceries… closely followed by 7% Dinner)
Beauty: 17% or ~$1,500 (16% of which was “Fashion” – clothing, make up, jewelry…)
Travel: 42% or ~$3,800 (mostly Transportation – lodging, tours, and food were comparatively inexpensive)
The last $1000 went to everything else: gym membership, phone SIM, organization items for my room, different events I attended in London, etc.
When you’re planning how much money to bring, don’t just draw a line in the sand and say “that much!” Think about what you want to do while you’re there and how much money you’ll need to support it. Then, work out a solid weekly budget that can help keep you on track. I had $600 a week. $400 from my savings (I took 20% of all my paychecks during college and put them into my savings), and $200 from my father. I tried to spread my purchases out between weeks and knew I needed to be under budget on as many weeks as possible so I had wiggle room to be over budget (by a lot) during my travel weeks. Another approach I saw was separate travel and living expenses budgets.
I don’t know about you, but this trip could very well be the only time I’m ever abroad. The two places I really wanted to go that I wasn’t able to see? Barcelona and Santorini. My advice to you? Spend all of your savings. It’s hard to see all your hard earned money spent, but if you’re going home to a job where you can remake that money, what do you really have to lose? Only the lost opportunities to see some really amazing places, and trying some really great new experiences!