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Living Expenses for Expats in Austria

Published: December 16, 2013; 15:46 · (Vindobona) · Sponsored Content

In global rankings, Vienna often emerges as a relatively low-cost destination for expatriates. But what does this mean in terms of day-to-day expenses? We explore the cost of living in Austria below.

Living Expenses for Expats in Austria / Picture: © Flickr

In global rankings, Vienna often emerges as a relatively low-cost destination for expatriates. But what does this mean in terms of day-to-day expenses? We explore the cost of living in Austria below.

Exiting, exclusive, expensive – such are the qualities frequently associated with expat living. However, acquiring international work experience, or exploring life in another country, hasn’t been the prerogative of high-flying executives and foreign assignees for quite some time. More and more “self-made” expatriates venture abroad on their own, attracted e.g. by Austria’s service sector (finance, commerce, tourism, and inter-governmental organizations) or the breathtaking Alpine scenery. While international living will always remain exciting, its nimbus of exclusivity has diminished.

Vienna among Cheaper Expat Hotspots Worldwide

What about “expensive”? Obviously, this depends largely on your destination. Before you pack your skiing gear and relocate to the Alpine Republic, you might be interested in the daily expenses for expats living in Austria. Unfortunately, random numbers, taken out of context, are of little to no help. Sure, it’s nice to know that you can buy a liter of milk for €1.09 from an Austrian supermarket, or shill out between six and ten euros for a night at the movies. However, this doesn’t really aid you in planning your household budget.

International rankings, like the annual Mercer Cost of Living Survey, are a good starting point. According to Mercer, Vienna fares well in comparison to other expat hotspots round the globe. In 2012, the Austrian capital dropped a further twelve ranks, from #36 to #48, thus barely making it among the top 50 cities in terms of living expenses.

Nonetheless, you need to take into account that such surveys are geared towards the remaining executive demographic in expat circles. Moreover, they depend on the relative strength of the US dollar and its foreign exchange rate with local currencies. When measured against other EU member states, Austria is actually a slightly more expensive location than the EU average (including neighboring Germany).

No-Frills Lifestyle vs. Comfy Household Budget

Within Austria itself, the current median net income ranges from €1,732 to €1,777 a month, depending on the statistical source. After paying taxes and contributing to various social security schemes, half of all Austrian households can spend less than this amount per adult person and month. The other 50% have a higher disposable income. For single expats who plan on moving to Austria, this figure may serve as a useful guideline regarding the (net) salary to aim for.

The local consumer advice service, Budgetberatung.at, regularly publishes model budgets for a no-frills lifestyle. Their target demographic includes people who aren’t considered poor, seeing as they live well beyond a mere subsistence level income, but who need to cut back on costs or pay off personal debt. According to Budgetberatung, a single person household in Austria needs around €1,300 a month for this kind of modest life. They figure in around €445 in monthly rent, €95 for the utility bill (water, gas, electricity), and €380 for groceries, toiletries, and cleaning utensils.

Such penny-pinching is neither feasible in all cases, nor is it particularly fun. The household budget drawn up by Budgetberatung doesn’t account for the costs of owning a car, or keeping a pet. They also point out that rent varies strongly between Austria’s different regions. Most expats relocate to Vienna, where €445 might get you a nice room in a flatshare. A 40m² studio apartment in the Austrian capital easily requires spending €550 or €600 a month, utilities not included. And let’s not forget that leisure activities come at a price! Dining out, going to the opera, setting out on a daytrip to the mountains, or saving up for a holiday will add up soon.

Extra Costs for Expat Families

For the reasons explored above, the approximate median income of €1,750 is a much more realistic figure for your cost of living if you plan on enjoying expat life in Austria. Couples without children evidently don’t need to have twice that sum at their disposal: life in a two-person household is usually cheaper than the footloose and fancy-free existence of a singleton. However, expats with kids are the one group who needs to watch out for extra expenses.

Local residents, as well as children from low-income families, usually take precedence in public childcare facilities, and private childcare options can be rather costly. For example, the yearly tuition fee for full-time daycare at an international Montessori pre-school in Vienna is an impressive €7,200 (minus an official childcare subsidy that most families are entitled to). Private education at an international or third-country school also means that expat parents can’t benefit from free schooling. If they need a place for a high-school student, they’ll have to dig deep into their pockets and raise up to €20,000 per year.

If you have any further questions concerning the local cost of living, just ask other expats on InterNations, the global expat community in Austria and around the globe.