Top 10 budgeting tips when you live abroad

Spending responsibly is a challenge for every student, and it is increasingly so when you live abroad in a country with different habits, stores and price levels. If this is your first time living alone, it might be even more challenging to take care of your finances. Here we have the top 10 budgeting tips – some might be more obvious than others, but they’re all useful nonetheless!

1. Watch it where you shop. It might be tempting to go to the nearest Albert Heijn (or Spar if you live on Uithof campus) to get your groceries, but these supermarkets are overpriced. With a little bit more biking you could get yourself to Aldi, Lidl or Jumbo and save some money!

2. Give up bottled water. In many countries, tap water is not potable so the majority of people buy bottled water in bulk. However, this is not the case in the Netherlands – tap water is perfectly fine to drink, and you could save quite a bit by not buying bottled water.

3. Prepare food for several days. Making your own food is much cheaper than eating in a restaurant anyway, but you can make it even more advantageous by cooking larger portions and saving them for later. This way you use the same electricity and effort (and, as we know, time is of the essence!), and larger quantities are cheaper in shops as well. Alternatively, you can eat at the canteen at Educatorium (on Uithof campus) where the pricing is based on the weight of the food you eat.

4. Get the ESNcard. The ESNcard or any other student card will get you various discounts benefits in bars, cafés and stores, so get your hands on one of those! It could save you more than you think.

5. Get a bike. We know that cycling can be tedious, especially with the rainy weather creeping up on us, but it’s the best means of transportation in Utrecht (and the Netherlands in general). It’s not only easy, fast and environmentally friendly but also totally free! Refrain from riding the bus unless you have to – and if you do, make sure you get an OV-chipkaart instead of those expensive single tickets. Where to get that bike? Lucky for you ESN Utrecht has a great deal with a bike shop right in the city center: Celil Citybike. With your ESNcard you can receive a 10% discount on second hand bikes and accessories here.

6. Take advantage of NS Group-Tickets. Besides studying, you might want to travel around and see more of the country than the library and your classrooms. If you do so, join the Facebook-groups starting with “NS Group-Ticket …” with the name of the city. A lot of people buy group tickets and sell them here – this way to get a ticket for 7 euros that you can use the whole day.

7. Pre-party instead of drinking at a bar. Naturally, all students like to go out and have fun, but drinks at bars can be quite overpriced. Instead, convince a few friends to come over, buy the beverages in advance at a supermarket and enjoy a friendly conversation at someone’s apartment! Additional plus: you can actually hear what the other person is saying because there’s no loud music in the background.

8. Abandon your vices. We don’t mean to tell you to stop treating yourself to a nice glass of wine at the end of the week, but alcohol and smoking are not only bad for your health; they are also expensive. Try to cut out bad habits or at least minimise them – you’ll feel better and save some money at the same time.

9. Don’t buy textbooks. Especially in your first year you might be tempted to purchase all the compulsory literature for the class which can cost a fortune. We recommend you to borrow books from the library or go online to find a second-hand version. Alternatively, you can share the cost of the books with your fellow students.

10. Budgeting apps. If you’re not too confident in managing your own budget, download one of the apps like You Need a Budget or GoodBudget to help you keep track of your expenditures and save you from impulse buying.

Hopefully, these tips help you get a grip on your spending and save you a bit of money. What tricks do you use to stay on top of your finances? You can share them with us in the comment section.

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