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10 ways you can save money if you live in Basel

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
10 ways you can save money if you live in Basel
There are many ways to save money if you live in Basel. Photo by Harald Hechler from Pexels.

Those living in Basel will know that the city is one of the world’s most expensive ones to reside in. But luckily there are ways to curb the cost.

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Indulge in cross-border shopping

Even though the Swiss inflation rate is well below neighbouring nations, prices for many products are still lower in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria compared to Switzerland. 

For people living in Switzerland’s border regions (such as Basel), driving to nearby supermarkets abroad to stock up on groceries has been a profitable undertaking, especially since Swiss wages are higher than those of its neighbours, and the franc-euro ratio is favourable too.

Fortunately, if you live in Basel, you’re within easy access of not one but two cross-border shopping countries: Germany and France.

However, before you ready your shopping bags, you may want to get familiar with some of the cross-border shopping rules as highlighted in our article on the topic here.

For those choosing to shop in Germany of France online, remember that some shops do not deliver to Switzerland while other will charge you high delivery and custom fees – but there are ways around this issue.

If you have friends who live across the border, it may be smarter to ship your shopping to their address and pick it up. If you don’t know anyone in Germany, you also have the option to open a so-called Packstation. You can then have your orders delivered there and pick them up for a small fee.

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Learn German for free

Whether you have just moved to Basel or have been living in the city for a long time, there are many free ways to learn and practice your (Swiss) German skills.

The canton of Basel-City, for instance, finances a free German course (level A1-B2) consisting of 80 lessons for newly arrived migrants in the first twelve months of their long-term stay.

As part of the welcome conversation at the residents’ office, a personalised voucher will be given to you which can then be redeemed at a certified language school that is recognised by the canton of Basel-City.

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If you want to learn in a laidback setting and make a friend or two, you may also want to check out LoLa where you can meet other people for casual chats, games, or a coffee – or surf the internet all by yourself. Alternatively, you can sign up to Tandem partner of your choosing online.

READ MORE: Five places to learn Swiss German for free in Basel

Save on trains

One of the easiest ways to save money on transport in Basel is to use its affordable train network and there are many tickets that will make you cut back on travel cost.

With SBB CFF FFS, you can pay for “Sparbillette” - or so-called Supersaver tickets – and benefit from an up to 70 percent discount on the standard ticket price. Travellers can choose from one-way tickets to day passes but will be limited to a few select routes and times. The trick is to book as early as possible to snag the best deal.

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For frequent travellers, SBB’s GA Travelcard at an annual cost of 3,860 francs for adults is your most cost-effective option by a landslide. The travelcard allows you to travel on public transport throughout Switzerland for “free” and you can even get 5 francs off on short-term bike rentals at 20 SBB stations.

If you don’t want to hand over quite that much money, a great way of reducing your transport cost is to purchase SBB’s Half Fare Travelcard. The travelcard costs 120 francs per year and gives you an up to 50 percent discount on all travel by train, bus, boat, and most mountain railways.

You can check out the different options here.

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Hop on a bike

In Switzerland, Basel is known as somewhat of a bicycle city with around 20 percent of all trips being taken by bike – or “Velo” as it’s known in Swiss German.

In order to further support the population’s love for bicycles and of course the environment, the city introduced PubliBike, a bike rental system, in 2021.

The rental bikes (both classical and e-bikes up to 25km/h) can be rented and parked at appropriately marked stations. You will recognise these by a red marking, the Velospot logo or simply by the red rental bikes.

When fully rolled out, around 2,000 bikes at 350 stations will be available to Basel residents and visitors.

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Buy second-hand

In addition to your monthly’s necessary shopping, such as groceries and hygiene items, clothing is also often found on people’s high priority shopping list. After all, you are what you wear.

Im Chemiserie+ in Kleinbasel is hands down one of Basel’s best second-hand addresses for clothes. The shop colour-coordinates its stylish items for both men and women which range from well-kept basics, vintage unique pieces, comfort clothing, leather jackets, denim jackets, trousers and much more.

Other shops worth checking out are sahara SECONDHAND at Marktplatz, which is holding a Silberner Sonntag (Silver Sunday) event on December 10th (1-6pm) and a Goldener Sonntag (Golden Sunday) on December 17th (1-6pm) in preparation for Christmas.

Another good place to shop for bargains (and the whole family) is Caritas, which in addition to adult clothes also sells baby and children’s clothing.

You can also browse Basel’s markets and flea markets, such as the Basler Stadtmarkt and Schlemmer-Markt, for bargains.

Rent cheaper

It’s no secret that deciding to leave the city life behind or opting for a smaller apartment can save you quite a bit on rent. Towns such as Liesthal, Bettingen, Riehen, Pratteln or Muttenz have excellent links to Basel with considerably cheaper rents.

Alternatively, you could also consider moving in with a friend or partner to cut down on rental costs.

If you’re an outside the box thinker, you may also want to look into taking your abode across the border to save on rent.

In France, communes like St-Louis (just eight minutes from Basel) and Colmar (an hour’s train ride), or the German town Lörrach (30 minutes by train) offer great alternatives to living in the Swiss city itself.

Reduce ancillary costs

Switzerland has different electricity tariffs for different times. For instance, electricity is slightly cheaper at night than it is during the day, and you can use this to your advantage. Run your washing machine in the evening or wake up early to do a quick wash before work.

Similarly, make it a habit to unplug electrical devices when you’re not using them, turn down the setting on your radiator if the room is warm enough, and don’t turn the dishwasher on right after dinner (if possible). Small changes like these can mean your electricity and other additional costs will be lower on a monthly basis.

Buy a used car

If you’re already living on the outskirts of Basel or decide to make the jump to save on rent, you may soon find yourself longing for a car to explore Switzerland’s charming villages.

When buying a car, keep in mind that the depreciation of a new car is the greatest in the first few years and gradually decreases over the years. Since new cars lose value every day – and quickly – it makes little sense to buy new.

When buying a used car, bear in mind that you can save even more money by choosing to go for a small car that consumes less fuel. Similarly, pay attention to the service and repair costs that will come with owning that car of your choice so there are no (costly) surprises later.

You can purchase a used vehicle at various car dealers across Basel or check out AutoScout24 for ideas.

READ MORE: Where are the best places to live if you work in Basel?

Sharing is caring

Sharing is arguably one of the best ways to not miss out on enjoying a constant influx of new-to-you items without having to splurge.

You have a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear? We’ve all been there. The good news is you can head to Kleiderkorb.ch and exchange some of your old pieces for a flashy preloved item. Keep an eye out for free shipping and sales which are up whenever clothes have been on offer without selling for a long time.

If you’d rather swap clothes in person, keep an eye out for the Walk-in Closet. The organisation offers clothing swaps in person on different dates, in different cities.

Drink tap water

One very simple way to save money – and the planet – fast is to drink water from the tap. Not only can you save money on your weekly food bill, according to the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO it is also the healthier alternative to bottled mineral water due to its better ecological balance.

You heard that right. Switzerland’s water meets very high-quality standards with around 80 percent coming directly from underground springs and the rest taken from its many lakes.

There are more than 200 public fountains in the city of Basel alone, which are operated by the Industrial Works Basel (IWB) and most of them have drinking water. If you plan to have a sip, you can check which fountains have drinking water here.

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