Many of us budget, right? I hope. At least in some sense. For us, in the past, we had always kept some idea of what our income would go to. By the end of 2015 my two CS Master’s studies had already been complete and my student rights here in Finland were coming to an end. What does that mean? No student housing, no student travel rates, no discounts. It meant our living expenses were getting ready to skyrocket without due preparation. It meant that our budget was no longer an afterthought but instead a necessity.
This made 2016 the year that every single cent earned and spent was tracked without exception. I’m posting the info publicly as a reference. This is for anyone in Finland or around the world who might want to have some idea of what it costs to live in Finland.
Everyone’s situation will be different and decisions will be made for differing reasons. Is our spending typical? Is it above average? Below average? I have absolutely no idea (although google could tell you). But that is not the point.This is just an exercise to see where last year went while rethinking the next. Sometimes it can be surprising to see where your money goes.
Total Spending: 29 863,52 €
Let’s start! Nearly thirty thousand euros spent in a year, or for my US audience that’s under 32k dollars. A lot. More than I’d hope, but let’s break it down.
Monthly Bills – 10 353,15 €
A good third of that spending goes to monthly bills, and of that nearly 90% is rent.
Rent – 9264,00 €
When I had started my studies, it was pretty simple, 150€ for rent in a room in a shared apartment and 150€ for everything else. I’d ride my bike year-round and participate in student events nearly every day. Then at some point during that time you somehow end up getting married and want a place of your own. Being Finland, well, student housing exits for families. 450€ for rent, water, electricity, and internet isn’t bad at all.
But with studies over we’d be searching for a place on the private market. Let me tell you, competition is fierce and prices are high. For those that don’t know, the Helsinki metropolitan area is still under a bit of a housing crisis. The general advice still is to buy if you can, rent if you must. As for us, we must. It didn’t help that we had a small group of ferrets that’d be tagging along. Pets really do limit your rental choices in the area, so keep that in mind. After a couple months of constant applications and showings we’d find a one bedroom apartment in Vantaa (on the border with Helsinki) for the nice price of 750€ a month.
Keep in mind that that the 750€ would no longer include electricity, internet, sauna, parking, or water. Ouch!
But that’s life as an adult in the metropolitan area.
Electricity – 404,64€
Wouldn’t be much of a life without electricity, would it? Washing clothes, cooking meals, lighting our homes and powering our tech devices. As mentioned, as a student, electricity was just part of rent. Now I had to pay it separately.
This alone really does change the way you use it. In the past, I’d just order cheap halogen bulbs online for ten cents a piece. Incredibly inefficient. Now that I had to foot the bill all those bulbs would be thrown out in place of LEDs. At the time, I did the calculation I had figured out that they would pay for themselves in about three months. After that would just be the joy of a smaller bill.
Cooking is still going to be a major energy drain. But when you boil a kettle of water you start to put just the amount you’ll use. Not all your washing needs to be done at high temperatures, and it’s not always necessary to tumble your clothes dry.
Banking – 65,50€
This is pretty much what it says. Fees associated with having a bank account. I tackled this near the beginning of the year by switching banks from Nordea to S-Pankki which doesn’t have all the ridiculous banking fees. Hopefully next year this will be 0€
Sauna and Parking – 244€
It wouldn’t be Finland without Sauna. A necessity to survive the nice, long, cold winters. Why lumped in with parking? Because that’s how we are billed for it. Keep in mind that Parking includes the electricity used to keep your engine block warm.
Internet – 193,82€
There are many choices for internet in Finland. For most of the year we were on a 21Mbps 3G plan for 13,90€, but upgraded to a 300Mbps 4G plan near the end of the year for 16,90€ a month. Mobile internet plans are unlimited in Finland and often cheaper than physical cable options.
Phone – 181,19 €
Phone bill is what it is. We switched carriers over to DNA to cut costs. 3.90€ a month per person gets you unlimited data – text messages and voice calls are billed separately.
Everyday Expenses – 8496,10€
Close to yet another third of our spending. This is the sort of day to day costs that come along. The fuel you pay, the education you need, and the food you eat.
Groceries – 2126,31€
Cutting our grocery bill has been a challenge well worth it. Not only have we been able to keep costs down to a reasonable amount, but we have shifted over to a much healthier diet. On the Hungry Gizmo website, I often post what we bring in from grocery shopping. Every month is gets tweaked and every month is gets better. We do the majority of our shopping at Lidl as the quality tends to be pretty good for the low price. Anything that can’t be found there is purchased at Prisma. We also stock up on beans and legumes from ethnic markets as they tend to provide a lot of nutrition, are very filling, and can be had for a good price.
Education – 1723,72€
Even though we’ve got our Master’s degrees out of the way, education just doesn’t go away. In many fields you need to stay up to date with relevant knowledge and certifications. Until you find a workplace that’s willing to foot the bill, you’re pretty much stuck with it (Let’s be honest, will we ever return to the days employers invest in education?)
Fuel – 1263,35€
Fuel is Fuel. The liquid energy required to get your car moving. Started the year with a big diesel car, ended it with a small gas car. More on that later.
In Finland you have two options. Pay a big yearly diesel tax and pay less at the pump, or pay for normal petrol with tax included in each litre. The more you drive, the more diesel makes sense.
Actually, there are two other options. Natural gas or electric. Both of which have plenty of infrastructure in the Capital region. Unfortunately these two technologies come at a cost that can be a little hard to justify for the moment.
Ok, Ok, probably you’re telling me there is a third option. Public transport. If you live in the right place and you have a full-time job along a good route, then great for you. But working as substitutes or with inconsistent contracts you really need that car if you plan on taking jobs at a moment’s notice, or being at multiple locations in a single day.
Household Goods – 750,81€
Basically, anything you need for your home that’s not food. Towels, bed sheets, etc.
Our biggest expense here was a bed frame and mattress. Before this we had been sleeping on individual metal fold out guest beds. Not that great day in and day out. A decent mattress makes a world of difference.
In here I also included the purchase of a laptop and tablet. I had been looking for a while for something that I could delve more into video editing with, and got incredible deal on a HP probook at 100€. A laptop that should last me a good five years I hope. The tablet? An HP elitepad with an expansion jacket found for 100€. A piece of equipment that meets military spec – something that can take a beating and still work. Suffice to say the practicality and portability of a tablet makes a world of difference as an aid to education.
I predict this will be a pretty empty category for the next year.
Pet Food and supplies – 724,47€
Mostly Food with some supplies such a s pellets for litter boxes. Pellets actually come out quite cheap as Finland has ample supply on hand. Many people use them to heat their homes in the Winter here. For us, we just go out to grab a few bags a couple times a year.
Food Makes up the majority of the cost. Ferrets are obligate carnivores. So what do they eat? Plenty of raw meat. Fortunately in Finland there are plenty of stores where you can load up on pet grade raw meat. In the future we’re considering ordering meat in bulk in order to bring costs down.
Health – 502,14€
Just like many European countries, Finland has a strong Public health care system which helps keep costs reasonable. There have been some arguable changes in the past year, yet it still remains an excellent system which includes dental care. Our costs here have mostly been that of typical appointments and ongoing prescription medicines.
Transportation and related – 476,34€
This is the cost of public transportation and city parking. Whenever you need to head into the heart of Helsinki you are better off driving to a park and ride and taking the metro or train downtown. Not only is it faster, but the cost of parking in the city is horrendous.
Clothing – 395,55€
For the most part we get our clothing second hand. But as one of us works in the fitness industry there is a need for sports clothing that will take on constant daily use. Items like shoes wear out, and there really is little you can do about it.
Entertainment – 385,14
Entertainment is what keeps the mind sane. This included a subscription to spotify and a moped. Yup. A moped. You can imagine what a 100€ moped looks like. Drove it from lohja to Helsinki in the winter and ended up selling it for 75€. There is a story to be told, but that is for another day.
All other categories – 148,27
Pretty much anything that didn’t fit in any other category. Eating at a McDonalds the night after putting together a bed. Drinking a coffee with a friend. Protein powder for exercise.
Rainy Day Funds – 10695,46€
These are expenses related to the expectation of the unexpected. Now to be honest, not everything in here fits the category, but you get the idea.
New car 2290€
By far the biggest rainy day expense. The old car just didn’t pass inspection. The cost of repair to pass inspection would have been astronomical. We’re talking beyond 4000€ in repairs at a minimum. Sometimes it’s just time to say good-bye. A trade in for a new-to-us car. Now the hope is that this new car will at the very least last at least a couple years without any major repairs.
Ferrets – 2132,56€
Animals are expensive. With five ferrets you can imagine that vet bills rack up. Are they worth having? Absolutely. Just remember that a living being is a responsibility. Most of our ferrets are adopted, some coming from rougher history’s then others. This had been an especially tough year as we had taken in a very ill ferret that would ultimately die of kidney failure.
Family – 1998,66€
Sometimes Family needs to pay the bills. To be fair, we’ve had to borrow money from family in the same year. Just how life works out.
Insurance – 1002,38
Pretty much as stated. Mandatory insurances that protect us from liability if our washing machine floods the neighborhood or we crash into that one of a kind super-car.
Car Repairs and Related – 955,00€
The cost to keep an old car on the road. An old car that we’d end up trading in.
We can all complain about taxes, but in the end it is a necessity. We had miscalculated some taxes which came right back to bite us. Oh well. Fortunately there was no penalty.
Driving School 658,00€
Just the last portion of the driving school. After you’ve driven for over a year with a license they sort of want to check to make sure you haven’t devolved into total incompetence after passing your exam.
Road tax 522€
The high tax was due to owning a diesel car. This will change in the upcoming year as we’ve switched to petrol.
Sometimes when you are an adult people decide to sue you for no real good reason. The last bit of lawyer fees after years of litigation.
Union 120,00 €
The union takes what it wants! The small fee you pay for extra benefits and some real protection.
And what’s that last category of savings goals? The goal is to eventually start saving towards retirement, but for now It’s our savings for a vacation. With this amount, we went for a month on the off-season through Eastern Europe. Visiting Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. Fantastic and affordable vacation destinations.
So in the end an OK year I guess. Spent 3000€ over our earnings, which of course is never ideal nor is it sustainable. Let’s just say at the moment Finland is not the easiest place to get stable full-time work. Let’s see how 2017 treats us.