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Frugality and expenses are difficult to compare between two different households. This is especially true if you compare different situations like family and children. And it is almost impossible to compare yourselves to people from another country. Therefore, it is important to compare with the average household comparable to your household.
If we compare our expenses with the FIRE community, we are not really frugal. In 2018, we spent about 5330 CHF per month. This is far higher than what most people trying to reach for FI are spending. I often read personal finance blogs where people claim to be living below 2000 CHF in Europe. We are being careful about our budget. And we are optimizing it to reduce it month after month. It is already much lower than before. And in 2019, one of our goals is to spend less than 5000 CHF per month. We will see if we can do it. However, we should also compare with the average household in our country.
I do not think we are spending too much. When I compare with most people I know, we are alright. But I wanted to compare with more data with the average Swiss household.
So, in this post, I am going to compare our current level of expenses with the average Swiss household. I have been able to find official data from the Swiss bureau of statistics. And I was able to compare in details how we fare against the average Swiss household. It is really interesting to do! If you can do the same for your own level of expenses and your reference average household, I would strongly encourage you in doing so!
The Average Swiss Household
First of all, we need to establish the average Swiss household amount of expenses. Fortunately, I was able to find the report by the Swiss Federal Statistics Office (FSO). I was only able to find the Household Income And Expenditures report for 2016. Fortunately, this is in English. Since we have very low inflation in Switzerland, I do not expect a lot of differences between 2016 and 2018. I found a nice infographic for the average income and expenses of all households in Switzerland:
This is the average for all households together. That means that there will be single people, couples and families for children. But this is a good place to start with.
The Poor Swiss couple vs the Average Swiss Household
As a basis, I will use our 2018 expenses. I am going to compare each point of the average expenditures one by one. Since the available statistics are monthly, we are going to do the entire comparison with our monthly averages. I just took the liberty to merge some of the categories together to ease the comparison and make it shorter. And I did not take social security contributions into account since we only account for the money that reaches our bank account.
- Taxes: 1153 CHF: In 2018, we spent 611 CHF on average on taxes. This is much better than the average! For 2019, it should be higher, around 750 CHF per month. But this is still way lower than the average.
- Health Insurance and complementary: 767 CHF. In 2018, we only spent 467 CHF per month on health insurance. However, Mrs. The Poor Swiss was only here for 7 months. In 2019. we are now paying 790 CHF per month on health insurance. This is higher than the average! However, it is not too bad since my employer pays me back my health insurance.
- Other insurances: 190 CHF. I do not know how much insurances have people, but we are spending much less than that. We are only spending 61 CHF per month on other insurances. This is three times lower than the average!
- Donations: 177 CHF. People are much more generous than I thought. With our 170 CHF donated for the whole year in 2018, we appear to be rather cheap!
- Food and beverages: 738 CHF. This one is quite insane! I do not understand why people would spend so much on food… Last year, we spent 300 CHF per month on food and beverages. This is less than half the average!
- Hotels and restaurants: 584 CHF. Even though we went on a honeymoon and paid twice the flights to China, we only spent about 500 CHF per month on Hotels and restaurants. And I was thinking we were spending too much. We are still lower than the average!
- Clothing: 210 CHF. Unfortunately, I do not have the exact number here. For many things my wife is buying, I am putting them under the Shopping category. But even if we put the clothing and shopping categories together, we are still below that. We are probably spending around 150 CHF per month. We can probably do better on that one!
- Housing and energy: 1476 CHF. On that account, we are good. But we are not much lower than the average. We are spending 1247 CHF per month for rent and about 80 CHF per month for energy. This is about 150 CHF lower than the average.
- Furnishings and household maintenance: 234 CHF. This one is fairly
- Health: 244 CHF. It seems that we are quite lucky on that one! We only spent about 55 CHF per month last year on health costs. This is pretty good! This is four times lower than the average.
- Transport: 770 CHF. We mostly drive our car and it seems that is doing a nice job at keeping us under the average, with only 438 CHF per month. That is about 40% less than the average!
- Communication: 188 CHF. This is quite close to our monthly expenses of 146 CHF per month. However, this year, I have been able to reduce our internet bill by 20 CHF per month. So I may be able to reduce that amount further! We will see at the end of the year! So we are slightly under average!
- Entertainment: 542 CHF: This one is very difficult to estimate for us. If we put together gym, books, concerts, what I pay for games and my home automation gadgets all together, we arrive at something like 200 CHF per month. We are really frugal on account of entertainment!
- Other goods and services: 324 CH. Once again, it is a bit difficult to compute something so broad. But I would say that between the miscellaneous shopping, some gifts, and some fees, we should be around 200 CHF per month on that one. We are probably doing well!
Overall, the average Swiss household is spending 7667 CHF per month. In 2018, we spent about 5333 CHF per month. It seems we are well below the average. This is a good thing! Even though I think we can do better. My goal is to keep our expenses below 5000 CHF for 2019.
We can clearly see that the average Swiss is not really frugal! However, they have a nice enough income to have an average 17% savings rate. This is not as bad as I thought. I know a lot of people who do not save that much. This is fine if you to retire at the official age. However, it is definitely not enough for early retirement.
Average Swiss Couple Household
So far we have done the comparison with all households. However, the Federal Statistics Office has much more information available. All the data that was available in the first study can be split and viewed as subparts. For instance, the data is available per:
- income range
- region of Switzerland
- kind of family (single, couple, kids, no kids)
It is very interesting to look at these statistics. For instance, I have been able to find the data for Swiss couples without children for 2014. Unfortunately, this data is not available in English, only in the three national Swiss languages.
On average Swiss couples without children, of age less than 34, spend 7940 CHF per month. This is even more than the average Swiss household. On the other hand, they have an even higher income. This gives them about 22% savings rate. It is better than the average. Now it remains to be seen if this is real savings or if this is used for holidays. I know people who spend an awful lot of money on vacations every year.
Unfortunately, the data for my state in Switzerland is not available. This data is only available for the biggest states in Switzerland. It is interesting that average income varies from 6000 to 9000 from one state to another. I would not have thought there was such a difference.
If we look only at people in our income bracket, the average monthly expense is 7393 CHF. Once again, we are doing great!
What can we improve?
The fact that we are spending way less than the average Swiss household does not mean that we should not improve our budget further. Our goal is to stay below 5000 CHF per month. However, we know that we will need one more room once we have children. Even with higher rent, I think that we can stay below 5000 CHF per month. Therefore, we will need to improve our current budget significantly if we want this to happen.
The first thing I believe we have to improve is the miscellaneous shopping that we do. Mrs. The Poor Swiss has a tendency to buy too many clothes. And I have a tendency to buy too many gadgets. Even though this does not account for a lot of money overall, it is still something that is easy to reduce.
Another thing that I believe we can improve is our power bill. This one is entirely on me. I have several servers at home that are running all the time. I already improved that a lot since I have removed three servers from my installation. Moreover, I may remove one more server by the end of the year. Other than that, we are generally quite good with power. Our lamps are almost always turned off and we fully power off the television when we do not use it.
This year, we have to get better at budgeting for vacations. We achieved some very frugal vacations like when we went to Orléans in France. But, overall we are pretty bad at budgeting for vacations. This year, I am going to work on that for our Summer vacation. This reminds that I should probably start planning that!
When we compare against the average in the Personal Finance community, we are really spending a lot of money. However, when we compare against average Swiss household, we are not spending a lot of money. In fact, we are spending much less than the average household with our income or the average couple household without children.
This is really good to know. Your level of expenses will, of course, depend on where you live and where you work. So some comparisons are often made with apples to oranges. Even though one household may not be household when comparing to another one in another country, it may still be doing great in its own country. It was about time to compare oranges and oranges!
Even though we are not spending a lot of money compared to the average Swiss household, we can still get better. We have to reduce our power expenses. And we have to learn to better budget for vacations in order to avoid getting out of our budget. Nevertheless, after all this data, I think we can feel good about our level of expense!
What about you? How do you compare to the average household?