Posts Tagged ‘saving money’

Learning to Love Less

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

By: Cherrye Moore

I was visiting good friends last summer in Texas-we were sitting at one of our favorite Mexican cantinas, sipping on frozen lime margaritas, talking about the good ‘ole days and catching up on the last few years.

“I just love Italy,” one of my peppy ex-Sorority sisters gushed. “I could soooo see myself living there.”

I smiled as she gazed dreamily out the window, no doubt imagining herself strolling to the weekly market each Monday, sipping on stout Italian wine in the evenings, spending her days-riding on a Gondola or dining outside the Colosseum. She exhaled, “It’s just such a beautiful country.”

Not wanting to burst her idealized bubble of the life I’m leading, I politely agreed-because it is true, Italy is a beautiful country-and kept quiet. But secretly I wondered … could she really live here?

As my southern Italian counterpart pointed out last week, you can’t uproot your life back home and replant that baby here in Italy. It is a whole new country world and while we love it here, we’ve definitely learned to live without some of the luxuries of our American lifestyles.

Here are three things I’ve learned to love less here in Calabria.expat life-starbucks

1. Variety

You often hear people say, “Italians love food,” when in fact, what they mean is, “Italians love Italian food.” Especially here in Calabria, diversity, restaurant variety-heck, even a foreign food shelf-are had to come by. I’ve learned to live with this by importing my must-haves, like Velveeta cheese and Starbuck’s vanilla syrup, kicking up my personal non-Italian food recipe list and creating variety in the Italian food we eat and love.

2. Instant Access

One of the hardest things for me to get used to-if one could say I’ve gotten used to it-is learning to live without the instant access we are accustomed to in the US. There are no 24-hour pharmacies-actually, even finding an open pharmacy on Saturday or Sunday is a challenge, customer service calls regularly go un-answered-even during “working” hours and paperwork can take years to get approved.

Still, I believe I can learn something from these would-be frustrating experiences-and that, my friends, is patience. Italy has taught me patience in a way I never could have learned in the United States … and for that, I’m thankful.

expat life-gadgets

3. The Latest Greatest

No doubt if I lived in the US, I’d be on the i(insert latest gadget here) bandwagon. Being in southern Italy, far from the peer pressure that comes with having an office job and well-paid friends, I’m sheltered, in a way, from needing to have the latest, greatest gadget. Many expats in Italy have other priorities and luckily, keeping up with Rossis, isn’t one of them.

Tina and I have weighed in-now it is your turn. What have you learned to live without in your expat adventures?

Cherrye Moore is an American freelance writer and Calabria tour consultant living in southern Italy. You can read more about living and traveling in Calabria at her site, My Bella Vita or visit her in person at her B&B in Catanzaro, Italy.

Photos: CarbonNYC and Ivyfield via Flickr

Budget Travel in Switzerland

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Chinese food, $25. 1-hour train ride, $60. Night in a Swiss hotel, $200. How the heck can someone travel on a budget in Switzerland?

After all, Switzerland recently was reported as having the highest hotel rates in Europe. It’s tough to find anything under $200 a night, let alone $150. Even on the Swiss Budget Hotels website, “budget” is considered the prices I quoted above. Yes.

So what’s a traveler to do?

Travel like a European. By staying longer, you’ll save more.

What?

Yes.

The key to making a vacation affordable in Switzerland is to rent an apartment.  But since most apartments are only available for a minimum of seven nights, you need to stop vacationing like an American with your head cut off and start vacationing like a lazy European that doesn’t have anywhere to be except in a chair enjoying the scenery. And staying seven nights in an apartment will be cheaper than a long weekend at a hotel. Guaranteed. Staying a week will also guarantee you at least a few days of decent weather too.

In the resort town of Bettmeralp near the Aletsch glacier, an apartment can be found for 2 people for around CHF 500 total for 7-nights. An apartment also means you’ll have a kitchen so you can cook your own food and forgo the restaurants where a “good deal” for a meal for two is CHF 60. Some apartments are also available with free Internet, which means no fees at Internet cafés, and many also have washing facilities so you can vacation longer but pack lighter.

Another hint: don’t pay full price for your train/lift tickets. Find deals through local tourism offices, Rail Away offers, and if you live in Switzerland, make sure you at least have the ½ price card.

How do you save money when traveling in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad. She’s also the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop.

More Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Saving money can be tough in Switzerland

Saving money can be tough in Switzerland

By Chantal Panozzo

You think I’d be over the shock by now. Just past my fourth anniversary of living in Switzerland, you think I’d just fork over the $50 for two take-out pizzas without blinking. Sadly, I still blink. And not just for pizza. $15 to watch a street festival? $25 for a few blank DVDs? $6 for water? Water?

I’ve written about saving money in Switzerland before, but I’m always learning new tricks the longer I live here. So here are a few more ways that you can save money in Switzerland:

One: Invest in a Sigg bottle. Ever since I bought my Sigg bottle back in December, I’ve cut way back on my beverage costs. I simply fill it up with tap water before leaving home and then avoid buying bottled drinks when I’m at festivals, eating at department store buffets like Manor, and hiking. My bottle is now over six months old and still as good as new. And besides saving money, you’re also doing something good for the environment.

Two: Get those REKA checks. Many international companies in Switzerland offer you the opportunity to purchase REKA checks at a discount of 20% (if your company doesn’t, you can also buy them at COOP, but only at a discount of 3%). I had never tried them until this year, being skeptical about actually using them. Now I’m regretting having waited so long. Here’s the deal: I got CHF 1000 worth of REKA checks for CHF 800. The checks, which look like monopoly money, can be used at the SBB/CFF/FFS to buy international tickets and tickets within Switzerland (they even work in ticket machines). They can also be used at restaurants like Manor and Wagamama, for many Swiss museums, and at hotels. For more info visit the REKA website or my blog about life in Switzerland.

Three: January and July. These are the two sale months in Switzerland and July is almost upon us. So wait to buy big items and be rewarded with sales as high at 80%. Some stores have started putting out the sale stuff already. My husband just got three pairs of hiking pants for the price of one at the Sport Outlet in Wettingen.

How do you save money in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

8 Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

by Chantal Panozzo

Welcome to Switzerland. Land of the most expensive Big Mac in the world. Land where a plate of Chinese food costs the equivalent of $25 (Come on, Chinese food?). Land where two rib eye steaks will set you back $35 at the meat store. Whew. It’s enough to make any former tightwad like me reconsider her Swiss residency. So how has a former American cheapskate survived living in der Schweiz for three years? Read on, my fellow money-savers, read on. Below is part two of a two-part series. Part One is on my blog.

The Zurich Flea Market

The Zurich Flea Market

5. Shop at Flea Markets and Second-Hand Stores
Arriving in a new country can be overwhelming and expensive—especially if you need to buy all new electronic devices to fit the Swiss outlets. A radio alarm clock can cost CHF 70 in a department store (no joke), but at a flea market or second-hand store, you can get one for CHF 10. We even bought our raclette grill at a second-hand store for CHF 20 (versus 100-200 CHF in a regular store). Especially if you’re planning on only living in Switzerland for a limited time, second-hand goods like these just make financial sense. A list of Salvation Army second-hand stores in Switzerland can be found at www.brocki.ch. I also like Zürcher Brockenhaus and Onkle Tom’s in Wettington (at the Taegipark). Flea markets in Switzerland are usually held on Saturdays. You can find the famous Flea Market in Zurich every Saturday until 4 p.m. In smaller towns, like Baden, they often have flea markets on the last Saturday of the month. Check local calendars.

6. Buy budget store brands
Maybe you’ve seen the ugly packaging. At Migros, the budget brands are decorated in green and orange and scream budget (even the crackers, which I find take the “budget” concept a little too far as they engrave the word “budget” onto the actual cracker). Anyhow, despite unfortunate design choices, the budget products are practically the same as the brand that’s double the price. So it’s just up to you whether you want things like your tissue box to scream “budget” or not. If you don’t, head to Denner for the most reasonably priced bathroom products. Here you can get the same package of tissues for the same price as Migros Budget, but be treated to a box with red and yellow flowers instead of a box screaming “budget”. Coop, another big grocery store, also has budget store brands. These are pink and white and say “Prix Garantie” on them. In general, grocery store budget brands are your best bet. The prices are often even cheaper than what a discount store like Radikal Liquidations will offer. For example, the tissues. At Denner and Migros, a box of budget tissues is CHF .90. At Radikal Liquidations, a box of tissues is CHF 1.20. Not so “Radikal” after all.

7. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

Shopping in Switzerland can be expensive enough without having to shell out even more money for the pleasure of having a bag to put your purchases in. Get in the habit of taking a bag or cart with you when you go shopping. It’s better for both the environment and your wallet.

8. Get a Transport Pass
Not many Swiss citizens ever pay full price to ride the train—so why should you? That’s because they have either a GA (a general pass that allows free transport on almost all trains, trams, buses, and boats in CH) or a ½ Card. A GA can be costly (about CHF 3000 a year), but if you don’t have a car, commute to work, and take weekend trips, it will end up saving you money. A ½ card costs only CHF 125 per year and will get you half-priced train tickets…and a free credit card. Another secret is to reserve Day Pass GAs from your local city hall. These are available in limited quantities (in my town they sell 10 a day and you can reserve them up to two months in advance). They are priced around CHF 38 (each town sets their own price) but are a great deal if you’re traveling a long distance in one day and anyone can reserve them–you can even reserve them for guests, like I do. Google “GA tageskarten” and the name of the town you’re living in to reserve these special tickets online.

I hope these tips will get you started on saving in Switzerland. For more, visit Part One of this series. If you have any tips to add, please leave a comment.


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