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Old 18.01.2011, 20:58
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yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Hi all,

I can hear everyone groaning on reading the title of the post . But please bear with me and read my post! I believe I have a few unique situations (who doesnt?) and have noted here the points that came about in my research as well as from reading a lot of posts in here.

I have been accepted in principle for a PhD position at ETH Zurich in the Informatics Dept. and I am yet to receive a final offer detailing my salary etc. I infer from some research that the rough figure is around 50000chf in the first year and goes up a bit every year. I am coming after 5 years of working in India in hi-tech companies and I can safely say that I have led a super comfortable (in fact, pampered) life in India during my working life.

I have a mortgage to pay in India(about 1000chf a month). I am married and we have no kids as of now. The following is the basic computation I have arrived at. Please let me know if it makes sense and seems reasonable:

annual salary: 50000
after taxes and deductions: 45000 (assuming 10%)
monthly pay: 3500chf (13 month pay)

monthly expenses:

rent: 1200 (2 room apt in a suburb - baden/adliswil etc)
groceries: 400 (migros - got this estimate from leshop.ch)
travel: 200 (half rate card travel or maybe a monthly pass)
elec/water: 50
TV/internet/landline: 65
mobile phones: 100
insurance: 275: 75 (student rate)+200(for the missus)
liquid and gaseous fuel for us: 100 (always at home and not at bars/pubs)
Misc (travel, leisure, clothes): 300

total: 2600 chf

remaining approx 900chf for my mortgage in India.

Am i missing something obvious? I can easily take care of any initial or annual fixed expenditure from some savings i have back home. for instance, i have budgeted about 1000chf for minimal required furnishing and maybe around 2000chf as rental deposit. Similarly, trips back home or annual vacation travel can be managed with my 13th month salary.

My wife is also completing her PhD in ecology from the best Science institute in India and will start looking out for Post-Doc options in CH/Ger/Fra and maybe other countries. It should ease up a lot once she finds her position. But until then or even for the entire duration, both of us are ready to make the required sacrifices and live a parsimonious life.

Would love to hear any suggestions, comments and valuable thoughts.
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Old 18.01.2011, 21:02
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Your numbers look sound and plenty of people here get by, marginally, on that. That said, there will be unexpected expenses which, especially in Switzerland, are waaaaay more than you expect so you should have some cushion somewhere to cover emergencies.

BTW, welcome to the forum.
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Old 18.01.2011, 21:09
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Thanks Ratbert. Loved the forum as a leecher and hopefully would love it more as a member

I do have some savings to get me through emergencies. But what seemed like a pile of money while in India seems just a handful when i see most of the prices in Switzerland

Let me see how things turn out!
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Old 18.01.2011, 21:10
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Hello!
Yes there's always a few Administration fees for most thing. Example registering an address will easily costs 60chf, etc...
You also forgot BILLAG (crap you must pay)
Also the cost of stupid mailbox tag name (although you should be able to make them anywhere, try india its cheaper ) here they charged me 60chf.
Also, cost of connecting to internet if you dont have previous landlord phone: approx 100-200chf depends on how skillful you are.
etc...
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Old 18.01.2011, 22:17
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Sorry, reality check. That is WAY too low. You will really struggle on that number. FYI that's what the lowest paid employee at your local grocery store will make (check-out, stocking shelves). Sorry, I call foul here. You will need 80K at least. This place is the most expensive in the world.
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Old 18.01.2011, 22:26
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Hi Karl,

Thanks for the Heads-up. I agree its gonna be a struggle but this is not a salary but a PhD stipend and generally they do expect us to live like paupers. For instance, in india, a PhD student makes about 1/8th what i make in my job. worst part is i cannot negotiate much on this. In fact, I dont even know yet my final offer.

Lets see how things go. I think quite a few students are managing - barely though.
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Old 18.01.2011, 23:35
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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I think quite a few students are managing - barely though.
Generally PhD don't pay 1200 CHF rent and 1000 CHF house payment in another country at the same time.

However, I am guessing the reason actually is that wife wants to do postdoc and you decided to get a PhD during this time, more so since getting a work permit for non university jobs is hard?

On your salary alone you are in for a hard time.
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Old 19.01.2011, 09:51
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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annual salary: 50000
after taxes and deductions: 45000 (assuming 10%)
monthly pay: 3500chf (13 month pay)
This calculation is also missing the monthly pension deductions, both for federal and state system, that would be 400-600, and some other small deductions. You are not likely to have more than CHF 3000/month in bank.

Make sure you know the final numbers, as over the next three years it will not increase much.
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Old 19.01.2011, 10:20
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

paying your mortgage in india is gonna be the final straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back...

have you considered renting the place in india to cover the mortgage?

without the mortgage payment, you will get by, it won't be confortable and I wouldn't get my hopes up on traveling too much for the duration of your study... on the other hand, you are sponsered to do your Phd and hopefully after that you can pick the fruits of your hard work...

budget is too tight, you will need additional income from somewhere and you defo won't be able to pay the mortgage in india.

good luck
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Old 19.01.2011, 10:46
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Good luck! Believe me this is one of the most expensive countries in the world and depending on which city you are living in and also the family size things will differ. The number you have quoted in my opinion is too low.
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:13
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Agree with the negative comments - sorry, I tend to answer people asking this question on the positive - say, 100k for a small family or 70k-80k for an individual leads to a comfortable but basic, far from pampered lifestyle.

50k with a 1k monthly obligation is going to be very, very difficult. Sure you are pursuing your dream of a PhD and from your posts you seem to accept the hardships that this will bring, but it seems to me this is really, really cutting it short and leaving very little room for all the unexpected things that will come your way (Karl mentioned just a few). I want to congratulate you on following your dream and cheer you to do it! But in a way that is sustainable. Also consider the change from a 'pampered' lifestyle to a very, very limited one (without the 1000 chf obligation).

Without the 1000 chf obligation in India I say you could do it. But with that, next to impossible. Will have to sell the place. Renting... too risky. If the person moves out and you have no savings to face having to pay the full mortgage some months, then you are in trouble. If there are obligations (something damaged you must repair, etc).

Anyway, best of luck!
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:33
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

I, on the contrary think your calculations are spot-on.

Our (family of 2) fixed yearly expenses average at 2100 CHF a month, and that includes all rent, taxes, billag, health, household, private liability, travel and car insurances etc, but excludes food, clothing and any random expenses.

Take away the car tax and insurance (1400chf/y), one GA (3300chf/y) and take into account your lower health insurance prices (-2400chf/year) and you get an average of 1500CHF/month of fixed expenses. Add 1000CHF a month for groceries and misc. stuff and you have 1000CHF left for your mortgage.

So, spot on with your calculations :-). But be careful - anything unexpected and you will easily exceed the budget! Be very careful about expenses, no eating out. Make sure to save as much as you can every month, to have some savings (I'd say you should have a minimum of 5000CHF in savings in case you or your partner need expensive treatment at the hospital, if you need to move apartments, or simply to pack your things and go back to India).
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:46
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

thanks all for your inputs. I will be a bit more wary now. I understand some of this was not realistic. I will try to rework something. And yes, I need to do something about my mortgage until my wife can get a position or if possible take a mortgage-break for a couple of years which would mean very high interest and increase in repayment period. But one cannot have it all. Doing this PhD has been a long term desire and I would like to get it to materialize. Thanks again everyone.
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:53
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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I, on the contrary think your calculations are spot-on.

Our (family of 2) fixed yearly expenses average at 2100 CHF a month, and that includes all rent, taxes, billag, health, household, private liability, travel and car insurances etc, but excludes food, clothing and any random expenses.

Take away the car tax and insurance (1400chf/y), one GA (3300chf/y) and take into account your lower health insurance prices (-2400chf/year) and you get an average of 1500CHF/month of fixed expenses. Add 1000CHF a month for groceries and misc. stuff and you have 1000CHF left for your mortgage.

So, spot on with your calculations :-). But be careful - anything unexpected and you will easily exceed the budget! Be very careful about expenses, no eating out. Make sure to save as much as you can every month, to have some savings (I'd say you should have a minimum of 5000CHF in savings in case you or your partner need expensive treatment at the hospital, if you need to move apartments, or simply to pack your things and go back to India).
These numbers might be o.k. for Biel, but OP says he'll be working at the ETH in Zurich
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:57
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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This calculation is also missing the monthly pension deductions, both for federal and state system, that would be 400-600, and some other small deductions. You are not likely to have more than CHF 3000/month in bank.

Make sure you know the final numbers, as over the next three years it will not increase much.
His tax at 10% will cover that. Being married and earning 3,850 a month will mean he pays maybe 3% tax in Zurich. Social contributions are in the region of 6-7%.

I'd be more skeptical about living in Adliswil in a 2.0 apartment for 1,200 a month. There are 2 that fit the criteria, but at that low a price competition will be fierce. Also expecting to pay a deposit if less than 2 months rent is optimistic in the extreme. I would double it.

OP I don't know how large your savings are, but at best your income and expenditure leaves no room for contingencies and contingencies in Switzerland tend to be expensive!
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Old 19.01.2011, 13:58
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Hi technix,

Some thoughts:

1. I am assuming you are referring to a 3.5 zimmer apartment (2 bedrooms)? I am not sure about Baden at all but a quick search on Homegate.ch hows me that the cheapest 3.5 zimmer in Adiswil currently is 1690CHF. A more realistic rental budget will be around 1700 - 2000 CHF for Adiswil. Alternatively, go for a 2.5 zimmer (1 bedroom) - and a quick search on homegate says that the cheapest 2.5 zimmer on there at the moment is 1515CHF.

Landlords can ask for deposits up to 3 months rent - so budget for that if Swisskaution is not an option.

That alone already eats up almost half your monthly take home that you've indicated. Including your monthly mortgage in India, that really doesnt leave much. The Love Doctor suggested renting it out - which is a good idea. Thats what we are doing for our property back home, it does take off a lot of stress off your shoulders and free up that 1000 CHF for other necessities.

2. 400 CHF for groceries might be a little tight. The two of us spend about 500chf-ish on basic necessities/food per month, alone. But then again, we are meat eaters.

3. Also, do remember for health insurance, there is always an excess amount that you have to pay yourself, before the insurance covers the rest. Do check that amount, and you will have to leave aside money for that if someone falls ill etc etc.

4. Have a look on the sbb website for yearly travel card costs, as well as other possible travel options for your wife. It works out better for someone travelling daily to and fro work to have a yearly pass, and a pack of 6 travel cards for the wife if she doesnt go out that much - just quoting an example.

5. Finally, 1000 CHF for furnishing will only give you the option of second hand furnitures. They are not cheap here and definitely not enough to even furnish the flat for the most basics. Not even IKEA. Do remember that most of the Swiss apartments comes with NOTHING - not even lights - just the basic white goods in the kitchen. So you do need to budget for those too. Have a trawl around the forum's FOR SALE section.

PS: And no groan at all, I thought it was a very well thought through post versus the usual vague "is 80 000 CHF enough for a family of 3?" Welcome to the forum and good luck!
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Last edited by summerrain; 19.01.2011 at 14:08.
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Old 19.01.2011, 14:00
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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You will need 80K at least.
Yes, because everyone in Switzerland earns 80K or more, and nobody can even consider living on a rappen less.

What planet do you live on, Karl?
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Old 19.01.2011, 14:01
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Thanks for a very nice post about a subject that usually gets on our nerves.

Come on guys, give him a thanks you "click"!

As a single person in the cheapest area of Switzerland, you would need CHF 2,500 just to exist.

You can lower your living costs by sharing an appartment.
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Old 19.01.2011, 14:18
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

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Come on guys, give him a thanks you "click"!
Yes teacher!
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Old 19.01.2011, 14:24
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Re: yet another cost of living question (have done some basic research)

Your numbers are balls to the wall tight dude, and offer zero tolerance for the unexpected. I would increase the value for rent by another hundred anyway, and I didn't see public liability insurance for the apartment having a value. I believe that unless you speak fluent German, then your phone/internet/tv will be min CHF75 per month, and as you have no spare, that puts you a around 135 swissy in the hole before you start.... and don't even think about getting sick.

Reworking the figure only works if it is actually achievable, and I don't think yours are, and it's the CHF 900 back home that's doing it. TBH, other than that I'm not seeing what's unique about you situation? If you can rent your Indian place I think your good, if not I think your busted.
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