In northwestern Europe lies a small but exceptionally beautiful and well-developed country called Belgium. It is a high income economy and a founding country of the European Union. When it comes to its standard of living, healthcare and education, they are world-class and top the Human Development Index. Plus, it’s consistently ranked as one of the most peaceful countries you’ll ever be in. But, all of these benefits come at a cost – you cannot have luxury without paying it back.
The student population in Belgium is very aware of this mantra. There is no denying that Belgium is expensive, even by European standards, and that means students, especially international students, face challenges in reducing their overall spending. While there may be custom recipes for calculating expenses, a few are common and apply to everyone.
Here are some tips for saving money in Belgium while studying.
Have patience while looking for accommodation
We are impulsive beings, and no one is more impulsive than a student. He wants quick results which often come at a cost. Finding the right place to stay might not be an easy task, especially when you’re thinking about saving money. In Belgium, property rates vary considerably from one part of the city to another. You should consider staying in the parts that do not fall into the center of town and are well served by transport. Rents are generally not very expensive in Belgium compared to other countries, but you can’t throw your money away without proper thought. Also, make sure you have your student card with you as it can help you benefit from reduced rates.
Avoid eating out
It is always a better idea to cook rather than eat out. Belgian restaurants can become an expensive affair, especially at peak times. If you want to eat out, consider eating during off-peak hours. Avoid going to restaurants often enough during festivals and weekends as this decision will have a profound impact on your budget. Instead, shop for groceries and cook at home. Yes, it might not be a quick option, but it definitely has long term consequences. There are certain times when you should go out and eat. One of them is the organization of the Fête de la Gastronomie in the capital, which provides you with numerous restaurants at reduced prices. In addition, your university may offer subsidized food in its cafeteria such as the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).
Use websites to compare
A very smart move to regulate the budget in Belgium is to use websites that allow users to compare the prices of various products at different outlets. In Belgium, these sites are very popular with international students. These sites include energy comparator which is used to compare the prices of gas, electricity, etc. astel which provides the necessary information on various media such as mobile phones and television; superbudget that helps you compare food prices, and barter for various comparison options. These websites help tremendously in developing your budget.
Use student discounts
You are a student in a European country, which means that you are entitled to numerous student discounts. While your university ID card may work in some places, you should consider getting the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) which gives you discounted prices on accommodation, food, and transportation. Many tourist sites such as museums and amusement parks give discounts to holders of the said card. Plus, you get 24-hour access to the emergency helpline. Make sure you have completed all the necessary documents before leaving for Belgium to ensure a hassle-free experience.
Save on transport
Your student status will be useful to you. Belgium has an excellent public transport network with special advantages for students. All you need to show to the authorities is your proof of school attendance (mainly your ID card). For example, once you are verified as a student in Brussels, you are entitled to annual access to the Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles or to the STIB at a very reduced price. In case you don’t travel a lot, you should consider getting a MOBIB base card instead.
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