How You Can Spend Three Months in Europe and Not Go Broke

I wouldn’t say I am a budget traveler, but then again I would. I hate overpriced tourist traps. Europe happens to have loads. However, I appreciate travel splurges here and there, a nice meal or a three star hotel. When I set out for Italy this summer, I knew it was obviously a more expensive option than going to live in a village in Africa or backpacking through Southeast Asia. Since I could walk, a challenge has never made me back down.

I left for Italy with very little money. For those of you who dream of spending a few months in Europe, specifically Italy, it is possible. Here are some of the ways I made it work. Europe doesn’t have to be eliminated on your travel list due to costs.

I even had enough change to throw in the Trevi Fountain before heading home.

1.    Rent An Apartment

If you are going to be traveling week to week, you will end up spending loads on accommodations, food and other miscellaneous services in Europe. Hostels in Europe are not that cheap anymore. I rented an apartment in Florence, as I wanted to explore much of Italy and the surrounding area. By renting an apartment, I could cook my meals easily, saving money on food. While I quickly found out the apartment I rented was not the cheapest, many apartments in Florence go for 600-900 euros a month. Some include Internet and laundry services as well. If are looking to stay in Europe for the summer, I recommend setting up a home base and making day trips or short weekend trips from there. Rather than saving up double to backpack for several months in Europe, you will have a sense of home and hopefully more money in your pocket while still being surrounded by European beauty.

2.    Work From Europe

You can work from Europe. I know several others who spent their summer living in Europe, doing odd jobs here and there. Christine Amorose of C’est Christine and Annie Bettis of Wayward Traveller are good examples. I was not one of them. Luckily my job allows me to work from anywhere. Being able to work and live in Europe definitely helped with cash flow. If you don’t want to be limited to work hours, don’t be afraid to see what jobs are out there online. For me I could gauge when I wanted to travel and when I needed to work. I know I am lucky in this area, but I am often surprised when people don’t believe in getting a job online so they just don’t try. Even if the working world online looks insurmountable, getting an odd job like passing out flyers or waiting tables in Europe can be relatively simple. You don’t know until you ask.

Getting work done in my Italian office

3.    Make Attempts To Cook Most Days

While I love the occasional pizza out, cooking can definitely make living in Europe more affordable. If you treat your traveling life in Europe as it were at home, rather than thinking you are on an endless vacation, dollars will stretch. The trusty caprese salad got me through many weeks. Little things like making coffee instead of going out for coffee can end up saving a hundred euros a month in Europe.

While I would love to eat churros and chocolate everyday, my homemade espresso coffee will do most mornings.

4.    Don’t Shop

I tend to shop more at home than when I am away. Just because it is from Italy does not mean you need it. I love to pick up a few things here and there when I travel, but don’t go shopping every weekend. For me, it was pretty simple to resist despite being in one of Italy’s most fashionable cities. I just kept reasoning it would be more worth my money to travel on a day trip than buy that new shirt.

I guess I don't need a coffee mug of the new royal couple of Sweden.

5.    No Need For a Cell Phone

I rarely used my cell phone from the US while in Italy. I mainly kept it on for emergencies. You can rent a phone in whatever country you are going to, but I found I didn’t really need it. If you are going to be somewhere for three months or less, Skype works just fine. In this day and age, if you are meeting up with new friends and the like, you can always send out an email or call on Skype for cents rather than go through the hassle of renting a phone or having ridiculous charges on your bill back home.

Housing, food and working were key for me in order to stay in Italy for three months. I simply made these elements in keeping with those at home, while cutting back on some of those luxuries from home.

Have you lived in Europe for a few months or longer? How do you keep costs down?

Comments

  1. says

    Renting an apartment and using it as a base from where to explore Europe is definitely a good idea. There are so many budget airlines in Europe (e.g. Easyjet & Ryanair), cheap buses like Eurolines or Megabus (in the UK) that with some research and planning beforehand, you can get to many places for little money. Couchsurfing is also a good method to save on accommodation, if you prefer backpacking through Europe rather than renting an apartment, and it’s a good way to get to know locals who know bars & other things ‘off the beaten track’.

  2. says

    I’ve never lived in Europe (actually, never even visited for more than a week), but I think your tips are great, and can apply to plenty of other parts of the world, too.

    When I l studied abroad for 5 months, my downfalls were eating out (did it waaaay too much), my cell phone bill (will never rent a phone again!) and splurge shopping purchases. Luckily, though, I still had enough money (and credit card limit) to do all the traveling I wanted to do, so it all worked out in the end.

  3. says

    hmm, good tips. I’ve actually never been on a extended trip anywhere. I’ts always been go for a few weeks and go back to real life. I’ts something I want to do though. I have a pretty good job in the states so its scary but I think it’s something I have to do.

  4. says

    Really great tips Suzy. Craig and I have used this strategy to travel the world for 10 years.It is the best way to see the world. Live and work in a place and then explore from there. I’d never want to do it any other way.
    Now that we are in the online world, we are not limited by working visa restrictions. How liberating. And yes, ditch the cell phone. Skype is the best thing to ever enter a travelers world

  5. says

    All are great tips, I’ve been living in Spain for nearly a year now and though I have a pay-per-use phone, I rely more on Skype to call and text Spanish friends (and of course, friends and fam back home!) to keep costs down. Renting an apartment is a great option for those who want to really get to know one area well (the best way to travel in my opinion) however, for those who want to see more, couch-surfing is the cheapest way to go. You’re right, hostels aren’t all that cheap, particularly in high-season and often times the difference between a hostel and a budget hotel isn’t too much.

  6. says

    Good tips! It’s truly possible! Definitely pays to have a home base in an expensive place like Europe, it would be a lot more budget-friendly to hostel-hop somewhere like SE Asia!

    Thanks for the mention BTW!

  7. says

    These are great!! I’ve been putting off Europe for a long time thinking that’s it’s just too expensive. But I’m dying to go to Italy! Thanks for reminding me that it is possible!

  8. says

    I moved from Spain to Tirana, Albania. Sounds random, I know, but it was actually a very strategic way to live comfortably on an intern stipend for 4 months. It has the lowest cost of living of any European city. This sangria I’m drinking at upscale cafe? $1.25. The Greek salad I just finished? $1.50

  9. says

    Great tips! I’m curious what resources you used to find an apartment? I have looked at renting an apartment in some major European cities and have yet to find one that is actually cheaper than staying in a private room at a hostel or at a cheap hotel. I’m guessing I must just be looking in the wrong places…

    • Suzy Guese says

      Katie, I just used Craigslist actually. I emailed several apartments listed there and heard back from them all too. For Florence, Italy, there were loads of options that were cheaper than staying in a hostel or hotels for months. Then again, it probably depends on the location of where you want to be.

  10. says

    Great tips, Suzy. I was in Europe for several months, but we were moving between places. We tried to keep the cost down by buying meal from grocery (like deli meat and buns) since we often didn’t have kitchen to cook. We shared meal too (I guess this one is not practical for a solo traveler). Walking a lot. Not buying things are crucial, not only for money saving, but also to keep the backpack slim.

  11. says

    I’ve lived in Europe since 2007, in several countries, and I have managed to survive. First, I worked as a bartender and English teacher, until I eventually discovered online work.

    Something I do to keep costs down while I travel around is to buy food from the grocery store. For example, in Italy, you can buy delicious tiramisus from the store, rather than pay 6 euro for one at a restaurant. I learned to always keep a zip-lock bag with plastic spoons in my bag, just in case I got a craving!

    Last but not least: plan ahead. You can get discounts on a bunch of things (train tickets, airplane tickets or museum entrances) if you just plan ahead, have some sort of a schedule, and research for a bit before you take off.

  12. says

    Since I’ve lived in Spain for “donkey’s years” (as we say in the north of England) I can totally go along with the renting idea. One tip there would be to stay away from the main areas, for instance, here in Tenerife, it’s a lot cheaper to rent inland than on the coast, although then you have to figure in transport costs, and whether internet functions as well inland.

    On the subject of internet/SKYPE: you say you manage without a cellphone, that I can totally understand (which amazes me, but mine was stolen a couple of months ago and I guess it broke my reliance on it!), but you have to have an internet connection to SKYPE obviously. So are you talking about using SKYPE from internet cafes etc? I mention that because you can’t always rely on there being a good supply of those! I was in the English Lake District without a connection twice in the last six months, and it was really hard to find places offering wifi. The next time I am looking to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM for that. Actually, local pay-as-you-go SIMs for cellphones are a good option in any event, rather than renting the entire thing?

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