Tips and Tricks for Studying Abroad: Pricing (Compared to the US)

Exciting news: a short post!

If you’ve been reading any of the other posts I have written about studying abroad you may be ready to pull your hair out with how long they are. BUT NOT THIS ONE! This one is perfectly short. There isn’t too much I think needs to be said about the pricing differences between the UK/Europe and the US that I haven’t already covered.

When I studied in England, the USD (US dollar) conversion to the pound was about 1 : 1.7. Meaning that every pound was worth about $1.70 in USD. Unfortunately for me, this meant that my money didn’t go quite as far when spending. Because of this, it was really important that I budgeted how much I wanted to spend and kept track of the expenditures as I progressed through my trip. The value of money is constantly changing so this is something to keep in mind also; still, it would definitely benefit you to prepare a budget in advance to make sure you stay within a realistic spending range.

For me it was more economical to eat as many meals as possible at my university since meals were included in the cost rather than dine out at pubs every night. A 12 pound pub dinner is about $20. That’s a lot of money if you’re spending it every night.

I also had the unexpected cost of clothing. I had not anticipated needing to purchase a new wardrobe (practically). Because the weather–primarily the heat–was so much more extreme than I had prepared for (it was the hottest summer England had seen in a long time, or so everyone said) I ended up having to buy several t-shirts, shorts, and summer dresses, and shoes just so I wouldn’t overheat. The sad part is that it was only in the 80 degree range. You see, that’s how hot Michigan gets in the summer. I’m more than used to it. I had plenty of clothes at home that would have sufficed. I just didn’t bring them because we were told to expect a max of mid-seventy degree weather. Oh well, now I have some very cute clothes from the UK that I still wear all the time. Primark was my best friend while I was over there!

As far as the pricing of goods and services, everything was about equal to what you would expect in the US if not cheaper, the pound just happens to be worth more. A typical pub dinner ranges from 10-12 pounds. For the clothing that I bought I found some good deals: t-shirts for 3 pounds, dresses for 5-12 pounds, and shoes (simple flats) for 5 pounds. Obviously the prices were higher for different things, but because I was on a budget (and only really needed casual clothing) I tried to keep my spending to a minimum. Coffee was pretty expensive, 3-5 pounds for a medium which is about $8. I don’t recommend buying a lot of these. Make your own if you can. Or buy tea at the grocery. Grocery shopping is a great way to go if you’re on a budget. Like I said before, prices are about what you would see in a US supermarket, but the pound is worth more so after including the exchange rate you will, as a result, be spending more.

Budget. Budget. Budget. And plan in advance. The longer you wait to make larger purchases (plane tickets, train tickets, hostels, hotels, etc.) the more expensive they will become. Keep in mind that the pricing and costs–if you’re traveling in the UK or Europe–will be in pounds or euros. The euro when I traveled was about 1.4 : 1 when compared to USD. So every euro was worth about $1.40. If the price of the hostel is 30 pounds/night then you are looking at a cost closer to $50/night. And the longer you wait the more expensive it will become.

OH!!!

Exchange any cash money you are bringing beforehand at your bank or credit union. You can “pre-order” cash from them, meaning that they will have pounds or euros sent to them and then exchange your money for you for free (or mostly free). By doing this you will save A LOT on exchange fees that run rampant at airport exchange counters and cash-exchange businesses abroad. If you plan to spend mostly with a credit card (though I suggest you definitely bring some cash with you for emergencies at least) check to see if your card has fees for purchases abroad and either calculate this into your budget or apply for a card that does not charge these fees.

And there it is: everything I have to say about pricing abroad in the UK and Europe. I told you it would be a short post, right? Yay 🙂

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