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The Local guide: 52 ways to save money in Sweden

The Local guide: 52 ways to save money in Sweden
There are often unexpected expenses linked to moving abroad, and a new currency and cost of living to adjust to. But there are savings to be made too. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
The coronavirus crisis has affected many of us financially, or may have prompted you to look for more ways to save. Here are our top tips.

First published in 2019, we have updated these tips to reflect the current situation. Article last updated January 12th, 2021.

Bills

1. The start of a new year is an excellent time to go through all your regular costs, bills, and direct debits (autogiro in Swedish). First, look for any payments you're making for services you no longer use, or any that you don't understand, then contact the company to clarify or cancel. 

2. If you do spot a payment that you shouldn't have been making, you don't have to consider that money lost – gather any proof you have that it should have been cancelled or that you didn't use the service, and ask for a refund of payments made. If you misunderstood the initial terms of an agreement, explain this to the company, especially if a language barrier was an issue.

3. Check if any services are charging an administrative fee (administrativ avgift). It may be possible to avoid this completely by going paperless and checking your bills online rather than having them sent home. 


Hopefully some of these tips will help you save more kronor each month. Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT

4. Are you actually using all your subscriptions and memberships, especially during the coronavirus? If not, contact the company and see what options they offer for cancellation, freezing memberships, or transferring your classes. This may not always be possible because gyms and other activities are allowed to remain open as long as they follow the official guidelines, but many will be understanding, especially if you belong to an at-risk group. Bear in mind that small businesses are struggling, so if you're in a position to do so, one way to support local business owners and the individuals who run them is to avoid cancelling. Perhaps you can join a course online instead of in person, or you can take it at a later date? 

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5. See if you can cut down your regular bills by consolidating them. This might be choosing a home insurance that includes travel insurance rather than paying for two separate policies, or opting for a simpler TV or internet package if you don't need everything you're paying for.

6. If you got a deal when you first signed up for a service and have since been transferred to a regular plan, try calling up to negotiate, or see if you could save by moving to a new provider. Compare different electricity companies at Elskling and insurance and broadband offers at Compricer, for example. 

7. Check if you're eligible for discounts on any of your monthly bills, for example through deals secured by your union, workplace, or even housing association. 

Home and household

8. If you pay for your electricity individually (rather than it being included in monthly rent, which is common if you sublet), see if you can cut costs by turning your heating or air conditioning down just slightly, making sure your dishwasher and washing machine are full before turning them on, and not leaving devices on stand-by mode. During cold weather, this can mean big savings, particularly if you own a house.

9. Moving house soon? Doing your research could save you thousands, whether you're buying or renting. Many internationals end up paying above average for sublets simply because they aren't familiar with Sweden's housing market (and don't have a support network of friends and family) and are keen to accept the first offer they get after hearing about the housing shortage. Start looking at the options and typical prices well in advance, and think about your priorities. It's often possible to save money by living further out of a city, cutting down on living space or sacrificing luxuries like spare rooms or a balcony. Locations by the water are very popular in Sweden, and sometimes there will be big price differences between identical apartments or houses if one has a lakeside view.

10. If you sublet a house or apartment and didn't dig into the numbers when you first signed the contract, it may not be too late. In Sweden it's illegal to charge 'unreasonable rent' (the price your landlord pays in rent, or the amount it would cost to cover the mortgage, plus bills and a small percentage for furniture or cost of capital) and it is possible to complain and recover rent if you were overcharged. If you'll be starting the house-hunt soon, do your research first – it could save you thousands of kronor.

11. If you're coming up to the end of your mortgage agreement, it's a good time to shop around for a new deal with interest rates extremely low. Compare different providers, and find out if you're eligible for any discounts, for example through your union or workplace or by getting a 'green mortgage deal' if your home is energy efficient.

12. Sweden offers tax deduction for services including home cleaning, maintenance and repairs. If you paid for any of these in 2020, get your paperwork ready for tax return season so that you can claim any deductions you are entitled to. 


Going through bills might be daunting, but you might find you can save more than you realised. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Travel

13. During the coronavirus pandemic, you're probably travelling much less than usual. Make sure you're getting the best out of public transport and check if your usual option still makes sense given any changes to your travel habits, for example getting a pay-as-you-go card instead of a monthly or weekly pass if you aren't travelling as frequently.

14. If it's an option where you live, register your travel card in your name so that if you lose it, the money can be transferred to a replacement card.

15. If you're tempted to take advantage of the many discounts available for future holidays, make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully, in case you need to cancel or reschedule. Most travel insurance policies will not refund you for trips that are cancelled due to the pandemic.

16. Make sure you are signed up to rewards schemes for airlines such as SAS and Norwegian and rail company SJ, so that you're ready to take advantage of these bonuses once non-essential travel can start up again.

You're probably travelling less than usual at the moment. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Food and drink

17. Consider using a discount supermarket such as Lidl or Willys for your main grocery shop.

18. Smaller neighbourhood versions of stores, such as Ica Nära, can charge more even for the exact same items, so if you can, look for the largest supermarkets such as Ica Maxi, where you're also more likely to be able to buy in bulk and have more options.

19. If you're mainly buying groceries online during the pandemic, you'll be charged for delivery, but may be able to save considerably by planning your meals carefully and doing fewer shops in bulk. You might even find this cuts down your spending because you're less tempted by impulse buys.

20. Some supermarkets offer the option to do your shopping online and collect it from the supermarket rather than have it delivered, paying a smaller fee. This could be a savvy option if you have access to your own car.

21. Don't disregard the adverts you get through your letterbox, or the back pages of local newspapers, as these might contain savings coupons. 

22. Cutting down on takeaway coffees is a cliched money-saving tip, but if you prefer not to give up your caffeine hit, make sure you're using any available loyalty cards or apps, and taking advantage of frequently-offered discounts for bringing your own reusable mug.

You don't have to ditch the fika to save money. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

23. If you are eating out, many restaurants and cafes offer generous daily lunch deals (dagens lunch), where you can often get the exact same food and portion size on offer in the evening for around half the price. Coffee is usually included too!

24. Follow your favourite restaurants on social media so you find out about any special offers.

25. Download money-saving apps for foodies, such as The Fork, which offers restaurant reviews as well as exclusive discounts; Karma, which advertises hefty discounts on food which would otherwise go unsold by shops or restaurants; and Too Good To Go, which also allows you to buy surplus food from your favourite cafes and restaurants.

26. With many people spending less time at restaurants, delivery apps such as UberEats, Foodora and Wolt can bring your favourite food to your door. Although there's a delivery charge and you may want to tip the driver too, ordering food home can help you save money as there's less temptation to buy drinks at a mark-up.

27. Alcohol is undeniably pricey in Sweden, so if and when it is safe to go to a bar (but remember that at the moment you should avoid situations where venues might get crowded), look out for afterwork deals, the usual term for 'happy hour', when beer, wine and even cocktails may be cheaper than usual.

28. Drinking at home? Unfortunately, the state-run alcohol monopoly Systembolaget doesn't offer any discounts or special offers on booze, since its stated purpose is to reduce Swedish consumption of alcohol. But it's still much cheaper to drink at home than in a bar, so why not meet a few friends in the park for a socially distanced picnic? You can return unopened bottles of alcohol to Systembolaget, which is worth knowing if you find you've bought six bottles of a wine that no one likes.

29. Try going alcohol-free more often. Non-alcoholic beer is widely available in Sweden thanks to laws against advertising alcohol, which have contributed to many breweries creating a non-alcoholic range. Sweden's strict laws on alcohol also mean most breweries do a 'light' version of their beers at less than 3.5 percent ABV, as this is the maximum alcohol content that can be sold in supermarkets. Lower-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks are almost always cheaper.

Shopping

30. Secondhand shopping is huge in Sweden, and you can find everything from discounted designer bags to vinyl records and more at secondhand shops (check out Stadsmissionen, Myrorna and Röda Korset for a start) and loppis (flea markets: find a list of upcoming ones here) across the country. You can also look on apps such as Sellpy, websites like Blocket and Tradera, and buy-and-sell Facebook groups in your local area – particularly handy if you're staying at home and shopping online more than in person these days.

31. Libraries might be closed at the moment, but in normal times this is a good way to check out books whether in Swedish for language practice or another language, as well as to find free events such as children's activities, book clubs and language cafes. It may still be possible to use audiobooks, e-books, and even online newspapers for free or a much smaller fee than usual.

32. For outdoor days, see if there's a Fritidsbanken in your area: these spots all over the country let you borrow sport and leisure equipment for up to two weeks, for free. 

READ ALSO: 15 Stockholm vintage shops to lose yourself in


Flea markets are very popular in Sweden in non-coronavirus times. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/SCANPIX

33. When you want to buy something new, compare prices using a site like Prisjakt or Pricerunner, where you can see the cheapest shop to pick up everything from a new laptop to beauty products.

34. And sign up to loyalty cards or membership programmes at your favourite shops. At the same time, you should sign up to their newsletter to hear about special offers and sales – but sort those emails into a separate folder in your inbox so you aren't tempted to spend every time you get their updates.

35. Another good email to sign up for is LetsDeal, which advertises discounts on all kinds of things from food to beauty treatments, while the newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen also collect current discount codes.

36. Exercise common sense as much as possible, which means taking time to think about whether you really want to make a purchase, and never buying anything you can't afford. If possible, avoid paying for anything in installments, as this is usually to the disadvantage of the buyer.

Events and activities

37. It's often fairly easy to find free activities in Sweden, as so much of Swedish culture revolves around spending time in nature, or mys – cosiness, usually at home with family. Plan ways to make nights in feel a bit special and different, maybe following a YouTube tutorial for a new craft such as painting, watching a favourite film, or simply lighting candles.

38. Sweden's right to roam (allemansrätten) means there are almost no restrictions to where you can travel and camp free of charge, as long as you respect the surrounding nature. Meanwhile, the huge amounts of water across the country offer opportunities for swimming in summer and ice-skating in winter. 

39. When non-essential travel is encouraged again, think about how you can get the most for your money. In Stockholm ferry trips are included in normal transport passes all year round, and in the off-season you can take longer boat trips out to the archipelago for no extra cost. A public transport pass in Gothenburg can help you reach archipelago islands like Brännö, Styrsö and Vrångö by tram and ferry. In Karlstad, you can take boat buses in the summer as part of the city's public transport system. 

READ ALSO: The ultimate guide to exploring Stockholm's archipelago


Outdoor gyms can be used in all weather. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

40. Look out for outdoor gyms (utegym), running groups such as Park Run and free exercise groups. In Stockholm, for example, sportswear shop Lululemon usually offers regular free classes and in the summer there are free yoga sessions in many of the city's parks, while Malmö has regular free exercise classes in the Pildammsparken. The Public Health Agency has advised opting for outdoor over indoor exercise where possible during the coronavirus pandemic – just make sure you avoid contact with others, keep your distance, and don't share things like water bottles or towels.

41. Sweden's 18 state-run museums are free to enter, but while they are closed due to the pandemic, check out their websites to see if you can explore the exhibitions virtually. This is also possible at spots you would usually need to pay to visit, such as the Royal Palace.

42. Simply planning ahead for your days out can save you quite a bit each time. Pack your own reusable shopping bags to avoid paying the charge for plastic ones, and take a water bottle or thermos, and perhaps a snack each time you leave the house. 

Photo: Doris Beling/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se

Healthcare

43. Healthcare in Sweden isn't free, but after you reach a certain amount each year, it's free to visit doctors and medical specialists. There's also a cost ceiling for prescription medicines. In some regions the so-called frikort (fee waiver once you reach the cost ceiling) is applied automatically, but in others you'll need to collect your receipts, keep track of how much you've spent and inform your doctor once you've reached the ceiling. Find out on your first visit what applies to you so that you don't spend unnecessarily. Calling the national healthcare helpline 1177 for medical advice is always free.

44. Be aware of discounts and free care available to certain groups, for example free or discounted flu vaccines for older people and those in at-risk groups, and free or discounted contraception for young women. The exact discount and age brackets vary between regions, so again you should find out from your doctor what you're eligible for.

45. Dental care can be extremely expensive, but even here there are ways to save. It's completely free for the under-23 age group, with annual subsidies for everyone, but higher subsidies for those aged 23-29 and over 65. When you go to the dentist, make sure to ask them about your subsidy – and make sure you've signed up to the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan) well in advance, otherwise you won't be eligible.

46. Different dentists have different pricing structures so it's possible to shop around, and if you can be flexible with your timing, some dentists will offer cheaper prices for last-minute appointments. You can also choose to set up a Frisktandvårdsavtal (Dental Healthcare Plan) at the Folktandvården dentist, which means you pay a fixed amount each month in exchange for any dental care you need. 

Going to the dentist might never be pleasant, but you can at least make it a bit cheaper. Photo: Tore Meek/NTB scanpix/TT

READ MORE: How the Swedish healthcare system works

Know your rights

47. If you're an employee, check which benefits are available through your company. Hopefully your HR department made this clear when you were first employed, but it's well worth going through what's on offer, whether that's relocation assistance when you first move, subsidised Swedish classes, or a friskvårdsbidrag (health contribution) which means you can get money put towards a gym membership or sports activity of your choice.

48. If you're working from home during the pandemic (and this should apply to everyone whose job can reasonably be done from home), your company has an obligation to provide you with safe equipment which may include a monitor, desk and chair. If this hasn't been discussed yet, speak to your direct manager or work environment representative.

49. Students should check out which discounts they're eligible for, and it may be a surprise to learn that young person discounts (ungdomsrabatter) are often available up to the day you turn 26, in many cases even if you actually have a full-time job. We've collected a list of some of the best discounts for students and for under-26-year-olds.

50. There are also special offers available to seniors on everything from coffee at 7/11 or Pressbyrån to many sightseeing activities to train tickets with SJ. 

51. All shoppers should be aware of their rights as a consumer so you don't end up losing money on faulty or misadvertised products. It's often possible to return unused goods if you've had a change of heart too, though that is not a legally protected right.

52. If your concerns about money go deeper than wanting to cut down on coffee or save on your electricity bill, every municipality in Sweden has a specialist consumer advisor who can give you impartial advice regarding budget and debt planning. There's a lot to consider if you're new in a country with a different salary, different tax rates and perhaps new or changed expenses, so there's no shame in asking for help if you need it.

Members' guide: Know your consumer rights when shopping in Sweden

READ MORE: How the Swedish healthcare system works


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