Money Kate Mitchell

Exchange on a budget!

Kate – Semester Exchange to Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Switzerland

Semester 2, 2016

My name is Kate and I have been lucky enough to study in Winterthur, Switzerland. However, whenever I told someone I was going to live here they would always say, “prepare your money” or “its so expensive.” It wasn’t until I got here that I realised they were right.

Switzerland is known to be one of the most expensive countries, as one of the banking and finance capitals of Europe. For students living in student accommodation and without the ability to work, things can get a little stressful at times. For those living in Switzerland, prices are high to remain relative to the high Swiss salaries but also things like meat, milk and butter are highly taxed with some beef products costing above CHF 20 per kg (AUD $28).

So here are my few tips to help those visiting more expensive countries.

  1. Do your research before you arrive in your country. Find out what people are saying about prices and the tourist traps. Many places have famous streets or areas that are aimed at tourists. These places tend to have lots of hotels and shops around them, making it a ‘tourist trap.’ But if you dare to venture a few streets away from these areas, you might find that prices decrease significantly, making it definitely worth your while and often with better local food and shops anyway. Remember that walking around a beautiful city is free and many cities now offer free walking tours to help you out in your new city.


  1. Make a budget. You need to know how much you have saved and how much you can spend each week or each month – it’s up to you. I use a budget app on my IPhone that allows you to enter in your savings and income to determine how much you have to spend each day. You can then enter in re-occurring expenses such as rent and insurance, and add in your spending for groceries and other things, to keep on you on track with your daily budget. There is nothing worse than finding you can’t afford food for the week, and besides you want to be able to afford those cheeky trips away for the day or the weekend.


  1. Check out what supermarkets are available and close to you. You may find that there are some that dominate the market like Coles and Woolworths do in Australia or Coop and Migros do in Switzerland. These stores tend to be overpriced but are easily accessible so people tend to just settle for them. Instead look out for their budget competitors like Aldi or Denner, or some even have budget stores like Migros Budget. These stores may not have the quality or variety of bigger stores but the prices are much friendlier and won’t force you to eat noodle or toast for the week.


  1. Talk to the locals and other students. If anyone is going to know where and how to spend your money they will.


  1. Its not only just shopping that can be expensive but transport can be too. In Switzerland, for me to travel from Winterthur to Zurich (15-20 minute train ride) it costs AUD$40, so AUD$80 return. Therefore you should look into student discounts or bulk travel passes. In Switzerland they offer a half price transport card and a range of travel passes for regions or the whole of Switzerland that make it cheaper and easier to travel. But be aware, if you are caught without a ticket, fines can range from €60 in other parts of Europe (AUD$90) to CHF 90 (AUD$125) in Switzerland.


So my advice to all of you out there is to be smart about your money and do your research. Impulse buying without comparing prices for anything is dangerous when you’re on a student budget. Make the most of your time and do everything you want to do, but don’t push your budget so far that you have to sacrifice food for the week for one night out or a weekend away.