Living Costs in a Stockholm Suburb

Posted on September 29, 2013

When I had moved into my apartment in august 2012 I decided to start keeping track of all of the expenses. Mostly out of curiosity, because I’m already quite careful with money :). In the beginning it took a lot of time (it was at least an hour per week) because I went through each receipt and divided up all the stuff into different accounts (e.g. Food, Household consumption articles, etc.). Very time consuming and it also meant I had to keep all receipts. After I while I got tired of it and began to use only the account history from the bank, which was much faster and still almost as good. Since more than a year has gone since I moved in I decided to let GnuCash create a report of the average expenses during the year.

Average monthly expenses during a year.

Housing costs

Apartment fee: 2500 SEK/mo. This includes some utility costs such as heating and water, but also things like maintenance on the buildings and paying on the housing society’s debt. The fee is decided by a board elected by the tenants, but a too low fee will obviously not work in the long run.

Mortage interest: 1100 SEK/mo after the 30% tax deduction. Generally, if the apartment fee is lower the apartment costs more to buy. Usually the sum of mortgage interest and apartment fee is similar for similar apartments, but you can often save some money by buying a more expensive apartment with a lower (but sustainable) fee.

Apartment refurbishment and maintenance: 870 SEK/mo after tax deduction. I decided to let a local business repaint the walls and ceilings, and the door cases I did myself with some paint and varnish. Also included in this cost is that I bought 5 sqm of floor tiles for the entryway (but not adhesive and sealant which I bought later).

Electricity: 200 SEK/mo. The basic charge makes up most of the electricity cost for a small apartment. The combi fridge/freezer is probably what consumes the most power in my apartment, but since I’ve heard modern appliances have short life-spans like 10-15 years or so it’s probably not worth replacing it.

Total housing costs: 4600 SEK/mo

Basic costs

Food: 1500 SEK/mo. Actually I try to buy organic and locally-produced food where available, and always Swedish meat (since it supposed to be free from anti-biotics etc.). But when I comes to brands I just don’t care and buy generic brands. These preferences don’t always work together, but I usually choose quality over price except when it’s more than double the price or so.

Because I hate sugar and other additives (except in cakes etc.) I avoid pre-made “microwave meals” etc. Instead I’ve bought two large stewpans so I can make 5-9 meals at once and save lots of time. This is also a big cost saving of course.

Misc. household: 1300 SEK/mo. This includes lots of different things that I buy at stores like Biltema and more expensive non-food stuff at ICA Maxi. (If I buy an extra pack of plastic bags or toilet paper when I’m buying food then I typically count it all as food). With “more expensive” stuff I mean things like kitchen utensils, towels, bed linen, etc. Also, for simplicity I include bike parts here, because I buy it at the same stores.

The typical month is much less than 1300 SEK but since I bought lots of stuff the first months after I moved in the average gets higher.

Furniture: Nearly free. I got most of the furniture for free from my parents and relatives, stuff that they didn’t need or didn’t have space for. Some of the nicer furniture I’m actually borrowing, so I might have to buy a replacement sometime.

Public transit: 1075 SEK/mo in the graph, but really 690 SEK/mo. I recently bought a card for one year of use for 8300 SEK so that’s why it appears so expensive in the graph.

Insurance, social security, etc: 300 SEK/mo, from now on 700 SEK/mo. It includes home insurance, A-kassa/income insurance, sick/disability/accident insurance, and some other stuff. The first year I got a ~400 SEK/mo discount so from now on it will be more expensive.

From what I’ve heard from ill/disabled people I know, it seems that the sick/disability insurance in Sweden sucks. It’s time limited and the rules for which diseases are covered or not seems strange to me. Some people get compensated for the “tiny scratches” and others are ill for a good part of their life and get nothing at all. I don’t trust this system so I think it’s good to have some savings also.

Internet: 310 SEK/mo. This is for a cable modem subscription that costs 250 SEK/mo and that had a set up fee. I can get a real ethernet/fiber-optic connection in my apartment but then I have to sign up to a 24-month plan so I’m not doing that.

Mobile: 80 SEK/mo (under “Other”). It’s a dirt-cheap subscription from a small operator. It’s flat-rate data but variable-rate calls and SMS, but I only make about 20 phone calls and text messages per month, so it’s a good plan for me. Data is bandwidth-limited at 1Mbit/s so that’s the catch, but it’s enough for me since I have faster Internet at home and at work.

Radio/TV receiver tax: 170 SEK/mo. Since computers and smartphones count as TV receivers almost every household has to pay this fee.

Total basic (non-housing) costs: 4900 SEK/mo

Leisure costs

Travel: 1700 SEK/mo. I went to China (Beijing and Yunnan) for two weeks to meet my brother who has studied there for 10 months. Total cost about 20 000 SEK per person. It was a very exciting and nice trip, and well worth the money :) It’s the first time I’ve been outside Europe actually because I don’t travel very often to other countries. I also did a short trip with my friends in the Stockholm archipelago but that was comparably much cheaper obviously.

Eating out: 700 SEK/mo. Eating out in Stockholm is expensive in most places and you can usually not know what’s actually in the food (probably lots of sugar/sweeteners and fat). If I cook say potatoes and ham it costs like 15 SEK/meal and there are no additives, but if I go to a restaurant it costs like 80 SEK or so at least and you don’t know what’s inside (but usually restaurants don’t serve this kind of boring but healthy food).

Total leisure costs: 2400 SEK/mo

Total cost

I didn’t categorize everything so there’s 800 SEK/mo left uncategorized (this includes clothes for 140 SEK/mo, dentist visit for 77 SEK/mo and haircutting for 46 SEK/mo). The total cost for everything this year has been 12 600 SEK/mo so there has been lots of room for amortization and saving (due to rounding it adds up to 12 700 with the numbers above).

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