From cheap dates with movie stars to the latest free music service, Thanh Dinh has some great tips for biting back at the credit crunch.
It has probably not escaped your attention that the world is not doing so great financially. And it probably comes as no surprise that you also happen to be living in one of the world's most expensive countries. There are many perks to living in Sweden but cheap living is certainly not one of them.
Of course, some of the naughty among us save money by eschewing travelling expenses through plankning
, a Swedish word for the act of dodging your travel fare by jumping over the turnstiles in the underground, and other questionable exploits. But what about the rest of us law-abiding citizens? Here are 10 legitimate ways to keep more kronor safely in your pocket.
1. Good restaurants, good prices
Eating out in Sweden can be rather pricey, especially when you consider that a main course usually goes for more than 200 kronor.
The ingenious people at Eat Sweden have put together two books, one each for Stockholm and Gothenburg, which offer diners two-for-one main courses. Ideally for two people, each book offers 12 restaurants and costs 285 kronor, but it basically pays for itself the first time you use it. Using it at all 12 restaurants racks up a saving of a couple of thousand kronor. The books are available from DesignTorget and are valid until 31 December, 2009.
2. Half-priced dates with Daniel Craig
…or Angelina Jolie. The SF Rabattkort gives you the chance to see four films for half price and is valid Monday-Thursday for three months from the first visit. Perfect because you get to see the films without having your seat kicked by the snotty kids who tend to frequent cinemas at the weekend like they are social clubs. The card costs 60 kronor and can be purchased nationwide from SF Bio and Svenska Bio.
3. Free furniture
It's hard to believe that you get anything for free these days but this is exactly what you will find at Freecycle.org. Based on the concept that one man's junk is another man's treasure, unwanted goods are listed on the online community and are eagerly snapped up by those willing to give them a loving home. Membership to the Freecycle community is absolutely free, but this group needs givers as well as takers so even if you don't need a kitchen table, join and give away that mirror that has been collecting dust in your attic since 1998. If you can't find what you are after on Freecycle then blocket.se is a wonderful source of affordable goods, mostly secondhand but lots of brand new items as well.
4. The sweet sound of music
Peer-to-peer music sharing can be legally precarious but now there is a 100% lawful solution with Spotify, a downloadable program that gives you access to an extensive library of music without the bothersome buffering delay. Spotify is free with a friend's invite so do ask around, you'll be surprised the number of people who are already members.
5. Every little percentage point helps
Don't feel shy about negotiating mortgage rates with your bank. Two-year fixed-rate mortgages currently costs roughly 4.6% and a 0.2% discount would represent a 30,000 kronor saving per year on a mortgage of 1,500,000 kronor. Factors that influence the discounts banks offer include the size of your mortgage, whether you have other accounts with the same bank and whether your salary is paid into one of their accounts. If you are loyal to a particular bank and have all your money in one place as most people do then highlight this in your negotiation, and if not then offer to move your accounts for a better rate.
6. It pays to be clued up on taxes
The world markets are all over the place and many people have made bad investments this year. It might be worth selling off your underperforming funds and shares and to offset your losses against the interest you have paid on your savings account. Also, don't forget that 30% of the interest on your loan and mortgage is tax deductible. Taxes may be boring but not knowing about the benefits could mean losing out on thousands of kronor of savings a year.
7. On yer bike
Save money on a travel card and gym membership by getting on your bike. Sweden is a bike-friendly country with clearly-marked cycle lanes in the towns and cities so it is safe, good for your health and is also environmentally friendly. You can pick up affordable bikes at police auctions where you can find confiscated goods and unclaimed lost property going for as little as 50 kronor. The popular auction at Bålsta Auktionshall (balstaauktionshall.com) is one such example.
8. Food, glorious food
Supermarkets have different promotions every week and it is difficult to keep track of what is on offer where. Matvarupriser.se is an amazingly useful site that compares the cost of a typical shopping trip at different supermarkets in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The price difference between the most and least expensive supermarkets is usually more than 50% for Stockholm and around 20-25 % for Göteborg and Malmö.
9. Be first to get the news
Ever wonder how some of your smug friends seem to always know about the best deals? Chances are that they receive all the news about special offers first, direct from the company. Yes, this is that pesky little box that asks you to tick if you want to receive promotional information from the company in question. Don't be too hasty to ignore it. An email from Ryanair about the one kronor all-inclusive offer could save you hundreds, and shops, trains and planes all run promotions all year round. Don't go out searching for the best deals, let them come to you.
10. Talk for less
Skype is a free online service that lets you make free calls from your computer to other Skype users anywhere in the world. You can also purchase Skype credit so that you can make cheap calls to landlines and mobiles. For example, if you are calling an Australian landline, this would cost 0.164 kronor per minute with Skype's Pay As You Go compared to 2.99 kronor per minute with Tele2's fixed line rate, which is 18 times more expensive.
If all else fails, you could always leave Sweden.