Spending money wisely is one of the biggest things we all worry about. We are told not to spend more money than we earn. If you earn $ 2,000 a month you shouldn’t be spending $ 2,500 during that month. But it is easier said than done, we might pass by a shop and start buying things on impulse e.g. shoes (for ladies) and other clothing. Spending money is tricky especially if you want to make every dollar or pound or Euro to work for you. Using money is even harder if you are in another country during your holiday, volunteer/ intern abroad trip, gap year. During this period you won’t be getting extra income and the one you get won’t be able to meet your needs. To avoid calling home to ask for money to be sent to you or using too much of your credit card, money should be spent wisely. Spending money wisely will reduce the credit card debt you will incur when you are abroad. It’s harder saving money while abroad because you don’t know where to get the best deals and the locals see you as a cash cow to be taken advantage of. Here are tips that will help you to save money and make the most of your volunteer/ intern abroad and gap years:
Before you leave
Make the most of your money before you leave, book in advance in order to get the best flight ticket. Buying your airline ticket early allows you to get the best deals to your volunteer/ intern destination. Paying for the ticket in advance allows you to save a few hundred dollars or Euros. Booking for hotels and hostel in advance helps in saving money. As in some you might be able to take advantage of the low rates during the off season. Research for the best deals that are available from the internet. Travel insurance is very important and should be taken seriously. If you are to buy it from a travel agent they will sell you policies which are expensive. Or they will send you to firms which are not at cost. Shop around and look for the most cost effective plan for yourself. That is if you will be travelling once or you will travelling in many times during the year. With different options you will be able to choose wisely which the best is for you.
Using credit cards overseas is very useful and effective. But there are many hidden costs and charges that they don’t tell you when you are applying for them. First of is the transaction fees they charge are different than what they charge you while you are at home. Then secondly there are currency conversion rates which in some banks are about 2 or 3 %. Use debit cards as opposed to credit cards while you are abroad. This is because credit cards start charging you interest from the time you have withdrawn cash. Due to these costs, when you use the ATMs, withdraw large amounts and do it once in a while. If you are going to stay in the host country for a period of 6 to 12 months it’s advisable to open a local bank account. Opening a local bank account is better as you won’t have to worry about ATM fees, Currency conversion and huge interest rates. After your volunteer / intern abroad program is over, you can withdraw all your cash and change it back to your currency at the banks.
When you arrive at your host country, buy a cheap local phone which will help you communicate with your friends and family. Due to the advent of the internet we can cut down our communication costs drastically. Facebook makes it easy to send messages either through wall profiles or directly at their inboxes. With this you can save money rather than sending direct text messages or sms. Skype has an extensive network all over the world. With Skype you can make free online calls from Skype to Skype. Using other companies like Yahoo, MSN messenger also provides free calls on their services. These services drastically reduce your communication costs when you want to communicate with friends and family.
You will be able to get group discounts if you travel as a group. You can start saving money as soon as you leave your home country. Some airlines offer group discounts and you will get better rates rather than travelling alone. Also hotels and hostels offer group discounts. Going with a group of friends enables all of you to get more value for your money. Apart from it being more fun it will also be cheaper.
The natives of the country are a huge resource of information. Although some might use your for cash, there are those who are good and will advice you on the best places where you will get value for your money. They will take you to the cheaper shops, restaurants and hotels. In some case you will be able to save money if you stay with them. The local people as your friends will help you navigate the cities and give you the best budget deals. Use public transport to move around, like buses and trains as opposed to using taxis and chattered cars.
Tourist areas are known to be the most expensive areas. You should avoid such areas as they will reduce your budget drastically. The prices for everything in these areas are normally inflated. Buying goods and services in these areas is not a good idea as you won’t be able to sustain your stay. Exchanging money at the airports is a bad idea as the exchange rates there are unfavorable to you.
Zablon Mukuba is the director of Volunteer capital Centre, leading provider of quality and affordable volunteer abroad opportunities in third world countries. We give you the chance to leave a finger print on a life. For more information visit http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.org and http://www.volunteercapitalcentre.blogspot.com