20 Budget Life Hacks for Ireland
You can make your dream of studying in Ireland a reality without breaking the bank
Studying abroad is definitely a huge investment, especially when you’re a broke college student, but it is one of the most worthwhile investments you’ll ever make. Sure, the flight over will cost you and the tuition probably isn’t so cheap, but there are plenty of ways to make life abroad affordable. If Ireland is your chosen destination, here are some tips and tricks to avoid spending recklessly and completely draining your bank account while you’re there
1. Buy your groceries at Aldi or Lidl
If you’re living or studying in Ireland for an extended period of time, you’re not going to be able to eat every meal out. Cooking for yourself is a great way to stick to your budget, and luckily, Ireland offers some great discount grocery chains. There was an Aldi right across from my campus, which made grocery shopping insanely cheap. Lidl is another similar store that offers lower prices.
2. Embrace Irish brands
You’re going to be tempted when you see Special K, Nutri Grain bars, and Cheerios on the grocery store shelves, but these American name brands are much more expensive across the Atlantic. Experiment with brands you’ve never heard of; you might even like these authentic Irish brands even more. Discount stores like Aldi and Lidl don’t even sell recognizable brand names, which also makes it easier to pick the cheaper options.
3. Eat out for lunch instead of dinner
Many restaurants throughout Europe offer lunch specials which often include a meal, appetizer and a drink for one bargain price. In Ireland, you’re likely to find a soup and sandwich combo at any pub for ridiculously cheap prices during lunchtime hours. Sometimes these deals even include a deal with your food. Take advantage of these bargains and cook dinner for yourself.
4. Make your own coffee
You’re not going to have the luxury of your Keurig while you’re abroad, and the wide variety of cute little coffee shops may tempt you to order a vanilla latte every morning before class. While I understand that no college student should be denied the right to coffee, buying custom coffee drinks can become extremely expensive in Ireland. You can purchase instant coffee at any grocery store for extremely low prices, which is quick and cost-efficient. Simply add hot water, enjoy, and save 3 euro a day.
5. Pre-drink before a night out
There’s no denying that Ireland has great nightlife, made only better by the fact that the drinking age is three years younger than it is in the U.S. Unfortunately, drinks are very expensive there, especially in Dublin. Although the excitement of drinking in an Irish pub is tempting, it’s a good idea to “pre-drink,” as the Irish call it, and save yourself some money (you can buy an entire bottle of wine at Aldi for the same price as a pint of Guinness at any pub). Enjoy a pint out, but be careful not to break the bank on alcohol.
6. Look for nightclub deals on social media
Certain nightclubs offer promotions on Facebook that will allow you to download a free drink voucher for the night. Check out any given nightclub’s social media accounts during the day to see if you can find any deals, then friend and follow them so you’ll be notified of all their upcoming deals and promotions.
7. Go out earlier to avoid cover charges
No one ever wants to be the first one at the club, but if it will save you a few euro it’s definitely worth it. Some clubs will waive their cover charge before a certain hour (usually on weeknights), so be sure to check out your favorite club’s website and plan out what time you want to arrive.
8. Enjoy a discount at rugby games
The Irish National Rugby Team offers student tickets from 15 euro, less than half the price of many other tickets offered. Even on a budget, you can easily experience one of Ireland’s most popular sporting events.
9. Take advantage of the Dublin Bus system
The Dublin Bus system is cheap, easy, and provides just about any route you’ll ever need in Dublin. You’ll never pay much more than 3 euro for a fare, and you’ll find at least one bus stop on every street in the city. Download the Dublin Bus smartphone app to find the stop nearest you, most convenient route, and even what time the next bus is coming.
10. Walk wherever you can
I am such an advocate of the Dublin Bus only because I studied at a university about 30 minutes outside of Dublin city, and the busses made traveling back and forth to Dublin extremely cheap and convenient. If you’re staying within the city limits, you can walk absolutely everywhere. Dublin isn’t overwhelmingly big and even though the busses are cheap, walking is free.
11. Buses > trains
Ireland has a reliable national rail system that is great for longer trips, but you can also find a bus route to and from any point on the entire island (Northern Ireland included). Trains may be better for their faster speeds and comfort, but if you’re trying to save some money you should definitely look into taking a bus instead. Bus Eireann is Ireland’s biggest bus system, and it will get you just about anywhere you need to go.
12. Hang out at the student union
The student union at my uni had a pub with great drink specials for a student budget and often put on fun events free of charge. They had a weekly trivia night, a “Freshers” ball during the first week of classes, and multiple Christmas celebrations. This is common in Ireland and will allow you to have the “craic” without breaking the bank or even leaving your campus.
13. Take advantage of free museums
The National Museum of Ireland has four branches: Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, and Natural History in Dublin and Country Life in County Mayo. Admission to all of these museums is always free, so you can learn more about your new country at no cost.
14. For cheaper weekend trips, explore the rest of Ireland and the UK
Travel throughout Ireland is easily accessible and usually pretty inexpensive (see #10). You can take a bus or train anywhere on the island, including Northern Ireland. If you don’t have the money for a hostel, many tour companies offer day trips to many parts of Ireland that leave from Dublin every morning and return the same night. And why not explore the country you currently call home?
15. Embrace Ryan Air
Europe’s most popular budget airline just so happens to be headquartered in Dublin, so it’s hard not to find a Ryan Air flight anywhere you want to go. The airline allows you to fly from Dublin to London for 30 euro, with similar prices to many other UK destinations including Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Just be sure to read up on the baggage restrictions and pack light to avoid any extra charges.
16. Shop at Penney’s
You may be on a pretty tight budget, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a little room in that budget for shopping during your time in Ireland. Let Penney’s, which is operated by Primark in the UK, be your destination for all of your shopping needs. You will find any type of clothing, shoes or accessories there for extremely discounted prices.
17. If you have the urge to shop even more….
If you grow tired of Penney’s and absolutely can’t control your urge to shop any longer, don’t worry. There are plenty of other shops that will accommodate a student budget. H&M and American Apparel are all over the place, along with stores like River Island, Next, and A-Wear. Be sure to ask if they offer a student discount while you’re there, because many stores do. If you’re in Dublin, you can also look for vintage stores at the George’s St. Arcade for some good deals.
18. Free entertainment is everywhere
Unless one of your favorite bands is playing during your time in Ireland, there’s no need to pay money to go to a concert. You can find live entertainment at some pub on any night of the week, so you can enjoy a live concert for free along with your drinks or dinner
19. Sign up for Groupon
Sign up for Groupon in Ireland for some great deals on travel, food, and anything else that might be useful. You may find some really useful deals that will add up and save you some money during your time there.
20. Enjoy all the green!
They don’t call it the Emerald Isle for nothing. Ireland is notorious for its rolling green pastures and hills, so go out and explore them. Go for a run or a hike in the countryside with your friends and take in the beauty that is Ireland. It’s free, not to mention absolutely breathtaking.