Living in the Netherlands on a shoestring budget? Some costs cannot be avoided, but here’s a guide on how to cut your fixed-cost expenses for cheaper living in the Netherlands.
For those living on a shoestring budget, some costs cannot be avoided, such as basic furnishings, transport, insurance and rent. How then can one reduce their fixed living expenses? Here’s a short guide to budgeting the big stuff on a shoestring budget.
You’ll most likely want durable goods, such as a radio, a television, a CD player and perhaps a DVD-player, to give you some quality of life in your new country. You’ll want to furnish your apartment. You might, one day, want a car.
When it comes to owning a car, do not forget that the Netherlands is a country of traffic congestion and traffic jams. Buy a car only if you really need it, as taxes are high (both on the purchase price and on fuel) and the road tax (which is unavoidable) is considerable. The amount of road tax you pay depends on where you live, and the weight and fuel of your car. If you live in a city, be prepared to walk long distances as you can seldom park near your destination (or home). Consider whether you might not be better off with a bicycle (and public transportation) – in which case, don’t forget a sturdy lock as bicycle theft is a thriving industry in the Netherlands! Stall your bicycle inside if you can.
If you want a car anyway, check out the used cars market. The huis-aan-huis (house-to-house) papers contain many small ads for used cars, as do the larger newspapers, particularly the Saturday edition of De Telegraaf and AD.
For the purchase of durable goods, it is always worth your while to visit tweedehands.nl (tweedehands means second-hand). This site offers thousands of aanbiedingen – cheap buying opportunities. Here, you can also place your own ads, offering whatever you want (including your services if you want to start a freelance business from home). They even have a romantic section. The ads are classified and most often mention the price and the telephone number of the seller.
You name it, you can find it. Cars, televisions, furniture, dishwashers, dryers, bicycles, gardening tools, baby items, pets, toys, computers, printers… But be careful that you are not taken advantage of. You can try to bargain, but keep in mind that not all Dutch people are used to bargaining and will tenaciously stick to their original price.
Don’t forget that students who qualify for studiefinanciering receive a public transportation pass.
In order to register in the Netherlands, you have to show that you have a valid health insurance, which is not always cheap. As of 2006, everyone who lives in the Netherlands, or works in the Netherlands, is expected to arrange at least a basic health care insurance, for which they must pay a nominal contribution and an income-dependent contribution.
If your income is below a certain level, you can request government support (called zorgtoeslag) to help pay for the nominal contribution. If you are employed or receiving a government benefit then, in most cases, your employer or social security institution will pay the income-dependent portion.
The basic health care insurance package covers:
- visits to your GP (huisarts),
- physical therapy,
- childbirth costs,
- home care after birth,
- most prescription drugs, and
- medical equipment.
For more information on the zorgtoeslag, visit www.toeslagen.nl.
Paying the rent
You may have the right to rent subsidy (huurtoeslag) if you are 18 years or older (subject to conditions, you can be younger than 18) and reside here legally (the same applies to anyone you are sharing a house with: partner, roommates, etc.), if you:
- rent an ‘independent’ accommodation, that is, with its own front door, bed/living room, toilet and kitchen;
- are registered at this address with the municipality;
- the rent is not too high: no more than EUR 681.02 a month, or EUR 374.44, if you are younger than 23;
- you have a certain maximum income, which differs depending on whether you are older or younger than 65 or 23;
- you have no income from savings or investment that exceeds a certain amount.
To apply, or to find out how much subsidy you qualify for, contact the tax authorities. You can find more information on www.toeslagen.nl, as well as certain exceptions/additional rules on the website.
If you have come here as a foreign student, keep in mind that you can approach many of the larger banks for (low-interest) loans and a student insurance package (if your educational institution has not already arranged one for you).
If you are in need of (cheap) legal advice, you can approach a so-called Juridisch Loket, which offers free consultation on elementary issues that can be dealt with in less than an hour, or else answers legal questions and then sets you up with legal aid.
You can read more information about cutting costs in The Holland Handbook.
Reproduced from The Holland Handbook by kind permission of XPat Media.