Budget Tips Korea

My 5 Month Mega Saving Challenge

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)


The big question is whether or not i can stay within my data plan?!

The big question is whether or not i can stay within my data plan?!

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!

Cyclin in Busan


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?

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  • Reply
    31st March 2016 at 5:16 pm

    Love this! Could learn a thing or too from this ? Just think of all the nice places you’ll be once you have saved!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      22nd April 2016 at 11:28 am

      Hehe thanks Lauren!

  • Reply
    1st April 2016 at 7:01 am

    It’s so tough but worth it! We cut down partying, I stayed away from the shops, cancelled down all our bills (most companies made a deal with us to stick with them). We saved £20K for this 18 month trip and have made it last through Workaways and blogging!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      5th April 2016 at 9:48 am

      It’s so tough, right? Especially with all the peer pressure! I’m planning to take full advantage of workaway- such a godsend!

  • Reply
    Hung Thai
    2nd April 2016 at 6:14 am

    Good luck! Stick to the basis and give yourself a luxury item once in a while – discipline is key 🙂
    Hung Thai recently posted…If I told you how I could afford to travel every month, my fiancé would kill me – let’s do it!My Profile

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      5th April 2016 at 9:51 am

      Thanks 🙂

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  • Reply
    22nd April 2016 at 9:13 am

    Couldn’t agree with you more ~ so many of my friends back home wrongly assume I’m living some rockstar beach bum life because they see my pictures of Koh Samui. What they don’t know is that before I snapped that photo, I spent the morning mopping the floors of a 3 story hostel. It might get rough, but if you set your mind to it, I’ve no doubt you’ll be able to meet your savings goals.
    Last year, I saved $2400 in two months with a minimum wage job. For me, the trick isn’t whittling my spenfing down to zero (I’m REALLY bad at that…) It’s separating my “travel savings” from my regular spending money. I have a separate account that I put all of my extra income in, money I make from doing side jobs and freelancing and that sort of thing. I also have a “cash stash” that I add all my spare pocket change or whatever I have left in my wallet after a night out. So, if I gave myself $30 for the bar but only ended up spending $20, I take that leftover tenner and put in my travel fund because it’s technically a sunk cost anyway.
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  • Reply
    Nicole Louise
    22nd April 2016 at 11:39 am

    Amazing! I guess you are doing workaway? I’m planning to take full advantage of that when I’m away! $2,400 in 2 months is a huge acheivement, especially on minimum wage. And even if it sucked a bit at the time, I bet that money’s buying you soo much more in Thailand than it ever would have back home! P.s love how you used the term “tenner!” I have never heard any from outside the UK say that before!! x

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    19th June 2016 at 6:39 am

    I have a savings account which adds 5% interest on top after a year, I have the old fashioned money Pott I have to smash to get into and in this I put every single penny or note of change I have every time I withdrawer cash for something. So I’m almost punishing myself in the short term every time I withdrawer to reward myself in the long term. It stops me from spending unnecessary cash for sure and disregarding the penny’s to loose or put aside somewhere like they don’t count (I saved £300 in 6 months this way).

    For motivation, I remember that memories and real experience (according to science) provide you with happiness for much longer than the purchase of stuff which loses its novelty.

    However you can’t just spend your time heading towards your goal in misery. I like to set a budget of around £40 a month in which to treat myself, which can be spread out over the month, it can’t be anything that comes under any 2 for 1 deals or BOGOFF, as they entice you to spend more than is necessary.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      20th June 2016 at 11:24 am

      Wow, that’s amazing- well done you! I found it so difficult to save money when I was in the UK because everything is so expensive, especially in comparison to South Korea!

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    21st June 2016 at 7:41 pm

    I’ve been spending about 700,000 won a month but I think I can definitely cut back, especially in the area of going out for coffee, haha. Thanks for this, I’m feeling inspired to pay more attention to where my money is going. Working here really is a good opportunity to save up. I’m feeling inspired!

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      22nd June 2016 at 11:37 am

      Hey Amanda, 700,000 definitely leaves you with a lot of money to send back at the end of the month, that’s amazing!
      My weak area is definitely eating out since it’s so cheap and hassle free.
      Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Reply
    1st July 2016 at 9:14 am

    I can’t believe you’re leaving! I would love to meet you sometime! Where are you headed to?

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      1st July 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Yes definitely! Whereabouts in Korea are you again? I have a feeling that you’re down South too!

      I’m actually staying until March now, but will only be teaching until September. Heading to India for 2 months when I finish teaching then gonna come back and do some freelance writing until we leave in March- my boyfriend’s contract doesn’t finish until then. We’re out of sync which is annoying. In March we are going to go travelling in Central/ South America and hopefully pick up English jobs in Colombia or Chile! Excited!! 🙂

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