How to Live Cheap in Stockholm – Part Zero

I have been thinking about this post for a while and thought I would have a really long post. But then I feel I can break this post into 2-3 parts with focus on self regulation and friends (this post!) then food, clothing, accommodation and practical stuff and then a post about social life on a budget.

So lets start!

Stockholm is expensive, its expensive even for students from the developed world, so for people like me from developing countries, it can be particularly harsh. The thing though is that much fun can be had on a budget as well. Stockholm and Sweden in general is all about quality so you get good value for your money, and also because many many things are subsidized by the government many many things are free or pretty cheap. The important thing is to find them!

Self Regulation and Friends – The ‘meta’ stuff

The most critical thing, I feel, to live on a budget is (of course to have a budget) to stick to the budget! I am very lucky that way. I have been brought up in a family where traditions and cultures were always about humility and lagom (the swedish word for ‘just enough’). I grew up with stories of my grandma wearing the same pair of sandals for 35 years (how cool is thaat!) and eating pickles made out of orange peels (so delicious!). So, I’ve always had this idea of not purchasing things I do not need, at least not usually. Also, I worked very hard for a a couple of years before coming to Stockholm. So even though I do not chase money or want to earn a lot of money, I do value money. I understand that it means effort and its hard to earn it. 100 SEK to me, means 12 hours of standing in the sun taking measurements of gas flows or climbing (stairs!) 100 meter buildings in the hot sun and such. So for me something is not worth just 100 SEK, many times, I find myself comparing it to is it worth 12 hours of work on a sunny day after a sleepless night?

I also lived in a small town and village for about 7 years before coming here. So I am okay with not having too many visits to the cinema or concerts. Of course I love movies and music but I also know how to get my fair share of it without going to the cinema. We have a splendid friend, Mau, who invites us over to watch world cinema every Sunday on a projector at his place 🙂

The thing about living on a budget is really just being conscious about it and then figuring out, legal ways, to get what you need. So the next time you find yourself making an impulsive purchase, ask yourself two things – do I need it? and how much does it mean to me or what value does it add?

This brings me to the next point of the discussion – Friends! Having awesome friends definitely helps me stick to my rather meager budget. First and foremost, my friends allow me not be embarrassed of the fact that I don’t have money (at least not yet!). I cant emphasize enough now valuable that is. They understand and so they let me be. They are absolutely not snobbish about it, which is a trend in most of Sweden and its SO liberating. I don’t feel cheap or poor or anything like that. Which means I feel comfortable going to restaurants just to hang out with my friends and not eating anything, or asking my a friend of mine to cut my hair (a haircut can cost around 200-250 SEK in Stockholm) (his first time cutting hair too and he did a splendid job btw 😀 His name is Peter and he knows he’s awesome :D).

A group dinner – All plates licked clean after a tasty dinner 🙂

I have been treated to many many free lunches, dinners, cakes, beers and wines. I fondly remember Rachel’s lunch treat or Filip’s, Jan’s and Daniel’s countless free beers, Philip’s delicious mushroom couscous lunch,  Aleksander’s ‘I’ve cooked too much lunch’, Daniel’s (my ex-flatmate) ‘Here are house supplies that would last you forever’, Fer’s ‘Here try some Mexican food’, Carl’s ‘Oh I can lend you 2000 SEK, no questions asked!’, Cristina’s infinite godis (swedish for candies), Carloynn and Cris lending camping equipment and the ‘oh so delicious Winter is Coming Christmas dinner’ last night and countless others.

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Ligonberries and something with Reindeer meat at a BBQ dinner! (I am vegetarian but I heard it was super delicious!)

Thinking about, I know of at least 3 people who crashed in at Daniil’s place when they came to Stockholm and didn’t have a place to stay. He’s a gem. He was the first person I felt comfortable asking for help and even though I knew him only through the class Facebook group, he was so quick and open to help. He really set the tone for me I feel. To feel free to ask for help, and more importantly to free to help as well.

P.S: I know this post has not ‘practical’ suggestions but this is part zero and this is meta! Next post will be more tangible and will save some real money haha!

Edit : Link to the next post here : How to live cheap in Stockholm – Part 1


Written by Raghuraman

17 Dec 2014