Home Living in Switzerland House & Home How to save money in an expensive country like Switzerland
Last update on June 02, 2021
Chantal Panozzo Written by Chantal Panozzo

Switzerland is the land of sticker shock, whether you’re going for a beer with friends or doing a round of grocery shopping. Here’s a guide to keeping your costs down in Switzerland, one of the most expensive countries in the world.

Welcome to expensive Switzerland, land of one of the most expensive Big Macs in the world. Land where a plate of Chinese food costs the equivalent of USD 25. (Come on, Chinese food?) Land where two rib-eye steaks will set you back USD 35 at the meat store. Whew. It’s enough to make any former tightwad reconsider her Swiss residency.

So how has a former American cheapskate like moi survived living in der Schweiz for four years? Read on, my fellow money-savers, read on.

1. Grocery shop after 5 p.m.

For those of you who work, shopping after 5 p.m. is probably the only option you have, but it’s a smart one. Many stores will add 25–50% discounts to perishable items towards closing time. At the grocery store inside the Coop City in Baden, for example, the clerks go around with their 50 percent stickers beginning at 5 p.m.—and yours truly is stalking them. This is how I’ve managed to buy 750 g of beef for CHF 3.75, two chicken breasts for CHF 3 and a 1.5 litres of Fanta for CHF 0.90. (Yes, even soda is perishable in expensive Switzerland).

2. Buy big items during the traditional sale months

January and July. That’s when I do most of my clothes and home accessory shopping in expensive Switzerland. For example, my husband and I waited to buy some pillows for our outdoor furniture until July and were rewarded with a price of CHF 5 per pillow (originally CHF 40). So we bought seven pillows at Manor for less than the price one. To quote a Guinness ad, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’

3. Book hotels in expensive Switzerland last-minute using rooms.ch

Planning an overnight trip in Switzerland? Chances are you don’t want to go if the weather’s bad anyhow. I spent a rainy weekend in Locarno a few months back and I wouldn’t have gone except I had booked a hotel and they wouldn’t let me cancel without penalty. So why not wait until the last minute and book your hotel on the Swiss Budget Hotels website, where last minute rooms around the country go for CHF 99 for two people?

4. Border shop next to expensive Switzerland

If you live near a border town, shop there. I’ve written about the benefits of shopping in Germany before and I still go every month or two to stock up on things that are ridiculously priced in Switzerland like tortilla chips. At the Kaufland in Waldshut, Germany, not only are their tortilla chips tastier than anything I’ve found in Switzerland, but they also cost the equivalent of CHF 3 for a 450-gram bag. A 450-gram bag. Unheard of in expensive Switzerland. And Mövenpick ice cream? We all know that costs at least CHF 10 in Switzerland, but in Germany the same thing costs the equivalent of CHF 3.50.

Anyhow, I hope these tips will get you started on saving in expensive Switzerland. If you have any tips to add, please leave a comment. I would love to know how to save even more money in this crazy country.