Tips and tricks on saving money as a student
Being a student on the budget is certainly one kind of a quest! I remember myself during my bachelor’s degree, being new in Finland when my budget was really tight… on one hand it was a difficult thing at times. But on the other hand, I managed to have a lot of fun despite the stricter funds by doing budgeting smarter and finding good deals! My Masters studies helped me to get an even better outlook on how one can maintain reasonable spending while still enjoying their student life to the full extent! Below I gathered a few tips that I used and using up to this day to cut my costs. I do hope they’ll serve you as well 😊
The first and foremost step is taking advantage of your student FRANK card when studying at Aalto. The huge benefit of it is that the card is digital and free of charge. It is always at your disposal and offers a constantly updated variety of deals. It gives you a discount on monthly HSL ticket (public transportation ticket), all university kantines (student cafeterias) around Finland, public swimming pools and gyms among others. Additionally, FRANK constantly adds and updates the offering of more minor discounts and deals and caters to most students’ needs. For instance, you can get yourself offers on electricity contracts, phone sim card student deals, cosmetics shops, magazine subscriptions etc. Take advantage of the FRANK card!
Here, I combined 2 cards because they can be applicable for your home university (Aalto) and at your exchange destination. ESN card is very handy if you decide to go on the exchange. It is a one-year card by Erasmus student network that entitles you to multiple discounts and offers. While its purpose is mainly for exchange, I actually did buy it at my home university Aalto during the first year of my studies because it provides discounts to all ESN events and trips. So it was quite handy if you want to join ESN parties and trips! Usually, it costs below 10 euros and pays off very well because one might get a student sim with discounted price (or for free), discounts in restaurants, cinemas, cafes and other places. What I personally enjoyed a lot is the fact that you can get a Ryanair discount with this card when entering its unique number into your Ryanair account! Additionally, with this card one can travel with checked-in baggage with Ryanair once for free.
ISIC card can be of great use in both your home university Aalto and on exchange as well. While it costs a little more than the ESN card (and FRANK card is free) being 15 euros at the moment, it offers a big plethora of various discounts in transportation, fitness, language courses, shopping among others. The nice thing about it is that there is no upper age limit meaning that being a student is enough for applying for this card.
This is on the top of my list of budgeting recommendations! RESQ app is an incredible, environment-oriented concept that is all about selling foods before expiration date on a very cheap price rather than throwing it away. I have not had a single bad experience with RESQ and foods have always been great! Briefly, you usually have an option of looking at the city map (you can select any preferred area and zoom in or out) and checking from time to time which cafes, restaurants and grocery stores are selling their food (either ready meals or raw foods like salads, minced meat etc from a grocery shop for example). The app indicates how many portions a specific establishment is selling, some information about the food being sold (maybe allergies, content, size) and the deadline to purchase it and pick it up. The selection in Helsinki region is usually very versatile and I always found something I was looking for. You can star your favorite places, and as soon as they publish food to be rescued, you will get a notification about it! While the restaurant ready meals can be still pricey at times, I can especially recommend rescuing food bags from grocery stores. You can’t know in detail what you will get every time but if you are open for different foods, you can get incredibly good deals, and for instance get a huge food bag with meats, seafood, greens, breads etc for under 10-15 euros! Eventual saving can be as high as 80 percent. I have been using RESQ for a couple of years now.
Evening grocery shop discounts
This is my next to-go advice. There are several grocery stores chains in Finland. In particular, S group consists of shops such as Prisma, Alepa and S-market. These have a concept in most of its stores that everything which is discounted as 30%, becomes 60% off from 21:00 onwards. So, if you see a product which has a bright 30% off tag and its approaching or past 21:00, you will get 60% off it when you pay for it. Just keep in mind that this does not work in every single S-group store, there are some minor exceptions. For instance, in some city centers shops! But you can usually find it out easily either by asking a store employee or there is usually a paper hanged up on some wall in the foods section that mentions this concept, and it will say something like 60% alennus klo 21:00 alkaen.
This was introduced only at some point along my bachelor studies. But even though it was not there from the start, it benefited me so much! Discounted products can be anything from cakes, milk, to seafood, meat, cheeses, and sometimes even glöggi and seasonal things in case there is an excess stock of it after a certain holiday is over. Just keep in mind that most of the times the product that is discounted 60% after 21:00, will expire that same night. So one needs to either take that product into use right away or refrigerate it etc, whichever way is best for you.
Apart from these, most grocery stores provide discount cards to customers. Usually, students get better deals on them too. I will not cover this here because evening discounts are much bigger and might not be so known by all. But I will briefly mention that apart from S-group card, K-group (by k markets, k citymarket, k supermarket) has a card which students can get for free for the duration of their studies. Normally, one needs to pay to obtain K-plussa card, but this is again a convenient benefit for a student.
Lastly, I would like to point out that if you get a room in a shared apartment in the student housing or a studio in Helsinki area, they are normally unfurnished (unless you are an exchange student here and choose a temporary furnished accommodation). Many of my friends were concerned that furnishing their rooms or flats will cost them a penny. But I can assure you that it doesn’t have to be the case and you can save loads of money by buying high quality and nearly new stuff second-hand though various platforms!
To give you an example, I fully furnished my room for under 140 euros. Most of the furniture I got was nearly new and some of it still serving me up to this day! I have lived in 5 countries and so far, I can say that Finland has one of the best second hand offering that I have ever seen in terms of variety and pricing. There are tons of secondhand shops around Helsinki area where you can easily buy yourself clothes, cutlery, things such as skis, skates etc. There are chain stores such as UFF and a lot of smaller ones. If you are looking for furniture (along with other smaller items), here are a few recommendations:
Aalto Sharetribe: https://aalto.sharetribe.com/en/homepage
Telegram groups: https://t.me/aaltomarketplace
Recycling center: https://kierratyskeskus.ayy.fi/wiki/
These platforms provide a huge variety of things, and the list keeps being updated all the time. One thing to keep in mind is that when you go to the physical store, it’s all about exploring multiple shops and returning to them to be able to find a hidden gem! When it comes to online platforms, it’s also about attention and speed. Some great items are sold very cheap or given away, so be sure to be quick! This list is not exhaustive and you can find a dozen or more large second-hand platforms by typing ’buy sell Helsinki’, second hand Helsinki’ , ’ostaa ja myy’ or simply use a Facebook marketplace! I bought a beautiful bed table for under 10 euros which was hardly used because the owners purchased 2 of them and had no space for the second one.
I genuinely hope that these tips and pieces of advice will be of help to you! Feel free to test it out and take use of them. If you discover more student saving methods, feel free to pass this blog post down to other fellow students along with your advices on the top if it. Let’s help one another to have a great student experience 😊