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How to survive on a Swedish student budget

Clara Guibourg · 12 Aug 2011, 10:31

Published: 12 Aug 2011 10:31 GMT+02:00

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As the autumn term approaches rapidly, new students are pouring into Sweden’s many universities, both from home and abroad.

Adjusting to life in a new town, meeting new friends and finding your way around both an unknown campus and a confusing curriculum can be bewildering enough, without also having to face the strained economy that a student loan offers.

But all is not lost for those concerned about how to best get by on the skimpy 8,000 kronor-per-month ($1200) loan of offer from Swedish loans body CSN, as the survival guide below shows - ample fun can be had even on a tight budget.


Giving up that twice-daily frappa-latte-cino and the merry caffeine buzz that comes with its frothy goodness can be as hard a blow as any for a fresh-faced young student, but the price tag on lattes from fancy cafés will eat away your student loan quicker than you can say “extra shot of hazelnut, please".

The best solution to this is bringing a thermos flask to class, but as you aren’t likely to remember to do this, there’s luckily another cup of joe that won’t force you to dip into your savings: student cafés exist within twenty metres of most lecture halls in the country, selling coffee for ten kronor or less.

If you don’t happen to be in the vicinity of one of these, Pressbyrån and 7-Eleven are also happy to provide some of the most economical offerings in town.

Sure, their watery brew may not be the same taste sensation your sensitive buds are accustomed to, but it’ll do the trick to keep the caffeine levels in your blood constant, and keep you purring alertly throughout all your most boring lectures.

If your wallet is looking especially thin this month, make sure to befriend your lecturers, or find some excuse to follow them backstage after class. Rumour has it that the teachers’ lounges often contain the caffeinist’s Holy Grail – a free coffee machine.


After a rough week spent ploughing through books in the library, you could be excused for wanting to let off some steam and go out for a drink and perhaps a bit of a dance.

Unfortunately, however, Sweden’s notoriously high alcohol prices and expensive cover charges at trendy night clubs may make this a difficult venture.

The obvious solution is to stick to student pubs, of which Stockholm has plenty to offer. There’s more than one for every night of the week, selling thirsty students beer at less than half the price of other spots in town. Besides, visiting your nearest student watering hole is a great way to meet new like-minded friends and fellow students.


Food is a major cost that is difficult to avoid altogether, but it can be whittled down.

Tried-and-true tips for students with limited resources, energy and kitchen space include classics such as living on a diet of ramen noodles and macaroni, as well as the more inventive suggestion of frying your fish sticks in the toaster.

But if your culinary expectations aim a wee bit higher, don’t despair! There may be cost cuts to be had all the same.

If your kitchen space allows, get your biggest pot out of the cupboard, buy an armload of Tupperware containers, and get to work making lunch boxes to bring to class for the next term or so. Not eating out for lunch will save you heaps of dough.

As for a dinner option that’s both unbeatably cheap and sociable at the same time, try mooching off the aforementioned student pubs, which often offer a free meal some night of the week, if you show up early enough. For instance, classic Stockholm University hangout Gula Villan provides hungry and weary students with a steaming bowl of veggie soup every Wednesday.

Schedule in the week’s other six nights on your own.


If you’re not daring or morally accommodating enough to jump the turnstiles and snag a free ride on the subway, a bicycle can often be a student’s best friend.

Find a cheap used bike on eBay style website blocket.se, or go to the police’s auctions, where lost bicycles are sold for next to nothing.

If you aren’t staying in the country for long, buying a bike may seem like an unnecessary investment. Another option for Stockholm students is zipping around on a rented bike from City Bikes. For just 250 kronor you can borrow bikes throughout the city as often as you desire, between April and October.

Otherwise, for students based in the capital, a reasonably cheap way to get around town is SL’s specially-priced student card, which will set you back no more than 420 kronor per month.


Course literature is a never-ending source of frustration for students old and new. The many required books are often hard to come by, as two hundred course mates race to empty the shelves on the first day of class, and always horridly expensive.

However, there are a number of solutions that’ll save you both the chaos and the costs. The key words to remember are organisation and foresight.

Your local library will have a few copies of the required books, but never enough for the whole class, so to avoid the stampede, get in there early.

Story continues below…

Insider tip: it’s often possible to reserve books in advance on library websites.

Other cheap reading options are borrowing from friends and photocopying necessary pages, or buying second hand – keep a weathered eye out for a bulletin board near your lecture halls, where former students try to flog their used books for a low price.


Say goodbye to the high street – from now on, buy all your clothes second hand. Vintage shopping is dirt cheap, lots of fun, and has the added advantage of currently being highly fashionable.

Check out examples of Sweden’s second hand scene at chain stores Stadsmissionen and Myrorna.

Besides, maybe your new life as a student can involve a slimmed-down wardrobe?

You can always guess what someone’s studying based on their outfit, so get your sleuthing skills out, and investigate what the chosen style is in your area of studies, then shop for an outfit accordingly at the nearest second-hand store.

Businessman-to-be? Get your hands on a reasonably sharp-looking shirt and some snazzy chinos. Studying literature? Piece of cake – you’re looking for floaty scarves, leggings and all things stripy.

Now that your new outfit is assembled, gather all items in your closet that no longer match your student wardrobe, and sell them for a tidy profit to be spent at the nearest student pub!

Clara Guibourg (clarabara@hotmail.com)

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Your comments about this article

13:28 August 12, 2011 by Uggla
All fun and games if you are a single 20 something kid. But serious people have serious bills and serious budgets, some even have children. Just because someone is in school they should not be looking at as some snot nosed brat that lives off beer and ramen! Even regular people try to get a better education these days. I find this insulting!
13:36 August 12, 2011 by lewni
I can't believe people would need this advice, like it's not logical to cut down on unnecessary purchases... more info about student friendly places and all things student discounty would have been nice !
19:48 August 12, 2011 by shinnam
Here are some things left out.

1. freecycle stockholm is a yahoo group where the number one rule is that stuff must be offered for free. I gave away a leather sofa last spring,

2. Don't be too proud to take stuff out of the recycling sheds, especially plastic, rugs and furniture. And it's good for the environment, Some of the stuff there just gets shredded and incenerated. In two years I've furnished an apartment with out buying a single with trash can, bucket, rug or clothes hanger. It's that much less petrolium that is used.

3. Fish fingers indeed, go ask grandmagrandpa 7 how to cook well cheaply or search for someone who does, THere are people who knows how to make bean and rice that will warm your soul.
01:19 August 13, 2011 by glamelixir
I agree with Uggla, it is insulting indeed!
01:21 August 13, 2011 by scrawler
So is these things are to educate them or what else?.

I don't why the books in USA is much cheaper compared to Sweden. When I came 2 years ago. I was in need of a book of DBMS. I just startled after looking at the prices of books. ! Y don't they give reduction for Students. It seems some double game increasing the housing rent, alcohol prizes , book then u will provide the loan with mammoth interest rate. I guess its better to get a loan from home country
13:22 August 13, 2011 by Scorch
I'm currently a student at a university in southern sweden and I have no problems with my economy.


Black, 3 times a day in school, 5 kr/cup


Happens sometimes but I'm not really a party-person, unless it's introduction weeks or something like that. I like to go out with friends and have a couple of beers instead.


Eat alot of junk food. But I make steaks or minced meat a few times a week, with pasta.


The only long travles I do is to and from my parents a couple of times a year. Then I take the train. To and from school/friends it's bicycle.


Never buy them. Everything can be found online, if you know where to look ;)


Buy when needed. No second hand.


3500 kr/month


I spend a massive amount of money on computers and electronics. Since I started studying I have bought a computer, 2 computer monitors, a server, a HTPC, 42" TV, a surround system, a cellphone and alot of games for Xbox and PC.

I also going to buy a new computer as soon as AMD releases their new series of CPUs, and that will cost about 14 000 kr.

And all of it with my own money, without going minus.

Some people need to learn how to prioritize
17:44 August 13, 2011 by Streja
Tupperware is expensive.
14:00 August 14, 2011 by dockmandock
As I'm not a mind-reader, naming some of the "student pubs" would help.
04:05 August 15, 2011 by KseniiaB
For those coming to study in Stockholm (smth from my experience as an international student ):

1. There are a lot of cheap bars in Södermalm. Almost wherever you'll go you should find an option of a beer for 35-45 kr (ciders usually cost the same). Pubs placed around or on campus have the cheapest offers ever (if to talk about SU, for example, cafe Bojan had beers and ciders for 25 kr.. and yeah, cheap thai food lunches and free hot-dogs from time to time :) ).

2. For cheap and tasty coffee would recomend Cafe 60 (especially take a look at their take-out options if you want to save) (Sveavägen 60, near T-bana Rådmansgatan).. their wide variety of desserts are not that cheap, but incredibly delicious (and probably can be a nice treat to yourself after a difficult test :) ). At the Frescati campus of SU will recommend cafe Prego.

3. Just to keep in mind, SL card with student discount costs 490 kr now and will be more expensive from September (not sure, but think it was 560kr announced ). However, it can get you all around the city and even further.. (up to suburbs and even Arlanda airport :) ) and it works for all kind of public transportation (subway, buses, trams, commuter trains).

4. It was interesting to read about "style depending from what you're studying".. though never seen anything like this by myself. For cheap clothes options would recommend to look for sales in H&M, Ginatricot, Lindex, BIKBOK, Monki etc. Recently spent 350 kr for purchasing very nice 8 clothing items.. given that some of them costed over 400 kr before the sale. Though, vintage shoping is also cheap and fun.. for those who are fan of it :).
14:15 August 15, 2011 by fm
This writing, article, piece of advice or whatever it is.... is highly flawed......As an international student who just completed a bachelor's degree and about to start a one year master's in Sweden.....all I can say is that Scorch has a better picture of the situation..... 8000kr a month is enough for a student who finances only goes towards what it is suppose to go for....which is living as a student.
13:17 August 16, 2011 by StockholmSam
Forget ramen noodles and rice. Those are terrible for the body. A much healthier and equally cheap option is large bags of dried beans. Soak them overnight then let them simmer for an hour or two and you have a week's worth of lunches for about 50 kronor! Blacks, kidneys, garbonzos, whites, blacke-eyeds, and chickpeas are awesome with a bit of olive oil and white-wine vinegar mixed in.

And when buying clothes, never buy anything new unless it is marked 50% off! Save your money and buy only during the end-of-season or start-of-season sales
23:28 August 22, 2011 by graphixperson
So you mean if I make coffee and food at home instead of going out, rent textbooks from the library, and by second-hand clothes I will save money? This is some pretty golden advice The Local! Tack så mycket!
15:07 August 24, 2011 by lewni
I love sarcasm.
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