Budget Tips Korea

My Mega Saving Challenge: Month 1 Update

The first month of my mega saving challenge is over. Hooray! This month was full of all sorts of temptations. Especially since it was one of the dreaded 5 weekend months. Add to that, 2 bank holidays and I’m sure you can guess that the challenge was pretty tough. I have to confess that I was absolutely no saint- there were a few slip ups here and there and, to be honest, things didn’t go completely to plan, but as promised, I’m gonna update you on how I got on! Here goes…


Total Budget: 500,000 KRW (300 GBP/430 USD)
Total Spent: 556,320 KRW (333 GBP/490 USD)



Let’s get the boring stuff out the way first…

Gas: 45,870 (28 GBP/40 USD)

Electricity: 6,780 (4 GBP/6 USD- lol!)

Phone Bill: 42,670 (25 GBP/38 USD)

Bus Card: 43,200 (26 GBP/38 USD)

Internet: 13,200 (8 GBP 12 USD)

Total Spent: 151,720 (91 GBP/133 USD)

Budget: 140,000 (84 GBP/123 USD)

Gas was a bit more than I expected- I get billed 2 months in lieu, so this would be due to me hammering my ondol (under floor heating) during a pretty baltic February!


Total Spent: 166,310 (100 GBP/146 USD)

Budget: 160,000 (96 GBP/140 USD)

Although I don’t talk about it on my blog, health and nutrition is something that I’m really interested in. I’ve said before that there is no way that I’m going to start eating instant ramyeon to save money, and I continue to stick by that. Over months of trial and error, I’ve eventually found that eating a mostly plant based diet is my preferred method of eating healthily on a budget. I’m not a huge fan of meat anyway, so this suits me fine. Plus, it means I can splash out on lots of avocados with the money that I might have spent on meat otherwise. I-Herb has been an absolute lifesaver. Beans and pulses are quite expensive in Korea so it’s much cheaper for me to get them delivered on I-Herb. If you have never used I-Herb before then use my code for 10% off your next shop! I’ll get a wee bit of money off my next shop too, so share the love:) They are an American company and they deliver to loads of countries for a really reasonable flat rate- check and see if they deliver to your country too. For my fruit and veggies I go to a local market which is much cheaper than the big supermarkets. Insider tip- scope out the shop with the most ajjumas inside, they know where to get all the best bargains. If you’re interested in ideas for meals on a budget, follow me on snapchat (weegypsygirl) where I share what I’m cooking, prepping and eating everyday!




This category includes absolutely everything else that I spend in a month. Here’s a breakdown:

Booze: 18,000 (11 GBP/16 USD)

Snacks: 4,300 (2.50 GBP/3.80 USD- wow, proud of myself!)

Intercity Buses: 7,000 (4 GBP/6 USD- One return trip to Busan)

Eating Out: 110,300 (66 GBP/97 USD- Oooft!)

Cinema: 10,000 (6 GBP/9 USD)

Coffees: 7,300 (4 GBP/6 USD)

Miscellaneous: 5,000 (3 GBP/4.50 USD)

Taxis: 14,200 (9 GBP/12 USD)

Shopping: 57,800 (35 GBP/50 USD)


Total Spent: 245,070 (148 GBP/216 USD)

Budget: 200,000 (120 GBP/176 USD)


April was pretty jam packed full of festivals for me. Spring and Autumn are festival season in Korea which is perfect for people on a budget as they are mostly FREE! At the start of the month I went to the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival  where I got romantic among all the pink petals. Later in the month we turned the pink hues up even higher and headed to Cheonju Mountain Azalea Festival ,which is conveniently at the top of my street. Both of these festivals were free. I also headed into Busan for the Holi Hai festival on Haeundae beach, which was 10,000KRW (6GBP/ 9USD) but lots of yummy samosas were included in the ticket price so I’m not complaining! Since the weather has been getting better I’ve been able to make the most of my favourite free activities- hiking and biking. However, high levels of pollution and yellow dust left me house bound last weekend- great for my purse strings, but not so good for my sanity! Hoping the air quality improves a bit soon as it is pretty horrendous at the moment.

As is usually the case here, most of my socialising has revolved around eating out. Actually, I shamefully ate out 12 times this month, oh my god! I love being lazy at the weekend so I’d much rather just head out for dinner than bother cooking something. Eating out here is so cheap that sometimes it’s not even worth your while to make something. The average cost of a meal for one is about 7,500KRW (4.50 GBP/ 6.60 USD). That couldn’t even get you a McDonald’s back in Scotland, so it’s always a temptation. But then at the end of the month I realise how much it adds up. Goals for next month are to cut down on eating out when I don’t need to. We’ll see how that goes……

My biggest expenditure was a new pair of hiking boots which set me back 50,000 KRW (30 GBP/45 USD.) I’ve been wanting to invest in a decent pair of hiking boots for a while. I never really got into hiking until I came to Korea. Since you can get away with hiking in your trainers here, I didn’t feel the need to buy a pair of proper hiking boots. But I want to keep up hiking when I move on from here and go back home eventually. Scotland is blessed with really some beautiful mountains, but such flimsy shoes definitely won’t cut it on those hikes. I’ll probably be doing a lot of hiking over the summer, so I’ll have plenty of time to break in my new boots before I hit the Munros next year!


Plans for May

We have another holiday at the start of the month- this time it’s a four day weekend. To celebrate, Veeran and I are taking are our bikes out for another long distance bike ride. We’re going to cycle from Mokpo to Gwangyang on the 4 rivers bike path. Korea has a great cross country bike system. Not a lot of people know this but you can actually even cycle all the way from Busan to Seoul on it! We’re planning to do that on our summer holidays, so this will be a bit of a warm up. I’m already dreading how much my bum is going to hurt! But it’ll be worth it, especially since Jeollanam, the province we will be cycling through, is one of the most beautiful in Korea. Apart from that, we just plan on making the most of the lovely weather that we’re hoping May will bring- praying for a bit of beach time.

Exploring the countryside on my bike

Sometimes the best things in life really are free!


Overall, I’m pretty proud of what I spent. I’m not quite at my 500,000KRW per month lifestyle, but practice makes perfect. For a girl who used to spend every leftover penny on clothes and make up at the end of the month, I think this is a good effort. I still managed to save a substantial amount and I know that it’s going to go far when I head to India in a few months.  Here’s to more penny pinching!

I hope this post can help give you an idea of how much some things cost in Korea, and how much you can expect to spend in a month if you are sensible with your money and are willing to make some sacrifices. Given the salary of English teachers out here, I’m sure you can imagine how much you can potentially save if you spend just a year teaching in Korea. Teaching English is a great opportunity that I would recommend to anyone looking to try out a new career option while making new friends from around the world. And of course, putting some pennies away for a big trip or to pay off that lingering student debt!

I’ll be updating my progress at the end of every month so, if you don’t already, make sure that you follow me on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss the next installment!

Are you budgeting for a big trip? What’s your biggest vice when you’re trying to save money. Leave me a comment and let me know!

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  • Reply
    1st May 2016 at 9:54 pm

    I’m trying to budget for my second year in Korea. I heard that once you’re in your 2nd year and beyond, it’s easier to save money. First year is all about getting things for the household, exploring lots, and basically not knowing the money-saving tips that you know now! I, too, am trying to eat healthy and make meals at home…so if I spend a little more in groceries each month, that’s okay! As long as what I’m buying is good for my body. I do need to cut back on going out though… or if I do, more convenience store hangouts with a couple of beers and sojus! lol… Question: how is your internet so cheap!? Mines 30,000 a month (which is still cheap for me considering back home it was $50 Canadian / month).

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      9th May 2016 at 9:36 am

      My first few months in Korea were pretty hectic with all the going out and exploring- I was working in a hagwon so I would head out after work almost every night and sleep until 12 the next day and spend so much money! 2nd year is much easier. Hahaha convenience store drinking is so convenient. I was making soju ice cups pinacoladas last week, so cheap and yummy! I’m not sure why my internet is so cheap! I opted for no TV or landline so maybe that’s why? Who knows lol! I want to know why my electricity bill is so cheap! So scared I’m gonna get hit with a huge one at the end of my contract…. eeeek!

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  • Reply
    17th September 2017 at 2:22 am

    Hi Nicole, I have recently just arrived in South Korea about 3 weeks ago and I had the time today to look at my finances for the 1st time! Ouch!! Writing down all my outgoings has been shocking for me! But to keep it short, you did not mention about school lunches. Did you make your own lunches? One of my schools has landed me a 18,000 won bill for one month even though I teach at that school once a week!! BTW, I have bookmarked this site : ) Thank you for the knowledge, advice and mentioning the conversion rate in GBP which is helpful to me.

    • Reply
      Nicole Louise
      18th September 2017 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Chanell, Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope you’re loving life in Korea so far! How exciting for you. I also spent quite a lot in my first month in Korea. I was out practically every night but, no regrets, I had an amazing time! I did this saving challenge when I was in my second year so I was a bit more settled and in a routine. As for school lunches, I decided to bring my own as I was having skin problems and cut out overly processed food from my diet. I was also at 3 schools and it worked out at around 5,000 won a lunch which I thought was pretty pricy! Although, I would say that in your first year, it’s important socially to eat with the teachers and immerse yourself into Korean life as much as you can. I actually got quite excluded from school events because I was a bad foreigner who didn’t eat school lunch and was terrible at volleyball haha. You’re so welcome- if you need any other tips, don’t hesitate to get in touch! x

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