Living abroad is a very exciting thing. With so many new people to meet, places to visit and things to experience.
You’ve worked hard to make your dreams of moving to a foreign place come true, and now it’s time to enjoy it! But, how can you make the most of this experience without breaking the bank?
First of all, lets face it – you’re not made of money. In reality, most of us aren’t. But, often in our 20s it is hard to pair reality with our expectations. Making little changes in your normal routine can make a big different in your spending! Here are some tips to help you change and monitor your finances while abroad.
1. Your first apartment
Moving out on your own for the first time often comes with many “pleasant” surprises. Whether it be the ‘never-seems-to-be-enough-hot-water’ shower situation, problems with your ‘location, location, location’ or simply just the ‘But I thought I just paid rent!?’ issue – That first apartment abroad is an experience in itself.
· My first suggestion is get to know the city, pull out a map along with the map of the cities metro. If you’re working, or in school you need to make sure you are looking for apartments in practical areas for your needs. Cab, metro and bus fares add up by the end of the month!
· Anywhere near the city centre, or the main commercial streets is going to be 400/month or higher, though it will be easier to get around, as there will be many metro stops, taxi cabs, and street buses.
· For Madrid specifically – If you are interested in a place outside of the city centre you should check out the typical student areas: Moncola, Arguelles, La Latina and Malsana – these neighbourhoods are outside of the centre, but not too far outside. Try avoid the high-end expensive areas like Barrio Salamanca and most places surrounding Retiro Park.
· Finally, though its not luxurious – the more the better! Splitting that monthly rent with 3 people is better than 2, and splitting it with 4 others is even better than 3! Its not the dream…but it will make all the difference.
2. Social Events, Restaurants, and Nights out on the Town
One of the amazing things about Spanish and European culture in general, is the outlook on social life. If they could have it, locals would be out for dinner and drinking cerveza every night of the week! So, when in Rome…right? Most newcomers to abroad living will be overwhelmed by the freedom and the nightlife of Madrid, and by the end of the week they may find themselves looking at their wallet thinking “But how did I spend it all already?”
· There are two options for a cheap night out when you are abroad, the first one would be to “pre-drink”. In Spain they call Pre-drinking Botellón, this could be done at home but often people like to do this outside in parks (this is illegal though, so be careful). The second option is to go to the smaller Tapas bars where they serve traditional Tapas – which means you pay no more than 3eu for a beer or Sangria and get a little snack on the side. A popular spot for a ‘pre-drink’ is ‘100 Montaditos’ and ‘La Surena’ where they serve 1€ beers and Sangria. There are many other similar places like this around the city center that you will discover.
· As for saving money once at the club, do your research on the ‘student’ and ‘international’ events happening around the city. Some bars charge ridiculous prices for drinks (especially if they do not charge you an entry fee). Don’t stretch your pennies when there are student oriented events and bars around the city where prices are made especially for people on a budget!
· If you are like me, and get excited at even the thought of eating at a restaurant, then you know you need a plan. Almost all restaurants offer a lunch and dinner ‘menu’ or ‘special’ – these usually consist of a few choices for appetizers, main plates and desserts (sometimes they come with a drink as well) all for a fixed price which is less expensive than if you ordered these item separately. If you are a frequent diner, then these menus are for you! For more discounts click here.
· Finally, you will notice yourself being approached by countless people offering you “The deal of the night” – these are PR’s who want to fill up their clubs. You will become easily frustrated with them and eventually not even listen to their deals. I say, give them a chance! Just listen to what they are offering if you have no plans for the night, some sound better than they are, but others are actually a pretty decent deal! Once you learn a few things, you will be able to turn their offers in your favour!
3. Shopping: the necessities and the…not so much
It can be difficult to accommodate yourself to a completely new way of living, I come from a place covered in shopping malls, and one-stop-shops that have everything you could ever need. Well, Europe is just not like this – you’ll have to make 2 or 3 stops on your way home if you need groceries, toothpaste, medicine and a new pair of shoes. You will grow to like it, and you will also have to deal with your spending head on by shopping this way.
· Luckily, supermarkets in Madrid are quite affordable, with the added bonus of most things being fresh and not frozen. I often go once a week to pick up my fresh foods and only pick up what I will need for that week. This prevents food from going bad before you get to it, and also allows you to learn how to make the most of your weekly food “portions”
· Keep in mind that Sol and many other city centers are laid out for the tourists – this means that they are set up to draw you in to spend your money. Be wise; don’t randomly go into the ZARA or the H&M that has so many cool new things for you to buy. It is a good idea to allow yourself some fun money and plan when and how you will spend it -SPONTANEOUS CLOTHING SHOPPING IS NOT YOUR FRIEND!!
· Explore your new home, your neighbourhood, and the little shops that surround it. You might find that the smaller local shops are more affordable, and have items in it that no one back home will have (come on, you know that’s cool!)
Being on a budget may not seem fun, but its something you must do to survive in this new independent world. You can do it, and you will! Don’t panic, don’t stress, enjoy your time abroad and remember that SOMETIMES it is ok to spoil yourself.
Your friendly neighbourhood Travel Guide,