Planning and budgeting techniques that I used to save for a three-week trip abroad; and how I am using these saving techniques going into the future.
Searching for the Perfect Fit
While I was certain of the personal, academic, and professional benefits this experience would impart on me, the one barrier to embarking upon the Winter Europe Seminar was the program’s cost. I began my search for a study abroad program through the University of Alabama’s Education Abroad website in the fall of 2021. I had a list of criteria that I was looking for in a program so I could best maximize my experience and money. This is when I came upon a listing for an IBS Winter London program. From here I was able to contact IBS and learn more about a program that checked all my boxes: travel to Europe, business visits over a traditional classroom experience, and perfect alignment with my academic schedule. The only barrier that remained, and a daunting one at that, was funding.
I immediately began searching for scholarships at my home institution and was dismayed by the few options available. I then reached out to IBS again and was made aware of the multitude of scholarship offerings available. I submitted my application materials, crossed my fingers, and was lucky enough to get the good news in October that I had been chosen for their scholarships.
However, another issue still remained, these scholarships were generous, however did not
support the full cost of the program and airfare so the rest was up to me. Fortunately, my
parents were kind enough to gift me half the cost of the program, but the rest of the tuition and all the spending money was left to me. I devised a plan, I would use my savings from an on campus summer orientation position I had held and save as much as I could in the two months before the program began.
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Fast forward two months later to December 2021, and the COVID-19 Omicron variant began to surge in London. We received the dreaded news that the program had been canceled due to the new variant. This was an unexpected shock. I took the month to recover from the devastating news and began to plan yet again. I was headed into the second semester of my junior year, time was running out, I knew I wanted to study abroad in college, I needed to act quickly. With my summer already full, the winter was the only time I had left. I thought ‘let’s try again’.
I wrote out funding goals. I had a rough idea of the amount necessary to make this trip possible since I had funded it once before which I used as a guide. This year was different however, IBS was offering a multi-city program and I wanted to extend my trip if possible. I now had a full year to save up and make this dream a reality. The 2022-2023 Winter Europe program included multiple cities: London, Paris, and the Hague and was for a longer duration. I thought to myself, “Is this possible? Would I have enough for three cities plus a fourth entirely funded on my own?”
When I came back to Tuscaloosa for the start of spring semester I began saving… again. I
picked up a new role on campus as research assistant for the economics department. I sent half of my paycheck each month into a new account I set up: ‘IBS 2022-2023!!!’ Over the months as the account grew and I started to realize this dream of going on a study abroad program and having the opportunity to travel to multiple cities in Europe would finally become a reality.
Just a Finance Major and Her Spreadsheet
Then the summer came. I moved to Manhattan to begin my summer internship. One thing we might all be aware of is that New York is not the most cost friendly place to live. This was definitely an adjustment but after 2 weeks of working I realized my dream could be in jeopardy if I did not monitor my spending. I begrudgingly set up an excel sheet to track my monthly income and outgoing expenses at the recommendation of my older sister.
This excel sheet has been the bane of my existence and also the biggest blessing in my adult life, it kept me accountable and on-track during the three months I interned in New York. I came back to school for the beginning of my senior year less than $100 away from the goal I had set back in January. A goal I thought was unattainable at the time. Throughout the semester I continued to contribute to the savings account from my assistant research position on campus and had added on that fourth city, Berlin. I knew it would be attainable and that I could travel without financial worry as long as I stuck to my trusty spreadsheet.
Since coming back from the Winter Europe program, and being nearly 7-months into my
spreadsheet journey I can wholeheartedly say I was able to do everything I wanted while abroad and more. IBS was a key supporter in this factor as all the staff members were extremely supportive and had amazing budget friendly recommendations that were an experience to say the least. I still continue to log my income and daily expenses and since accepting a full-time offer in New York following my graduation this May I know this tool will be extremely useful. I plan to use it to attain financial security and plan for my next big adventures abroad in the years to come.