How to survive on a Swedish student budget

Clara Guibourg
Clara Guibourg - [email protected]
How to survive on a Swedish student budget

The Local's Clara Guibourg comes to the rescue of those struggling to get by on a meagre student loan with a survival guide of almost everything you need to know about living in Sweden on the cheap, without missing out on the fun.


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, 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.

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!


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