"The Holland Handbook: Fixed-cost expenses on a shoestring budget"

The Holland Handbook: Cutting fixed-cost expenses

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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.

Durable goods

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.

Health Insurance

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.

Living cheap in the Netherlands: How to cut fixed-costs expenses

The basic health care insurance package covers:

  • visits to your GP (huisarts),
  • specialists,
  • physical therapy,
  • pregnancy, 
  • childbirth costs,
  • home care after birth,
  • hospitalisation,
  • 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.

How to cut costs in the Netherlands: Cheap living in the Netherlands

Student loans

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).

Legal aid

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.

Places undiscovered by the massesTo order The Holland Handbook visit Hollandbooks. For more information about The Holland Guide App visit XPat.nl.



Photo credit: Lore & Guille (10 euro bill), e-MagineArt.com (medicine), Dave Dugdale (calculating costs).



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2 Comments To This Article

  • John posted:

    on 3rd February 2014, 23:31:24 - Reply

    Any house under 143pts is however a social=public housing, with a rent cap.
    HOWEVER, quite to the contrary from what is said by Ms Eccles who represents the left wing policies, with a -not so charitable- aim to keeping her leftist foundation fueled with enough rent tribunal cases to prevent any of her team to need to be made redundant soon and save the tax payer's money channeled to her foundation:

    Beware, if you rent a place which scores well over the 143points, then, that will mean that even if you are charged a ridiculous 9.000 euro (for the rent portion alone rent) for a, say, 55m2 house, you will NOT be able to get any rental reduction from any government agency, including Huurcommissie, or anybody else, because of the simple fact that houses over 143pts will not be allowed to be put under the 'social scheme= rent cap'.

    It should be noted that left wing policy makers like to make people believe that all housing fall under social rent cap, but this is untrue.

    The same applies for -legal- short stay lets(those with permit or those zoned by city as 'permitted'), as those do NOT fall under the social rent system, nor can they be challenged by Huurcommissie or any lawyer, even when rents are incredibly high to one's taste.

    Lastly: if one does end up occupying a 'social public house', then they can lose the right of remaining in the house as a tenant, IF they did not receive a so called 'huisvestingsvergunning' (= permit to occupy a dwelling destined for low income households with proof of waiting period, long enough and registered as such at the municipality). Waiting periods are a minimum of 10years for -any- city center zone within a distance of 30minutes tram ride from central Station. So, while a rent reduction may be obtained (for houses with lower points), the tenant may still be both fined (a few thousand by city hall) as well as ousted by city hall for unlawfully occupying a poor family's dwelling. Owners often use this trick to get rid of problematic tenants who become tenants of a (sub)let property (for instance if it is sublet during a 1y vacation by the owner), and then turn around trying to 'take over' the property from the owner. As this turns out, this is not as easy as it sounds! Although owners too face penalties for having sublet the place, they would normally rather face a municipality handing out a penalty, than chose to undergo further harassment from a tenant refusing to leave this owner's sole and principal (social) home.

    As an additional point, Building Owner's Association tend to also have creative means of ousting unwanted poor families from their buildings, when it becomes clear to them that a temporary tenant (with correct and LEGIT type of temporary contract) is after stealing their neighbouring owner's private and principal home after his stay abroad, through starting a reduction of rent reduction. The by laws have articles that will result in ousting, one way or the other, for instance by issuing (steep over 1000euro) penalties for 'nuisance' by this 'undercover' social tenant (who obviously lied his way into becoming tenant of the house with a purpose of stealing it from the owner). Fighting such penalties can become a costly legal case for tenants.

    Here is the information, coming directly from the government website, in english.


  • Dafna Eccles posted:

    on 23rd January 2014, 09:44:02 - Reply

    Regarding the rent. You can check if you are paying over the legal maximum here: http://www.huurcommissie.nl/onderwerpen/huurprijs-en-punten/huurprijscheck-en-puntentelling/. If you are being over-charged you can ask the Huurcommissie (government tenancy tribunal, www.huurcommissie.nl) to lower your rent.