How to live in Norway on a budget - My best money-saving tips!

Whether you move here to work or study, life in Norway is super expensive and it’s difficult to live on a budget. Difficult, however, doesn’t mean impossible!

I’ve been making the budget life in Norway work for me ever since moving here as a student and although there’s no way of getting around the fact that the cost of living is just really high in Norway, I’ve had plenty of time to learn how best to save money during the last 4,5 years.

Planning to move to Norway but money is tight? Here are my top tips to save money in one of the world's most expensive countries!

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The following tips are based on my own experiences and my own everyday life in Norway, and I’m not sponsored by any of the companies that are mentioned throughout. Also, I’m just sharing money-saving tips in this article - unfortunately, there is no super-secret formula on how to live in Norway for $10 a day as that’s just not possible.

What I’ll cover in the following:

Finding work / Being a student / Learning Norwegian / Housing / Electricity / Groceries / Shopping / Transportation / Travel / Entertainment / Phone contracts / Banking / Dental care

 

Finding work

Now, first things first: Finding a job can be super difficult even for Norwegians, so don’t expect the job market to welcome you with open arms if you don’t even speak the language. I’m not saying this to be mean, but this is the truth, so the earlier you start learning Norwegian, the better!

Luckily, there are a few sectors in Norwegian economy that are desperate for new workforce: the IT and healthcare sector, for instance, but also bus and lorry drivers are quite sought-after. And then there’s tourism of course, meaning that there’s always the need for (mostly seasonal, though!) tour guides, as well as hotel and restaurant staff. If you’re looking for a job in tourism, Norwegian skills are an advantage but not always required. Otherwise, if you speak German, Spanish, Italian and/or French in addition to English, you should be able to find a job in tourism quite quickly.

In order to find available jobs, Finn.no and NAV should be your go-to websites. You’ll usually have to apply by sending your CV and application letter via e-mail, or you’ll have to upload these files directly to whatever the company in question is using as an application platform.

Note that there’s no need to use a picture of yourself on your CV (that’s just not a thing in Norway) and that you should have a couple of references (i.e. contact details of former employers) ready when being invited to an interview.

 

Being a student

So, there’s this myth that education is free in Norway and that you don’t have to pay in order to attend university in Norway. That, however, isn’t entirely true! While you don’t have to pay a tuition fee as such, you still have to pay the semester fees and for education material.

The semester fee at the University of Tromsø, for instance, is currently 590 NOK, while the fee at the University of Stavanger is 730 NOK - to be paid twice a year. The bulk of this fee goes to the student organization of your local university, which is responsible for all the things you need as student - from student housing to the cafeteria, the gym on campus, as well as healthcare and childcare for students.

Now, the semester fee is arguably quite cheap. What isn’t cheap at all, however, is buying books. And as a student at a Norwegian university, you’ll be expected to buy A LOT of those. At the start of each semester, you’ll be handed out a syllabus with all the books and course material your professors expect you to read over the course of the next 4,5 months.

If you’re a Type A student, you’ll go and buy all of the books and course material - and suddenly find yourself 5000 to 7000 NOK poorer. Twice a year. That’s the reason why Norwegian students (who get a student loan from the state) will get around 20.000 NOK at the start of each semester, as opposed to the 8000 NOK they get on a monthly basis.

When we didn’t pretend to be Type A students, we shot mock album covers without even being in a band - as you do…

When we didn’t pretend to be Type A students, we shot mock album covers without even being in a band - as you do…

Unfortunately, as an international degree-seeking student, you might not be eligible for this kind of scholarship and have to fund your studies yourself. Obviously thus, this is quite a lot of money for students - and also not something I was informed of as an international student before actually making the mistake of buying everything myself in the first semester.

The easiest way of getting around having to pay this much, is searching for the books and essays at the “used” section of the campus bookstore, online on Finn.no or at your university’s blackboard. Many students of higher semesters are looking to sell their old course material in order to make some money, so you can find most things that way.

The course syllabus is usually quite similar from one year to the other, so that you should be able to find most of what you need. If you do need to buy a book, however - or worse, if you’re in the phase of writing your thesis and need a particular book that isn’t available in Norway - instead of buying/ordering it at the campus bookstore, check if it’s available on Amazon UK or Amazon Germany first. Most books are much cheaper on there, even with higher shipping costs - though, some of them are also available as Kindle versions (and thus even cheaper).

Otherwise, befriend your study colleagues and split the cost of books and course material by sharing it/copying what you need.

Oh and no, you can’t just simple loan the book from the library. There’s usually only 1 copy of a book available and you’re at least 20, if not several hundred, people in your program. Course material (i.e. all articles and essays that’ll be needed for the year printed out as its own booklet) is also not available at the library at all.

More information on being a student in Norway:

 

Learning Norwegian

Whether you come to Norway to work or study, learning Norwegian right from the start will go a long way! As a student, you should definitely attend the free Norwegian classes your university is offering. As an employee, you should look into your local library.

Most (city) libraries in Norway are run not just as a library but also as some form of community centre. Thus, you might be able to find Norwegian classes that are much cheaper than what the private language schools are charging, or you might find free conversation classes where you get to practice Norwegian with others (and make new friends).

You can find more information on conversation classes in Stavanger here.

 

Housing

As a student, make sure to apply for student housing. There aren’t enough places available for everyone, but prices are much cheaper than what you’ll be able to find on the private market (even if that means that you have to share the kitchen with 20 others…).

Otherwise, Finn.no is the biggest platform when it comes to looking for housing. Hybel.no is another one, though, you’ll find more student flatshares than actual apartments on there.

finding housing in norway

Depending on where you intend to move, you might have a hard time finding housing. Tromsø, for example, has one of the worst housing markets in the country as there’s much more demand than availability, and landlords charge unfair amounts of rent. Because of this, you might also find yourself contacting multiple different Finn.no ads without ever getting a response. Landlords often get around 50 e-mails from people who are interested in the flat they’re renting out and thus, don’t bother replying to everyone.

That’s why, in places where the housing market is tough, you can also put your own ad in the local newspaper for you to be contacted by landlords who don’t want to go through the Finn.no craziness. You’ll have to pay for this service but this way, you have the chance to look at flats that aren’t even officially on the market yet (it’s how Simon and I found our first flat together).

In general, though, you can expect to pay between 4000 and 6000 NOK for a student room in either student housing or a flatshare, and between 8000 and 12.000 NOK for a 1-bedroom apartment. You’ll find housing in rural areas and suburbs to be cheaper than housing in the cities and, of course, older flats that haven’t been renovated in a while are rented out for a much cheaper price than flats that are new and come with modern appliances. Also, unfurnished flats usually cost less than furnished ones!

One last thing when it comes to housing: deposits! Expect to pay once or twice the amount of monthly rent as deposit, which should always be paid into a separate bank account that both you and the landlord have access to! Never pay the deposit money to your landlord’s private account!

 

Electricity

Electricity prices vary in Norway as electricity in Northern Norway is subsidized by the state and thus, way less expensive than in Southern Norway. Generally, most flats come with either floor heating or electrical heating that’ll lead to quite high electricity bills during the winter months.

At this time of year (winter for anyone reading this in the future), you can expect to pay between 1200 and 2000 NOK for electricity if living in a 1-bedroom apartment in Southern Norway - this, depending on the state of your house. I live in a semi-detached house from the 1970s which is poorly isolated, doesn’t have floor heating and is ranked as energy class E, while I know that most modern apartment buildings with energy class B can have much lower electricity bills (so, remember to ask for the energy class when looking for housing). Back when I was living in Tromsø, we paid around 800-1000 NOK in winter in a basement apartment with floor heating.

finding housing in tromso norway

Depending on your local energy provider, there might be student or “young people” (anyone under 34) tariffs available - however, you have to actively order this tariff and won’t automatically get it just because you’re under 34.

As a final note, I would urge you to stay away from national, “cheap” energy providers. Every now and then (usually in the midst of winter), the energy prices provided by the local energy provider here in Stavanger become so high that the entire expat community starts complaining and people start looking for cheaper options. However, most people I’ve heard of who actually switched provider, come back to our local provider after a short amount of time as the “cheaper” company actually wasn’t so cheap after all (which is no surprise as they’ll provide you with energy from Oslo, which is only really cheap if you actually live there).

 

Groceries

If you can’t cook, you better learn it before moving to Norway, as this is not the place to be if you depend on take-away food. Eating out in Norway is expensive and unless you plan on surviving on cheap gas station hot-dogs, you better familiarize yourself with the local supermarkets.

I personally find Rema1000 to be the cheapest supermarket in Norway. It’s not exactly a discounter, but it’s what would come closest to a discount store in Norway. I also find Coop OBS, Coop Extra and Bunnpris relatively cheap, and I’d check Spar and Kiwi if I were you every now and then, as they tend to have quite good offers too.

The other Coop supermarkets (Coop Prix and Coop Mega) are relatively pricey, especially those that function as corner shops in urban residential areas. You may find really good offers in your local store, but products that aren’t on offer tend to often be pricier than elsewhere.

Coop OBS, Coop Mega and Meny are the biggest supermarkets in Norway with the biggest variety of produce and the largest selection of allergy-friendly food. The two latter tend to be quite pricey but again, they always have some really good offers as well.

Thus, make sure to check what supermarkets are available near where you live/are planning to live and compare prices, as well as check their weekly discounts and offers online. You’ll then develop a habit of buying certain things at Coop and certain things at Rema, which can save you a couple hundred NOK on each food shop. You should also always buy the store brands like “First Price” or “Xtra” when available, as that’s always cheaper than the others!

Another thing you’ll have to get used to is that Solo is cheaper than Fanta as it’s local (but not necessarily better…)

Another thing you’ll have to get used to is that Solo is cheaper than Fanta as it’s local (but not necessarily better…)

When it comes to membership cards, I personally use the Trumf card which gives you a 15% bonus on all fruit and vegetables at Kiwi and enables you to also collect points when buying from Meny, Esso and Shell. In addition, you’re able to use your bonus points on hotel stays with Nordic Choice Hotels and on flights with SAS/Eurobonus. The card is free and you don’t even need to show it at the registry as long as you connect it to your debit/credit card.

You can also get a Coop membership in order to get discount on products, but you’ll have to pay 300 NOK to get the membership card (which you’ll get back if you ever cancel the membership).

If you live close to the border to Sweden, you should start visiting the country on a so-called “harrytur” - meaning, buying the bulk of your groceries (and alcohol!) there, as it’s just a lot cheaper.

 

Shopping

Norway isn’t the best country for a shopping spree but if things break, you need new ones. When that’s the case, definitely check out Fretex - the local salvation army stores. They have everything from clothes to kitchenware (handy when you first move to Norway!), decoration, games and DVDs.

Finn.no is another go-to of mine, especially when it comes to buying used electronics. Obviously, there is a risk involved (same as if you’d buy any used items on Ebay) but I’ve bought my vlogging camera, my telezoom lens and my phone from Finn and haven’t had any issues with the sellers.

What I really really really miss in Norway is Amazon. While it’s possible to get items from Amazon UK or Germany, not everything actually ships to Norway and the things that do, usually come with quite a steep price tag for shipment. However, there are rumours in the air that Amazon might come to Norway next year, but I doubt it’ll be as cheap as elsewhere.

 

Transportation

In order to get around town, the cheapest way is either walking or getting a bike.

Prices for public transport (and with this, I mean the bus - you can only find a metro in Oslo and trams in Oslo and Bergen) vary throughout the country. Tromsø, for instance has a discounted ticket for young adults (under 30) regardless of whether you’re a student or not, while Stavanger only offers discounted tickets to students.

transportation in tromso norway

If you take the bus a lot, you’ll benefit from the 30-day tickets that are on offer - these cost 420 NOK for young adults in Tromsø and 360 NOK for students in Stavanger.

More information on local transport in Norway:

 

Travel

Living in Norway, it sometimes feels like travelling abroad is way cheaper than exploring Norway itself. This obviously depends on where in the country you live and what kind of flight network you have available. Generally speaking, though, exploring Norway doesn’t need to be expensive.

I personally don’t own a car but whenever my boyfriend and I need one (for example this week as we’re moving houses), we use Nabobil to rent a car. This platform enables you to rent a car from a private person who loans you their car to make some extra money. Currently, this service is only available in Oslo, Drammen, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, though, and you need your bank identification in order to register for it (thus, this service cannot be used by international visitors to Norway - only those actually living here).

Lofoten Roadtrip

Another cheap way to explore more of Norway itself, is being on the lookout for cheap prices at NSB - the local railway company. They always have so-called “minipris” tickets available, that only cost between 200 to 250 NOK - regardless of how far you’re travelling.

Once arrived at your destination, I’d recommend Airbnb for accommodation, which is what I always use. It’s a platform where people can rent out their spare room or entire flat when they’re on holiday themselves.

For international travel, you’ll find the cheapest flights through WizzAir and AirBaltic, and might find Norwegian slightly cheaper than SAS, depending on where you’re headed. I always keep a lookout for “SAS now or never”, which is a limited offer on cheap flights that SAS runs every Thursday night. If you know you’d like to go on holiday but are flexible as to the where and when, then this sale is perfect!

Many Norwegians also regularly book all-inclusive holidays to the Mediterranean Sea, often through Expedia, Ving or Restplass.no. I don’t have any experience with these kinds of holiday providers and often find that I can book a similar holiday for less money when simply trying to find the cheapest flight and booking an Airbnb instead of a resort.

 

Entertainment

When it comes to spending your weekends in Norway, you’ll probably have the country’s national sport already on your list of things to do: hiking! Enjoying Norway’s nature doesn’t cost a thing - as long as you stay close to home, that is. If you’d like to venture out, try and search for local car-sharing/hiking FB groups, like the one we have in Stavanger.

Otherwise, libraries are a good thing for the winter, as loaning books and DVDs is free of charge (and so is getting a library card). If you don’t want to pay for streaming services, try the NRK app or Viafree (which will also help with learning Norwegian).

You won’t make many friends sitting in front of the TV or roaming the woods, though, so make sure to stay up to date with any free events that are being offered in your town. If you live in a bigger city like Stavanger, you’ll find a lot of free events and workshops through the library. There’s the organisation SAPS (Stavanger Active People Society) for example, which offers a ton of free or discounted things to do - from photography workshops to hiking trips, cooking classes, game nights, indoor sports and language cafes.

A little something we created in SAPS’s photography workshop. Picture taken and edited by Umberto Cocca.

A little something we created in SAPS’s photography workshop. Picture taken and edited by Umberto Cocca.

A lot of pubs also run regular quiz nights, and in the bigger cities, there’s recently been an initiative to organize so-called “speedfriending” events through Nordic Vagabonds.

As a student, you’ll find lots of free events and activities through your local student organization.

 

Phone contracts

Confession time: I’ve only recently got a phone contract and previously only used an old-school prepaid card. I rarely call or text people and only need internet on the go when I’m travelling, so for a long time, it didn’t make sense to me to even have a phone contract. I used a Telenor prepaid card that I would just fill up whenever necessary and usually, I only used 200 NOK every other month on it.

If you do find that you need data, the cheapest providers are Ice and Chili Mobil at 129 NOK, respectively 119 NOK for 1 GB a month.

 

Banking

When I first moved to Norway, I got a bank account at DNB - mainly because they were the only ones in Tromsø at that time with an English website and even though I was already able to read Norwegian at that time, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to understand banking talk - and never left since. DNB offers you a bank account with Visa debit card that costs you absolutely nothing as long as you’re under 33 years of age.

They also have pretty cheap home insurance for 79 NOK a month and insurance packages for home insurance and travel/accident insurance for 149 NOK a month.

What I like best about them, though, is the ability to open a savings account in just a simple click. Honestly, what helps me most with saving money here in Norway is budgeting, and that means that I have a couple different savings accounts with a different purpose each: one for travelling, one for student loan payments, one for healthcare costs… you get the gist!

norway cost of living

You can also set up automatic savings, meaning that a certain amount of money (of your choosing) can automatically be transferred to the savings account of your choice whenever you use your card to pay somewhere. DNB also has a separate savings app, and they allow you to set up saving goals, even together with a partner. This has helped Simon and I so much 2 years ago when we moved to Stavanger, as we set a goal beforehand of how much money we were going to need for housing, deposit, furniture etc. and were then able to save towards that goal.

Again, not sponsored by DNB, just generally really happy with their services!

 

Dental care

First of all, healthcare in Norway is pretty cheap. You have to pay ca. 2300 NOK a year for doctor visits and prescription medicine yourself and if you exceed that amount, everything will be free for the rest of the year.

This, however, does not apply to dental care, which you usually have to pay in full yourself - unless you have certain kinds of (rare) conditions. Visiting the dentist is unfortunately not very cheap in Norway, and many people take “medical holidays” for this reason - meaning they’ll fly to Poland or Hungary to get their treatment done there for a fraction of the price.

In general, you can expect to pay around 700 NOK for a yearly check-up and 500 to 1000 NOK for a simple filling. You can check prices of your local dentist offices at hvakostertannleggen.no.

If you’re a student, you’re eligible for a student discount, and if you live in Tromsø, Bergen or Oslo, you can also visit the clinic of the dental students (regardless of whether you’re a student or not) for treatment at half the price.

 

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