Are you thinking about coming to Sweden to study and worried about your finances? Don’t worry – this is normal for any student or prospective student. Many people believe that Sweden is expensive and ask how I afford to live there on a tight student loan funded budget. Through learning some tips and tricks along the way, I believe I have mastered the art of living well on little. I thought I’d share how much I spend in a normal week (Jan 28 – Feb 3) with some tips on how you can apply these ideas to your own lifestyle and budget. The prices quoted below will be converted into US dollars.
Regular monthly expenses not included:
Rent – 4600 SEK (~$507). I live in a fully furnished 26 m squared LU Accommodation student studio that includes wifi, a washer machine, electricity and heating.
Mobile Plan – 289 SEK (~$32). This plan includes 4GB of 4G that can be used across the EU, unlimited calls and texts. I signed up for a 2 year contract at this rate. Yes, it’s a little bit more expensive than one where the data is limited to only Sweden, but I travel outside of Sweden at least once a month.
Gym – 249 SEK (~$27). With my student card, I was able to get a great deal at top class gym that includes group classes, swimming pool, sauna, tanning beds (don’t hate me, there’s no sun here), free weights, weight machines, etc.
Monday 28 January
Today, I spent more than I would have liked. I did not have a lot of time over the weekend to properly prepare for the beginning of the school week, so as a result, I had to buy lunch at school which I very rarely do– why is school food overpriced and kinda gross? Additionally, a classmate is moving back home at the end of the week for the thesis term so we met after school for one last fika to celebrate her. I had been avoiding buying a new gym locker for a while but finally today I bought one since I will be going straight from work or school to the gym this spring.
Lunch (sandwich and soda) – 62 SEK (~$6.80)
Fika (chocolate ball and coffee) – 47 SEK (~$5.20)
New gym locker – 49 SEK (~5.40)
Monday’s total: 158 SEK (~$17.40)
Tuesday 29 January
Today was a pretty busy day for me. First Swedish class in the morning then I went to my thesis partner company to write for a while. I ended the day with my weekly Bible Study group. However, I spent some extra time on Monday night preparing lunch and snacks for the next few days. I did not buy anything on Tuesday. However, normally I do my weekly grocery shopping on Tuesdays since my supermarket gives an extra 5% off if you shop on Tuesday. The day was so super and hectic that I did not have the time to sit down and plan what to buy for the week. I was not in dire need of anything so I decided to postpone my weekly shopping.
Tuesday’s total: 0 SEK
Wednesday 30 January
In the morning, I went to a breakfast seminar that gave out free breakfast (my favorite thing). However, I was craving apple juice that was not included in the free breakfast so I bought a bottle of juice to complement my free breakfast. As I was studying during the afternoon I got a craving for a coke so I bought a soda from the cafeteria. In the evening, I met with friends for a coffee break.
Apple Juice – 30 SEK (~$3.30)
Coke Zero – 10 SEK (~$1.10)
Chai Latte & Vegan Semla Bun – 88 SEK (~$9.70)
Wednesday’s total: 128 SEK (~$14.10)
Thursday 31 January
Thursday was pretty typical for me. I went to Swedish class in the morning and worked on my thesis in the afternoon. I had a pretty great sweat session at the gym to unwind and prepare for all the unhealthy food I am planning to devour this Super Bowl weekend (yes we watch the Super Bowl even in Sweden). I did finally go grocery shopping today. I try to do one big haul a month for things that last a long time such as pasta, meats (I am trying to eat less meat – so one purchase of a 1kg/2 lbs of chicken may last the whole month), canned food, supplemental baking goods, coffee, etc. Then once a week pick up little extras like fresh veggies and fruit, milk, yogurt. I also plan my meals around what’s on sale at the grocery store. I get weekly e-mails about discounts, but most grocery stores display their weekly deals plainly on their website. This grocery shop run was a “pick-up” run, but I spent more than I usually since I waited so long to go.
Grocery Store Run – 219 SEK (~$24.20)
Thursday’s total: 219 SEK (~$24.20)
Friday 1 February
YES! Finally Friday! I had a morning meeting with my thesis supervisor then I worked the rest of the day on my thesis. I have been wanting to see the movie, Vice, for a while so a few friends and I went to the movie after fixing dinner at home. Going to the movies in Sweden is quite expensive, so I really have to want to see the movie. We bought movie snacks at a little convenient store beforehand to save a little money.
Movie ticket – 130 SEK ($14.30)
Movie Snacks (candy & soda) – 50 SEK (~$5.50)
Friday’s total: 180 SEK (~$19.80)
Saturday 2 February
A few days a month, I work at a hotel in town so I worked today until mid-afternoon. Afterwards, I came home to do some chores, take a quick nap and work a little more on my thesis. I didn’t buy anything today.
Saturday’s total: 0 SEK
Sunday 3 February
I also worked today at the hotel. As I made my morning coffee before heading to the hotel, I noticed that I was running dangerously low on milk. So after work, I stopped by the grocery store to get some milk. While at the store, I saw that protein bars were 12 for 100 SEK (~$11). That means that I would be saving over 50% per bar. I have noticed since beginning to write my thesis that I don’t have a lot of extra time to meal prep (of course I could make time). So instead of buying a sandwich or salad when I don’t have time to cook, I’m going to try substitute meals with protein bars. We’ll see how it goes – I don’t think I’ll be able to do it much since protein bars can be super expensive.
Milk & Protein Bar stock up: 113 SEK (~$12)
Fika: 55 SEK (~$6)
Sunday’s total: 168 SEK (~$18)
Grand total for the week: 853 SEK (~$94)
Look into possibilities to save more on your groceries. My supermarket sends out weekly deals in addition to the deals for being a student. However be cautious! Just because you see a red markdown sticker does not mean that the product is a steal or that you even need it.
Plan your meals ahead of time. Normally I do this Sunday night and cook a few servings at once so I can grab something on my way out of the door in the morning. Don’t forget about snacks as well. If you are like me, you cannot go from lunch to dinner without a little snack or mid-day boost of coffee. Always put a piece of fruit with you to school or stuff a granola bar in your backpack for such snack attacks.
Don’t let your tight budget dictate your social life. Take turns cooking. Invite people over for a game night rather than going out. Have a cozy study break at home or take a thermos to the park if the weather is nice.
This post was originally posted on my personal blog- Little Mouse Big World. If you want to learn more about living and studying in Sweden, check it out!