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Created on 12.11.2018

Unnecessary expenses that you can keep under control with a budget

“Where has all the money gone?” – if you often find yourself asking this question at the end of the month when looking at your bank account, our list of the ten most common unnecessary expenses and the related savings tips will help you in everyday life.

Making savings in everyday life does not necessarily mean having no fun. We’ve compiled a list of ten unnecessary expenses which you can give up without having to sacrifice too much if you budget properly. Identify the things that are burning a hole in your pocket.

1. Lunch: even buying sandwiches is expensive

Even if it’s not a meal in a restaurant every lunchtime, eating out can be very pricey. If you spend an average of CHF 15 to 20 a day on lunch, you’ll get through around CHF 350 by the end of the month.

Making savings in everyday life does not mean eating just yoghurt or leftovers every day. What it does mean is spending money more wisely. Here’s a useful savings tip: if you take food prepared at home – whether it’s leftovers or a home-made salad or sandwich – to work three times a week, you can save around CHF 210 a month. Not much? That’s over CHF 2,500 a year – a tidy sum for a holiday or an emergency nest egg.

2. Shopping: planning and saving

You should never go shopping when you’re hungry or unprepared for that matter. Otherwise lots of things will end up in your shopping basket that you don’t really need. Plan which meals you intend to cook during the week and only buy the things you need. This will also help you to curb food waste: around 300  kg of food per person ends up in the bin each year in Switzerland. Especially for families, it can be worth looking for weekly special offers or buying large packs. This only pays off for single-person households with non-perishable goods – otherwise you run the risk of having to throw food away. 

By preparing properly and checking the fridge before heading off to the supermarket, you’ll save money and benefit the environment.

3. Going out: when going for a beer burns a hole in your pocket

Saving money does not mean you can’t go for a beer after work, enjoy a night out at a club or go to a concert. It’s nevertheless worth keeping tabs during an evening on how much you spend exactly on beer, a ticket, getting into a club or late-night food and then changing your habits. Many cinemas offer cheaper tickets on Mondays, for example – you can also buy your popcorn in the supermarket and cheaper concert tickets can often be found last minute on official websites (beware of fraudsters).

Here’s a good way of saving: arranging drinks at home before going to a club with friends, not having a burger at 3 a.m. or organizing an after-work picnic in the summer instead of heading for the nearest pub can help to save money and is usually just as much fun as going to a bar.

4. Subscriptions: it’s worth comparing prices

Check how much money you spend each month on subscriptions (Internet, mobile and TV, but also streaming services like Netflix and Spotify or newspapers and magazines). Find out whether you’d be better off using less expensive alternatives – especially if they are new on the market.

Another savings tip: consider whether you actually use your subscription or if free alternatives would meet your needs.

5. Snacks: coffees to go and afternoon snacks add up

A quick coffee on the way to work, a sausage roll from the baker’s for elevenses or an afternoon ice cream – you certainly deserve the odd treat. But when buying expensive snacks, coffee or smoothies for a snack becomes a daily habit, it can all add up to quite a lot at the end of the month, putting strain on the budget.

You may be better off taking a coffee at work, eating breakfast at home and taking healthy snacks, such as fruit and nuts, or chocolate bars to work and just enjoying the luxury of buying an expensive snack as a treat once a week. If you spend CHF 5 on a coffee each morning, you’d save around CHF 1,000 a year by adopting the special-treat mentality. Another benefit: you’d have a healthier diet and enjoy treats more sensibly. 

6. Fashion: classic trumps trendy

In times when fashion houses are constantly trying to lure us in with offers and trends both online and offline, there is a huge temptation to frequently buy clothes or shoes. It’s usually worth putting together a wardrobe of classic items of clothing that combine well and complementing them with a few trendy accessories or garments.

If you don’t want to miss out on the latest trends, it’s wise to set a monthly budget for such outgoings and to stick to it. It’s better if you unsubscribe from fashion newsletters and delete shopping apps from your mobile phone to avoid the temptation of something catching your eye – out of boredom or habit – and always finding something. 

Another good idea is to regularly clear out the wardrobe and to either sell items in good condition, swap them with friends or donate them to charity. That’s not just good for the budget – getting rid of old things can feel liberating.

7. Mobility: saving on things from bikes to cars

Use public transport, go by foot or travel by bike rather than by car – you’re probably already familiar with the main ways of getting around in a less expensive and more environmentally friendly way. It’s still worth considering whether you really need all your modes of transport – do you actually use your bike? Do you use your own car or would a Mobility subscription be a worthwhile option? Do you get the most out of your public transport pass, don’t you use it at all during the summer or do you always walk or use your bike anyway? Then perhaps a monthly pass is a better option than an annual one. Do you drive to work? Then perhaps you could start carpooling with work colleagues, cutting costs and using your car more astutely. 

8. Hobbies: there’s also money to be saved on gym memberships and sports equipment etc.

You should continue to enjoy your hobbies, even if you’re looking to save money – ultimately, they are part of your quality of life. Here too it’s a question of changing habits and comparing prices. Do you really use your gym membership or have you simply missed the cancellation date? If you’re thinking about taking out a new membership but are not sure whether you have the time to exercise regularly, you often find people on websites who no longer use their old membership and are looking to transfer it for the remaining period. 

Savings can also be made on other hobbies: you could borrow books from the library instead of always buying new ones? Could you buy new equipment for your hobby second-hand? If you have annual passes or memberships (for example, to the zoo, museums or football/ice hockey matches), work out whether you really use them often enough to make it better value than buying single tickets.

9. Big-ticket items: do some research, compare and plan

Even though the purchase of major items is only a part of everyday life, an astute approach also pays off here: you can buy a new washing machine, mobile phone, TV or new furniture less expensively than you might think with proper planning. Think carefully about what the new item must be able to do and look for products that don’t have costly additional functions which you don’t even need. Comparing prices and taking advantage of special deals are things to bear in mind here.

Make sure electrical devices do not consume power unnecessarily, driving up your running costs. There are often discounts on old models of mobile phones when the latest versions are unveiled in the autumn. TV sets are cheapest in August or November. There’s cash to be saved here if you’re properly clued up, compare prices and plan your purchase, if this is possible. 

10. Bank accounts – saving costs money

Savers don’t usually use an old-fashioned money box but rather a savings or private account. There’s an opportunity to save money here too. Firstly, consider which products you actually need. Are a private account, a savings account and a third-pillar account enough? How much are the fees for this option? Should you deposit your savings in the account that bears the best interest or leave it in an account that only offers a low yield? Make sure you don’t pay any fees when withdrawing cash – only take money from your bank’s ATMs as far as possible.

Another piece of advice: think about what matters most to you

If reining in your spending in everyday life is an issue, a household budget may help – there are now also some useful apps available. Some psychological insight to finish off: before buying something you don’t necessarily need (in our example a T-shirt for CHF 20), ask yourself: “Would I rather have CHF 20 in cash or this T-shirt?” This will help you to determine whether you really like or need an item or whether it’s an unnecessary impulse buy.

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