For members


Booze, food and clothes: How does Sweden’s cost of living compare to the rest of Europe?

How does the cost of living in Sweden compare to the rest of Europe? The Scandinavian country has a reputation for high prices, but new EU data shows that in some areas you can get a very good deal in Sweden. The Local has broken down the statistics, and added in some of our own tried and tested money-saving tips.

Booze, food and clothes: How does Sweden's cost of living compare to the rest of Europe?
It turns out that Sweden might not be as expensive a place to live as you think. Photo: Simon Paulin/

Eurostat produced an interactive comparison site so users can get a rough idea of which countries in Europe and the EEA (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland) are more expensive than others in terms of the consumer costs of various products.

Overall, Sweden was ranked eighth out of the 31 countries for cost of living, with a price level index of 119 percent the EU average. 

Price level indices (PLIs) are created using the price of a “basket” of goods compared across different places, with a PLI of 100 (in this case, that of the EU) used as a reference point. So that basket of typical goods was found to be 19 percent more expensive in Sweden than the EU-wide average. 


Essential guide: How to set up your first bank account in Sweden
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden was the Nordic country with the lowest cost of living according to the new data: Iceland was top of the rankings, with a PLI of 156, while Norway and Denmark took the third and fourth spots with 148 and 138 respectively. Finland also had a higher index than Sweden, at 123.

The other countries judged to have a higher cost of living than Sweden were Switzerland, Ireland, and Luxembourg, while the UK was just slightly cheaper with a PLI of 117. 

The EU's statistics office didn't provide actual figures for the average price of products in each country, nor does it account for regional differences within countries or take into account differences in average salaries. But it gives some insight into which products are more or less expensive than the EU average in Sweden, and reveals that it's not the case that Sweden has above-average prices in every category.

Here's a look at how the country measures up.


Sweden was the ninth priciest country in the survey for food, a category which included a variety of groceries but not dining out. Swedish prices were 18 percent higher than the EU-wide average, although prices in the other Nordic countries were even more: 61.4 percent above average in Norway, 49.8 percent above average in Iceland, 30.3 percent above average in Denmark, and 19.3 percent above average in Finland.

When it came to restaurants and hotels, the contrast was even starker. Sweden's prices in this category were 38.7 percent higher than the average. This figure was only outdone by Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark, while fellow Nordic country Finland followed close behind Sweden.

Why Malmö's Möllevången is a paradise for curious foodies
Heading to a market is a way to save money on fruit and veg. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The Local's tip for budget-conscious foodies is to make the most of supermarket and cafe loyalty cards and apps such as The Fork (offering discounts on restaurants in Swedish cities) and Karma (where you can buy food close to its use-by date for an often hefty discount).

To save on hotels, consider a rural staycation in some of the cabins available along Sweden's scenic hiking trails, which are often free or very cheap. Or even better: find a friend with a summer house! And if you're a member of a union, there are often deals that allow you to rent holiday accommodation cheaply through them.


Alcohol and tobacco

Of the 31 countries, Sweden was the sixth highest ranked in the category with prices 26.5 percent above the average, although its placement below the UK and Ireland might come as a surprise to some readers.

Sales of beverages over 3.5 percent alcohol volume are strictly regulated in Sweden and these drinks can only be bought at state monopoly Systembolaget, which is banned from offering discounts or special offers. But Sweden's prices were significantly lower than those of neighbouring Norway, where alcohol and tobacco prices were a huge 126.1 percent above the average.

Clothes and shoes

Sweden ranked fourth most expensive for clothes, footwear and accessories, outdone only by Iceland, Denmark, and Norway. In this category, Swedish prices were 26 percent higher than the European average.

Our tip to beat the high price tags: check out some of the country's many flea markets and secondhand shops, such as Röda Korset, Stadsmissionen and Myrorna, for an eco-friendly style bargain.

READ ALSO: 15 Stockholm vintage shops to lose yourself in

Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/


When it comes to rentals, maintenance, and running costs such as electricity and water, Sweden is surprisingly affordable, according to Eurostat.

Prices were only 6 percent above the EEA average, and much less expensive than the other Nordic countries. There was a clear north-south divide across the continent in this category: Switzerland, Ireland and the UK were the countries with the highest priced housing, while Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany were all costlier than Sweden.

In order to keep your housing costs low as an international in Sweden, make sure you know your rights as a renter to avoid being ripped off by the unscrupulous landlords who might try to take advantage of the country's housing shortage. Even if you're subletting, there are rules about how much you can be charged and there are systems in place to claim back some of your money if you've been charged an unreasonable rate.

READ MORE: How to avoid being ripped off when you're renting in Sweden


Sweden is the home of affordable flat-pack giant Ikea, so perhaps it's not a surprise that this is one of the areas where you're likely to find a bargain in Sweden. Furniture and carpet prices were only 2.4 percent above the average.



The cost of personal transport (cars, motorcycles and bicycles) in Sweden was 8.2 percent below the European average, making it the category where you get the best deal. All the other Nordic countries were above the average, with Denmark topping the ranking with costs 40.5 percent above average.

Transport services (including by rail, road, air and sea) were above the European average, but only by 0.7 percent. Once again, this was significantly less than in the other Nordics. Iceland came top of the table with transport service costs 44.5 percent above the average.

Rush-hour power cut caused travel chaos for Stockholm commuters
 Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Communications and leisure

Postal services, phones, and other communication services are relatively expensive in Sweden, at 118.3 percent above average. 

And the wide-ranging category of 'leisure' included package holidays, gardens and pets, newspapers and books, and more, and Sweden was revealed to put a high price-tag on free time, with the cost calculated as 23.5 percent higher than the EU average.

But there are savings to be made. Many Swedish companies offer employees a friskvårdsbidrag (contribution), which means you can have gym memberships or other sporting activities subsidized by work – and a lot of employees entitled to this subsidy forget to use it. Don't forget other free services offered by the municipality, from libraries to free rentals of skis and ice skates in winter. 

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For members


What to do if you can’t meet Tuesday’s Swedish tax declaration deadline

The deadline to submit your income tax declaration in Sweden falls on Tuesday May 2nd. Here's what to do if you haven't managed to get it together in time.

What to do if you can't meet Tuesday's Swedish tax declaration deadline

When exactly is the Swedish tax deadline and what help can I have to meet it? 

The deadline falls on the stroke of midnight on Tuesday May 2nd, so you still have a few hours to get your declaration together.

Sweden may have relatively high taxes, but the Swedish Tax Agency seeks to make paying them as easy as possible.

If you have any questions, it is well worth ringing the helpline on 0771-567 567.

Unlike the helplines of the tax offices in most other countries, the helpline is well-staffed with informed people who go out of their way to help you. 

The agency also has a good quide in English on how to file your return. 

What happens if you miss the deadline? 

If you fail to submit your declaration by midnight, you are at risk of having to pay a fee of 1,250 kronor, but this won’t necessarily happen. There is an element of discretion, and if you filed your return at 0.15am on May 3rd, you may well be let off. 

In any case, before the charge is taken out of your tax account or skattekonto, you will first receive a note informing you of possible impending late charge, which you can then appeal. 

So if you fell ill on May 2nd, or the internet broke down at your apartment at 11.55pm, you can inform them when you receive this note and you may be able to avoid a fine.  

If in a further three months (August 2nd), you still haven’t submitted your tax declaration, you risk a second 1,250 kronor fine. Finally, after five months (October 2nd), you risk a third fine of 1,250 kronor. 

How to get an extension if you are self-employed 

You can extend the deadline until May 16th by logging into your page on the Tax Agency’s website or calling them on 0771 567 567 (or +46 8 564 851 60 from outside Sweden).

To find the extension form, go to the Mina Sidor page on your Tax Agency account, press the Skatter och Deklarationer link near the bottom, and then press the Anstånd med inkomstdeklarationen link and filling in the form. 

Jan Janowski, a declaration coordinator at the agency, said that the agency prefers for people to do this than to knowingly submit an incomplete or inaccurate declaration. 

“We want people to live their declaration in as complete a form as possible, but if you are still waiting for some supporting documents we would like people to apply for an extension.” 

If you have an accountant, they can apply for all of their clients’ income declarations to be delayed until June 15th in a measure called byråanstånd, intended to help them with the last minute rush to declare.

This, however, has to be done for all of their clients and isn’t something they can do for you just because you are late. 

Is it better to file an incomplete declaration than a late one? 

If you feel unable to file your declaration even on May 16th, what’s holding you back is likely to be something like declaring capital gains tax on share or property sales, or confusion over calculating one of Sweden’s many tax deductions, such as the ROT or RUT deductions for cleaning or home maintenance. 

If you are employed, the most important element of your tax declaration – your income from your job – will already be filled in on the paper or online form.

Declaring your main income from employment is just a question of checking that the details Skatteverket already has are correct and submitting a declaration either using Skatteverket’s app, or by sending a text message including your personal identity number and signature code to 71144 from within Sweden, or by calling 020 567 100 and following the instructions. 

If you are still wading through spreadsheets of share sales, but have no issues with the Tax Agency’s record of your income from employment, you can make the declaration but inform the agency that you may have other capital gains or other income to declare later on. 

If you do this, it’s good to be as transparent as possible with the agency about what information you are waiting for when you make your declaration.

To do this, find the andra information, or “other information” section in the declaration, and write down, in either English or Swedish, what information you are waiting for. 

You could write, for instance: “I sold an apartment in Florida in 2022 but have yet to receive details of the proceeds and am waiting for my accountants in the US to calculate the capital gains.” 

If you do this, you are much less likely to be fined if the Tax Agency later discovers any undeclared gains. 

How long do you have to make changes to your tax declaration? 

Until the Tax Agency makes a tax decision, normally in June, you can resubmit your tax declaration using the same form on the website you used to declare it the first time, and the agency will use the most up-to-date declaration when calculating your taxes. 

Even after it has made a tax decision for an income year, the agency is liberal about any voluntary changes made in future. 

Once a declaration has been made, you can still request changes to the final tax decision based on new information or corrections you have made for up to five years. 

For the first 12 months after the end of the taxation year (IE, until January 2024), the tax agency will never levy a so-called tax surcharge (skattetilläg), even if one of its officers discovers that someone has failed to declare, or falsely declared, some earnings or income in your return. 

After the first 12 months, if you bring undeclared income or falsely claimed tax breaks voluntarily to the tax agency’s attention before the agency discovers it, you are also likely to avoid a surcharge. 

What happens if the agency catches you not declaring income or falsely claiming rebates? 

If you are caught evading taxes or make a mistake, the penalty is set quite high. You have to pay the tax you should have paid, plus a 40 percent surcharge.