For me, budgeting became a natural thing to do in college, ever since my first year. Being on my own made me realize just how much things could cost, especially if I wanted to become more independent and didn’t want to solely rely on my parents’ support. College wasn’t the first time I budgeted, but it was the first time it felt like it really counted. I couldn’t just run bake sales like I did in elementary school; I had to be honest and adjust my behavior and habits. So I went to Wellington with some practice behind me, but not having my usual on-campus jobs made me learn even more. Here are 5 tips for making Wellington wallet-friendly. They’ve helped me stay on track with my budgeting, so I hope they help you too.
Tip #1: Transportation
Metlink, Wellington’s public bus and train system, is easy to learn and it’ll take you pretty much anywhere in Wellington! Most often, I ride it to grocery stores, so I don’t have to worry about lugging all my food for the week back home. To pay, you can use change or a Snapper card, which I’ll talk about in a bit. Fares depend on the bus zones you travel through, but are usually around $1.71 to $4.20 (NZD) one way.
Zoomy, a New Zealand-based rideshare app for Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch, works just like Uber or Lyft but with slightly lower fares and better benefits for drivers. I even received a 50% off promotion for the first week of using the app, which really made buying things and bringing them back to my flat less stressful when moving in.
Lastly, make sure to get a Snapper card! Snapper cards are the easiest way to pay for Metlink buses, the cable car, and sometimes even taxis. You can buy one for $10 at a Snapper retailer and top it up there as well. If you’re a Victoria University at Wellington student, the Student Union Building sells them; otherwise, many convenience stores carry them or you can check out a list of retailers here. If you’re a full-time student, you also qualify for the 25% tertiary discount, so make sure to enter your Snapper card and student details here. To use the card on Metlink buses, just tap it to the card reader both when you get on the bus and when you get off.
Tip #2: Groceries
In Wellington, there are two major grocery stores, Countdown and New World. They’re both in walking distance, though it’ll take around 20 minutes, and both have cashiers who’re willing to swipe club member cards for you so you can get the discounted prices the club members get.
But the best way to save money on groceries is to take advantage of Wellington’s farmers’ markets. Harbourside Market and Victoria Street Farmers Market are popular choices for students, especially Victoria Street Farmers Market, since it’s the closest one to Victoria University at Wellington. On Sundays you’ll see crowds of people visiting the markets to find the best deals on fruits, vegetables, and eggs. Conveniently, both markets accept cash and EFTPOS (credit cards), and both are close to a New World, so you can finish your grocery shopping for the week on the same day.
Tip #3: Eating out or ordering in
It happens. Coming home after a grueling day of deadlines doesn’t make anyone in the mood to cook up a delicious dinner. You think, “Why can’t food make itself?” It’s almost a relief to remember all the yummy places in Wellington that you can eat out at or order in from, instead of making something yourself. Or sometimes, it’s just nice to treat yourself to a good meal from one of Wellington’s many cafes and restaurants.
When that happens, a list I like to look at for food discounts and specials is the WellingtonNZ’s daily dining and drink deals. On the list, you’ll find things like $2 Taco Tuesdays at The Rogue & Vagabond or $5 waffles on Wednesdays at The Little Waffle Shop. You, too, could embark on a foodie tour of Wellington and not worry about breaking the bank. Or maybe your exhaustion level’s passed the point of no return, and stepping foot outside isn’t an option. For those days, find the international student orientation packet from somewhere in the depths of your desk and leaf through brochures for food coupons at the back.
Tip #4: Op shops
I’ll be the first to admit that I should’ve spent more time researching Wellington’s weather. I saw that it would be summer, completely forgot about autumn and winter, and proceeded to stuff my suitcase full of shorts and not enough sweaters. To find some warmer layers, I headed to Wellington’s op shops. Op shops, short for opportunity shops, are New Zealand’s name for thrift stores. Wellington has multiple options, but my favorites are Recycle Boutique, Paperbag Princess, and Aunty Dana’s Op Shop. All three have a great selection and tend to price items cheaper than other op shops. Especially with Aunty Dana’s Op Shop, which I find to be the most affordable out of the three. Plus, proceeds go to help the local transgender community.
Tip #5: Entertainment
When I first visited the Wellington Botanic Garden, an ad for a summer Shakespeare production of Hamlet caught my eye in the visitor’s center. Excited, I immediately looked it up to see information on tickets. This is how I learned about concession tickets, which are discounted tickets specifically for students and senior citizens. They’re usually a couple of dollars cheaper, and most events, theaters, plays, or concerts sell them. So if you’re buying tickets, always buy concession!
For free things to do, make sure to check out museums, especially Te Papa, the Wellington Botanic Garden, Mt. Victoria hike, and various festivals, such as DupaCuba or Newton Music Festival. Sometimes cafes will also have pamphlets on free programs happening that month. Additionally, there’s always flyers about free events Victoria University at Wellington’s hosting, so don’t always speed by the bulletin boards on your way to class!
I hope these tips help you out in Wellington, or give you ideas on how to save money in your own study abroad location!
Kristiana Petrie is an Environmental Science and Biology double major at Colby College and studied abroad with IFSA at Victoria University at Wellington in New Zealand in Spring 2019. She is an Unpacked Contributor for IFSA-Butler through the First Generation Scholarship Program.