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Creating a Budget

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Why create a fellowship budget?

Certain fellowships offer a set stipend to each winner in a given year. Other fellowships do not have set award amounts but offer variable stipends to recognize the cost of the proposed project. In the latter case, applicants are required to put forward a budget that outlines their estimated expenses. Preparing a budget for your project is not a last-minute task or merely a bureaucratic necessity. By carefully and thoughtfully planning your expenses, you convey to the committee that you are taking your project and the fellowship application seriously. Providing a budget that is much too high or too low for your proposed destination and timeframe will raise questions about whether you are prepared and qualified to engage in your proposed project. 

Taking the time to plan your estimated expenditures also helps you minimize the risk of spending your funds too quickly, which would leave you in an unfortunate situation for the final days/weeks. Please note that if you must leave your project early, you might be required to return funds proportionate to the amount of time left in your proposed timeframe. Planning your spending carefully ensures that, should this situation arise, you will be well-prepared to respond to such a request.

Preparing an appropriate and effective budget is a skill that you will be able to carry forward to other aspects of your life, especially in your years beyond Yale. We hope that you will find the process to be a valuable exercise.

Some typical budget items

  •     Airfare [indicate departure and arrival airports]
  •     Local travel (bus, train, car, etc.)
  •     Visa fees
  •     Health Insurance
  •     Housing (including utilities)
  •     Food (including bottled water)
  •     University tuition or other fees [please describe]

Some tips and suggestions

  • To estimate air travel costs, search the Web for airfares and strike a likely average. Take into account factors that might impact ticket prices, such as seasonal or holiday rates. Include costs for travel to and from airports.
  • To estimate daily ground transportation and housing expenses, some of the best sources of information are Yale students who have recently held a fellowship or completed an internship in your proposed location. Year-abroad and term-abroad students who have recently returned from, or are currently in, your proposed destination may be other good sources. You should also consider asking your contacts in your proposed location (e.g., your contact at the NGO which you will affiliate, your internship coordinator) for their insight.
  • To estimate food costs, take a realistic measure of the amount of food (including snacks and beverages) you consume on a weekly basis. Try to estimate how much that would cost if purchased in your proposed location. Do not include frequent restaurant trips, as you will be using local stores and markets for most of your meals. As above, seek out others who have been to your proposed destination to give you an idea about basic costs.
  • If you have applied to a formal program, you may be able to obtain a description of common needs and current prices from that office.
  • For estimates of miscellaneous costs, be practical about your needs over an extended time, factoring in items required in special circumstances (e.g., bottled water, personal care and first aid supplies, cell phone and internet access, postage).

Link: Websites, internet forums, and travel guides can be useful resources and offer other helpful information. Here are a couple of good places to start:

Oanda currency converter

Expatistan cost of living index

Other important things to keep in mind

Note: Plan ahead for immunizations and call early to schedule an appointment. For country immunization requirements, visit the Travel Clinic website at Yale Health ( 

  • Prepare a budget for a modest lifestyle—neither lavish nor unsafe.
  • For example, if using you can use the “combo meal” estimate and multiply by three for a reasonable idea of the average daily cost of food (groceries plus a meal out once in a while). You should not plan for extensive hotel stays, frequenting restaurants, etc., but you should plan to stay in a secure location and to eat more than dry toast.
  • While fellowships will cover some supplies required by your project, most awards will not cover the purchase of equipment (e.g., cameras and accessories, laptops) that will become the student’s personal property.
  • If you are going abroad, Yale offers emergency evacuation assistance through International SOS (ISOS), but you are responsible for your health care and prescription drug coverage.
  • Fellowships are not intended to cover lost wages from summer employment. If you are concerned about the loss of summer earnings needed for term-time expenses, you may seek advice at the Office of Student Financial Services even if you are not currently on financial aid.
  • All fellowship applicants must report pending or received funding from other sources for the same or a similar project. If multiple awards are received, an equitable arrangement will be made among the funding agents.

Point: Fellowship funding may support low/unpaid internships; however, to be eligible for Yale funding, your total compensation amount cannot exceed $1,500 (USD).