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EXPLAINED: The everyday items getting more expensive in Switzerland

Inflation in Switzerland climbed to around 3 percent in October. Here’s a look at some of the everyday items that have been rising sharply in price - and the few that are actually going down in cost.

Eggs on toast
Several foods have gone up in price in Switzerland, including breakfast staples like eggs and dairy products. Photo by Jonathan Pielmayer on Unsplash

Breakfast products going up

Breakfast items are getting more pricey in Switzerland, according to data compiled by the Comparis Consumer Price Index, which tracks the development of goods like food, medicine and clothing. 

In October of this year, prices for everyday goods in Switzerland rose by 3.2 percent compared to the same month last year, according to the index.

But nine typical breakfast ingredients are on average 5.5 percent more expensive compared to a year ago. 

People in Switzerland have to pay more for butter (in increase of 10.7 percent compared to the same month a year ago), margarine, fats and oils (plus 8.9 percent), coffee (plus seven percent), milk, cheese and eggs (plus 5.9 percent) and tea (plus 3.4 percent).

READ ALSO: How does the cost of living in Switzerland compare to other European countries?

The prices of these goods have been rising steadily for several years, the consumer service Comparis found. Since the year 2000, breakfast with the ingredients we mentioned above has become 11.1 percent more expensive on average. The cost of butter, jam, honey, margarine, fats and oils, tea, coffee, bread, flour and cereal products have risen the most over the years.

But it has been accelerating this year as inflation is fuelled by rising energy prices amid Russia’s war on Ukraine. 

“For years, the costs of typical breakfast ingredients have been rising faster than the prices of the entire overall basket of goods,” said Comparis financial expert Michael Kuhn, adding that it was hitting those on lower incomes particularly hard.

Heating costs rocket upwards

Besides some food items, other goods have also become more expensive in the Alpine country. 

Between September and October, the prices for heating (including gas, heating oil and district heating) rose by 8.8 percent, according to the Comparis index. And compared to the previous year, the price of heating rose by as much as 56 percent, according to the index. 

“Heating oil, in particular, became hugely more expensive in October,” said Kuhn.

After heating costs, prices for printed products, men’s and women’s shoes – as well as fruit and vegetable juices – have also shot up in price. The reasons for this could be “poor harvests and increased demand”, Kuhn said. 

READ ALSO: The groups most affected by inflation in Switzerland

What’s not increasing dramatically – or going down in price?

Not all items are rising in cost at the same rate.

The cost of of electricity, for instance, has remained stable since September, and compared to the same month last year, electricity has become about 2.4 percent more expensive. 

Looking at the bigger picture, some products have also gone down in price.

Medicines, small household electrical appliances and body care products have become cheaper over the last few years, according to the index. 

Medicines in Switzerland have seen an average reduction in price by 43 percent since the year 2000.

Electrical household appliances, personal hygiene and telecommunications products – like mobile phones – are now about 30 percent cheaper. Toiletries have also become 14 percent cheaper, the consumer service found. 

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MONEY

‘Cash is freedom:’ Why do the Swiss love coins and banknotes so much?

While in some ways people in Switzerland are financially progressive — for instance, in terms of cryptocurrency — in others, they still prefer the traditional payment method: cash (and hopefully lots of it).

‘Cash is freedom:’ Why do the Swiss love coins and banknotes so much?

During the Covid pandemic, cashless payment methods became widespread across Switzerland, after the World Health Organisation said card payments should be encouraged as a means of halting the spread of the virus. 

Coins and banknotes, on the other hand, were, quite literally, considered dirty money.

Yet old habits die hard.

It is true that credit and debit cards are in many ways more practical, but many Swiss won’t hear of it. Some even want to enshrine the sanctity of cash in the country’s Constitution.

The Swiss Freedom Movement (MLS) group has collected more than 157,000 signatures to launch a national vote (150,000 are required) to prevent the phasing out of cash in favour of credit cards and other cashless transactions that have become popular during the pandemic.

“Cash is freedom and an absolute priority for Switzerland, the group said

“It is contrary to human rights and our heritage of freedom to exclude people who prefer to use cash than a card.”

For some Swiss, cash is king
 
You may argue (and you would be right) that carrying a wad of money in your pocket or purse is very inconvenient, not to mention dangerous, as it can be easily stolen and you will never see the likes of it again (unlike a credit card, where suspicious transactions can be disputed).

You can also point out that coins and banknotes are filthy — and you’d be right again: it has been proven that paper money can carry more germs than a household toilet.

You could argue all of the above, but you would still not persuade some Swiss to switch from money to plastic.

According to a survey by Moneyland consumer platform, 67 percent of Switzerland’s residents consider cash to be completely indispensable, while 96 percent use cash for payments. 

In fact, you can still see people (though mostly older ones) paying their monthly invoices at the post office with cash, sometimes even with the 1000-franc banknotes.


Bills are often paid with 1,000-franc banknotes. Photo: Pixabay

READ MORE: Why is the demand for 1,000-franc banknotes growing in Switzerland?

Why do (some) Swiss favour cash over credit cards?

There are several reasons, ranging from overabundance of traditionalism to overabundance of caution.

The older generation in particular values privacy and anonymity of cash payments.

“Cash payments offer far greater privacy than other payment methods,” according to Moneyland.

It is a fact that “transactions performed using credit cards, prepaid cards and debit cards are recorded by the financial institutions involved. Mobile wallet transactions are recorded by tech giants like Google and Apple in addition to financial services providers.”

Not having to deal with online merchants is also seen as safer, as confirmed by Moneyland: “As digitisation has progressed, cybercrime and online fraud has progressed as well. Swiss bank and credit card accounts are regularly the target of cyber criminals and fraudsters. Cash can be physically stolen at one location, but ‘digital money’ can be stolen from anywhere, at any time.”

The disadvantages of not owning a credit card.

There are, of course, downsides to not using a credit card.

For instance, you can’t make purchases online, book a flight, make reservations for holidays, or access other services that typically require payment by credit card.


Having a credit card makes buying online easy. Photo: Pixabay

However, cash aficionados have found a way around that, though a more time-consuming and laborious one.

When ordering things online, especially from Swiss merchants, they click the ‘send the invoice’ option. Once the bill arrives, they pay it at the post office.

Reserving a flight or holidays involves going to a travel agency and paying for bookings in cash.
 
The financially-astute believe (rightly so) that using cash often prevents impulse purchases and debt.
 
“Numerous studies have shown that consumers spend more when using digital payment methods than they do when spending cash,” Moneyland found.

“Credit cards pose an additional risk for consumers by enabling payment on credit, which often results in debt.”

READ MORE: Cashless payments in Switzerland: What is Twint and how does it work?
 

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