Budgeting and Financial Planning


In addition to researching financial aid, scholarships, and other means of funding your global education experience, an important part of your financial preparation is creating a budget.

What to consider

Before you start breaking down your budget, you should know how much money you will need for the duration of the time abroad. Whether you’re funding this experience on your own, or with the help of others, knowing your total budget will make it much easier to itemize expenses.

Consider additional incidental costs when budgeting for your program, including:

  • Flight
  • Insurance
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Traveling and personal expenses

Make personal savings where possible to create a cushion. You may not need substantial extra savings, but even a relatively small amount can help in defraying the costs and providing more peace of mind.

Budget sheet

Use this customizable Budget Sheet to help you estimate the total cost of your global education experience.

Cost of attendance estimates

It is important to understand the estimated cost of attendance (COA) for a semester at SDSU for comparison. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships posts the official cost of attendance. Do you personally pay more or less than the COA average in an academic year? That is an important consideration when reasonably comparing costs of spending a semester or year abroad.  

Most semester and academic year study abroad programs require that you pay SDSU full-time tuition and fees for each semester abroad. Keep in mind that living in San Diego costs more than even the U.S. national average, so many international destinations may seem more affordable by comparison.

Note: short-term (winter or summer) global education experiences incur an additional cost outside the calculated COA since it is not a required semester - this would be similar to budgeting to take SDSU summer session courses.

Purchasing power

When you're trying to decide between different programs, consider the relative purchasing power in each host destination based on exchange rates and living costs. Students are often surprised by the vast difference between international currencies. As you create an expense list and budget, see what it converts to in the local currency. There are various online currency converters that help you to do this with amazing accuracy.

Currency Converters include:

oanda logo xe logo

Program budgets

Many program profiles in the Aztecs Abroad database have an estimated program budget, which you can review and further discuss budgeting with your Global Education Advisor.

Financial aid

Visit the SDSU Student Financial Center to discuss how your financial aid awards apply to your specific global education program.


Follow these tips for staying within your budget while you’re abroad:

  • Restrain spending throughout your stay, but especially immediately upon arrival — focus on necessities
  • Stay within a weekly budget
  • Be aware of the exchange rate throughout your stay and look for better rates when exchanging currency
  • Focus on gathering experiences rather than on the quantity of travel; stay local and get to know your main host city and neighbors more
  • Look out for student discounts and use your host institution student ID card or an international student identity card (ISIC), but research if ISIC will be valuable in host country
  • Save your souvenir buying for towards the end of your stay 
  • You will know how much money remains
  • You will also know what items will be most memorable
  • Choose cheaper excursions or independent side trips

Take advantatge of student discounts

International Student Identity Card (ISIC)

The ISIC card is the only internationally-recognized student ID which can be used to take advantage of discount offers on travel, accommodation, shopping, and museums. The ISIC can be ordered online - before purchasing, search the website to determine if it will be useful in the places you plan to visit.

Benefits vary widely from country to country. Some students report that they received numerous discounts on museums, tickets, etc., while others report that the discounts were negligible. Europe seems to offer more discounts than other parts of the world.

Budget Tip!

Talk to returnees from study abroad, international internships, and programs similar to the one you are considering - many students have budget tips from their time abroad!  Visit the Global Education Office to connect with Global Guides as well as Global Education Advisors, who can help you connect.