Balling on a Budget in Barca

Michael Chung
October 1, 2019

After my first week studying abroad, I was concerned about my financial situation for the rest of the semester. Barcelona has a huge tourist attraction which means expensive prices. In fact, Barcelona has one of the highest costs of living in the entire country of Spain. After eating out a couple of times, I had to sit down and create a budget for my entire trip. I gave myself a limit on groceries, travel, restaurants/bars, and recreational activities. While researching ways to save money abroad as well, I figured that the information I learned will be useful for students with a similar financial situation as me and/or students who want to save money in general. Thus, I have decided to provide 10 ways you can save money while studying abroad in Barcelona for a semester.

1. Buy a 3 Month Metro Pass

Instead of buying expensive metro rides that can range from over 2 euros for a single ride or 10.20 euros for a 10 trip pass, any student under the age of 25 is able to purchase an unlimited 3-month metro pass for only 105 euros. The only thing you need to do is make sure that you have your passport number to input into the system to receive your discount/deal. This is a lot of money for a single purchase, but it pays off heavily especially if you travel a lot. Many places in Barcelona are easily accessible through public transportation. All you need to do is download Citymapper which is Spain's version of Google maps and see how you can get from point A to point B through various trains, buses, cars, and walking. 

2. Buy Groceries at a Supermarket (in bulk if possible)

If you live in an Apartment like me for the semester, you will quickly realize how expensive eating out can be and how it can add up. Thankfully, I was glad that my apartment had a large number of pots, pans, skillets, plates, tupperware, and utensils to save me money. All I had to do was buy dish soap, sponges, and groceries (of course) to start. Instead of paying over $7 euros for a regular burger at a restaurant, you can make multiple burgers for cheaper at the comfort of your own home. Not only is this cheaper, but it can also be healthier since you're creating the burger. All in all, you can get more food for cheaper, 

3. Use Student Discounts

As college students, we all know how expensive it can be to live on a day to day basis. Luckily for us, most merchants and corporations understand this. Thus, many museums, touristy areas, and services (music, entertainment, e-commerce) give us discounts to save money. Instead of opting to pay the amount listed right away, you should ask if there is a student discount beforehand.

4. Book Flights on Ryanair (and incognito)

Ryanair is hands down one of the cheapest airlines to purchase flight tickets. The service may not be the best, but they get you from Country A to Country B in a timely manner. In addition, by searching up flights on incognito mode, no cookies and trackers are placed on you that can increase the cost of your flight.

5. Apply for and get a Travel Credit Card (with no foreign transaction fee)

Normal debit/credit cards from America may have a foreign transaction fee of 3% on every single purchase you make with the card abroad. This isn’t a big fee, but it does add up to a hefty and UNNECESSARY cost to your budget. If you have the chance to save yourself money and receive a new travel credit card that provides bonus points, why not do it?

6. Try your Best to Carpool

Although I said that the Barcelona metro system is extensive and you’re able to get through the city fairly easily, the metro system does not run 24/7. As a result, if you want to go to a club at night, it’s best to split a taxi with a couple of friends to save yourself the most money.

7. Utilize Discover IES Abroad events

I was taken aback at first when I found out that we had to pay IES Abroad for events that they hosted for the students. However, I quickly realized that there were a couple of benefits from doing the Discover IES Abroad trips with them. Firstly, you’re able to bond and create relationships with other IES Abroad students who you may never see outside of the trip since the program has many students. Secondly, you will be doing the activities on the trip at a cheaper price compared to if you were to do it by yourself. Thus, instead of paying more money and potentially going alone to do the same thing, why not do it for cheaper and with people with IES Abroad?

8. Calisthenics/Beach Gym

Unfortunately, my apartment did not have a gym that came with it. If you want to work out with weights, you can go to the DiR gym next to the IES Abroad Center and get a discounted student membership. If you want to spend no money at all and still get in a good workout, you can go to the beach gym and do calisthenics for free (and you get a beautiful view).

9. Actively look for raffles/free events

By simply following various groups or accounts associated with Barcelona on social media, you can find and enter into raffles that the groups hold from time to time. Luckily for me, my friend won a raffle from IES Abroad's Barcelona Instagram page. By winning, we were able to go to the Palo Alto market for free and have a free drink courtesy of IES Abroad. Another friend of mine was able to visit La Sagrada Familia for free simply because she was in a Barcelona group chat and was chosen randomly. 

10. Live in a Homestay

This is one of the best ways to save yourself money abroad. You do not have to spend the extra $1200 that the other housing options require, you don't have to spend money or time to cook your food as your host parent does it for you, and they save you time by doing your laundry for you. You save yourself tremendous time and money by living in a homestay, which may also lead to a lifelong relationship with your host-parent and will allow you to practice your Spanish daily. Although each housing option has its pros and cons, the homestay option is definitely the most cost-effective.

Michael Chung

<p>I am a first generation college student who hopes to create my own company soon. My parents are Vietnamese immigrants and I’m hoping to help them retire one day. On my free time, I love playing basketball and taking photos. My fun fact is that I speak three languages.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
University of Rochester
Astoria, NY
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