Cost of Living for a Family in Switzerland: How Much Do You Need?
When moving your entire family to a new country, learning about the current cost of living is crucial. According to the statistics, Switzerland is the most expensive place in the world. This fact makes budgeting an essential step before getting a job and relocating to one of the Swiss cities.
A family of four would need approximately 6,500 CHF to 7,000 CHF to live comfortably in Switzerland. A couple with one child might spend between 5,000 CHF and 6,000 CHF per month to cover average expenses. You can expect the highest expenses while living in major Swiss cities.
In this article, we look at the average expenses and income of Swiss families so you can have an idea of what to expect. The rent will be your major concern since families typically need more space than singles and couples. Besides, Swiss childcare is one of the priciest in the world. To learn about rental prices in Switzerland, check out this guide.
Average living expenses for a family in Switzerland
The cost of living for families in Switzerland is one of the highest in the world. Raising a child in the Alpine country is very pricey.
Nonetheless, your cost of living in Switzerland will significantly depend on the location and housing preferences you choose. On average, a household in Switzerland spends around 1,767 CHF per week, excluding taxes. This amount includes housing, bills, food, transport, and all typical costs.
Swiss major cities are the most expensive regarding the cost of living. So you will spend more in Zurich, Bern, Geneva, and Basel than in small towns and villages.
Household income in Switzerland
Swiss earn enough money to sustain a high cost of living. So, the average gross income of all Swiss households was recently 9,951 CHF per month, and 119,412 CHF per year.
The highest gross income has been seen among couples with children. On average, they earn 13,677 CHF per month and 164,124 CHF per year.
For comparison, German families live on an average gross income of 6,674 EUR per month, 80,088 EUR per year. About 47% less than in Switzerland.
A typical income of a Swiss household contains:
|Income from real estate||388|
|Income from funds||842|
Average expenses with the average income
You will mainly see the following expenses on your list when living in Switzerland:
- Household expenses – food, etc.
- Health insurance
- Car leasing rate
- Internet and landline phone
- Mobile phone
- Road tax
- Serafe – TV and radio tax
- Banking fees
Here is the overview of current statistics of how much Swiss families spend on each category per month:
|Personal expenses include:||7,071|
|1. Food and drinks||1,015|
|2. Clothing and shoes||329|
|3. Living, utilities and maintenance||1,712|
|4. Interior, household appliances & items||315|
|8. Free time and entertainment||780|
|9. Eating out||777|
|10. Other goods and services||549|
|Total expenses for a family of 4||10,852|
|Saving with the average household’s income||2,825|
Besides these average numbers, here are some examples of typical ranges for some common living expenses for a family in Switzerland:
Here is an overview of the total expenses that are necessary for a family living in Switzerland (excluding food):
|Living, incl. utilities and electricity||1,600 to 2,200|
|Taxes and deductions||1,000 to 1,500|
|Health insurance and other insurances||1,000|
|Communication: landline, mobile, internet, TV, Serafe, etc.||160 to 290|
|Transportation: car, mopeds, bicycle, public transport, other means of transport, repairs, maintenance, amortization, fuel, etc.||800 to 1,100|
Food and household
|Food and non-alcoholic beverages||900 to 1,100|
|Home furnishings and ongoing housekeeping: kitchen, tools, decoration, detergents and cleaning materials, waste disposal, home textiles, etc.||230 to 400|
Read how much food costs in Switzerland.
|Clothing and shoes||250 to 400|
|Body care: care products, hairdresser, cosmetics, etc.||120 to 160|
|Leisure: entertainment, sports, recreation, culture, books, toys, computer equipment, club fees, entrance fees, courses, etc.||450 to 600|
|Health insurance: minimum annual deductible||100|
|Health: medication, optician, doctor, dentist, hospital||250 to 350|
|Additional insurances||150 to 180|
|Unforeseen expenses||160 to 200|
Variable personal expenses and free time
|Restaurants and hotels: out-of-town meals incl. work-related out-of-town meals, out-of-town overnight stays, vacations||800 to 1,000|
|Pets||30 – 100|
|Gifts||70 – 120|
|Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products||80 to 120|
|Pension||450 to 1,100|
Childcare and education
|Daycare center or babysitter: two days of care per week in a daycare center||800 to 1,000|
|High school: e.g. meals, school books, fees, excursions, etc.||250 to 300|
|University: tuition fees, school materials, living in a shared apartment, living costs, etc.||1,500 to 2,500|
|Further education for parents||800 a year|
Childcare is pretty expensive in Switzerland and will take a significant cut from your family’s budget. It most likely will be the third largest expense after rent and food. The typical rate for daycare for one child is 1,560 CHF per month or between 110 CHF and 130 CHF per day.
If your child enters Swiss kindergarten, the daycare costs will be reduced significantly; most of them are free. Children enter kindergarten at the age of four or five. Depending on the canton and municipality, rates vary greatly.
Cost of living in the US vs Switzerland: which is more expensive?
Rent and housing is the biggest expense for families in Switzerland and pretty much for everyone. For a large family-friendly apartment, expect to pay between 2,500 CHF to 4,000 CHF, depending on the location.
In general, the Swiss also spend between 20% and 30% of their net income on their apartment and maintenance. As a family, you might spend more. The average cold rent per square meter in Switzerland is 15.90 CHF.
The highest average rent is found in the canton of Geneva at 18.70 CHF, while the lowest average rent is found in the canton of Jura at 11 CHF.
Cities like Zurich, Basel, Bern, and Geneva are among the most expensive places to live in the world. Due to strong immigration in recent years, rental prices have increased significantly (by 20% in the last 10 years).
To learn about rental prices in Switzerland, check out this guide.
In Zurich, apartments are rented for around 2,000 CHF – 6,000 CHF, depending on the size. Additionally, utilities might cost up to 200 CHF.
On average, rent for a one-bed apartment in Switzerland costs 1,329 CHF per month. Telephone and internet add about 60 CHF. For the Swiss tax on TV & radio, you pay about 28 CHF per month.
As an expat, you can expect to spend at least 30% of your salary each month on rent.
Here are average rent prices for a 3-bedroom apartment in various cities:
|City||Rent in the city center||Rent outside of the city center|
|Basel||2,747 USD||2,141 USD|
|Geneva||4,407 USD||3,135 USD|
|Lausanne||3,268 USD||2,856 USD|
|Zurich||4,053 USD||2,860 USD|
|Average price||2,952 USD||2,290 USD|
In Switzerland, eating out with your entire family will be anything but cheap. A pizza in a restaurant starts at 14 CHF; a nice meal costs 40 CHF.
While a three-course meal with a glass of wine for two people at a mid-range restaurant could cost around CHF 100. Eating at a restaurant costs at least 20 CHF for a meal (minimum price).
Zurich is anything but cheap in terms of dining. A pizza in a restaurant starts at 14 CHF; a nice meal costs 40-50 CHF.
While a three-course meal with a glass of wine for two people at a mid-range restaurant could cost around 100 CHF.
Suppose you cook mostly at home and buy cheap products, count with 20 CHF a day per person. A meal at a restaurant costs at least 20 CHF for a meal (minimum price).
If you want to enjoy your free time with the family, you have to dig a little deeper into your wallet in Switzerland.
A movie ticket costs around 20 CHF per person, a burger in a reasonably priced restaurant is often around 25 CHF, and a gym membership costs 85 CHF.
Here are some typical prices for leisure activities and items in Switzerland:
|Public transport monthly ticket||80|
|Sports shoes (Nike, etc.)||120|
|Meal in the cheap to the average restaurant||25|
|Three-course meal for 2 people||100|
3,860 CHF is the price of the yearly train pass. If you own a car, you are going to spend more than that amount. The yearly ticket for Zurich costs 700 CHF.
You can buy a monthly ticket for as low as 80 CHF, but it will have limited zones. A yearly intercity train pass costs 3,860 CHF. The yearly ticket for only Zurich costs 700 CHF.
If you own a car, you are going to spend more than that amount.
Many people prefer to lease a car in Switzerland instead of buying one. For example, the leasing rate for a Mercedes-Benz C 250d is 273 CHF per month.
If you are considering buying and owning a car in Switzerland, read these articles:
- Buying a car as a foreigner
- The cheapest car in Switzerland
- Leasing vs buying a car
- Cost of car ownership in Switzerland
The average cost of owning, running, and using a car in Switzerland will be between 300 CHF and 500 CHF per month. Car insurance costs between 30 and 50 CHF, taxes about 40 CHF, and fuel will depend on your needs.
Swiss residents pay about 350-500 CHF per month for basic health insurance. It includes a deductible of 300 CHF. Optionally, you can take out expat health insurance.
Besides, you will need to pay for health insurance in Switzerland for each person in your family. The average price for a month can range from 100 CHF to 400 CHF per person, depending on the deductible. Yet, rates for small children are significantly lower; you can expect about 70 CHF on average.
Read our article about health insurance and medical costs in Switzerland.
In addition to health insurance, you might consider taking other insurance for you or your family members. For example, you must have car insurance when owning a car. Many Swiss have liability, household insurance, travel insurance legal protection insurance.
In total, these additional coverages will cost you around 116 CHF per month.
Internet and mobile
The average rate for the month of the internet is 38 CHF, and the fixed-line phone line comes to 19 CHF per month.
Your mobile phone bill will be about 32 CHF per month. For that price, you can get unlimited data and unlimited calls/SMS within Switzerland.
Find cheap SIM cards in Switzerland in this article.
Fortunately, one thing where Switzerland isn’t expensive is electricity. In fact, it’s much cheaper than in neighboring countries like Germany, for example. The average price of electricity in Switzerland is 20.5 cents/kWh. Even as a family, you might pay just around 42 CHF for your electricity bill.
Serafe (formerly Billag) is a TV and radio tax that every household has to pay. At the moment, the annual fee is 335 CHF.
Taxes in Switzerland
As an employee in Switzerland, you will pay various taxes every month. Thus, it’s crucial that you estimate the amount beforehand and don’t rely only on gross pay.
Here is the tax information for a single average earner without children.
|Tax name||Monthly amount|
|Social security contributions||6,20%|
How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?
Every family or someone who is getting a child needs to know how much it actually costs to raise a family in Switzerland.
The data provided by the Zurich Youth Welfare Office estimate monthly expenses of 1,300 CHF to 1,800 CHF for one child. The exact amount depends on the year of life of the child.
This amounts to an average of 18,500 CHF per year per child. Yes, having children and giving them a good quality of life is very expensive in Switzerland.
Expect to pay a total of 370,000 CHF until your child reaches their 20th birthday. These expenses include regular things families buy for their kids, like:
- food and clothing
- household and housing
- health and health insurance
- leisure and transportation
Furthermore, if you add to these number childcare costs, the total amount will be significantly higher. If you account for all factors that go into raising a child in Switzerland, the amount can be as high as one million francs per child. Incredible!
You need more money as a parent of a teenager
The good news is that children at different stages are less expensive than in others. Although initial baby equipment can be pricey, the first years of the life of your child are comparatively inexpensive.
From primary school age, costs rise. New hobbies and activities require more money. In addition, there are excursions, pocket money, and higher demands regarding clothing and entertainment. Expect to spend about 1,500 CHF per month.
Teenagers are the most expensive to raise; the average costs go up to 1,800 CHF per month. Teenagers often have expensive needs, like laptops, phones, clothing, free time, etc.
Cost of living for a family of 3
The cost of living for your small family will depend on how and where you live. If you live in one of the major cities and your child is in one of the nearby local schools, you will need around 5,500 – 6,500 CHF a month to provide your family with decent living standards.
If you have older children, you require less money to take care of them due to the high costs of childcare in Switzerland.
Suppose you’re in a one-bedroom rented apartment outside the city center, and your child is at a local primary school; you can survive on 3,500 to 5,000 CHF per month. A two-bed in a decent neighborhood will averagely cost you between 1,800 and 3,000 CHF per month.
House groceries will be between 700 – 1,000 CHF per month, depending on your eating habits and where you shop. Some affordable stores that you can consider are German Aldi and Lidl.
Owning a car is expensive in Switzerland; you might consider a lease if you stay for the short term. Otherwise, having a car will add another 300 – 500 CHF per month to your total expenses.
Cost of living for a family of 4
According to our estimation, in Switzerland, a family of four can live a modest lifestyle on about 5,500 CHF – 6,500 CHF a month.
Here is some data on average living expenses in Switzerland overall:
- Family of four will need approximately 6,668 CHF
- Single person’s estimated monthly costs are 3,986 CHF
The average cost of living for a family of four depends on your location within the country and your lifestyle. Living in the village is much less expensive than in major cities.
Considering the average rent of a three-bedroom apartment of 2,615 CHF, a family of four will need about 6,000 CHF for comfortable living in Switzerland, where rent will be almost half of your budget.
Nonetheless, on average, you need about 7,000 CHF per month to raise a family in Zurich – the country’s most expensive city.
If you are a couple and have two children, here is a breakdown of your average expenses per month:
- Rent: 3,000 CHF
- Food: 900 CHF
- Transportation: 400 CHF
- Childcare: 1,526 CHF – varies
- Other necessities: 1,030 CHF
- Total: 6,856 CHF
That said, if you have a job in one of Switzerland’s major cities, renting an apartment or house in the neighbouring towns and villages will save you money. If, for instance, you are employed in the city of Zurich, you could rent a large home in Oerlikon/Altstetten/Affoltern at a significantly lower price.
See more on rent prices in Switzerland.
Cost of living for a family in Zurich
Zurich is the most expensive city to live in Switzerland. The average cost of living for a family of four depends on your location within Zurich and lifestyle. Living in the neighboring villages is much less expensive than in the city.
Nonetheless, on average, you need about 7,000 CHF per month to raise a family in Zurich.
That said, parents need to earn at least 100,000 CHF annually to support a family in Zurich. Let’s look at expenses that a family can afford with a total income of 130,000 CHF before taxes, which translates to 8,660 CHF monthly after tax.
- Housing: You can rent a 3-4,5 bedroom apartment outside of the city center for 2,000-3,500 CHF or a 2-3 bedroom apartment in the city center (3,000-4,000 CHF). If you have only one child, this will be enough.
- Health insurance: You can take out better coverage with less deductible of 400 CHF for you and your spouse, and 70 CHF for each child.
- Groceries: 1,000 – 1,500 CHF – you don’t need to be frugal with your choices.
- Communication and bills: 200 CHF
- Childcare is requires: 1,000 – 2,000 CHF
- Disposal income per month: 3,000 CHF to 2,000 CHF for clothing and shoes, personal items, eating out, entertainment, weekend trips, yearly holidays, etc.
- Your family can go on holidays more often – 2 or 3 holidays a year, including a more long-haul destination or a week-long winter sports vacation.
- You also can spend some weekends away.
- Saving: you will be able to put away at least 500 CHF every month.
If you consider moving away from Zurich to the nearest town, your rent will go significantly down. Average expenses of a typical family living in the Zurich area include:
|4,5-bedroom apartment near the Zurich||2,200 CHF|
|Health insurance||350 CHF for each adult; 70 CHF for a child|
|Liability and house insurance||30 CHF|
|Food and drinks||900 – 1,100 CHF|
|Car||300 – 500 CHF|
|Phone, Internet, telephone line||200 CHF|
To cover this cost of living, a family must have at least 6,000 CHF net per month in combined income.
Learn about salaries in Zurich in this guide.
What is a good salary for a family in Switzerland?
With an average salary in Switzerland of about 78,000 CHF per year, one can speak of a good salary for a family of about 100,000 CHF gross per year. That said, in 2019, OECD reported that the average annual salary in Switzerland was 60,847 CHF.
As a family, you should be looking into earning between 8,000 CHF and 10,000 CHF before taxes per month. With that salary, you can afford a decent life for your family in Switzerland, including renting a 2-3 bedroom apartment, childcare, and free-time activities.
Here is an overview of salaries for common professions in Switzerland:
- A secretary earns around 7,000 CHF.
- A kindergarten teacher earns up to 10,000 CHF a month, and a high school teacher easily comes to over 13,000 CHF.
- A project manager in a big corporation in Zurich earns around 300,000 CHF annually.
- An accountant with 5 years of professional experience makes, on average, around 100,000 CHF.
- A Swiss radiologist earns a proud 390,000 CHF gross.
- Managing directors currently earn an average of 406,000 CHF.
Read our guide about salaries in Switzerland.