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COST OF LIVING

Cost of living: How you can beat Switzerland’s inflation blues?

With inflation, and consequently the cost of living, continuing to rise, many consumers find it necessary to spend less than they used to. But is it possible to cut the cost of living in an expensive country like Switzerland?

Cost of living: How you can beat Switzerland's inflation blues?
To save money, buy local, seasonal products. Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels

In April, Switzerland’s inflation rate stood at about 2.6 percent, but it climbed to 3.4 percent in June.

That’s a significant increase, but the good news (at least for the Swiss) is that this rate is still lower than in many other countries in Europe, where it hovers around 8.6 percent.

Nevertheless, Swiss consumers have noticed that their already high cost of living is climbing upwards in line with increasing inflation, and many commonly used products and services have become even more expensive in the past months.

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

It is, however, possible to cut the cost of living somewhat and save money in the process.

Switzerland’s Blick newspaper asked a consumer expert to offer some common-sense tips to help households in Switzerland get more bang out of their franc in these inflationary times.

These are some areas where costs can be cut:

Insurance

According to Sara Stalder, director of the Foundation for Consumer Protection, “it is worth examining your insurance portfolio”, to see where savings could be made.

As health insurance premiums are among the highest expenditures of a typical household, switching to another carrier could cost you less.

You won’t be able to switch until January 2023 (notifying your insurance company of the change by November 30th), but if you do your research now, you’ll be able to save as much as several hundred francs in annual premiums per person in the new year.

READ MORE: Why Swiss patients pay too much for healthcare

Calling and internet

While the costs of telecommunications (internet, mobile phones) have not risen significantly in Switzerland, Stalder advises to seek out “interesting offers that are only available to new customers.”

Also, since streaming services could become more expensive in the near future in the aftermath of the May 15th referendum, this may be a good time to examine whether some platforms you subscribe to (Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, etc.) should be cancelled.

Weeding out your streaming platforms will cut costs. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Credit cards

As The Local reported on July 4th, there are significant differences in annual costs of credit cards, and you can save quite a bit by switching from one card to another.

A recent study by an independent online comparison service Moneyland showed that “occasional users could save 560 francs and frequent users could see savings of more than 830 francs in the first two years if they were to switch to cheapest cards”.

You can find out more about credit card savings here:

Huge differences’: How you can save money on Swiss credit cards

Buy seasonal products

We have gotten used to having a variety of fruits and vegetables available all year round, but this convenience comes at a price.

Fruits and vegetables that are not in season in Switzerland right now (for instance, strawberries and grapes) are imported and therefore more expensive than local produce.

However, many grocery shops have special promotions on fruits that are in season in Switzerland right now, so this staying away from imports could be another way to save money.

And while you are shopping… avoid prepared foods

Sure, it’s easier to pick up a bag of grated carrots than buying them in bulk and grating them yourself, but the price difference could add up if you are used to buying ready-to-eat ,pre-packaged food rather than preparing it yourself.

This may require a change in habits but could also save money in the long-term.

A money-saving move. Image by DaModernDaVinci from Pixabay 

This may be a no-brainer but we have to say it anyway: save on energy!

Energy prices have skyrocketed since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and are expected to soar further.

READ MORE: Switzerland faces 20 percent increase in electricity costs

As these costs constitute a major expenditure in a household budget, reducing your energy costs is essential, especially if you are a home or apartment owner and have to pay these charges yourself.

These are some ways to reduce your energy consumption, according to a consumer site bonus.ch:

  • Use heat in moderation, setting the temperature according to the size of the room and how often it is being used. Unoccupied rooms should not be heated at all.
  • Turn off the light when leaving a room (this advice is logical and reasonable, and yet many people neglect to do so).
  •  Shut down electrical appliances such as TV and computers completely when not in use, or even unplug them altogether.
  • Use appliances with the energy label “A”, LED lamps and energy-saving bulbs, avoiding devices with high energy consumption, such as aquariums and fans.

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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