Whatever your financial situation, it is always welcome to save some hard-earned money. Even more so for single parents who depend on only one salary. And unfortunately, in Switzerland it is not uncommon for a divorce to drive people into poverty.
Luckily there are a number of ways how one can save some CHF without necessarily giving up your daily cup of latte. On the other hand, if we calculate 2 CHF for a coffee daily (which you will agree is cheap for Switzerland) it amounts to approximately 60 CHF per month. This might not seem much, but the costs add up and in a year’s time we’re up to 720 CHF and 7200 CHF in 10 years! Perspective is everything;-)
When I started looking into reducing our household expenses, I focused on the biggest recurring item first:
Rent: Usually the major single item in every household, hence cutting down on it is primordial and can be a great addition to the budget. My move from a quite costly apartment to a smaller less expensive one with the rent almost cut in half was a decision I never regretted. Except on the moving day itself, when I was tired of carrying all those boxes;-)
Insurances: Whether it is your home, health or car insurance, double check your insurance policy and see whether the premium can be lowered by either changing the insurance company (make sure to respect the cancellation period specified in your contract) or by contacting your current one(s) and trying to re-negotiate the premium. The latter can be done by a simple e-mail or a phone call and since (most of) the insurance companies do not want to lose clients, they are usually ready for some “concessions” (using inverted commas here since lowering your fees a tiny bit does not really impact the huge earnings they are making) .
Mobile, internet and TV subscription: Another big expense item and many options to choose from on the Swiss market, depending on your needs and location. As mentioned above, if you decide to change your provider pay attention to respecting the cancellation period mentioned in your contract and communicate by registered mail.
Bank and credit card fees: Before moving to Switzerland I studied carefully what was on offer in terms of different banks and credit cards providers. Unfortunately, in the current financial climate of (next to) zero interest rates also those institutions that previously had no account management fees if your account balance was over a certain threshold introduced these. Nevertheless, there are still big differences in fees among banks so my advice is to study these carefully. The same for credit cards since monthly expenses do add up and you certainly do not want to lose your money for nothing.
Unless you work from home, there is the cost of transportation. I am a big proponent of using public transport for everyday work commute, if at all possible. Besides being cost effective, public transport in Switzerland is most of the time stress-free and reliable and of course environmentally friendlier than a car. In addition, public transport is free for children under the age of six and there are a number of inexpensive options available for older kids, such as junior and children co-travel cards (30 CHF/year for 6-16 year olds when travelling with their parents or another adult accompanying person). In contrast to the public transport, the price of car does not only drastically drop as soon as you leave the car dealer’s shop, car ownership also hits your budget with a number of other expenses (such as insurance, gas, repairs, parking fees, speeding tickets;-) While I am still kind of vary of cycling in Geneva and find the city all but bike-friendly, with cyclists “fighting” for their space with trams and buses, I do recognise that cycling indeed shortens the commute across the town.
Speaking of cycling, an additional advantage of using this mode of transport is that it is a good exercise;-) Which does make a difference in our busy lives both time-wise and financially. Gym subscriptions namely tend to be quite expensive. But as with everything “know thyself” is a must here too. Before signing a gym membership agreement, think carefully whether it is financially worth it and how committed you are to actually going to the gym regularly. You certainly do not want to end up with paying an excessive fee and being suck with a membership for a service that you are no longer using, be it because of lack of time or because you discovered that you hate indoor exercise. Luckily some gyms offer trial classes so take the advantage of these before deciding. If you like group classes you can also check out the local options that might be more advantageous. Where I live, for example, a local association offers a plethora of good quality sports activities at affordable prices.
Moving from sports to nutrition, which is scientifically proven the most important for our well-being. Saving on food expenses was already described in quite some detail here. Giving up your “plat du jour” is a great money saver, not to mention it can prove much healthier too. Let’s calculate;-) Home-made lunches during your work week (especially if combined with advance meal preparation) can easily save you around 400 CHF per month, which is 4800 CHF yearly! A simple calculation deducting 5 CHF for a home-made dish in comparison to the average 25 CHF for eating out at lunchtime.
Not only cheaper but a huge help to our environment is the use of re-usable bottles for your daily drink intake. Tap water is safe to drink in Switzerland so no additional expenses here except for an initial investment into a re-usable bottle.
Stay tuned for part II. of this blog post where we will look into savings tips for baby and child-related items and activities.