By now, in mid-October, most of you have fallen into the swing of things in terms of school, host family, making new friends, and participating in school activities. Everyone at DMD hopes you are enjoying your time in the United States and that you are using every opportunity to do new activities with your host family and friends, as well as using some of your time to study hard and achieve good grades! Since some of you have been here for approximately 8 weeks now, you might be experiencing the costs of food, clothing, and entertainment here in the United States. Sometimes the prices of activities and even necessities can be overwhelming and even stressful, so in this forum, we thought it would be nice to highlight some ways in which you can save and budget the amount of money that you have brought with you here.
First, it is smart to think about the things on which you have already been spending your money, such as clothing, food eaten outside your host family’s home, and entertainment (which could include travel and transportation for your activities). These are likely what you need to spend money on as the year goes on, so in order to budget wisely, so that you have enough for the rest of the school year, you might find it helpful to follow some tips that have been successful for others before you.
Clothing… When buying clothes, it is probably a good idea to inventory everything that you already have with you. For example, if you already have a winter coat, and it fits, then you really do not need to spend money on that. You may need a pair of gloves, hat, scarf, and a spring jacket, though. If you need certain items, your host family can probably be a great help to you, because they live in the area, so they know the climate and what you will likely need in terms of clothes, and they also know the stores at which you could shop to find the best deals. Before you go shopping, try to find coupons that come in the mail, or in the newspaper and magazines. Again, ask your host family if you could use them; they would be happy to accommodate you. If you would like them to come shopping with you, ask them! Another option when shopping for clothing is consignment stores, in which you “trade” your old clothes and buy other lightly-used clothing at a much lower price than in a regular department store. Thrift stores are yet another option where you can find used clothing at a good price.
Activities… Hopefully by now, you are involved in some school activities that you are enjoying very much! Sometimes there are nominal fees for activities both at school and in your community. A way to spend less money would be to decide which activities you want to do more than others. This way, you are not spending too much money on many different activities. You will find that your time is limited, anyway, with your studies and spending time with your host family and new friends. If you would like to participate in school sports, you might have to spend some of your money on school uniforms and related materials. In order to watch your spending, maybe it is a good idea to limit something from your entertainment list, such as going out to the movies two weekends in a row. Instead, you can buy what is needed for your school sport or activity, and do something that cost less at home for a couple of weeks.
Entertainment… Part of the experience of coming on an international program, as you have done, is to experience the culture of another country, in this case, the United States of America. In order to do that, of course you will want to participate in as many activities, parties, events with new friends and your host family as well! And, of course, doing all these fun activities costs money. However, when it comes to entertainment, there are many ways to cut down on spending! For example, if you like watching movies, instead of going to the cinema every weekend, you can rent DVD’s from your local library. If you ask your host family, you might even be able to apply for your own library card while you are living with them, so that you have more independence in that way. Another example is if you like trying new foods, sometimes you can go to different restaurants with friends, but other times, instead of going for dinner, you can just order appetizers and share them all among the group you are with. It can be a fun way of trying many different foods, and you will spend less money this way, too! Check out restaurant.com for some awesome deals on dining out! And yet other times, instead of going to a restaurant, you can ask your host family if you can invite a few friends over and you can all cook together! You can find many delicious recipes online or in cookbooks if your host family has any, and you can have a great evening with friends making dinner and baking dessert together.
There are other activities that you might like to do while you are in the United States, which range in prices. Some examples might be skiing, ice skating, golfing, and surfing. If you think you might like to try some of these activities, a great place to look online is groupon.com, where you can find many great deals and activities for a better bargain! If you like to go to the theater or watch a ballet or listen to an orchestra or band, go to the web sites of the nearest colleges and universities. Many times, there are a variety of activities and entertainment for a great value!
The purpose of providing you with some budgeting tips is to help you make the most out of your experience abroad, and to do as many activities as possible, while maintaining a good budget. Continue to explore the new country in which you are living and studying and we at DMD all wish you a great school year and wonderful international experience!