So, you’ve made it to the middle of the autumn semester. Congrats! Maybe now you’re more concerned about your deadlines and university life than about life outside the university. However, this is just a warning for you, not to make the same mistakes that other students have already made. No, I am not talking about doing your assignments last minute, I am referring to spending too much in the beginning of the semester and eating potatoes for the rest of it. No worries, this won’t happen to you, if you think and act before it is too late. There are lots of small, yet important changes you can make in life to keep your pockets full. Spending and saving money wisely is possible no matter who you are.

Ask for student discounts

A lot of shops or cafes do have discounts for students but won’t actually publish it anywhere. It is always good to have your university card or ISIC card out with you when you go shopping. Make sure to always ask them if they have any special offers.

For example, in Vapiano you can get a 10% discount off on all of the dishes if you present your ISIC card. The same principle works in Café Suudlevad Tudengid on the Town Hall square.

You can also get discounts in shops. Every Tuesday all ISIC cardholders can buy something from Rahva Raamat bookstore with a 12% discount.

You can check all the discounts available for ISIC card holders by downloading the ISIC app which is available for both Android and IOS.

Shop in groceries

Grocery stores don’t offer student discounts, but you can still shop there relatively cheaply if you know what to look for. There are not many supermarket chains in Estonia: Rimi, Selver, Prisma, Maxima, Konsum, and Maksimarket are the most common. Look for different campaigns and special offers, there certainly will be discounts on certain popular products. Most of the supermarkets have their own product brands (in Konsum they have säästu stuff, which literally means “save”, in Rimi – Rimi Basic, in Prisma – X-tra), these products are usually cheaper than others and will help you save a lot. Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for food is that it is usually very beneficial to have a client’s card in a store. They often have special offers exclusively for the client’s cardholders. This should be you, if you’re saving up.

Keep in mind one simple thing – the food cooked in the morning is still as good in the evening. Yes, I am talking about discounts on the bakery and different food that is cooked in certain shops. Salads or fried potatoes, oven-baked chicken or lasagne, pizzas or sweet little buns, all those you can get with 50% discount in Rimi or Comarket after 9 pm. Konsum has some discounts as well, so keep your eyes on them.

And the classic shopping rule applies here: don’t shop on an empty stomach. You know you’re not you when hungry.

Prepare your own food

You might think lunch outside won’t hurt your budget, certainly not, unless you eat outside every day. Cooking your own meals will keep food costs lower. If you live in the dormitory, you can have weekly dinners, sometimes 2-3 nights a week, when one person cooks, and everyone pitch in ingredients that he or she has. This for me has been the easiest way to save up money on food. The bigger packages are usually cheaper than small ones, so you can try to buy those and then divide money for all of flatmates. And remember sharing is caring.

Buy clothes from second- hand shops

We all know why those shops are so awesome. They’re right for you if you did not expect October to be so cold, and you’re still in denial phase and don’t want to spend too much on sweaters. My personal observation concerning the way people dress is that in Southern Europe, people wear several layers of clothing putting a cardigan over a sweater. This will be useful here too, but it doesn’t mean you can avoid buying a proper winter coat. So, going to the second-hand shop to add anything to your wardrobe is an easy way to save money.

It will totally take more time to find the right clothes in second-hand stores among all of the donations. Take your time and don’t forget that winter is coming.

The two most popular ones are Humana and Uuskasutuskeskus. One of the Humana stores is actually located right next to the Town Hall square. The good news is that they hold monthly 3 day-sales (Fri, Sat, Sun) for clothes with prices from 50 cents to 3 euros. Uuskasutuskeskus, on the other hand, is good for buying things that are necessary for home like plates and glasses for funny low prices. They also hold sales every end-of-the month. On the Võru street next to the Uuskasutuskeskus there is another thrift shop called Võru Varblane. They also have clothes and footwear. Another shop that you have probably seen when rushing to your lecture crossing Vabaduse street is Mecca Komisjonikauplus. It is more expensive, as it has more clothes of famous brands.

An important reminder is that on Saturdays they are open until 4 pm and on Sundays they are closed. Just so you know and learn from my mistakes.

Enjoying cold weather in a new second-hand coat.

Use free or cheap campus resources

You may not have discovered it yet but apart from the library, University of Tartu has access to different databases where you can find articles or books. You can find the list on the UT library webpage. Other resources provided for free include tutoring, counselling and career services. The counselling center of University of Tartu offers advice regarding organisation of studies, career and psychological counselling, study-related information and training courses to students of all levels of study.

University of Tartu also provides a free Microsoft Office 365 for all the students that are currently enrolled in any programme.

Another important thing is to look for free events and activities that are happening at the university such as movie nights, talent shows, cultural evenings, concerts and sports. Taking part in conferences even as a listener not only helps you to learn something new, but also gives you an access to free food there.

Eating my free piece of cake at the conference.

Written By:
Yulia Nikitina (
MA in European Languages and Cultures

Cover Photo By:
Katrin Lipp