17 February 2017

It is often said that no two sets of parents, not to mention their parenting styles, are the same. But if there’s one thing that most, if not all, parents will agree on, it is that their children’s education is of utmost importance.

There are many parents who believe in helping their kids get a head start in life, whether it be sending them for enrichment classes or private tuition. But as the children get older, the focus tends to shift towards getting a quality degree with many opting to send them overseas. There are those who believe that by doing so would allow their child the opportunity to thrive in a less stressful environment, while others believe that enrolling their child at a prestigious institution such as an Ivy League University in the United States or Oxbridge in England would vastly improve their career prospects.

Asian parents (and their children), in particular, form a core target audience of tertiary institutions overseas thanks to their willingness to pay a premium when it comes to higher education.

A good example are parents in Hong Kong. A South China Morning Post article in 2015 estimates that it would cost Hong Kong parents some HK$1 million to send their child to the United Kingdom for an undergraduate degree, which is no small sum indeed. And yet, an ICEF Monitor article last year noted that there continues to be increasing number of Hong Kong students who are looking to study abroad in countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

That said, just because you’re prepared for the expense doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to make your child’s overseas education more affordable . If you’re a parent who has children abroad or if you’re looking to send your kid(s) overseas to study, here are five tips that can help you keep the costs to a minimum.

1.Plan your expenses well

Plan out a detailed budget for your child that he/she should adhere to. A great way to do this is to divide the expenses into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ items.

The former should include things such as school fees, rent and a suitable monthly food and living budget. Make it clear that your child should stick to the budget so that there are no surprise costs at the end of each month. As a plus, this will also help to teach your child financial discipline.

The ‘non-essential’ items can include ‘nice to haves’ such as a budget for travel or meals at restaurants which you can treat them to during special occasions or as and when it’s absolutely necessary.

2. Live like a local

It is very easy to think and spend money like a tourist when one is studying abroad for the first time, so encourage your children to live more conservatively like a local.

Before they start school, help them get used to the local lifestyle by figuring out where the local markets are at so they can cook at home, and to familiarise themselves with public transportation.

You can also encourage them to take up a part time job. Not only will this help them get to know more local friends, it also allows them to better immerse themselves in the native culture. As a plus, they gain some measure of financial independence in the process.

This will help to you, as a parent, to keep costs down while helping your child accumulate some valuable life experience.

3.Open a local bank account

If your child is going overseas for at least a year, it is well worth the effort to open a local bank account so that he/she has convenient access to money, and won’t incur a surcharge when withdrawing from your home country’s bank account.

Choosing a bank that has a branch in your home country could also potentially make inter-country transfers cheaper and more convenient.

4. Safe and cheap remittance options

Looking for safe and cheap remittance options can really help to make the entire experience more affordable.

There is a plethora of options out there beyond normal bank transfers, and it is highly recommended that you shop around for the best forex service provider that offers you the most favourable rates and lowest transfer fees when sending money abroad.

Examples include online money transfer services such as ONEPIP that offers a safe and (often) more cost-effective way to remit money overseas 24/7.

5.Do your research

As the cost of living and school fees can differ greatly from country to country, it really pays to do your research to see which one is the most affordable.

Ask your child what he/she would like to achieve out of the degree and choose the country and program that best matches his/her goals at a cost-effective price.

Many institutions also offer scholarships and financial aid that can help defray costs – you simply have to look for them. Making a bit of effort to suss them out and apply for them may take some time, but it could potentially go a long way towards making the whole process a lot more affordable.