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Guide: How to beat inflation and make ends meet on a student budget

Making ends meet on a student budget can be challenging under the best of circumstances. And inflation is making it even tougher. To get the most out of your kroner and ører, here are some of a personal finance expert’s top tips on how to save money when you’re on a tight budget.

Photo: Photo: Melissa Bach Yildirim/AU Photo

If you’re a student and you’ve found yourself eating more pasta with ketchup than usual over the past few months, you’re not alone. The rising prices we’ve been seeing in the shops due to inflation have made it even harder to make ends meet for students.

Ida Marie Moesby is an economist at Nordea Bank and an expert in private finance. Here she shares her top tips for students on how to budget your money so can make it through the month. Her examples are based on the financial situation of a typical Danish student whose only income is the monthly SU grant (about 6,000 kroner per month before tax, ed.)

Make a personal budget

Ida Marie Moesby’s first and best piece of advice is to make a budget: without a budget, it’s impossible to understand your financial situation.

And it’s not hard: all you need to do is sign in to your netbank and look at your your expenses and income over the past few months, preferably the last three. And lots of online banking solutions automatically sort your expenses into categories for you.

Start by identifying your fixed monthly expenses – rent, electricity, water, heat, insurance, phone bill, union fees – and write the amounts down.

Then identify your variable expenses – food, shoes, clothing – that vary from month to month.  

“Make a budget, and find our what am I actually spending my money on? It’s a really good thing to get an overview, because then you can decide what you what to prioritize. You may be able to do without something, but you may also be able to find cheaper alternatives,” Moesby explains.

Focus on your food budget

Once you’ve made your budget, there are a number of categories where you can probably save quite a lot.

Particularly in the supermarket, where the prices increases are eating away at your purchasing power, there’s money to be saved

“You can buy less organic, more discount, shop less often during the week and plan your food purchases based on the price per kilo and what foods last the longest,” she says.

While the overall rate of inflation was 7.4% in May, not all foods have increased that much in price. This means you can organize your meal plans around foods that are less sensitive to inflation. According to Ida Marie Moesby, rice and frozen vegetables are some of the foods that haven’t seen major price increases.


Our personal finance expert’s top tips on how to save money:


- Meal plan: If you shop according to a meal plan, you waste less food and save money. So make a meal plan, and try to limit your shopping trips to a couple times a week.


- Watch out for standby mode: Your electric devices use power in standby mode, not just when they’re turned on. So make sure you turn off the device at the wall socket.


- Turn down the heat one degree: Turn down the heat a degree or two. There’s a lot of money to be saved on your heat bill if you lower the temperature in your home. According to the Danish Energy Agency, you can save 5% on your heat bill by turning down the heat one degree.

Clothes and other purchases:

- Watch out for impulse purchases: Take time to think twice before you buy something. Sometimes deals and sales can tempt you to buy things you don’t need. If you find a good deal in a shop on online, take time to consider whether you have room in your budget.

Read all 26 of Moesby’s tips (in Danish).

Source: Nordea’s personal finance expert Ida Marie Moesby

Check your subscriptions

Streaming services such as Netflix, HBO and Viaplay and Spotify are popular, and if you’re like most students, you may end up with so many subscriptions that you’ve lost track of them.

Ida Marie Moesby recommends going through all your subscriptions and evaluating them: maybe you don’t actually need all of them. For example, your gym membership.

“This is really an area I recommend looking at. Subscriptions are great, of course, because you pay automatically every month, and then you can use the streaming service or the fitness center whenever you want. But a lot of people pay for subscriptions they don’t use,” she says.

According to the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority, more than one in five people in Denmark pay for a monthly subscription they don’t actually use.

“Of course, this is not to say that you should cancel all of them, but you may have subscriptions you don’t realize you’re paying for that you don’t get that much out of. Particularly during the summer months, when you might take some vacation and just generally consume in a different way than usual, “Ida Marie Moesby says.

Buy or sell used

You can also save quite a bit of money if you buy used things instead of new ones. For example if you need a new shirt or a new pair of pants. Second-hand stores are the obvious place to look, but there are also tons of website like Trendsales where you can find used clothing. DBA is also a great place to find all kinds of used items.

“You can save a lot of money this way. And by the same token, you might consider selling some of your stuff if you’re not using it. That’s another way to improve your finances a bit,” Ida Marie Moesby says.

SU loans are cheap

In addition to her tips on smart budgeting, Ida Marie Moesby also has good advice about SU loans. She thinks SU loans are good loans because they’re cheap, and because you don’t have to pay them back until  you’re finished with your degree.

But if you’re considering an SU loan, there are a number of factors you should consider, she says. For example, you shouldn’t take out a loan just to increase your consumption.

“But as a supplement, particularly now that inflation means you get less for your money, it’s a fine solution that’s worth considering. But need to think about what you’re borrowing money for. Is it just for luxuries, or do you need a loan to cover necessities? The SU loan means that you can keep on studying even if you don’t have  ahigh income. So it’s a really good solution – you just need to consider it carefully, because you’ll have to pay the money back,” she concludes.