Money-saving tips for living in Zurich
Zurich, the centre for global banking and finance where no expense is spared. It comes as no surprise then that it has been ranked the third most expensive city for expats by the 2015 Mercer Cost of Living survey.
If you are planning to move to the picturesque capital city of Switzerland, don’t despair; there are so many ways you can save money and the following tips demonstrate that frugal living doesn’t have to be boring. If you have found work and can negotiate a good salary even better because you will be able support yourself financially and it will make your expat experience all the more enjoyable.
Additional expenses: what you need to know
Aside from the obvious expenses such as accommodation, transport and food, expats should be aware that they will have additional expenses too:
- Residents living and working in Switzerland are required by law to take out private health care. Expats will need to ensure they are covered within three months of their arrival. It’s also worth finding out if private health insurance is included in your
work contract because this could save you a great deal of excess expenses.
- You will have to pay for your own utility bills as well as your rent.
- Think twice when taking your bike on the train with you, you’ll have to buy your two-wheeled companion a ticket!
- You will always have to pay for public parking, even if your are parked in front of your own residence. The price differs depending on where you live.
- You’ll have to pay to pee unless you’re careful. It’s fair to say free public bathrooms are fairly sparse in the city. If you can avoid it, avoid using a public bathroom in a train station, they can be extortionately expensive.
Forget the metro, ride for free by bike
The public transport system in Zurich is sophisticated, well organised and, you guessed it, hellishly expensive. The city is divided into two zones and crossing the “border” from one zone to the other can result in hefty charges. You’ll be better off avoiding it. Getting around the city by bike is going to be your cheapest option, especially since you can rent a bike for free! It’s easy to rent a bike; all you need is a valid ID card and a deposit of 20 CHF at either the Bike Station North (Swiss National Museum) or the Bike Station South (Postbrücke).
If you want to buy a used bike, the main bike rental company in Switzerland Rent-A-Bike sell their ex-rental bikes for reasonable prices throughout Spring and Autumn.
Eating in is the new thing
Eating out in Zurich is also very expensive and you will probably want to locate your nearest Migros, COOP or Spar supermarket if you want to be able to eat for the rest of the month. Out of the three, COOP is the most expensive.
You’ll soon get the hang of your food budget, but before you do here are some tips for you to bear in mind while scouring the shelves in search of the supermarket’s own brand.
- Don’t buy bottled water, it is quite frankly a waste of money. Zurich’s tap water cannot be bettered.
- Don’t buy pre-packaged fruit, that chopped apple may look convenient but your bank balance will not be thanking you later.
- Meat can be expensive and if you cannot fathom the idea of becoming a vegetarian see if you can find a supermarket that has a discounted meat section, where the meat is cheaper because it is near its expiry date. You can always freeze it and eat it later.
When it comes to waste disposal you should know that all residents in Zurich have to buy council-approved rubbish bags which are taxed. Take the time to separate your plastic, glass and aluminium and dispose of them at free recycling sites. As a Zurich resident you are also entitled to a free allowance of 400kg (4 x 100kg vouchers) per year for rubbish disposal. Follow this link.
Things to do for free
Although it cannot be denied that Zurich is an expensive city, it doesn’t mean that you must be a hermit confined to the four walls of your bedroom. Take advantage of some of the free things you can do in the city.
For example, you can visit the Kunsthaus, the museum for modern art every Wednesday for free. There are also free events always taking place is this vibrant city. There’s a section dedicated to free activities on the New in Zurich blog.
If you’re lucky enough to be living in the country famed for it’s beautiful mountain ranges, it would be a real pity to not take advantage of the many hikes, trails and mountain walks on offer to you; and the best thing is the fact that you won’t have to delve into your pockets to enjoy these priceless views! Take a look at 32 of the most enjoyable hikes imaginable in this blog.
Finding affordable accommodation
Your rent is likely to be your biggest expense and will cause the biggest indent to your monthly salary. Finding your own place is tricky, landlords are notoriously fickle and they have a habit of comparing the credentials of potential tenants in order to choose their preferred option.
Flatshares are the biggest money saving option and, fortunately, there are plenty of websites serving your needs, offering their services in English. Shared accommodation in Switzerland is known as a “WG” (Wohngemeinschaften). Here is a list of some of the most expat-friendly websites for finding shared accommodation in Zurich.
Finding a furnished house share will also save you money on additional furniture and crockery, especially if you are only living in Switzerland on a short-term basis. Find out if there are any hidden fees, i.e. agency fees as these can bite into your budget. Before you sign anything, double check what is included in your rent. For example, are your bills included (gas, water, electricity)? Is there a cleaner which you are expected to chip in for and is the WiFi installed and included in the price? Although it may take some searching, you are sure to find a good deal once you start asking the right questions.
You should note that taxes in Switzerland differ according to your location, so you should take this into consideration when choosing a place to live. Don’t fall for accommodation with seemingly low rental prices but higher tax rates.
Although Zurich is an expensive city for an expat, it hasn’t stopped the large number of people deciding to move there. With plenty of job opportunities, attractive salaries and a vibrant lifestyle, it is possible to enjoy your expat life to the fullest without breaking the bank.
Planning to move to Switzerland? Check our comprehensive guide which covers everything from visas and permits to transportation and everything in between.