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VERDICT: How to save money when raising children in Switzerland

We asked you about raising children in Switzerland - where the biggest costs lie and where to save. You gave us plenty of specific tips - as well as some important big-picture advice.

VERDICT: How to save money when raising children in Switzerland
Image: PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

You don’t need to be a parent to know it’s expensive to raise kids in Switzerland – heck, you don’t even need to be a Swiss resident to be aware of the cost of living pressures in the Confoederatio Helvetica

READ: Everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland

We reached out to our most valuable resource – our readers – to get an idea of the true nature of raising kids in Switzerland, as well as to get an idea on how to save. 

From minimising family holidays to ordering clothes online, here’s what you said about how to keep costs down while raising kids in Switzerland. 

Kids in Switzerland: How much does it really cost

The first question we asked was about whether or not the rumours were true, i.e. was Switzerland actually expensive for raising children or whether the costs of doing so had been exaggerated. 

Perhaps surprisingly, the responses were shared relatively evenly across the spectrum – although our option “It’s just a myth, it’s not expensive at all” attracted zero percent of the response. 

The rest of our responses however showed an even split, with a third of respondents each saying Switzerland was “incredibly expensive”, “expensive” or “manageable, if you know how”. 

How does Switzerland compare?

Raising children is never cheap, so we asked if our readers could compare Switzerland to abroad. 

Most of our respondents said that the cost in Switzerland was comparable with other expensive countries, like the US, Denmark and Belgium. 

The biggest cost was childcare – an issue we’ve covered previously on The Local. 

Study: Shortage of childcare a problem in Switzerland

One respondent, Margaret, said that the additional costs were not offset by the higher wages. 

“It is much more expensive, salary here might be three times (elsewhere) but kids’ costs are more than six times for pre-kindergarten and ten times for school! Crazy!”

Another, Charlotte, had some simple advice: “Switzerland is too expensive for kids”. 

How to save with kids

So, is a life of ruinous poverty inevitable once that pregnancy test result comes back positive? 

Some of our readers answered in the affirmative. MK told us “(there are) no savings with kids”. 

Another told us that saving money was not an option. “It is impossible as if you try to provide for child, such as sport or private lessons, you cannot save money – those things are essential for me and my kids.”

Others, however, said that it was possible to raise happy kids and also save on things like public transport and clothes. 

“Definitely get the SBB Junior Karte. For 30CHF/year, your child travels with you for no extra cost,” Judy said. 

Photo: Depositphotos

Clara said integration was essential for anyone who wanted to save. 

“Do everything local! Learn the language and integrate with the Swiss. Occasionally shopping in Germany helps, but is not a must. There are so many free kids indoor and outdoor facilities in Basel, I cannot ask for more!”

Marta said it was definitely possible – albeit with a fair amount of organisation. 

“Browsing second-hand shops, buying and selling on internet second-hand sites, always looking out for reduced and sale items eg. reduced Christmas wrapping paper in January,” Marta said. 

“Child activity car-sharing, washing machine and dishwasher on after 21h (for a) cheaper rate of electricity… checking the time/day of half-price supermarket items…many bakeries sell previous day’s bread half-price.”

Otherwise, expensive – and not so expensive – extracurricular activities were the next to go, with family events, amusement park visits and holidays among the most frequently sacrificed by our readers. 

READ MORE: Zurich the ‘world’s most expensive city for dating’

What more could be done?

Aside from winning the Swiss Lotto or raising the next Roger Federer, what more can be done to reduce cost pressures for parents in Switzerland? 

Our readers called upon the government to grant additional subsidies – whether in the form of cash payments or tax exemptions – for parents with young children. 

Children in kindergarten. Image: Depositphotos

Charlotte called upon the government to “Reduce the cost of daycare, subsidise babysitters in case of sickness (and provide a) higher monthly children money payment.” 

Childcare was a big cost for many of our readers. Another respondent said that Swiss authorities should “make childcare like Kita free of charge.”

Judy said that the parental leave scheme should be expanded and improved. “Better parental leave, longer periods and with full pay, like Scandinavian countries. Make childcare a priority with more room for more kids.”

Tell me more, tell me more…

Is there anything we’ve missed? Drop us a comment on social media or in the comment section below to let us know your tips for raising kids in Switzerland. If you’d prefer to talk to us directly, send us an email at [email protected].

A version of this story was originally published in November 2019. 

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COST OF LIVING

EXPLAINED: 8 ways to save money on your groceries in Switzerland

With the cost of living going up, many of us are thinking of ways to spend a little less. Here are some tips on how you can save money when grocery shopping in Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: 8 ways to save money on your groceries in Switzerland

Think about the supermarket where you shop

A lot of the time, food items cost a similar amount in different shops. But there are many items that are available at much lower prices than the competition. Discounters like Denner, Aldi and Lidl offer some products at a much cheaper price than the two largest retailers Coop and Migros. You can check out the articles below to compare prices. 

READ ALSO:

Buy products in season

Purchasing fruit and vegetables is less expensive when they are in season. That’s because the products don’t have to be kept in cold storage in the same way, which thanks to the current high energy prices incurs high costs that are then passed onto the customer. So going for produce that is naturally abundant at the time of year can really pay off. 

At the moment, vegetables such as kale, pumpkins, squashes, leaks and cabbages are in season, but you can refer to an online Saisonkalendar (season calendar), such as this one, to keep an eye on which fruits and veggies are in season at different times of the year.

Opt for cheaper products

Instead of entrecôte or fillet of beef, try a cervelat or minced meat. Vegetables are also cheaper than meat, so you could go for more ‘meat-free’ days.

You can also save by buying low-price or own-brand products (for example, Prix Garantie from Coop or M-Budget from Migros). For some items, the price differences between cheap products, own brands and brand-name products are small, but for others they are bigger.

READ MORE: Pasta up by 13 percent: How food and energy prices in Switzerland are rising

Many common products are now more expensive. Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Look out for discount stickers and special offers

Discount stickers are an easy way to save money when shopping for groceries in Switzerland. All the major retailers like Migros, Coop, Denner, Aldi Suisse and Lidl reduce the prices of many food products shortly before their expiry date. The discounts are marked on the products (usually with a red or orange sticker) and often range from 25 to 50 percent below the retail price.

When picking up discounts, you need to be flexible. You won’t know which items are discounted before you go on your shopping spree. Usually, the evening shortly before closing time, and weekends are the best time to go bargain hunting. And keep an eye out for special offers. Customers can find out about weekly promotions in the Migros magazine, in the Coop newspaper and in the brochures of Denner, Aldi and Lidl, as well as online. 

Collect loyalty points

Many large Swiss food retailers have customer loyalty programmes. The most popular are Cumulus (Migros, Voi, Migrolino) and Supercard (Coop).

The two programmes work similarly: show your customer card or the app at the checkout. As a rule, you get one point for every franc spent. With Migros, you receive vouchers every three months that you can use like cash in Migros shops. At Coop, the points are automatically credited to your points account. You can use these points to pay for certain products as part of promotions. You can also pay for your purchases with points at the Coop City department stores’ (without the food department).

100 points correspond to one franc with both Cumulus and Supercard. This means that you normally have to spend 100 francs to get the equivalent of one franc. Get collecting. 

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

Pasta

Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov on Unsplash

Keep an eye on coupons

Collecting coupons is a bit like playing the lottery. Sometimes the coupons match the groceries on your shopping list, sometimes they don’t. With the right coupons, you can get discounts of up to 50 percent. Checking out customer magazines like the Coop paper and regional newspapers can be worthwhile. You can also find coupons in the apps of supermarkets like Migros, Coop and Lidl. And sometimes the coupons are even available in the shop itself. If you buy groceries online, you can often find coupons for online grocery shops and delivery services on numerous discount sites.

But don’t be blinded by the coupons: they are often branded products that are much more expensive than other items in the same shop, despite the discount.

Try shopping at farms

Wherever you live in Switzerland, chances are high that there is a farm fairly nearby (or it may make a nice day trip on the weekend). Some farmers sell their fresh produce directly from stalls, and the fruit and vegetables can be cheaper than in the supermarket.

Some farms in Switzerland are open around the clock. Money can usually be deposited in a cash box. Often payment via Twint is also possible. On schweizerbauer.ch you can find a list of Swiss farms by location. Although you can also buy regional products from farms on online platforms. However, the same savings are often not possible there as when you buy directly from a farm.

Fight food waste – and save money

Some organisations who want to reduce food waste sell almost expired food in Switzerland at a good price. Plus, retailers sometimes reject products simply because they are not in the desired shape, for example (such as crooked carrots).

The app Too Good To Go is well known. Customers use this smartphone app to buy a surprise package of leftover food. At the time specified in the app, you pick up the package. Various supermarkets, as well as restaurants, bakeries and takeaways are on board with the app. Food-waste shops like the Äss Bar shops, which sell baked goods from the day before, aim to reduce food waste rather than cost, but the prices are still far below the retail price.

If you are affected by poverty, you can also go shopping at Caritas grocery shops. Everyday products are usually available at much lower prices than in conventional supermarkets. The prerequisite is that you are on or below the poverty line, receiving economic social assistance or supplementary benefits to social security, or are in debt. There are also some local projects and food banks where people in poverty can buy cheap products – or even get them for free.

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