8 Ways to Save Money in Switzerland

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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  1. Thanks for the GA Day Card tip. I never knew about that. I’ve got my sister coming into town and that sounds like a great deal!

  2. by admin

    “Chinese food costs the equivalent of $25″

    Wow that’s ridiculous! Good thing you have those money saving techniques, Chantal!

  3. Glad the tips help! If you have some of your own, I’d love to hear about them.

  4. To this day I don’t know how I survived Switzerland on my au pair wages 8 years ago. The transportation passes make such a big difference though! I was 24 at the time so I qualified for the “Gleis 7″ card… do they still have that? For people under 25, all the trains in Switzerland are free after 7pm, I believe… Armed with that and the halbtax card, I was able to do a lot of traveling. :-)

  5. by admin

    Ooh – good point there Tina! And obviously, the more travel the better :) !

  6. Yes, the Gleis 7 card is still around. But Switzerland’s public transport is still the second most expensive in Europe (after Britain). Every little savings helps!

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