Hei everyone! I am Phat Do, a Vietnamese student currently in my second year of the Master’s degree programme in Linguistic Sciences at the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu campus. Let me share my experience of planning student's finances based on living costs in Finland.
This topic is relevant since Finland, as well as its Nordic neighbors, is considered among the countries with the highest living expenses in the world and is rightfully so. As a result, despite the numerous great things about the country, particularly its education system, financing one’s studies here is always one of the biggest hesitations for potential students, especially ones coming from home countries with less expensive living costs.
I would like to assure everyone that the situation is not as bad as you might think. For a quick reference, you can expect to spend roughly about 300 – 320 euros each month, including rent in student dormitory, electricity, water, Internet, food, etc. Although this is a reliable estimation coming from my personal experience, of course it is subject to so many factors, as everyone has their own preferences and ways to spend their money. As such, I will list out some of the most significant tips (in my opinion) to save money while living and studying in Finland.
1. Bank account
This comes first in the list as all students coming to Finland must have one. As good as the banking services here can be, they usually come with monthly fees that can range from 3 to 7.5 euros. Although it is not too much in exchange for good services, experiences from people I know have proved that the quality can differ quite drastically depending on the bank you choose. As such, my suggestion is to go for a special offer that has only been introduced just recently: a complete bank service (an account, a MasterCard debit card, internet banking, mobile banking, etc.) at a large bank that is well-designed, convenient, hassle-free and most importantly, free until student graduates. The card also functions as a student’s card itself, so you can carry it around to get discounted prices for students mostly everywhere in Finland. I am quite surprised that such a good offer is not so well-known among students here, hence this suggestion. Just click “order a student card” within your Frank app and follow the instructions.
2. Accommodation and transportation
Regarding the apartments that student housing companies offer, prices can vary quite much depending on the location, facilities, year of building/renovation, etc. From my experience, if you want to save on rent, it is worth it to spend some effort on looking at the list of offered apartments before you send a request. This is because with some knowledge of the offers, especially with the help of Google Maps or similar apps, and some consideration regarding your needs and preferences, you can set a suitable amount of maximum rent for your request and thus do not end up paying for more than what you actually need. Another major factor in choosing accommodation is your chosen way of transportation. If you are sure that you will be using local buses most of the time, living near a bus stop is worth thinking about, considering how infrequent buses are here. If you decide to adapt the Finnish way and stick to cycling, distances to the university and the city center may be more important.
I am paying 215 euros (Internet subscription not included) in a spacious shared-among-3 flat that is about 4 kilometers from the university, about 100 meters from 2 small supermarkets and a post office, and about 1 kilometer from 2 large supermarkets. Student’s bus card in Joensuu costs 49.5 euros each month (price varies in other cities), while you can buy a good used bike for roughly the same amount if you know what you are looking for.
Quite many international students here opt for meals at the university’s cafeterias, and they have a good reason for that: meals cost only about 2 euros, are nutrition-balanced and diversified for various diets. Still, if you prefer to cook by yourself and eat in, it could be even more cheaper than that. If you regularly follow supermarkets weekly discount leaflets, you should be able to have a clear picture of how much each type of food usually costs and can score great discounts when it is available. A good advice is to pay attention to the prices per kilo/liter, and not the prices per item/unit. These tips not only helped me save quite a lot regarding food expenses, but also greatly diversified my diet!
You might wonder, “Who has time for all these stuffs? I am here to study, not to nit-pick grocery prices for cheap discounts”, and you would be absolutely right. My point is, if financing is among your worries before you decide to study in Finland, following these tips of mine could ease your mind a great deal and could even help you to make a decision.
You can read the full version of my article here.
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