Sonia’s Budgeting Journal

A tidbit first:

In India, everything is so much cheaper because of the exchange rate. I can get a bottle of water for twenty rupees, which comes out to roughly forty cents. That is quite astoundingly amazing. You’d think you’d spend so much less since the exchange is pretty great but that could catch you off guard.


I went to India with a certain amount of money from scholarships and savings, knowing I would be have to be very thrifty when it came to food and shopping. Something that was very helpful to me was an app called the LemonWallet on the iPhone. This app can scan your credit cards front and back in any case of loss, which is fantastic (it’s also helpful when you need to make a purchase online and only have your phone around). If you do happen to lose your credit cards, this app has an option to call your banks up to cancel them for fraud. Also, whenever you make a purchase you can log it onto the app and it has an option to change currency back and forth from US Dollar to any other currency. I highly recommend this if you are on a tight budget and would like to track your expenses. It’s easy to use and I know it helped me hold back on unneeded purchases.

After a few weeks of purchasing I familiarized myself with how much things cost. I’d say (excluding tuition and board) you could eat and transport yourself comfortably with ten dollars a day. If you plan on going on weekend trips, however, you should take transportation, accommodation, and food costs into account when going to a different area.

One of the things you’ll quickly learn about India is that haggling is common and even welcome. My study abroad coordinator told us upon arriving that we should learn how to haggle (there are YouTube videos on how to do it!) with vendors. What he told our group was to ask for half the price the person is asking and go up from there. You might find it uncomfortable to do but it becomes easier after you get the hang of it. I haggle so much everyday that it has become second nature to me. From food on the street to rickshaw rides, haggling is a must especially with the understanding that vendors hike up prices because you are a foreigner.

Another great budgeting tool that has come in handy is the Lonely Planet guide for India. This guidebook tells you about the history of cities and towns, points you to cheap (but very yummy) food, provides informative reviews on accommodations, provides details on famous landmarks, and also includes safety warnings. If you plan on traveling to other cities during your stay or want to explore more of your own town I highly advice using the guide. However, I will mention that you should allow yourself room to stray away from the guide (while staying safe, of course). Particularly when it comes to food, I follow my nose—if it smells extremely good, it most likely tastes good.

What has helped me as well is getting a bank that doesn’t charge international fees. I use Charles Schwab (which is free!) and connect it to my current banker. I can transfer funds from my bank to my Schwab account, withdraw funds from any ATM around the world, and have no international fees. They even reimburse you any charges made by ATMs at the end of the month! The only thing about having a Charles Schwab account is that you can’t directly deposit funds into the account, which I’m absolutely alright with since I can just transfer funds from my current bank. International fees build up so I would very much recommend opening up an account with a bank that charges no fees.

Rupees (from Google)

Rupees (from Google)

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