When I came to Stockholm in July, I found myself spending around $100 a day. That’s a lot of money, even for Stockholm. Eating out and going out frequently jacked up my living costs enormously. While I preach about budget travel, I am often not the best budget traveler. After all, this is my everyday life, and when I want sushi, I want to eat sushi! So I tend to splurge more often than not.
But as I reflected on how much money I was spending, I wondered what would happen if I flipped the equation. How long could I make $100 USD last in Stockholm? What if I decided to be ultra-frugal? I wanted an answer, especially since one of the reasons many people don’t come to this city (or travel in general) is because it’s so expensive. So I set out upon a quest to answer a single question:
“How long can I live on $100 USD in Stockholm without sacrificing too much of the comforts that I enjoy while traveling?”
The answer: five days.
Where Did The Money Go?
It took me five days to spend my $100 USD. In order to keep my costs down, I couchsurfed with a friend the whole week (something anyone can do by using hospitality networking sites). I walked everywhere instead of taking the train. I cooked all my own food. I only went out to a bar one night. My money basically went to food: groceries, lemonades, and brownies (my friend didn’t have Internet so I had to visit Internet cafés), and a few drinks.
That was it.
How Does This Relate To You?
I don’t think my results are replicable for the everyday traveler. This experiment wasn’t meant to be an example I think you should follow. Living like a pauper was boring. Incredibly boring. Sure, I did some stuff, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. It was hard to go out with friends because even buying a soda could bust my budget. See that movie? Nope. Eat out? Definitely not. Filling the days was easy: I walked around a lot, took the free walking tours, hung out in parks, did a lot of wandering, or worked. I was never bored during the day. But the nights? The nights were agony. Well, I watched a lot of movies on my computer or sat there nursing a beer because I couldn’t afford to buy more. When you can’t spend any money, there’s not much to do at night besides watch TV, work out, and sleep.
But the purpose of this experiment wasn’t to have you follow me. The purpose of this experiment was to show that when you are committed, it is possible to have some fun while making your money last, even in a city like Stockholm, home of the $10 McDonald’s value meal.
People always say travel is too expensive, but if I can survive on $20 USD per day in Stockholm, then the excuse that travel is too expensive doesn’t really cut it.
Realistically, your average traveler is going to spend that $100 USD quicker than I did, but this experiment proves there are always ways to stretch your budget. No destination need be off limits.
Yes, flights cost a lot of money, but luckily there are many ways to get free and extremely cheap flights. Once you get to your destination, there are plenty of ways to save money too. Cooking your meals, Couchsurfing or house sitting for free accommodation, taking the free walking tours, getting a tourist card — the list goes on. But those ways only matter if you are willing to stay focused and determined.
Even in Stockholm there is a happy medium between $100 a week and $100 a day. Using the above-mentioned tips plus some city-specific tips — like sticking to beer (spirits are expensive), lunch buffets, taking advantage of student/youth discounts, or eating at the street carts — one can travel here for $40-70 USD per day. At that price, suddenly your dream trip looks more like reality.
If you are focused, avoid unnecessary expenses, and think outside the “hotel/eat out/sightsee” box, every destination can be within your budgetary grasp.
And that’s really what this experiment was about. It had nothing to do with Stockholm specifically and everything to do with the fact that I wanted to show you the effect that budgeting and out-of-the-box thinking has on travel costs.
Do I want you to travel like this for a week? No. Is what I did sustainable over a long period of time? No way. The first thing I did when my experiment was over was go out for sushi and crack a bottle of wine.
But saying that a place is “too expensive” is never an excuse. A place is only too expensive in your head. Everyone has a different travel style and their own budget, but there are always ways to travel for less than you think.
Even in “expensive” Stockholm.
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