8 tips for saving money when moving to Europe


Moving to Europe? It’s a great place to live, but not always the most affordable.

Fortunately, Europeans have been working together to make it easier and cheaper to live, work and travel across the continent.

We’ve rounded up the best tips to help you save money, even if you do live in one of the cheapest European cities for expats.

Learn the language as soon as possible


Learning a language takes a big investment in time, but not necessarily money. The sooner you can converse with locals in their own language, the quicker it will pay off for you too.

Instead of paying for lessons, check out the 6 best apps to learn a new language.

Plus, if you're reading this in English then you already have language skills that a lot of Europeans want to learn. You can find students learning English at local colleges and become language buddies to help each other practise.

Start connecting

facebook groups

There are plenty of other expats in the same situation as you. Social media groups, especially on Facebook, are a great way to find them and share money-saving advice.

There are expat groups for almost every part of Europe, sometimes broken down by nationality too like American expats in Paris or Brits and other expats in Italy. You can use these groups to find everything from a home to second-hand furniture or ask your own questions.

Join one before you leave home and start getting insider advice straight away.

Share a home

amsterdam flats

Moving in with strangers might sound daunting, but it’s perfectly normal for Europeans of all ages and it saves on housing and other living costs.

In many European countries, particularly France and Germany, buying a home isn’t that common so there’s always plenty of options for renting. Just remember that many European cities have large universities so the availability (and price) of accommodation is affected by their term times.

Craigslist never took off in Europe, but each country has their own equivalent for online listings and flatshares. There’s Kijiji in Italy, Marktplaats in the Netherlands and Leboncoin in France, for example.

Ditch the car

public transport

Maybe a car was essential to you before, but many Europeans get through life without ever learning to drive. That’s because public transport in most European cities is excellent, reliable and affordable.

In contrast, car ownership can be expensive here. German motorists spend just under €450 per month running their cars on average, while Dutch motorists pay the most between €600 and €800.

Ride sharing apps like Uber are helping too. If you switch some journeys to public transport then regularly hailing a car can be cheaper than driving your own.

Eat for less


Europe has some of the world’s finest (and priciest) restaurants, but you can still eat good food without breaking the bank.

Look out for lunchtime specials or download an app with restaurant deals. Groupon works across large parts of Europe, but many countries have their own version too like Redeem and Get in Ireland or Bónusz Brigád in Hungary. The Fork from TripAdvisor is also a great site for finding deals and booking tables without the language barrier.

For dining at home, Europe has fantastic markets selling a huge variety of meat, fish, vegetables and more. Groceries here are usually sold by weight, but be careful of stalls that don’t list their prices.

Finally, you can make any cheap wine taste expensive by simply blending it for 30 seconds. Seriously.

Find cheap flights


The skies of Europe are full of budget airlines that will do almost anything to keep costs low. That includes using airports further out from the city so sometimes the journey between the airport and your supposed destination is more expensive than the flight.

Once you factor that in, you can find great deals across the continent.

One of the best sites for comparing flights is Skyscanner. You’ll hear a lot of different theories about how to find the cheapest flights, but here’s what actually works.

Book seven weeks in advance, stay flexible and search on a Tuesday afternoon. Many airlines release their sales on Monday night then spend the next day adjusting their fares to compete with each other’s.

Also, some airlines offer free cancellation within 24 hours so check if the price drops during that time then cancel and rebook. Repeat if necessary!

Save your tips


One money saving tip is to not tip. If you’re American, you might think that sounds unfair, but don’t worry.

Tipping is less common in Europe so most service workers get a higher wage that doesn’t need to be subsidised in this way. Europeans tend to only tip their waiters, usually about 10%, but it’s sometimes included automatically on the bill.

In Europe, tipping more than that or tipping other professionals isn’t just unnecessary. It’s potentially quite awkward.

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