Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich
The Limmat in Zurich. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
You don’t need to live in Zurich to know how expensive it is - but locals' tips can make your francs stretch a little longer.

Zurich is the equal-most expensive city in the world, according to a study released in November 2020. 

The Swiss city ranks alongside Paris and Hong Kong as the priciest cities in the world, the study said.

READ: Why Zurich ranks as the world’s most expensive city once again 

But that of course is no news to our Zurich-based readers, who by now are used to navigating to high cost of living Switzerland’s largest city has to offer. 

We reached out to our readers and asked them two questions about the cost of living in Zurich: what is the most expensive thing about living in Zurich – and how you can save money. 

What is so expensive about Zurich? 

We received just under 50 responses to the survey, showing that cost of living remains a major concern. 

The vast majority of those who responded lived or worked in Zurich, although some said they no longer had a connection to the city but the cost was burned into their memory. 

The most common responses were relatively predictable. 

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Eating out was a frequent response, while plenty of respondents felt that the rent in Zurich was too damn high. 

A number of respondents said that high costs couldn’t be avoided when shopping at supermarkets, with food – and in particular meat – too expensive. 

Day care was another common response, with one reader lamenting the CHF2,500 expenditure per child. 

Several other respondents simply answered that “everything” was the most expensive thing in Zurich. 

There were however some relatively unique responses. 

More than one respondent said the cost of local prostitution services were extortionate, with one complaining of the CHF300 per hour going rate. 

Another said the most expensive part of living in Zurich was fines levied by police for breaking the rules – a sure sign that the police also struggle to make ends meet in Zurich. 

“Hidden radar cameras claimed to be for safety reasons (are the most expensive). The undeclared primary reason is to collect more money from drivers. If the primary reason was for safety, there should be warning sign boards that a camera is present on this route etc., like we find in other cities and towns in Europe.”

Someone else, presumably from Columbia, asked Local readers to have a little more perspective. 

“Stop crying, living in Colombia is twice more expensive” he or she wrote. 

How do you save money when living in Zurich?

Obviously, some costs are harder to cut and simply electing not to pay rent probably wasn’t an option for most of our readers. 

That said, we had dozens of readers who told us that even moving slightly out of the city was likely to result in a huge rent saving. 

Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland 

The major response we had was to stop eating out and to take food with you wherever you go. 

One respondent said anyone who does so wouldn’t be missing much anyway. “Never eat out. Quality is bad, prices are high”. 

Another tip is especially relevant for anyone with a bit of time to head to the border. 

“As a student, taking the train to Germany to buy food. The shop I go to is always filled 75% with Swiss plated cars.”

DIY – do it yourself – is also a big tip, with readers pointing to the cost of hairdressers, beauty salons and mechanics. 

“Save restaurants for rare special occasions, and do as much DIY as possible – cut your own or your partner’s hair, do your own nails, fix your car yourself whenever possible (Google and YouTube are your friends),” wrote one reader. 

Others were quick to remind us that the best things in life (in Zurich) are free. 

“Shop at Aldi. Avoid pricey restaurants. Enjoy the free things like hiking, the lake etc.”

People jumping into the Limmat in Zurich. Photo: MICHELE LIMINA / AFP

Choosing to cycle rather than take public transport – and to ditch the car – were also common responses. 

One reader used all caps to remind anyone thinking of moving to Zurich to get a job before they go. 

Several readers also pointed to the high cost of health insurance in Switzerland, saying it pays to do your research when it comes to picking the right insurer. 

Finally, a surprising number of people gave us the same advice – a blunt yet somewhat poignant tip. 

“Don’t live in Zurich” 

Did we miss anything? Is Zurich really not that pricey? 

Please let us know. 

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