Santiago de Chile is a big city, and with big cities come big MONEY (or having to spend big money, that is). Going from not having to spend barely any money at all in the small, boring town of Williamstown, to having to pay for just about everything possible here in Santiago has been a serious adjustment, and living here for over a month has brought a lot of challenges to light. Especially being someone who is #broketybroke and spent just about all my savings to get here, the cost of living in Santiago came as a shock to me at first, and had me pretty stressed out my first few weeks. It hasn’t been easy, but with some life hacks, the support of my amazing parents, and a lot of prayer, I’ve learned to financially survive in a city where it seems like money disappears as quick as it comes. Here are five tips for balling on a budget in Santiago, but never forget that the experiences you have are #priceless.
- Be realistic and reasonable
I feel like this is the most important thing when it comes to finances and spending money in Santiago. Be realistic about how much you need to spend, where you need to spend it, how you need to spend it… Just get real! If you know that you’re responsible for your own dinner every night, factor that into your budget in a realistic and cost-efficient way. Think about what’s going to get you a fulfilling and cost-efficient meal (with actual food, not just alcohol). This goes for transportation too! I have to take the bus and metro multiple times a day, every day, and to multiple locations. I honestly found that getting real about how much I actually have to spend on transportation a week has made me feel so much better, rather than stressing out when my BIP (metro) card will run out next. I also think it's really important to be reasonable about spending money on travelling while abroad. Personally, I would never casually drop $500-600 on a vacation, especially one that was just for a weekend-so why did I feel the impulse to spend that much on a trip to Patagonia? Going to Patagonia was definitely one of my goals when coming to Chile, but being a little more realistic and reasonable helped me realize that Patagonia just isn’t in the cards for me right now, but that just gives me even more reasons to come back here one day!
2. Don’t be stingy about what matters
With all that was said in the first tip, definitely still keep in mind that you need things like food and water and fun to survive, so you don’t have to splurge all the time, but definitely don’t starve yourself! Taking care your body (and staying alive) is literally so important, so if you have to spend a few extra bucks on whatever you need to make that happen, do it.
3. Seek out opportunities for free stuff-especially food
This is something I’m just starting to do now, but is also definitely a great life hack for wherever you’re living. Look up free concerts, events and museums online! Some museums that usually cost money also have particular days that are free and open to the public. Free food is also hard to come by, but whenever it's offered (especially by your host family!) take it! Also make sure to use that student ID to the best of your advantage! Finding out the Starbucks on my university campus has student discounts changed my life, so make sure you’re looking for those student hook-ups wherever you can find them.
4. Don’t give into peer pressure
I’ve definitely felt this when it comes to other students in my program constantly travelling, going out to eat, or spending money in general, but you don’t have to always spend money when everyone else is. There are plenty of times when I’ve passed up going out to dinner or for drinks because I wanted to save money, and I knew I had food at home. This can be difficult, too, when it seems like sometimes the only way you can hang out with people is to spend money, but definitely make an effort to do what’s best for you, and seek out free stuff you guys can do together as well!
5. Don’t let money dictate your entire study abroad experience
With all the spending, converting, and outright confusion, money had me so STRESSED my first few weeks here, but after a while I had to decide that I wouldn’t let it control my life. I felt like it was putting a damper on my study abroad experience, because I was genuinely so happy, but for some reason money was always in the back of my mind, or inhibiting me from just living life. I think that wherever you are, you should be smart and budget how much money you spend, but you can’t let it dictate every single thing you do. You can’t put a price tag on the people you meet and the experiences you have, so you have to just let go and let God, and experience and enjoy as much as you can.