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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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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge, or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Vienna.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

If you find yourself with a large piece of furniture or big household appliance that has seen its prime and is not bound to the trashcan, then you might be wondering where to dispose of them – legally, that is.

Even if it is not uncommon to see furniture or appliances next to the big trashcans often placed near households and apartment complexes, it is illegal to leave them there.

Different cities have different methods – some will even pick up trash at specific times and places. To know how your city deals with bulky waste (Sperrmüll), you can google “Sperrmüll + the name of your city”.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Vienna has several waste collection points where you can leave bulky waste, electrical appliances, hazardous waste (in household quantities) and other old goods for no charge.

The use of the Wiener Mistplätze is subject to certain quantity limits and requirements, but they are to avoid industrial use. Therefore, most households will have no problem with the limitations.

Here you can find several collection points in Vienna.

It is worth pointing out that delivery to those sites can only be made by cars with Viennese license plates, on foot or by bicycle. Furthermore, no trailers or company cars are allowed to leave trash at these collection points.

What can you bring to the collection centres?

This is the place to bring large sheets of plastic foil, bulky or large metal parts and electrical appliances, for example.

Additionally, you can bring small amounts of bulky waste, wood, styrofoam, large cardboard boxes, green waste and used tires to any waste collection centres.

Depending on what you are disposing of, you might need to go to the Rinter centre, one of the larger ones.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

The centres also have a separate division where it is possible to donate old items still in good condition, the so-called 48er-Tandler-Box.

Tableware, small furniture, electrical appliances, clothes, toys and other items can be reused and bought at a low price at the 48er-Tandler reuse shop.

Most centres are open only from Monday to Friday during business hours, but others are also available on Saturdays.

What to do if I don’t have a car?

If you don’t need a car but still need to dispose of a large appliance, the Viennese solution varies.

Some will take public transport with a couple of friends trying to help them carry an old sofa via the u-bahn, although that can get a little tough at peak hour. 

Alternatively, you can borrow or rent a vehicle to try and save costs.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

But Vienna City also has a service that will pick up the trash for a low fee – even if it is located in the attic, a basement or a courtyard.

It’s the Entrümpelungsdienst und Sperrmüllabfuhr der MA 48. You can also ask for the “dump service” when the city of Vienna brings a trough (the smallest can fit 12 cubic meters).

Once you fill it up, they will remove it and take it to the appropriate place.

Costs will depend on the amount of trash, the size of the appliance, and where in the household it is located.

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