The Amazing Jyväskylä!

The Amazing Jyväskylä!
Me at the harbor of Jyväskylä

21 September, 2015

Living cheap in Jyväskylä

Finance was a burden for me and my family when I decided to go study abroad, so before going to Finland, I spent a lot of time searching for information on how to save during my time in Jyväskylä. I mostly watched YouTube videos and read many BuzzFeed articles about student life and all as I assumed that it would be quite similar in Finland as it was in the U.S. and to be frank, there was not much of information on the same issue in Finland either so it was hard. Therefore, in this entry, I will be sharing everything I know about living a cheap and healthy student life in Jyväskylä.

As per usual, several things might sound a bit extreme and odd to some people. But as I always say, take what you can and make it suit yourself. That’s the most important thing.

Food

I am going to tackle food first because this can take up a lot of your expenses. While living Finland, I spent more or less 100 euros per month for food. I know many others spend even less than that but I couldn’t because I had to cook quite a lot Asian food. If you’ve been following me on this blog, you know that I did not bring any spices or food with me from Vietnam because I thought I would be able to live on pasta.  I managed to learn how to cook a variety of pasta dishes too so that I wouldn’t get bored of it. But it could only last for 3 months; then I had to give up and go shopping for Asian spices and cook proper Asian food. It did cost a lot more than it would have if I had just stayed on pasta.

First, if you do not cook and you don’t want to spend too much on food; you either eat ramen or store-bought food every single day. There is no guarantee that it is healthy for you either. Another way is going to cafeterias at school. The cafeterias in the campus do serve food every day including weekend. You just have to check their website here to see which one is open and what kind of food is served. It is cheap (2.60 euros, student card required) compared to anywhere else and they provide a very healthy diet with lots of vegetable and fruits. With the same price, you can also go to Katriina at 13 Kauppakatu (next door to KOAS office) for lunch if you are fond of soup and vegetarian food.

The downside of eating in the cafeteria is that there are only one or two of them opened for dinner and they are definitely closed at 5 p.m. or just a bit later than that. Finnish have a habit of eating lunch and dinner earlier than anywhere else I have been to so the cafeterias also cater to this routine. Katriina restaurant also only serves lunch.

Secondly, for those who plan to cook, the following is what I did. Maybe there’s something you can take out from it and make it fit your own preferences.

Before going to shop for groceries, I often came up with a meal plan! If you do not have a tight schedule at school, it might not be a problem as you can just go home, shop and cook after class. But if you have to spend the whole day at school or at the library trying to get some work done, it is really tiring to go shopping for groceries afterwards, especially for those who live in hilly areas and shop at the valley like I did. So it’s best if you always have food at home to fix a quick dinner after school or lunch before school. It sounds like a lot to think of but trust me, it is really nothing when you are already doing it. I often shopped for groceries on the weekend. Before going to the shops, I did a quick check around the pantries to see what had run out, what still remained and if it could last me the whole week. Then I sort of made up a list in my head. I actually wrote down a list at first but as I got used to it, I just knew what I needed and remembered them.

It often went like this:

Carb: pasta, rice or bread (if you like potato for your carb intake, good for you because potato is the cheapest form of carb you can find in Finland!)

Protein: pork or chicken (I’m not a big fan of fish so I never really bought fish for myself, but if you do like to eat salmon, for example, try to buy it on sale and keep it in the freezer.)

Vegetable: cucumber, lettuce (they call all lettuce salatti – salad) - the kind that sells by weight, not by per plant in a small plastic pot with the root still intact, carrot. 

Milk, juice or fruit: I often only chose two out of three because they can be very heavy for me to carry up the hill and also two of them could already provide me with essential vitamins without spending extra on the third one.

General spices: garlic powder, pepper, salt, fish sauce, fresh garlic, curry paste (Asian Food store inside K-market in Seppälä carries Thai curry paste that comes in a small box for about 3 euros and it can last you half a year!), etc. ...

So, this following photo shows you my very typical shopping items. These cost me 22 euros and last me for about 10 days. The pasta, rice and meat last a lot longer than 10 days (3 weeks or a month, maybe) but I had to buy more milk, juice and lettuce after a few days because they were perishable, I couldn’t buy a lot of them and I went through them pretty fast. From left to right: spaghetti, egg noodles, orange juice, milk, rice, a can of coconut milk, 2 cans of tomato sauce, a bunch of ramen, 3 cans of tuna, potato, limes, cucumber, pork, ribs and chicken.




And yes, I got all of this for 22 euros. How, you ask?

Alright, since I lived in Roninmäki, I went to shop in Kelio, the supermarket valley as I liked to call it. Here, there are Prisma, K-Market and also LIDL. I mostly shopped at K-Market and LIDL; I barely went to Prisma because their prices are higher than other supermarkets but I went once in a while to see if they had any good deals. Even though I bought most of my groceries in LIDL, I would go to K-Market first to see if there was any sale on the meat and other items. Even though they regularly have sale on the beef too, it was still above my budget so I never really had beef. They often have very good deal on the pork there. This is why there were two packs of pork in the photo. If you see it goes down to about 4 euros or 5 euros/kg, it’s already a very good price. Buy 2kg or 3kg and keep them in the freezer. You can do the same with salmon if it goes down to about 11 euros/kg. The salmon often comes in 1kg or 500g so you don’t really have a choice there.  Also, K-Market often has sale on ramen. I got these six packs of ramen for 2 euros and they were pretty good too. I also got those 3 cans of tuna in K-Market for less than 3 euros. That’s a very good price considering most canned tuna brands sell them at about 1.60 euros/can.

Then, I would go to LIDL for the rest of the groceries. Chicken is the cheapest at LIDL. It’s less than 2 euros/kg with the pre-marinated type. I always bought this, washed off the marinate and used my own spices instead. Juice, milk, rice and pasta are all cheapest in LIDL. Trust me, I did some market "investigation" when I first came to Jyväskylä so I know it well. Now and then the prices might change a bit but in general, the price range would go like I said. 

Means of transportation

So, that’s for the food. Now move on to means of transportation. You can check out other options here (scroll way down for transportation). In my opinions, biking is the cheapest and most convenient way to get around. Walking sometimes can take a long time and very tiring. Try to get a bike when you first arrive for about 50 euros or 60 euros. That’s a reasonable price, you don’t have to buy anything fancier than that because it will be difficult to sell it when you leave. I bought my bike for 50 euros; I had to change one of the tires so the total cost was about 65 euros. I used the bike for exactly one year and sold it before I left for my internship.

If you cannot ride a bike and have absolutely no other choice, then get a bus card and combine with walking to save money. I am not so sure about the prices now but you can find out all the information when you visit the bus office (Asemakatu 7). There should be a card that is valid for 6 months or longer for 40 rides or less. If sometimes you do not feel like walking, you can take the bus instead. Remember to bring your student card; you need it to get your 50% discount when you purchase the bus card.

Socializing

Even though I was on a budget the whole time I was studying, I did not say no to all social gatherings. On the other hand, as I became closer to the group of friends I often hung out with, I enjoyed very much spending time with them, being that having dinner together, grilling (it’s the best!) or just simply sipping tea, enjoying some sweets and talking. It depends on your group of friends but normally each of us contributed something to the gathering even though one person might be hosting it. It’s kinda commonly understood in most occasions. A bag of chips or a big bottle of soda will do just fine. Bring something that everyone can enjoy together.

Shopping

Twice a year there is a huge sale every where in Jyväskylä: Before Christmas and at the end of summer! Clothes and lots of other supplies are discounted up to 50% or even 70% from H&M to supermarkets. So, this is the time to go shopping if you wish to do so on a budget. 

Second-hand stuff is a good choice as well. Some of the shops I often had a look now and then were:
SPR-Kirrppis (Ahjokatu 10, across the street from Likunta building and Ilokivi)
Eko Center (Gummeruksenkatu 13)
Second-hand items Facebook page

That's all for now. If you have any other question, leave a comment! or send me a message on Facebook.

3 comments:

  1. updated: the bus ticket system has changed. you can buy a bus card, 1.7e per ride (need to show your student card when you ask for the card) and top up as you use up. Otherwise you can buy a monthly pass which costs about 51-52e for student (i dont use it hence cant remember the exact figure).
    http://linkki.jyvaskyla.fi/ Link for reference.

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