How to Determine What Spending Money your Child Needs for Study Abroad

file0001572203564When your child—high school or college age—decides to embark on a study abroad program, you have a lot of preparation to do. That includes steeling yourself for a semester or year apart from your kid, as well as figuring out logistics.

Setting up a budget for the trip as a whole is a major consideration, and one of the key factors in that budget is determining how much spending money your child will need for day-to-day expenditures. Here are a few tips on how to make that determination—and how to keep your child from spending beyond his limits.

Determining cost of living

Assuming your child’s tuition, textbooks and room and board are squared away (these costs, along with airfare, are often figured into the overall price of the trip, as determined by the student’s school or university), you’re left to determine the amount of extra funds he’ll need during his trip.

The first step to figuring out that number is to research the cost of living in his adopted city. You can find a lot of that information online – look for specific information about the cost of meals at restaurants, typical gratuity, taxi fare and other incidental expenses that, combined, can become quite expensive.

Cash dispensing options

Once you’ve determined how much spending money your child needs, you have a few options on how to dispense funds to your child. If yours is a financially savvy young person, you can give him a credit card (make sure it’s a type accepted in the country in question!) for use on most or all purchases.

Another method that might allow you greater control over the amount spent is a debit card loaded with a certain amount before the trip starts. Communicate to your child that once that money’s gone, it’s gone, and there will be no more funds deposited.

Bear in mind that a credit or debit card won’t be sufficient for any emergency expenses. Should your child require, say, a trip to the emergency room during his stay overseas, he’ll need healthcare coverage. Discuss this with your child well in advance of the trip to determine if a visitor insurance policy is necessary, or if perhaps his school will provide insurance coverage for the duration of the trip.

A prepaid phone card is a good investment, too, so you can keep in touch while your child is away.

A penny earned is a penny saved

Of course, one of parents’ biggest concerns in this situation is that their children will overspend and run out of money. One of the best ways to prevent this is for your child to earn—and save—most or all of the money himself before the start of the trip. Knowing how hard he had to work to earn the money will make him value it more, thus inspiring him to spend more frugally. Help your child create a budget for daily or weekly spending, and encourage him to stick to stick to it.

Despite the somewhat daunting task of preparing for a study abroad trip, the experience will surely be a worthwhile one for your child. You’ll likely both learn and grow during the process, and with careful planning you can establish an even stronger bond of trust between you and your child.

Felicia Baratz-Savage
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