How To Live A Frugal Life In Switzerland

How much we spend per month – including my saving rate and exact numbers for our budget.

Switzerland is known as the most expensive country in Europe. This applies in particular to the typical service-oriented areas such as education, rent, health care, but also goods such as meat. At the same time, we can enjoy comparatively very high wages. In a global comparison, we are always in the top 5 - depending on the ranking. At least that puts the high cost of living back into perspective.

For many, the calculation is simple: if we have the money, then surely we can spend it and make a nice life for ourselves? In our household, we see it a little differently. For me personally, it is a sense of achievement when at the end of the month as much salary as possible remains in my account and doesn't flow into some things I can't even remember. Why? Time is money and I know that I want to buy one thing above all with my savings: a longer pension or more extended holidays, if you will. In my eyes, that is worth much more than the best electric car or the latest iPad.

How we invest the hard-earned money is another story. First of all, we have to manage not to spend it elsewhere. Here is something very important and decisive: living frugally does not mean having to restrict ourselves! Rather, it is about setting priorities. We also like to go out to a restaurant from time to time or treat ourselves to more expensive holidays, but that is then part of our budget and not an impulse purchase.

Know your saving rate

Keyword budget: As already mentioned, solid financial planning is the be-all and end-all of a frugal life. Saving tips are not much use without concrete figures. I used to have no idea what I actually spent my money on in general, let alone how much I specifically spent on food or transport each month. Now I have an accurate record of what I spend on what and can see directly when I go over my budget.

My medium-term goal is to achieve a monthly saving rate of 50 to 60 percent. You calculate it by dividing your profit (your income minus your expenses) by your income and multiplying by 100. So, the goal should be that I need at most half of my income to live. We're not there yet, but at around 45 per cent we're on the right track.

Now to the budget: My total monthly expenses should ideally amount to 2783.75 francs. Added to this is the maximum amount that can be paid into the 3rd pillar. For the budget, we now add these monthly 573 francs, because although we have invested this money, it will not be freely available to us for the next 40 years or so and will leave our normal bank account each time.

Save money on food

From experience, the item that surprises many the most is food. It is extremely easy to save money on this category. Especially for someone who prefers to cook at home anyway, even more so. The 300 francs in my budget are also very generous, our goal is actually to spend only 400 francs per month for two people (so 200 francs per person).

My boyfriend and I usually order our groceries from Aldi. In the city where we live, we can have food delivered to our home for around 10 francs if the order value is 50 francs or more. We think that's a good deal, because Aldi isn't exactly around the corner and it costs us a lot of time if we were to go to the shop. Usually, our order value is between 50 and 60 francs, plus the 10 francs shipping costs. After that, I try to spend the remaining 30 to 40 francs at Migros, Coop, Denner or Alnatura for the things I didn't get at Aldi (e.g. my favourite soy milk from Alnatura). You can find concrete tips on how I save money when shopping here.

Although a visit to a restaurant would fall under "extras" in my budget calculation, we can save additional money with our meal-prepping strategy. If you go to the canteen or restaurant every day for lunch and spend, say, 15 francs, that's another 300 francs a month that you could put aside relatively easily. If you cook dinner in the evening anyway, just make twice as much next time and take it to the office the next day - or prepare a nice sandwich if you don't have the possibility to heat up your meal. Your wallet will be happy!

Live cheaply far away from the hustle and bustle

By far the biggest monthly expense - as it probably is for many - is rent. My boyfriend and I share a 2.5-room flat of about 65 square metres (one flat with one bedroom plus living room, kitchen and bathroom) and pay 1'350 francs. We were very lucky, because the flat is very spacious for two people and is also completely sufficient for us. On top of that we rent a 20-square-metre hobby room about five minutes from our home and have housed our home gym and a music studio there. This costs us another 167 francs. So, in total we come to about 85 square metres and 1'517 francs for two people.

We have been very lucky with this flat. It's not easy to find something comparable in our area for the same price. But one thing in advance: cities like Zurich or Geneva are extremely expensive. It can be worthwhile (as in our case) to live a little further away with good public transport connections. Depending on whether you have to go to the office several times a week, for example, you may even be faster if you don't live "in the middle of the cake" but benefit from cheaper rents in the suburbs. The lake is also easy to reach by train if you're desperate to get out and about in the summertime 😉.

A good way to save money is with so-called cooperative flats. These are sometimes heavily subsidised. It's not easy to get hold of such a flat contract, as preference is usually given to existing members. But once you're in, you too can benefit from this advantage later on.

High deductible and no car

Two other points that take up a relatively large amount of space in my budget plan (and which I can influence myself) are health and transport costs.

I opted for the model with the highest deductible rate and correspondingly the lowest premium, as well as for a family doctor model and pay 280.30 francs per month.

The lower the deductible rate, the higher the premiums, i.e. what you pay into the health insurance fund each month. Depending on the health insurance company, you can save around 1,500 francs per year on premiums if you choose the highest deductible rate.

With each model, you pay the first 300 francs yourself. So, if you don't expect high costs, it can be worthwhile to opt for a high deductible rate, because in the worst-case scenario you simply have to pay the 2,500 francs, of which you would have already saved 1,500 francs on the premiums.

We are also as cheap as possible with our transport costs. On average, I spend between 80 and 90 bucks per month on this category. This is due to the fact that we both work from home a lot and my office is only a five-minute walk from my home. We also consciously live without a car because we are located very close to the station and are well connected by train and bus. If we do need a car for a certain occasion, we can always use my mum's car and just contribute to the gas and maintanance costs.

Time is money - that's why I save

The last major item in my budget is the category "extras". This includes everything that cannot be assigned to any other category and gives me some leeway for meals out, clothing, leisure activities such as cinema or books (to name a few examples). My goal is to not spend more than 500 francs per month on this.

It should be obvious here that the goal should not be to restrict myself and miss out on all the great activities. I would rather consciously choose something that is fun and offers added value, which is what I am happy to spend my money on.

In conclusion, a budget is not only very helpful, but can also be great fun. Believe me, it is a real sense of achievement to realise at the end of the month that you have just saved yourself an extra month of "holidays" or "pension".