When we first heard about the possibility of moving to Sweden, there was a lot of research we needed to do. One of the main things to look into was the cost of living in Sweden. It is OK to think you need a certain income coming in, but how would the cost of living in Sweden compare to the cost of living in the UK (where we were living at the time). We researched as best we could from a distance, and in a very short space of time.
However, since hitting the ground here (running!!), there are a few things we now know about a lot better, so I thought I would put together some main points and differences about the cost of living in Sweden. It is by no means a comprehensive list but covers some of the main things we budget for in our own household. It gives a rough overview of how we have found it.
There is no doubt about it, you can get a lot more for your money here than back in the UK. Yes, prices around the main cities can be comparable to ours in the UK, but once you move only a few km’s away the prices drop significantly. Whereas in the UK, you can live a good distance from a main town and still be paying a lot for very little (and yes we did used to live in the south of England so prices were also higher there). We now live around 15km from a big town with amazing transport links in and out, considering it is a Swedish island too. We have what can be called a proper garden, not a postage stamp. This was an amazing bonus point for the cost of living in Sweden, as it was by far our biggest outgoing.
This seems to be around double what we would have paid back in the UK for a similar sized home, with contents. I am not sure if it is because we are living in a wooden house now (the insurance comes complete with a free fire extinguisher), but this is a cost that needs to be borne in mind when budgeting.
I have noticed that a weekly shop for 5 people roughly balances out, but if you are big meat eaters you need to budget more for this expenditure. We have one vegan at home and the children get a main meal at school every day, so we do not buy meat so much for everyday use. Expect to pay double for meat than you would in a standard supermarket in the UK. Cheese is also another constantly pricey item. Otherwise most things are comparable in price.
You get the odd randomly higher priced item; raisins, washing powder, and hot chocolate are a few of them. But generally, our food budget is very similar. I was pleasantly surprised when we started buying alcohol. I had thought it would be a lot more than the UK, but it is around the same for a bottle of wine. Four cans of beer would perhaps work out a pound or two more, but it is not a deal breaker.
While we don’t really get to do this (I can’t take credit for the photo, that is a friend’s mouthwatering cake), it is more expensive. Two coffees, a hot chocolate, and 2 small pieces of cake will easily set you back over 200 SEK (around £20), while a meal out will be similar in comparison. Thank heavens McDonald’s and IKEA compare similarly!! So you can always downgrade to those options, although I do love a good meal at IKEA!! As for drinks, you can easily pay double for a glass of wine or a pint (half litre!) of beer.
Cost of Running A Car
We have a Volvo V70 (yes I know, very Swedish, but we were limited with options as we had to fit three car seats across the back seat). The cost of buying this was similar to if we had bought one in the UK on a similar model. Insurance is similar too. Here, you insure the vehicle (so anyone qualified can drive it), rather than a person. You also must not forget to include your wild animal cover for those deer and elks that like to give you heart failure as you are driving along. Fuel is also about the same price as well.
We are paying a little more over the course of a year for electricity than we did in the UK for both electricity and gas, we only use electricity here. Bear in mind though it is on 24/7 during the Swedish winter, whereas in the UK we got away with a couple of hours twice a day. Water cost is about the same. What is significantly cheaper is everything that comes under “council tax” in the UK. We pay for bins separately and you chose a plan that suits you and your waste production.
We are a family of five and have alternate week collections for food and combustible waste. Similar to UK and costs around £20/month. Everything else (cardboard, metal, plastic, glass etc) we take to the recycling places which are found all over the place. Our nearest is about a 5-minute walk or no time at all in the car. Don’t think big recycling centers as in the UK (“the tip”), think a group of metal skips like bottle banks where you sort waste by type. The rest of our home tax is around £48/month compared to over £170/month for our council tax in the UK.
Dadda uses the busses daily for his commute into town about 15km away. He pays £60/month for his travel card for busses that turn up on time. It covers an area of around 25km radius away from the main town, for as much travel as he wants (or anybody else, as anyone can use the card). Up to two children under 7 go free with a paying adult. It is also very reliable.
This was a big expense for us in the UK having 3 children. We don’t over schedule them, but we insist on swimming lessons. Then if there is something they want to do, we let them within reason. Swimming is hard to compare as the lessons here are 40 minutes, plus our older one can actually attend twice a week if she wants to. It’s not too much more than what we were paying in the UK. Our little lady is a member of the (sea) Scouts here and her scouting membership is around £32 for the year.
We pay £40/year each for the boys to go to local gymnastic class, plus twin 1 does an hour of football a week too for that price. Twin 2 could, but he chooses not to. It is a pass to do whatever is on offer. The little lady’s modern/jazz dance class works out a lot cheaper….half the price of what we paid in the UK, which was around average price there. But when she and twin 1 did ballet, it was at least double. So, it can depend on what your child enjoys, but on average it is comparable to the UK and not a shock to the system when you move to Sweden.
I hope this little insight into the cost of living in Sweden has been helpful if you are thinking about moving abroad. If not, it may have been fun to have a little look at how we have found it! If you are thinking of moving abroad, but not to Sweden, I hope it can give you some direction to research in terms of budgeting. It was so hard to get a picture of what the cost of living in Sweden would be before we moved.
If you like what you have read here, come and see where we blog over at Mamma’s School which has lots about our life here in Sweden, the great outdoors, and tips and activities for getting children out there too. You can also follow us on Instagram (where we have lots of photos of beautiful Sweden), FaceBook, Twitter, and Pinterest 🙂
Written by Sonia Cave
I’m Sonia, Mamma to three (our little lady, 9, and our twin mini men, 5). With Dadda, we’re on our dream adventure having moved from the UK to Sweden in October 2016. We’re happiest in the outdoors. We like playing in nature, climbing trees, and cooking in the great outdoors. We moved to Sweden to bring our children up the Scandinavian way, and to enjoy all things Swedish, especially their ethos of living. You can follow our adventures over on the the blog Mammas School
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