To live in Korea is not cheap. In fact, as you will realize when you start attending college in Korea, foreign students are always concerned about money and you should too. It doesn't really matter whether you are on a scholarship or not, you'll realize that using your money wisely will save you a lot of trouble by the end of every month.
In my case, when I first came to Korea I had no idea of the value of money, how hard it was to earn it, etc, and I spent a lot (sometimes even more than what I earned). Although this was not a problem when I was living in Jinju and attending the Korean language center, when I went to college everything became more complicated. Now, as a college student, I had to buy books, go out with my friends/girlfriend, buy materials for doing my homework, buy a computer, etc, and money was not enough anymore. At some point of my freshman year, I even borrowed money from some of my friends to make the ends meet by the end of the month. Although it took me some time to realize about this, one day I realized that I was doing everything the wrong way. I decided to read books regarding money and I became deeply interested in learning how to use money wisely. In this entry, I'll share with you some of the things that helped me not only save money every month, but live more comfortably.
• Avoid debt
As you start college in Korea you will spend a lot of money: You'll have to buy new books, get materials for working on your courses, go out with your friends, etc. In other words, you won't have a lot of extra money anymore. At the same time you'll realize that you'll want to buy lots of new things in Korea because most your friends will have them (phones, iPads, iPhones, computers, etc, etc.) Nonetheless, I strongly recommend you not to get in debt because of these things you want to have. Remember that you still being a student, and this means that if you want to buy something you must -save money- for it and then buy it. Don't start getting additional debts every month or you'll have a lot of trouble paying them back later on.
At the same time, I recommend you keeping in touch all the time with your 'Sunbaes' given that they usually sell their books by the end of every semester. This will be a great shortcut to saving some extra money!
• Pay bills on time
If you're staying at the dorms or you're living outside of the campus, you must keep in mind that every month (or every 3 months) you'll have to pay a fee. If you're staying at the dorms this might mean that you'll have to pay the whole semester fee at the beginning of the semester, and I strongly recommend you to start saving money for it in advance. Don't think of this fee as something you pay every semester, but think of it as something you pay every month. Believe me, this helps a lot.
At the same time, don't forget that deadlines are very important in Korea. If you are taking additional courses, or you are paying some additional service like TV, Internet, etc., make sure you don't miss the deadline. Otherwise you will end up paying more. Pay your bills on time!
• Track your spending
Tracking your spending is very important if you're interested in knowing how you are spending your money in detail. Believe me, if you want to correct a bad money spending habit, this is the best way to do it. If you are an iPad user, get yourself a nice money application and start tracking down all your spending. Soon you will understand why you're not using your money wisely and you'll start saving more.
Also, I believe it is very important that you make a budget every month. Check how much money you have, and start planning your spending for the month. Believe me, soon you will be spending your money wisely.
• Don't hang out with big spenders
As I mentioned in one of my previous entries, social life in college will be very demanding and will also make you spend a lot of money. Nonetheless, this doesn't mean that you can't do anything about it. If you can choose between hanging out with friends who are not big spenders: choose it. Don't hang out with friends who spend more money that they have or you will end up doing the same. Be aware of your limitations and having some extra money by the end of the month won't be so hard!
• Are you dating someone?
Although you will be really busy working on your major and building your social life in Korea, at some point you will get a girlfriend/boyfriend. If you do so, you must be aware that you'll have to invest some money on your relationship. So, do it wisely! First make sure your partner understands that you are a student, and you don't have a lot of money. If you're dating another student, this won't be a problem. At the same time, I recommend you considering the following:
- Taking advantage of mother nature: Korea is a country filled with rivers, parks, mountains, etc, and going to these places with your boyfriend/girlfriend will save you a lot of money plus it will be fun.
- Go for coffee: Although some coffee shops in Korea are very expensive, I'm sure you will find several ones that will fit into your budget. Visit them with your boyfriend/girlfriend, talk, play boardgames, etc, and don't spend too much money.
- Use apps to find cheap food and activities: As soon as you get your phone, you'll realize that in Korea there is an app for everything. Make sure you find one that shows you the cheapest places to get good food around the campus, as well as one that notifies you about cheap activities in your city. This will save you a lot of money!
- Attend campus events: Every college in Korea has several events within the campus all throughout the year. Make sure you check all of them! Most of these events are organized by students who understand that most college students don't want to spend money, and tend to be really cheap.
Although it won't be easy to put in practice some of the things I mention above, I encourage you to try as hard as possible to start saving money. Believe me, you won't regret about this later on!