Obviously one of the most important practical matters of the year abroad is money, so you know how much you can spend on alcohol and how much on the food shop- kidding Mum, sort of…
Anyway, here I am going to tell you what I personally did and why but please bear in mind that this might not work for everyone and you might be better off following a different route. I am going to repeat a little of what I mentioned in Year Abroad Preparations however I will be going into more detail in this post, but if you don’t want to read it all then pop over and read my little section there about money abroad.
So how much money do we get from the government? Here I am going to use 2016/17 amounts so if you are reading this in a different year please research the figures that are relevent to you.
As I mentioned in a previous post, all undergrad students are eligible for a student loan to help cover their living costs but this amount depends on how much money your parents earn. You need to apply for this nice and early (you may need to register at your home uni for the YA to receive the funds!!) to make sure that the money arrives in time, my funds arrived towards the end of August in preparation for the “big move” which definitely helped me get on my feet when I arrived here. The loan is divided into three payments throughout the academic year, my payments for the year are scheduled for 22nd August, 9th Jan and 24th April. Here are two links to help get you started on your SFE:
If your YA takes place in Europe then lucky you because you will be eligible for an Erasmus grant. The figure for this academic year actually went up €30 a month from last year despite the terrible result from the referendum so I’m not complaining there. Erasmus give me a generous €380 per month, I have already received 70% of this funding with the remaining 30% due at the end of my placement. Before your money arrives safety in your bank account, you need to return all pending post-arrival paperwork and complete the language assessment (don’t pay too much attention to the grade it got you- apparently my Spanish is at level A2 but I am managing here reasonably well). I definitely recommend completing all this as quickly as possible, as at Newcastle Uni they process all of the Erasmus grants at the end of the month, so if you submit your documentation on the 2nd October, you may well not receive the money until the beginning of November. !!! But remember that the Erasmus grant is for your full placement and not just to spend it all in the month you get it, if you get into financial difficulty while abroad it can be a serious issue especially if you don’t have a bank account for worried parents to send some cash your way so please be careful !!!
How much can I receive? Remember I am using 2016/17 figures just to give you an idea.
High cost of living countries (Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Lichtenstein, Norway, Sweden): €330 a month
Low cost of living (Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey): €280 a month
High cost of living: €430 a month
Low cost of living: €380 a month
Now, I decided not to open a bank account in Spain as they come with a load of hassle, a load of fees (they can even charge you to withdraw your own money!) and just generally not being worth it. As I am only here in Spain for 6 months, I didn’t think I would desperately need a bank account: my work pays me through cheques, I pay my rent in cash and the rest is just spending money also in cash. I did not need to make any transfers, receive any large sums of money or need a debit/credit card for the duration of my stay and therefore decided against opening one.
If you decide that this is for you then shop arround to find the best rates, see if any other banks have offers or special deals on and don’t just decide on the first bank that you see. To open a bank account in Spain you need your NIE number (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) which is a process all in itself, there’s already numerous information out there on applying for your NIE but if you are still struggling feel free to comment here and I will get back to you with some tips/advice. I may even do a future post on it.
I use my WeSwap card as an alternative to having a bank account, you can easily upload money onto your card via their website or mobile app and can always have extra cash available to you if an emergency pops up… you can also use it as a debit card in shops in case there is a shopping emergency, like you have to have those new shoes. I also mentioned this topic on my previous post Year Abroad Preparations but I will explain a bit more here.
Basically with this specific card I use it to upload GBP (£) to EUR (€) and then withdraw the Euros at a cash point, there are some cautions that you need to take with this such as withdrawing the minimum amount (€200) so that you don’t get charged, leaving enough time between uploading and withdrawing the money to avoid fees (7 days) and not loading hundereds of Euros on your card in case it gets lost/damaged/stolen. It has all sorts of currencies available to choose from so it may even be an option if you are travelling further affield. I also liked this choice as I can use it in Spain and Germany without having to open 2 different bank accounts, I can just keep this one little card tucked safetly in my purse.
Of course there are different types of currency cards out there and if this appeals to you, you should read Martin Lewis’s post about them here and see which one offers the best rate for you personally. Make sure you order it nice and early and don’t leave it until the last minute, like I did but luckily the card arrived early so there weren’t any problems.
And that is basically what I have done to make sure that I have sufficient funds available to me while I’m abroad, always make sure to keep an eye on your English bank accounts to check that you have enough money to pay for your direct debits (Netflix, Spotify, etc), stop yourself from spending your loans and grants all at once and never get to the point where you run out of cash and live off toast for a week because you can’t afford to buy any fresh fruit or veg (says the girl who’s living on pasta and her own version of paella, not from moeny just from laziness).
If you have any specific tips or tricks that worked for you then feel free to get in touch and share them! Or if you have any worries about being able to afford your YA then I’m happy to have a chat with you to talk about more specific details.
Hope you enjoyed the read and until next time!