April 1st is going to be a pretty significant day for me. And not because it’s, as my Korean students like to say, “lie-day.” And not just because it marks my 2 year anniversary in Korea. In roughly 5 months time I’ll finally be getting that big “DEPARTED” stamp on my passport, and leaving the ROK for a new adventure. April 1st is the beginning of the 5-month countdown.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest recently, making plans for where I want to go next and the places I want to see. Saving money has become a big part of my life here in Korea, and over these past 2 years I have become pretty thrifty! But for my last 5 months, I want to take it up a notch and set myself a new challenge. A challenge that will do exactly that- challenge me! And a challenge that’s going to have a positive impact on the months that will follow it.
You might be wondering, why I feel like I need to cut my spending even more, when I’ve already made such big cuts. Well, last month I inadvertently managed to spend half what I usually spend, without even trying. That made me realise that it’s not unrealistic to set myself even higher goals, so I’ve turned it into a bit of a challenge for myself, because I do live a challenge! Also, with my previous saving plan, I was able to live really comfortably- go out for dinner a few times a month, buy some clothes and make up, go on a couple of trips. These are things that I feel like I can live without in these last 5 months. After a year and a half in Korea, I feel as though I’ve already seen a lot of the country, but there are so many places in Busan (the closest big city to my town) that I still haven’t been to, and most of these things are free! There are also so many amazing hiking and cycling opportunities close to me that are also free! However, there’s one thing in Korea that, realistically, I won’t have (and will definitely miss) when I leave- and that’s the potential to save money. So, I’m going to take advantage of it and set myself this new challenge!
Now, I don’t think hardcore saving like this is good for anyone’s sanity long term, that’s why I’m only going to be doing it for 5 months. I’m glad that I had 1.5 years of living within a really comfortable budget, exploring the country, travelling to new places and eating out whenever I felt like it. But with 5 months to go, and my sights set on new things, it’s time to start making some sacrifices!
So, what am I going to do? At the moment, I send home just over half of my salary each month. As part of this challenge, I’m going to send home more than three quarters! I’m going to set myself a budget of 500,000KRW per month which is just over 300GBP! While this doesn’t seem like a lot of money, do remember that all my rent is covered in Korea. Even still, though, this will definitely be a challenge, but one that I am looking forward to! This is how I’m going to set my budget, and it also gives you an indication of how much things cost in Korea.
The Mega Saving Challenge
Bills- 140,000KRW (84GBP)
Phone Bill- 45,000KRW (30GBP)
Gas Bill- 25,000KRW (18GBP)
Electricity- 15,000KRW (8GBP)
Internet- 15,000KRW (8GBP)
Bus Card 40,000KRW (24GBP)
Food- 160,000KRW (96GBP)
This could be so much lower if I decided to start eating Korean dumplings and instant noodles, for dinner every night, but healthy eating is something that I really value and I don’t mind spending more on. Groceries in Korea are surprisingly expensive, especially if you want to buy Western produce. To help me stick to my budget, I’m going to avoid the big supermarkets (western prices!) and stick to the local places in my neighbourhood. Not only does this help me save money, but it helps support local farmers and local businesses! A win-win!
Other- 200,000KRW (120GBP)
This is probably the scariest one- 200,000KRW for everything else- and by everything else I mean weekend trips, eating out, morning coffees, buying snacks, buying clothes and cosmetics. Everything! 50,000KRW a week! Is it possible? Well, it’s going to be difficult, but it doesn’t need to be restrictive, and it’s certainly not going to affect my happiness! My thinking is that if I want to travel to a new city at the weekend, then the following week I’ll spend the weekend doing something free like hiking, cycling or just having a movie night. To be honest, having this budget will actually help me make the distinction between things I actually want to do, and things I feel obliged to do. Definitely going to be the most challenging, but we’ll see how it goes!
To keep you updated, I’m going to post an update at the end of each month and let you know how I got on and outline exactly what I’ve spent! I really think that we see too much of the glamorous side of travelling on the internet- our Instagrams are filled with pictures of people sipping cocktails on beaches and zip lining through the Costa Rican jungle. Let’s get real. For every amazing picture you see, and all the “wanderlust” (I hate that word) that goes with it, there were months of packed lunches and Netflix. I want to document the less glamorous side of travel that most people keep secret! And, I also want to show that saving money doesn’t always have to mean being bored and miserable! Here’s to 5 months of penny-pinching!
Let me know, have you ever done any hardcore saving for a big trip?