Financial life (only!) in Ireland can be pretty hard especially for internationals. This country is quite expensive compared to big part of Europe and you don’t really get the opportunity to earn much money during your stay here. You suddenly have to pay for a lot of essentials and there is still so much to do and so much to see. One simply doesn’t wanna stay home while there are new people to be met and new funny things to be done out there. And that’s totally fine. Once you’re going through such abroad experience, you should make the best of it. However, most of us don’t have unlimited budget so we’re forced to handle the adulthood and balance the social life, study performance and financial situation. I can’t help you with the first twos (at least not in this post) but I summed up couple tips, that may come in handy to you. Let’s get into it!
· Prepare meals at home
It obviously depends whether you live near to campus or not, but it is usually definitely worth it to either prepare your meal and do lunchboxes, or stop over back home each time to cook something. Even though there are a lot of opportunities to eat delicious on campus, that you should definitely try, eating out every day could get pretty expensive. The grocery shopping is surprisingly relatively cheap here. Contrary when you decide to eat out, expect spending around €4-€13 for lunch. This tip is useful even for weekend trips. It’s obvious that once you’re in Ireland you must try fish & chips, full Irish breakfast, all the different types of beers and other typical dishes, but there are many opportunities to do so during the whole semester and no need to buy expensive lunch and dinner on every trip. Trust me, you’re not gonna be alone doing the meal-prep.
· Reuse your bottle, boxes and cloth bags
This tip saves both nature and your money. There is no need to buy new bags every time you go shopping. Just grab your backpack and cloth bag (you’ll get one from university during orientation week) and you’ll see it’s even easier to carry your shopping back home eventually. Also once you eat all your humus, margarine, peanut butter, jam, big box of yogurt, olives or anything else, that has useful plastic or glass package, wash it and keep it. It comes in handy while doing your next meal-prep or when storing random things. Easy way to stay organized. Last but not least several on-campus cafés provide discount when bringing your own cup!
· Drink tap water
There is a fresh water in taps all over campus and you can always refill your bottle anytime. If you’re not really into the taste of plain water, my secret tip is to buy lemon juice (less than €1) and always add a little bit of that to make my drink tastier and more fresh.
· Sharing is carrying
Talk to your flat-mates and manage to share some basic expenses. If you buy drying rack for clothes and split the price, you save €3 for dryer (on campus villages) every time you do your laundry! And if you need to do your laundry but don’t feel like filling the whole washing machine with your clothes only, take a mate and share the round.
It’s also unnecessary to have five bottles of oil, packs of sugar, or salt cellars. Make sure you talk about it and create some kind of shared shelf, where you store those things and take one’s turn replenishing stock. The same is for bathroom stuff, kitchen towels, detergents and so on.
· Rent a bike
Not only you save the environment and keep your body moving by this hack but it is also a great way how to save some money and honestly usually even the time. In case you can’t make it for the free shuttle bus to store from university, doing shopping is way easier when you just take a bike and are able to be in the shop within 5 minutes of riding instead of 20 minutes of walking. Moreover, it is not that exhausting to carry the shopping back home afterwards.
There is also a beautiful path along the river leading to city centre and although the village bikes usually aren’t the newest and most functioning ones, it takes around 20 minutes to get there, which is surprisingly usually faster than by bus. There is quite a lot of bike-holders in town and all the village bikes have locker so you don’t have to worry about traveling around. Since you have to buy ticket every time you take the bus from UL to the city, this can help you to go through your financial situation.
· Write down your expenses
It might seem annoying to keep writing down every euro you spent, but it’s actually sooo helpful. We all have certain budgets we need to get by with and reporting your financial situation makes things much easier. I personally recommend the app Spendee (for iPhones) (I also heard about good one for Android called Monefy), where you can categorise your money movements and have access to weekly and monthly statistic and analysis of your financial situation. That way you perfectly see if it’s worth it to eat lunch out today or if you can afford another pint. It also helps you to plan bigger trips and see which category do you spend the most money for.
· Follow social media
If you find a cute café, restaurant or activity centre, find them on social media. A lot of those in Limerick are quite active on their social accounts and some of them do giveaways frequently. That way I managed to win a free night in Roller Jam Limerick for 4 people with free entrance, half of pizza and full glass of wine for each of us. And don’t worry, you don’t even have to be one of those annoying people on Facebook, who comment and share everything. There are many bistros giving away sale vouchers on dining at their place or entrance tickets. Also by following your favourite spots on social pages you find out about many interesting events organized nearby and that is exactly what you want!
· Shop in Second-hands
If you’re a vintage lover, shopping addict or you just not a big fan of fast fashion, this tip is pretty handy for you. I was quite surprised how many beautiful places are in Limerick. I personally enjoy the kind of a hipster-atmosphere that is present in some well-kept second hands. Ready for them? Alright, those are some of my favourites: Lucky Lane, beautiful place selling not only clothes. Time by time they hold small gigs and usually when I come there, someone plays the piano, which is available to everyone. People are also very nice, which is not a big surprise in Ireland and you can see the passion for old stuff. Spice Vintage, absolutely stunning shop led by enthusiastic and cute girl. Once you step in you can see the effort she made to build such a beautiful place. The Edge Clothing, small shop located near to the Milk Market. The prices are not always cheap but the range of goods is so interesting to go through and you can be sure that if you buy something, you never meet anyone wearing the same piece.
· Shop groceries cheaper
It’s obvious you wanna shop your groceries in the nearest shop so you don’t have to carry the shopping far. But once you’re on budget is good to know where it’s best to shop. There are quite big differences in prices of goods across the supermarket chains. According to Moneyguideireland.com the cheapest grocery stores are Aldi and Lidl, which I can’t but agree. Fortunately, both of them are quite close to campus. Lidl is on the east side, in Catletroy, near to Kilmurry Village and Aldi is on the west one, close to Plassey. All of them have pretty much everything you need for the basic weekly shopping. The more expensive ones are Tesco and Dunnes Stores and the most “fancy” ones are SuperValu (has a huge range of products though) and Spar (one is located in the courtyard so you can quickly buy there a snack or necessities).
Attention! When it comes to other things than just food, my all-time favourite is Dealz. There are even two of those in the city centre. You can get very cheap detergents, soaps, some cosmetics, kitchen stuff (food boxes, knifes, mugs, dish towels, sponges, …), loads of cute stationary, DIY things, some clothing and many more. Purely and simply everything you need and even more. Make sure to pay an attention to their deals, because sometimes they’re crazy and you save a lot.
I suppose I don’t even have to mention the Penneys for clothing…
· Get a Leap Card
I’m sure you’ll be told about this option, but just in case you’re interested, there is a card for transport within the whole country of Ireland called Leap Card. You can easily register online and then come to Student Union in the courtyard to pick your card up. The cost of it is €10 but it decreases the price of each ride. Specifically, in Limerick the one-way ticket is for €2.30 without it and €1.60 for the card owners. That means you need at least 15 rides to be worth it to make the card, which I guarantee you’ll make. You easily top up the card in Spar (in the courtyard) and don’t need to pay for the tickets in cash. Moreover, with leap card you have discounts in Boots, McDonald’s, Deliveroo and many more.
· Do pre-drinking
It will not probably be only once you go on a party in Ireland. Not even twice. Doesn’t really matter if you’re party-animal or not, night life is part of Irish culture and abroad exchange experience. Although this country takes pride in numerous cosy pubs and huge beer community, the alcohol here is pretty expensive. The pint in a pub in Limerick is usually between €4,50 and €7. Go to Lidl or Aldi first to check the prices of can beers or your other favourites and hang out with friends before you head outside. Good idea is also to mix spirits with soft drinks. That way you get things more under control especially if you don’t have many experience from beforehand. Sometimes chilling with your group, playing funny games and sipping your favourite home-made drink is even better than the rest of the night afterwards. Don’t forget to be responsible though!
I hope those tips are useful for some of you and make at least the beginning of your stay easier. Money are always kind of a burden and there’s usually nothing we can do about it. But it’s also important to always have on your mind, that this is probably your once in a lifetime living-in-Ireland-experience so go ahead and enjoy every second of it!!