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Advice: The top savings tips for families

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Saving money doesn’t have to be hard – and it can even be fun! Especially if the entire family is involved and motivated to pitch in. Here, you’ll find some of the best tips to inspire you to save.

Young Swiss families and single parents with small children, in particular, often have a comparatively low income. Although what they earn is enough to make ends meet, there is hardly a franc left over in their accounts at the end of the month. Looking the other way won’t help, but taking a different perspective can: If you change your perspective from “We HAVE TO save” to “We CAN save,” you may suddenly discover unexpected chances and opportunities. By consolidating your efforts, you can find ways to achieve greater financial freedom. It’s important that you talk together as a family about where money can be saved and where not. Make sure you also take the needs of your children seriously. 

12 savings tips: How to save money

To make sure you don’t expect too much of your family, you could start with two or three topics or areas that appeal to you the most. Take all the time you need to put your savings measures into practice in your day-to-day life. Then you can consider new savings tips. 

  • Tip 1: Used instead of new
    Used items – baby beds, playpens, strollers, baby carriers, clothes and toys – can often be obtained from other families for free or at very low cost. Ask your neighbors, relatives, and friends, take a look online at Tutti.ch, Ricardo.ch, or in local Facebook groups. Or browse through second-hand shops for children's clothes, thrift stores, or flea markets.
  • Tip 2: Borrow or rent instead of own
    Except for a few favorite items, there are a lot of toys that fall out of favor with your children within a short time. The economical solution: A library, toy library, or a spontaneous exchange with the neighbor’s children or a cousin, whether it be for a few weeks or forever.
  • Tip 3: Sell what you don’t need
    Regularly weed through your household and sort out items you don’t need. Tip: Include your children in the task! Sell what you don’t need for free on Tutti.ch or, if your family enjoys it, at a flea market. This way you will earn hard cash and relieve the strain on your family’s wallet.
  • Tip 4: Buy at attractive prices
    Consciously choose the store you buy groceries in and where your priorities lie. If the content of the shopping cart is generally what you have on your shopping list, then its fine to have a little something extra in there every once and a while. Buy items with a long shelf life which you can regularly use and that are on sale, but liberally. The “Aktionis” website and app can give you a good overview of what's currently on offer at major retailers.
  • Tip 5: Smart giving
    People often prefer to receive something personal over an expensive gadget. A nice letter, a voucher for a wellness evening at home, or a bike tour with a picnic – give free rein to your imagination. If it must be something material, keep your eyes open for seasonal sales or ask for reduced display items. Also check if the item you want can be bought for less money online. Look for less-expensive no-name products with good value for money.
  • Tip 6: Dispose of waste carefully
    Conscious use of resources also prevents unnecessary spending. Reusing packaging will help you save on garbage fees. Separate your waste; much of what lands in the garbage can be disposed of at recycling centers free of charge. If you have a baby in your household, you should consider switching to more budget friendly cloth diapers. 
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    Keeping your expenses under control

    Apps such as “BudgetCH” (available in English) offer good advice on how to keep your budget under control: Rather than relying on paper receipts, you always have your smartphone with you so you can quickly enter your purchases before you forget. And everyone in your family can use the same account. The Budgetberatung Schweiz website also provides useful information about budgets and a list of advisory centers.

    Budgetberatung.ch
  • Tip 7: Save on electricity
    Encourage each other to foster good habits: Turn off the lights. Take short showers. Take advantage of low rates (8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.). Turn off electronic devices instead of leaving them in stand-by mode. Hang up laundry to dry instead of using the dryer. Air rooms briefly but thoroughly several times a day. Do not overheat your apartment or house. You can find numerous other tips at EnergieSchweiz (only German).
  • Tip 8: Reduce your fixed costs
    Carefully examine your health insurance, other insurance policies, and subscriptions such as Internet and TV, every one to two years. Is everything still necessary and reasonable? When it comes to your health insurance, families often have especially high potential for savings. That’s why it’s worthwhile to review your premiums for obligatory basic insurance every year in the fall.
  • Tip 9: Do without a car.
    Lease, underground parking, service, taxes, insurance, fuel, parking fees ... owning a car is a large budget item for many parents. But depending on where you live, it may be possible to do without having your own car. With public transportation, an e-bike with a trailer, you can get surprisingly far and do good for your health and the environment. For special occasions, you can rent a car – privately or through a company like Mobility.
  • Tip 10: Optimize your exercise and free time
    There are alternatives to costly gym memberships and high course costs, such as fixed meet-up times for the vitaparcours with your neighbor or online Pilates with a friend. Instead of going out, invite the couple from across the street to a home movie or games night – this way, you will also save the cost of a babysitter. And a water fight outside or splashing around in a creek can be just as fun as going to public swimming areas.
  • Tip 11: Change your vacation plans
    It doesn’t take much to make children happy. Camping on a relative’s farm – or even in your own garden: That’s a real adventure! If you prefer more comforts, you can maybe find a family in your circle of acquaintances who is open to a week of house-sitting or a house swap. Or to booking an extra-large vacation rental together in the mountains.
  • Tip 12: Develop good habits
    Let your tight budget motivate you to get rid of one or two bad habits. Stop smoking? Drink less alcohol? Pack a lunch from home? Bike to work? – All of these things are not only good for your budget, but also have the potential to make you a healthier, happier person.

Offers for affected families

Many people are going through hard times – even in Switzerland. Sometimes a positive attitude and careful saving are not enough: There’s just not enough money. For situations like this, there are points of contact that offer parents quick and straightforward assistance: Such as Caritas or Pro Juventute,  Winterhilfe or the Swiss Red Cross.

Where you shouldn’t save

It’s important to note: You can also save on the wrong things. Whatever helps your budget in the short term, but causes damage in the long term, is not an ideal savings measure. Take good care of your loved ones – and provide for their future as much as you can, even if you have a tight budget.

Reserves: Put some money aside every month, even if it is only a modest amount. If you have no reserves at all, a high dentist bill or unexpected repair to the family car will be enough to throw your budget off track.

Repayment: If you are in debt, and even if it is ”only” with your credit cards, it’s worthwhile freeing yourself of this and the unpleasant interest payments as quickly as possible. No matter if it takes a bit longer – as long as the debt gets paid off. A directory of debt counseling offices can be found from the umbrella organization Schuldenberatung Schweiz (Debt Counseling Switzerland).

Provision: Are you debt-free but living more or less hand to mouth? You can still set a realistic savings goal and stick to it. It is better to make slow progress than not to get going at all.

Health: Healthy food like fruits and vegetables often cost more than unhealthy food. However, saving when it comes to your health is a false economy. In the long term, you will be better off if you take care of your body. The same applies to sports and timely doctor’s visits, if these should become necessary.

Experiences: Small budget or not – a passive lifestyle doesn’t do your family any good. So get creative when it comes to what you do in your free time. Having fun doesn't have to be expensive. Hold a family competition and award the best low-budget excursion ideas with a small prize.

A piece of advice to close

Last but not least, life requires a healthy dose of generosity. So, deliberately treat yourself and your family every now and then to a break from the “sport” of saving. Exceptions prove the rule – and keep you from becoming too harsh. Ultimately, the goal is for money to serve your family, and not the other way around. We wish you all the best!

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