Living in Sweden on a Budget

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Not having an income for a couple of months helped me plan my budget and be strict with all my expenses. At first it felt like a burden because I have to live on a strict budget, but, now, I am enjoying living in Sweden on a budget. When I quit my job in September last year, I didn’t have an income until May. I did not prepare for this. Actually, I only planned to take a break for a month, but then I got a job in Sweden. January is supposed to be my start date at my job, but there were some delays with the processing of documents in the Philippines.

I didn’t have enough emergency fund; I spent all of it in just a few months.

I’ve wanted to open up about my financial situation since last year, but I felt too embarrassed to mention it. After contemplating (and accepting this fact), I mustered up the courage to write this on my blog and share it with you.

The truth about my financial situation.

I have everything ready for my move. And, I also made a financial mistake. Since I wanted to settle down as soon as I arrived in Sweden, I signed a contract in my apartment. I had to pay for my rent since January, and I’m still paying it now through salary deduction. I’m just thankful for my employer because they covered two months rent.

In regards to my move to Sweden as well, I had to go to Sweden last year for my final interview. My employer sponsored my trip, but I still have to pay for my food and visa application. Then, I have to go to Bangkok to do my biometrics for my residence permit card which cost me PHP 20,000 just for the plane ticket.

7 months with no income + trip to Sweden and Bangkok + rent in Sweden since January + maxed out credit cards + more unforeseen expenses = I’m in deep debt.

I’m not kidding when I say I don’t have money. It’s true, and it made me unmotivated for the past few months. That’s why I get annoyed when people think I have lots of money just because I’m working abroad. This is also the reason why I am so pissed at the slowness of POEA and the embassy of the Philippines in Norway. I’ve been processing my exit clearance since the end of January, but it took them until the end of April to process everything.

I understand that they had to do it for my own protection, but at least do it faster. They don’t pay my salary anyway.

Anyway, my intro is too long already. Let’s go straight to the main topic of this blog. ?

Living in Sweden on a Budget

Aside from I don’t have a choice but to be practical, my number one goal in living in Sweden on a budget and doing the no-spend challenge is to pay off my debt. I’ll keep doing this until I pay off my debt, and maybe continue doing it since it already became a habit. Keeping track of my expenses during those months made me realize how much I spend on “unnecessary” stuff. If I continue doing it, when will I pay off my debt?

I haven’t fully committed on this no-spend challenge, but I’ve been consistent with my budget. The no-spend challenge doesn’t mean you cannot spend on anything. It basically means that you only spend on the things that you need. I found here a comprehensive guide on the no-spend challenge by Rachel Ritlop of The Confused Millennial.

What I spend on per month + my monthly budget in Sweden

Aside from my monthly rent and 4-months rent that are deducted from my salary, I have a separate budget for my bills and expenses in the Philippines (such as Squarespace subscription, G Suite, Adobe, Spotify, etc). Every month, I stick to spending 5.000 SEK for food, transportation, and personal expenses in Sweden. The rent since January really hit me hard, but I’m trying my best to live on a budget and pay off my debts as soon as I can.


3.000 SEK / PHP 18.000 / $335

I have a budget of 3.000 SEK per month for food including groceries. Previously, I mentioned here that you can spend 2.000 SEK only for one person, but I decided to increase it because I buy my food for lunch. I save a lot of money on fruits and coffee too because these are free at work.


860 SEK / PHP 5.160 / $96

860 SEK is the fixed amount per month for transportation. One thing I like about that is I can use it within Stockholm on buses, trains, and boats. I’d save more if I bike to work, though! But, I haven’t looked into it if I could do that every day.

I used Uber most of the time in the Philippines, but I don’t use it here. I booked one before when I came home late at night, and it already cost me around 180 SEK!


1.140 SEK / PHP 6.840 / $127

I include my budget for toiletries and skincare (#skincareislife) here, but it doesn’t mean I spend everything. This is also just an extra bucket in case I need to buy or pay something. I’ve always wanted to cut and color my hair, but I don’t need it so I gave it a pass.

My rent already includes utilities and the internet. I don’t have anything to pay for my phone bill as well since I use my company phone.

I always tell myself that I need to practice delayed gratification. When I first started this “live on a budget” or “no-spend challenge” thing, I had a hard time managing it. It’s so funny because it came to a point that I had to live with 500 SEK for two and a half weeks because of my impulsiveness.

The point is you could live in Sweden on a budget. The most expensive monthly expense is rent. The rent depends on the location and size of the apartment. I think you can rent a shared apartment for as low as 3.000 or 4.000 SEK. Apartments within Stockholm usually cost 10.000 SEK or more. But, it’s so difficult to find an apartment here, and you could save more if you live outside Stockholm.

A few days ago, I found apartments that are half the cost of my current apartment but the commute time is both 30 minutes. The only difference is it is outside Stockholm center. I still prefer to live near Stockholm center though, but I have to be wiser about money. Anyway, I don’t mind living outside the city center as long as I travel for 30-45 minutes to work. I sent in my application for those apartments, but there are 700 people more before me.

I used to have FOMO or fear of missing out. As a breadwinner, I also feel like those people who are traveling and spending nonstop could have been me. I got over it already and decided to plant the seeds for now. Everything will be worth it. I have too many financial mistakes; being in debt is one of the worst things that ever happened to me. Debt is modern slavery, but I’m not going to give up.

I am more motivated now because I am consistent with the no-spend challenge. The more I save now, the faster I can pay off my debt. Since I’m doing a great job, I thought I should reward myself next year and travel. ?

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Steve Furtick
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