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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Cost of living: 45 ways to save money in Austria

Inflation has pushed up the cost of living in Austria as elsewhere, but we've collected dozens of tips to help you get the most out of life here without needing to push your budget to the limit.

Cost of living: 45 ways to save money in Austria
Photo: Daniel J Schwarz/Unsplash

Culture

If you are living on a low income there is no need to sacrifice your culture fix, thanks to the Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur initiative which gives you free access to museums, art exhibitions, theatre and music performances across the country.

If you do not meet the strict requirements for that card, you could save money by getting either an annual card for your favourite museum if you’re a repeat visitor, or finding a combination ticket to suit you.

The Bundes Museen Card will give you a one-time entry to eight museums for €59, making entrance roughly half price, while the €75 annual membership of the Gesellschaft der Freunde der bildenden Künste allows you to visit 15 museums nationwide (but mostly in Vienna) for free and gives you a discount to the Albertina Modern as well as access to regular events. For students and family members of card-holders, it costs less.

If you’re a good planner, you might be able to visit the same museums for even less. Several museums offer free or discounted entry on Austrian National Day on October 27th each year, so check their websites when that date rolls around.

And every first Sunday of the month, several spots in Vienna open their doors for free: the Hermesvilla in Lainzer Tiergarten , the Roman Museum, the Pratermuseum, the Beethoven Museum, the Clock Museum, the Otto Wagner Pavilion and of course the location on Karlsplatz. Every Tuesday, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts has extended opening hours and reduced admission.

For parents in Vienna, the municipally-run summer, spring and winter camps are just €50 a week, including lunch and snacks, dropping to €25 a week for siblings. 

Most of Vienna’s famous opera houses and theatres offer cheap tickets, though you’ll generally either need to book in advance or make your peace with a restricted view. The blog Visiting Vienna has a comprehensive guide to the best offers.

Groceries

Be savvy with your supermarket shopping. Discounters Hofer, Lidl and Penny Markt generally offer cheaper prices than the larger chains Billa and Spar, and/or you can sign up to your preferred supermarkets’ loyalty programme to start earning discounts, as well as checking out budget brands such as Billa’s Clever line and Spar Budget. If you happen to live near one of Austria’s borders, it’s worth doing your research to see if it’s cheaper to shop in your neighbouring country and, if so, which products you’ll get the biggest savings on.

Buying food that’s local and in-season is good for the planet and often cheaper, and when living abroad you will also save by eating what the locals eat. Buying food from ordinary supermarkets is of course much better value than hunting down home comforts at international food stores, or you can try asking on expat Facebook groups for tips for an Austrian equivalent to your favourite treat from your home country.

Most supermarkets discount food that is approaching its best-before date, and Saturday afternoons can be a good time to snap up these offers before Sunday closures (just be prepared for crowds!). The online supermarket Gurkerl also gives you the option to buy food at a cheaper price if it’s nearly out of date.

Another way to reduce food waste while saving money is the Too Good to Go app, where you can buy food that would otherwise be thrown away by supermarkets, restaurants and cafes.

And check if there is a Buy Nothing group or similar for your neighbourhood, where people give away food they do not have a use for.

For those on a very low income, Austria has ‘social markets’ where you can buy essential items at a reduced price. Find a map for the offerings in Vienna, selling everything from pet food to electronics to groceries, by clicking here.

READ MORE: How to save money on fuel costs in Austria

Bills

Unlike some countries, it’s usual to pay a monthly fee for your bank account in Austria. Pay close attention to the terms and conditions; sometimes you can get the account for free for the first year so it may pay to switch your bank, or you may be able to reduce the cost by meeting certain conditions such as going paperless or making regular direct debits.

Alternatively, you can find a free bank, for example online bank N26 (though this does have a one-time fee if you want a physical card).

If you send money to and from your home country, track exchange rates and use a transfer service that gets you a good deal, such as Wise, rather than sending it via your bank.

Check for referral schemes where you can get a bonus if a friend signs up for a service using your code. These are relatively common with banks, insurance programmes, and even food delivery apps for example.

If you’re renting, look into Austrian renter protections beforehand and check if your apartment is subject to rent control. There are rules in place in Austria which set a cap on the amount of rent that is possible to charge, and knowing your rights can save you hundreds per month.

When you’re looking for a new rental, try to find one without commission (Provision) especially if you will only be renting short-term — these fees are usually around three times the monthly rent, so if you stay for one year it’s equivalent to paying 25 percent more each month, but if you do find a Provision-fee home, make sure the price hasn’t been hiked up in other ways.

READ MORE: Is it better to buy or to rent property in Austria?

Use comparison websites like Durchblicker or E-control to see if you could save money on bills and insurance by switching provider.

Reduce your electricity consumption. When replacing devices, consider how energy efficient your replacement is. You can compare this at the website TopProdukte for example. And do what you can to keep your home well-insulated and reduce draughts, especially in an old building.

If you don’t watch TV or listen to radio, you can opt out of the GIS licence fee and save yourself over €300 per year. Or if you only use your TV for streaming, consider whether it’s worth paying a one-time fee to have the tuner removed, which means you can legally avoid the licence fee.

EXPLAINED: How to pay Austria’s TV and radio tax, or (legally) avoid it

Austria has several subsidies and exemptions available for low-income households so make sure you use these if eligible. They include exemptions from the licence fee and a heating cost subsidy called Heizkostenzuschuss, but also cheaper monthly public transport passes in many cities.

Check your monthly and annual subscriptions. Are you using all the services you pay for, or do you have options to reduce the cost such as teaming up with someone for a family subscription? Set reminders to review these, especially if they have minimum contract times.

Do your tax return! It’s not the most fun task, but it could help you reclaim some taxes on work-related expenses, even if you aren’t obligated to fill one out. You can claim back deductions up to five years later.

For self-employed people, check out which deductions and bonuses you’re eligible for.

That doesn’t just mean making sure to include all expenses related to your business in your accounts, but also using programmes such as Selbständig gesund to reduce the amount you pay for doctor’s visits by having a check-up and sticking to (usually quite simple) health goals, or claiming a €100 bonus if you’ve had all your recommended vaccines with the Geimpft Gesund programme.

Travel

Austria’s public transport is generally very reasonably priced, but it’s worth doing your research to make sure you get the ticket that makes most sense for you.

You’ll pay less per journey as a regular traveller if you get a monthly or annual ticket, but if you can cycle or walk most of the time, that could be even cheaper, or if you’re often travelling cross-country the annual Klimaticket could make more sense.

When travelling to and from the airport in Vienna, do not get the official airport train. The S-Bahn and regional trains will get you to the centre in almost the same amount of time at a fraction of the cost: €4.20 or a steal at €1.80 if you already have a Vienna public transport ticket.

Book in advance with a Sparschiene ticket by national train operator ÖBB. This is a reduced rate ticket with prices starting at €9.90, and you can even get cheap fares on international journeys.

Not much of a planner? ÖBB also offers the Einfach raus ticket which you can buy on the day of travel, and allows you to get on a wide range of trains within Austria and take unlimited journeys, from €35 for two people and just €4 more for each extra person up to a maximum of five.

Prepare snacks for your journey at home, such as a sandwich and coffee in a thermos, rather than paying hiked-up prices en route.

If you travel by car, you can use the ÖAMTC website to compare fuel prices and find the cheapest option near you. It’s also worth investing in an annual vignette (motorway tax) if you regularly travel on motorways. An annual pass for a car in 2022 costs €93.80, whereas a 10-day vignette costs €9.60.

Dining and drinking out

Like in many countries, in Austria it is often cheaper to buy a restaurant meal at lunch rather than in the evening, at least on weekdays, so you can save by planning your meals out this way.

The website The Fork allows you to book at some restaurants for a discount as well as earning loyalty points.

Or skip the restaurants altogether. There’s plenty of good street food in Austria’s cities, from the Viennese sausage stands (a true institution — and these days you’ll often find vegetarian options too) to market stalls and roasted chestnut and potato stalls in the cooler months.

Find special promotions from happy hours to flash discounts by following your favourite restaurants on social media.

Self care

Hair salons are fairly expensive in Austria, but if you’re quite flexible on what style you go for, you can save by looking for those that need models. Again, following salons on social media can pay off as you might see discounts offered after last-minute cancellations.

Looking after your health often pays off in the long run, and it’s good to be aware that every adult in Austria is entitled to a free annual health check-up. Just ask your health insurance provider for details.

READ MORE: Six helpful tips to save money on food shopping in Austria

Shopping

Hit the flea markets or secondhand stores when you want to buy things like clothes or furniture, or check out sites like Refurbed to buy refurbished electricals at a lower cost.

Or if you’re buying new, get a good deal by buying when there’s a sale — you can find current brochures for a wide range of shops at the website wogibtswas.at.

If you’re buying new things because your old item broke, see if you can get it mended or fixed first. This applies to clothes and shoes, but also electricals — there are ‘repair cafes’ held around Austria where you can meet up with others and get help mending old things.

And when your electrical items are only reparable by a professional, make sure to claim Austria’s ‘repair bonus’ if you’re eligible.

READ MORE: How to get money back when electrical items break in Austria

Exercise

Look out for outdoor gyms across the country where you can workout for free, and perhaps even with a view. If you do sign up for a gym membership, it may sound obvious but you must check the contract first. It’s quite common to have a strict binding time, so make sure you know how long you’re committed for before you sign.

Vienna’s municipal swimming pools include some beautiful buildings and locations, and swimming is free for under-sevens, €1 for older children and only a couple of euros more for adults.

Keen swimmers might benefit from a six-months card granting access to all the city’s pools, which starts to pay for itself if you’re visiting more than seven times per month. Additionally, Austria is home to countless lakes with crystal clear water – many of which are free to access for swimming in the summer.

For those based in the mountains, or visiting for a holiday, avoid buying a costly ski pass by opting for cross country skiing or ski touring. There are cross country skiing trails in most alpine towns and villages that are free to use – all you will need are the skis, boots, poles and winter sport clothes.

Ski touring (hiking up mountains on special touring skis before skiing down) is also often free, although some resorts charge a small fee for accessing the piste. With day passes hitting €60 in peak season, this is a great way to enjoy the mountains without the cost.

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MONEY

Over half of Austrians on financially shaky ground: survey

More than 50 percent of Austrians feel financially unprepared for any unexpected turns in life, a new survey has found.

Over half of Austrians on financially shaky ground: survey

Money is really tight for people right now: inflation is high, energy prices are spiralling, even shopping for essentials in the supermarket is putting a strain on people’s wallets.

And that’s before you even think about pensions and planning for the future.

READ ALSO: What is Austria planning to do to cushion the rising cost of living

Sixty-six percent of Austrians are finding it increasingly difficult to make the right pension and financial decisions, according to a recent survey from Swiss Life, as reported by Austrian daily Der Standard.

The results were based on a survey of 1,050 people from Austria aged from 18 to 70 at the start of April.

It seems that many people are also unhappy with financial decisions they’ve made in the past.

A majority – 51 percent – of Austrians said they had made at least one important financial decision that they would later like to have reversed.

And around a third had even lost a large amount of money because they hadn’t informed themselves well enough.

‘Knowledge is power’
A lack of information around finance seems to be quite a common problem: only 34 percent of survey respondents said they felt really well-informed about financial topics.

It’s rather worrying that so many people feel unprepared for the unexpected; a break-up, an appliance breaking down, there are many things that can put additional pressure on household budgets.

“The study once again underlines how important and forward-looking financial education and skills are,” said Christoph Oberlacher, CEO of Swiss Life Austria.

“Knowledge is power. Only those who have the skills and abilities to make financial decisions on an objective basis will be able to lead a self-determined life in all matters in the future,” he added.

And people clearly recognise they need help to become better informed.

A high proportion of those surveyed – 74 percent – thought that getting advice on financial and pension issues was important, with 66 percent saying they felt having a personal adviser was increasingly important.

This comes as many banks and financial providers have expanded apps and online offerings to make it easier for people to access financial products.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it is the youngest people in the survey – those born between 1981 and 2004 – who attached the most importance to seeking advice – 78 percent.

And people in Austria really trust their financial and insurance providers – the survey found that trust was high across all generations at 81 percent.

‘Increased desire for stabiity’
Only a third of those surveyed did not have a permanent adviser at a bank or insurance company.

“The years of the pandemic in particular have increased the desire for stability and security in society as a whole,” said Oberlacher.

The pandemic turned life upside down for many people, so it is not surprising that 86 percent of those surveyed considered financial autonomy to be a fundamental need. 

Fortunately, 71 percent said achieving this was a realistic goal for them personally.

And the survey showed that people have a clear sense of personal responsibility for the outcome of their decisions, too: 75 percent of Austrians said they felt responsible for the success – as well as the failure – of their financial provisions.

People may feel they are not well-informed, but most – 68 percent – had clear financial goals, nonetheless. Every second person said they were planning a decision with major financial implications in the next year.

Finally, 27 percent of those who were approaching retirement or had already retired (people born between 1946 and 1964) said they wished they’d taken personal advice when making decisions about retirement.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: Why some households in Vienna are set for a gas price hike

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