It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, trying new things and going to new places when studying abroad. However, all these things cost money and can add up very quickly. This is a lesson I learned quickly on my journey. When I first arrived in Lyon, I was very excited and eager to explore. I said yes to any plan that came my way, which meant going on trips to other towns in France, visiting Germany and Amsterdam over my winter break, going out for food and drinks with friends, shopping, and more.
In comparison to prices in the U.S., prices in Lyon are somewhat similar, if not cheaper. As a result, I would constantly find myself justifying my spending (if not overspending); however, costs do add up. Being an avid lover of excel, I decided to make a workbook in which I could have several tabs tracking my expenses, my bills, and keeping a budget. This has proved to be something incredibly useful.
For each month, I divide my expenses into the following categories: Groceries, Food/Drinks, Clothing, Transportation, Trips, and Other. By keeping track of what I spend in each category, I can get a quick picture of where I am spending too much money and where I have more wiggle room to spend. Keeping track of my spending also allows me to plan a budget for the following month, based on expectations from the previous month and what bills I have to pay. This too is really helpful as I can reflect on how I have spent my money and impose changes for the future month as needed. For instance, my spending on food and drinks was really high during my first month being in Lyon. This was not a surprise to me since, as I mentioned before, I was eager to make new friends and was therefore going out a lot. However, knowing how much I spent that first month allowed me to restrict myself from overspending and instead allowed me to put that excess money towards other things like trips or groceries.
In addition, I have found that opting to stay in Lyon, as opposed to visiting a new place every weekend has helped me further my sense of belonging in Lyon. Staying in Lyon allows me more opportunities to discover the many cool things it has to offer, while practicing my French skills. In this sense, rather than spending money traveling to other places or countries, I am able to save money by taking advantage of Lyon’s great transport system, which can get me practically anywhere I need to go. Exploring more parts of Lyon has made me more confident in knowing the area that I live in, more confident in speaking with Lyonnaise people (who are always very kind and happy to converse), and overall made me feel too feel like a local, rather than an outsider.
Overall, I have found that the desire to explore myself and take advantage of my location is super important to me, and I encourage others interested in studying abroad to do the same! Nonetheless, it is important to have a good balance between having fun and being financially responsible. I would definitely recommend keeping a budget while abroad and tracking your expenses, in order to know what and how you are spending.