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MONEY

How to survive in Sweden on a student budget

They say that January in Sweden is the "poorest" month of the year, when everybody is pressed for cash. So how do you get by on a student budget in the best of times and the worst of times?

How to survive in Sweden on a student budget

Maybe you went overboard with Christmas presents. Perhaps you visited home for the holidays. Maybe New Year's Eve was simply too much fun.

For whatever the reason, all reports say that January is a tough month when it comes to cash in Sweden.  So what to do?

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 student life offers. 

Here's your survival guide to having fun on a tight budget.

Coffee:

Giving up that twice-daily frappa-latte-cino can be a hard blow for any student, but the price tag on lattes from fancy cafés will eat away your student funds 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 nearby one of these, Pressbyrån and7-Eleven are also happy to provide some of the most economical offerings in town, and usually have cards so that loyal customers can get a coffee free after purchasing several.

Sure, their watery brew may not be the same taste sensation you'll find at high-class city cafés, 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.

Partying:

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, Sweden’s 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 universities usually have 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:

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 tons of money.

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. Find out what's going on at your school too!

Transport:

A bicycle is a student's best friend – it's true. And you can always sell it when you move again, so it can definitely be worthwhile.

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 students in larger cities 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, public transportation is a reasonably cheap way to get around town, and usually there are special student prices. See more details about handy resources and transport here.

Books:

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 an eye out for a bulletin board near your lecture halls, where former students try to sell their used books for a low price.

Clothing:

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. The chains exist in most large cities, so look up the nearest one near you.

Besides, maybe your new life as a student can involve a slimmed-down wardrobe? You can always try hosting a clothing swap as well – get together with friends and switch clothes so everyone can find something they like!

Now that your new outfit is assembled, gather all items in your closet that you no longer want, and either give them away to charity or sell them for a tidy profit to be spent at the nearest student pub!

Do you have other tips for managing on a tight budget in Sweden? Comment below!

For members

ENERGY

What rules are there for wood burners and fireplaces in Sweden?

With the price of electricity and heating going up, many people in Sweden have turned to wood burners and fireplaces to help heat their homes and lower their heating costs. What rules do you have to bear in mind?

What rules are there for wood burners and fireplaces in Sweden?

What fuel can I use?

As a general rule, you should only burn dry wood. Guidelines from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency state that your wood must have dried for at least 6 months, in a covered outdoor location.

Once you’ve brought it inside, try to use it within two weeks – otherwise it can dry out too much, meaning it burns more quickly, produces less heat and more soot.

On the other hand, if your wood is too wet, this can also cause issues. It will produce a lot of smoke, will not burn well and will emit a larger amount of environmentally hazardous substances.

It is illegal to burn rubbish such as milk cartons or plastic, as well as impregnated or painted wood, chipboard and plywood.

Coal is rarely used for heating private homes in Sweden due to the environmental impact, although there are no official bans on burning coal in indoor fireplaces.

Keep in mind that many modern fireplaces or wood burners are not designed for burning coal, and older fireplaces may only be approved for burning wood, so make sure you check the recommendations for your heater if you plan on using coal.

On the topic of older fireplaces, make sure you check with your council or building owner whether you are permitted to use your fireplace before you light a fire. If it hasn’t been used for a number of years, you may need to schedule an inspection, where an expert will inspect your fireplace and chimney for any cracks or areas that need repairing.

When can I light a fire?

Depending on where you live, there may be rules on when you are allowed to light a fire if it is not your primary source of heating. This is usually referred to as trivseleldning – lighting a fire for cosiness or comfort, rather than necessity.

In Malmö, for example, you are only allowed to light fires in tiled chimneys (kakelugnar), open fireplaces or woodburners between October 1st and March 31st. Some municipalities – Malmö included – also recommend lighting a fire no more than twice a week, for a maximum of four hours at a time.

Anna Nordkvist, a chimneysweep in Västerås, prepares to swing a chimney brush into a chimney. Photo: Per Groth/TT/Scanpix

Stockholm and Gothenburg have no rules on what time of year you are allowed to light a fire, or how often, but all three city councils underline the importance of considering your neighbours and only lighting a fire on days where it is windy enough for the smoke produced to be sufficiently dispersed.

If you live in another area, try searching for elda inomhus, plus the name of your local municipality, to find out the rules where you live.

If you burn wood in a way that causes irritation to your neighbours, they have the right to complain to the local council’s environmental department, who have the power to issue you with a ban on using your fireplace.

How often should I clean my chimney?

Depending on whether you live in a house or apartment, you may be responsible for organising chimney-sweeping yourself, or this might be the responsibility of the owner of your building.

Usually, if your fireplace or wood burner is not your primary source of heating and you only use it occasionally, your chimney won’t need to be swept more than once every three years.

If you’re not sure when your chimney was last swept (either because you don’t use it very often or because you recently moved into your property), try contacting your local council or searching for sotare (chimney sweep) or sotning (chimney-sweeping), plus the area where you live for advice. Most councils have a list over the properties in their area with chimneys and when they were last cleaned, or they will refer you to their approved contractors who should be able to help you.

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