Tips for economizing your time in MadridMadrid, Fall 2011

With the value of the dollar as low as it is now I found myself faced with the dilemma of how to stretch my budget as best as I could during my time in Madrid.  Because I opted to live in an apartment I was responsible with preparing my own meals each day.  Other than the money spent towards travelling, I would say most of my money was spent on food.  To help out those who want to make the most out of their time abroad on a budget, I have come up with a few (believe me I have many more important tips) pointers I wish I had been given before I left:

-Before you leave it is good to have a general idea of how much money you have to work with during the months you are abroad.  You will either have a set amount for your semester, or like many people in my program have your family transfer money into your account when needed throughout your time abroad.  Once you know your budget you can calculate how much money you can spend per day/week on food items.

-For those in charge of making their own meals, whether in student apartments or homestays with kitchen privileges it is easiest to stay on budget if you make a meal plan for the week and stick to it.  A big difference here than in America is that Madrileños tend to go to the store more often (every day) to get the items they need for the day.  This is a good idea because then food won’t go bad and you won’t have to carry as much.  As soon as you get to your destination it would be smart to buy a few reusable grocery sacks because stores typically charge you to use plastic bags.  Another good idea for those in apartments is to make meals with your roommates and have everyone pitch in a few euros, or take turns hosting dinners with other apartments.  We did this a few times and each time we had a blast and got a good meal for a low price.

-Although the travel throughout Europe is very cheap, you can make the most out of your travels if you make a travel budget as well- devoting a certain amount a money to the airline fees and transportation costs, as well as hostel/hotel prices and meals.  It is good to have in mind where you want to go before you arrive to your abroad location so that you can buy your tickets sooner and save yourself a lot of money.  The key is to book anything earlier to save a significant amount of money.  Also, if you have friends/family in a certain place you want to visit make plans to stay with them if possible.  I was able to save a lot of money by couch surfing for a few of my trips.  This also provides you with more money to spend for sight-seeing and buying souvenirs.

-Being abroad has definitely tested my self-control when it comes to shopping.  The shopping here and in Europe in general is incredible and I face temptation every day to buy different things.  While it is good to treat yourself to something cool/frivolous every now and then, I advise you to wait on your purchase for a few days and if you still want it/can afford it then go buy it.  There have been a few items I have bought on a whim (expensive straightening iron in particular) that I have later come to regret and probably wouldn’t have bought had I thought it through some more.

-When it comes to taking money out from the ATM most banks will charge you a fee to do so.  My bank charged $5 per transaction. To avoid having this happen to you as often be sure to take out the maximum of cash out your bank allows during each trip to the ATM.  Once you have a big wad of cash it would be wise to store most of it somewhere in your room and only carry what you need for the day on you.

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