We all know Helsinki is not a cheap place to live. And for students, especially international ones it might be hard to figure out how to not spend your whole budget before the month is out. Let’s not mention that corona has shaken up most people’s economies.
But still, there are ways to not spend as much. Though I might not be the most knowledgeable in the matter (I’m sure some finn will have a lot more tips) I think my past year in Helsinki has taught me how to not end up eating macaroni for the last days of the month. So here I am, sharing my knowledge.
First, I’ll say that to live cheap you must put in a little effort, sacrifice a few things but after a while, it will all come easy to you.
I really recommend making your monthly budget and estimating how much you can spend each week on different things. Try to stay under your budget and by the end of the month you can get yourself a gift or save up for something bigger. If you exceed your budget, looking into what you can spend less on.
So, general rules: have a budget, take advantage of discounts and student benefits, cook, learn how to sew and repair, and buy used.
Download the Frank app, besides being your student ID, it shows you all the discounts available to students. You can also check with your student guild/ association since there might be some discounts specific to them.
The discounts that have been of most use to me are the K-Plussa student card, theatre discounts, and the general student discounts at stores.
Chats and Platforms
Before making a trip to Ikea to furnish your home try to buy used. Besides being way more sustainable it is also cheaper. You can use the Otaniemi buy and sell or giving away free Telegram chats, search Tori (only in Finnish) or Facebook marketplace. If you aren’t in Otaniemi different areas have Facebook groups for giving away or buy/sell, a quick search will lead you to them. There is also Aalto Sharetribe, a website where the Aalto community can buy and sell.
Since I mentioned sustainability it might be a good idea to download ResQ (An app for buying food from stores and restaurants that are about to expire). There is also a telegram chat, FOODL, for free food and leftovers in the Otaniemi area.
My first recommendation is to COOK. Don’t go to student restaurants every day, you can cook cheaper (and better) than that. If you don’t know how to cook it’s a great time to learn. Get yourself some recipe that reminds you of home and just go for it. If you have questions, ask a friend or the trusty internet. Pre-made food might be tempting but leave that for when you are in a hurry. The effort you put into cooking something good for you pays off.
A good way to learn how to cook is to buy one ingredient you will base your meals on, for example, cabbage and see how many different recipes you can make with it during the week.
For those that can’t cook everyday invest in some Tuppers and reserve an evening for cooking your meals for the week. Freeze your meals ready to microwave or heat. This way you won’t have to worry about what to cook all the time. Another way is to make double the amount and save the half you don’t eat for later.
When shopping keep track of how much you are spending so you aren’t shocked at the cashier. If you want a cheap buy go to Lidl but the bigger shops are also quite cheap. Like the ones in Ruoholahti or Iso Omena. I do one grocery trip per week and try to get everything I’ll need then. It helps to make a shopping list of the recipes you want to cook instead of the ingredients you need, this gives you more chances to adapt in case something is out of your budget or not available.
Find the discount isles or hunt for the discount stickers on products, there might be something you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise.
Then, depending on your budget and diet consider eating meat only once a week. You can get protein from other things like soy crumbs or beans. Another option would be to go to a student restaurant when you want meat, but you can get better and more by cooking it yourself.
For buying new clothes try thrift shops like Fida or UFF. They have become very popular in Finland which means the variety of clothes they offer is great. I have found some of my favourite clothes thrift shopping. When deciding if you want to buy something you can ask yourself: “Do I really need this?”, “Does this seem like it will last (check for stains, tears, or any type of damage)?”, “Do the other clothes I have match this?”, and “Does it fit my budget?”.
Repairing your clothes is also a good idea. You just need some needles, tread and maybe some buttons and those pants you used all summer will last you way longer.
There are plenty of student associations and if you want to start a new hobby, joining any of them is a good idea! I took up pole dancing with Otanko this year and I am super happy with the experience. There are associations for almost everything you can think of from sports to travel and it is usually cheaper than doing it by your lonesome. Here you can find a list of Aalto’s associations.
Also, remember Libraries have different services and workshops you can use for free, like printing, 3d printing or scanning. You can reserve and check the available options from Varaamo.
Housing and Transport
There is not much I can say about housing, try to find a student apartment from AYY or HOAS. If you live in AYY you get free paint if you wish to redecorate your home.
Distances in the capital area are usually short. This is great for biking as a mode of transport. Get your own bike or in the summer season use HSL’s Citybikes.
I hope this helped some people. I know from personal experience it might be stressful to get used to new prices. If you have any tips yourself, you can share them in the comments!
English Bachelor’s Programme in Design | Aalto University
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