The Expat’s Guide: Saving money while living in Amsterdam
Moving to Amsterdam was the biggest leap of faith we have ever taken…and possibly will ever take in our lives. It was a big risk in every way and we had to adjust to our lives as expats in so many ways. For the first month or so we felt like we were on vacation and spent a lot of money. We quickly learned that we needed to be more conscious of spending and learned how to save money as expats in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
We typically learn through making mistakes. I’ve always appreciated when people want to help us out, so we want to pay it forward to you! In the United States, I was an amateur extreme couponer and I love to save money. There’s no reason to pay more if you don’t have to, and there are some ridiculously easy ways to save money without even thinking about it.
What’s important to understand with this guide, is that it’s partly about saving money on things you buy anyway, and partly about doing really cool things for cheaper than the normal price.
Without further ado, here is our guide on saving money as expats in Amsterdam (but many tips will work all over the Netherlands). Are you ready?! Let’s get saving!!
Tip: Many of these sites may only be in Dutch, but you can download Google Chrome and have it translate pages for you. Also, have a junk email you can use to sign up for different websites so it doesn’t fill up your regular email.
Use Groupon for eating out or for wellness treatments
Groupon has been very popular in the United States, but it’s also here in the Netherlands. If you understand a bit of Dutch, download the app because it makes life so much easier. If not, just use the website and print out your vouchers before you redeem your Groupon.
I use Groupon mostly for eating out. It’s great for discovering new spots, going out with friends, and treating yourself to beauty treatments. There are usually a few options to choose from when you purchase. If you’re going out to eat, you might have the option for 2, 3, or 4 people and there may be a wine pairing option. I really like this feature!
Tip: If you are purchasing a dining Groupon and they have the “availability calendar” option, definitely check it before you buy. The date you might want (if you want to go for your anniversary, for example), might not be available.
Use Social Deal for last-minute deals
This is very similar to Groupon but deals are available for a short period of time and are typically for one person, so don’t forget to buy as many as you need! One big thing about Social Deal is that if you get 3 others to buy the same deal you have, then you get your voucher for free! Who doesn’t love free?
Get bidding with Vakantie Veilingen
If you want to work for your deals, then this website is a good place for you. It’s possible to get extremely good deals since it’s a bidding system. The categories on Vakantie Veiliengen are similar to Groupon and Social Deal, just the process is a bit different.
Buy an NS Subscription
If you travel around the Netherlands frequently and you aren’t given an NS business card from your company, then an NS subscription might be the way to go. We have the Dal Voordeel. It’s just over €50 for the year and gets you 40% off NS prices during off-peak times. You can also give the discount to 3 other passengers you are traveling with…which is really nice! But, there are other subscriptions available, too.
Purchase day cards for the train when available and traveling far
Use 9292.nl to see how much your journey would be (even with the discount I mention above) and then check Trein Reiziger to see if there’s a day pass you can buy that would be cheaper. We tend to do this to visit the farthest points in the country like Maastricht.
Eat out cheaply during Restaurant Week
This restaurant week is nationwide! Yaaaay! You’ll find restaurants with Michelin stars and many other more affordable options during this week that’s held for two weeks at the end of September. This is a great time to try a restaurant you’ve been eyeing, and for a good price, too! Be sure to check the site early and get a reservation in because the popular ones (unsurprisingly!) go fast.
Explore new bars with Cocktail Week
Similar to Restaurant Week, Cocktail Week is designed to showcase what’s available and we have a bunch of cocktail bars of Amsterdam (Yep, this one’s just for Amsterdam). It’s always in March so we usually miss it due to our anniversary trips, but I’ve spoken to people who have participated and bartenders, and they all love it. It’s quite the scene! It’s not inherently a discounted event, but you might find that some of the bars do deals throughout the week. It’s worth looking into if you want something to do in the evenings or if you just love cocktails as we do.
Have a staycation on Hotel Night (HotelNacht)
For one night a year, HotelNacht, locals are given priority (and a big discount!) to stay in a local hotel. I love this concept because, as people who moved here away from family and friends, we are always asked where to stay. This gives us an opportunity to have a proper staycation in Amsterdam while trying out a new hotel each year. Typically, they have three tiers of prices to choose from. Included are the most exclusive hotels to typical hostels in Amsterdam. Not only that, but there are so many activities surrounding this evening. Some are free, some you pay for, but pretty much all are unique and oh-so-interesting. Get on their mailing list early and stay in the loop to get the best hotel!
Buy a great bike and cycle when possible
If you can afford it when you arrive in the Netherlands, get a decent bike with a rear lock and a good chain. Don’t buy the €50 ones that were likely stolen to re-sell to you. They get stolen over and over again. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your nicer bike won’t get stolen, but if you always lock it to something sturdy, always use two locks, and make it look unique, it seems to be less likely that someone will take it.
Taking your bike every day and not using the public transportation system will save you so much money over time and you’ll get a small workout each time. Staying healthy and saving money is the best part!
Looking for something to do and feeling spontaneous? Awesome! Check out the Last Minute Ticket Shop to see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy.
Buy a Museum Card (Museumkaart)
Yep, this is another “buy something to save money” thing. The Museumkaart will get you into over 400 museums all around the Netherlands for free for an entire year. It’s about €65 right now, but still, that’s a deal when you think about how much museums can be! I find that it’s a great thing to have for the winter since the tourist season is over and we, as residents in the Netherlands, tend to stay home too much during this time. Not to mention, it supports the museums! Winning all around.
Participate in VAT-free weekend (if it still exists)
Each year MediaMarkt has had a VAT-free sale in January, this past year it was the 20th-anniversary sale, so it was 20% off everything (with an asterisk because not every brand allows a sale). Keep an eye out this January and see if you can score your next household appliance, new computer, or camera at the next sale!
Check out the Too good to go app
If you’re flexible, check out the Too Good To Go app. It helps local businesses get rid of leftover food that’s perfectly good to eat. In the app, you’ll see a map or list and it will tell you what time food is available to pick up. Sometimes it’s a grocery store, a restaurant, a local bakery, or other food shops. You pay a very small price (I think it’s around €5 for many places) and they fill up a box for you and you pick it up during the pick-up time. You won’t know what you’re getting, but it’s bound to be good. I have friends that swear by this app!
Buy groceries at your local markets
This is a pretty easy one to do in Amsterdam. We have markets everywhere! Take your reusable bags and head to the market stalls to pick up your fruits and veggies. Also, check and see if your local butcher or fishmonger are cheaper than the grocery store.
Get the rewards cards of anywhere you may shop
Another easy one! Next time you go to the store, see if they have a customer loyalty card. They can help you get some great discounts and freebies! Some that I’m aware of are Etos, Gall & Gall (this one is €10 for the year), Gamma, Kruidvat, Albert Heijn. Always ask or do a quick Google for “Klantenkaart” for the shop you are interested in.
Sign up for Air Miles
If you shop at Albert Heijn and Etos, definitely get an Airmiles card (it’s free). Every time you use your customer card, you get Air Miles, too! This also goes for a Shell card, Praxis Plus card, and if you use a Dutch Mastercard. Link them all up and just rack up the Miles. If you use Essent as your energy company, that account can also be connected.
I don’t check my balance often, but sometimes, when using the self-checkout at Albert Heijn, it asks if I want to redeem points to reduce my grocery bill. You can also use the Miles to give to charity, get discounts on travel, wellness and more, or you can buy from their shop. Lots of options, give it a look through. If you are spending the money anyway, might as well get something extra for doing so.
Check the sale papers
Simple but helpful! If you have favorite brands, just check the sales papers/circular/whatever you call it when a store posts the deals for the week. When Googling, use the name of the store with “folder” for the sales papers, or “actie” which might give you more information! I always look for buy one get one free sale 🙂
Buy refurbished products
This goes two-ways. You can buy refurbished items at Rebuy.nl for a good price with the option to get your money back within 21 days if you don’t like it and the company also gives a three-year warranty!! Yes, please. I’ve just started buying from here as well.
But you can also sell to them as well. So, you can make money, too!
Also, check Marktplaats because there are many businesses who also sell refurbished products on there. Like I said, lots of options!
I’ll add to this list as I discover new ways to save! Do you have a suggestion or something to add? Please leave it in the comments so we can all same money together.
This was a lot of fun for me to put together because I know that as a new resident in Amsterdam, it’s tough to understand how things work and where to buy things. The last thing on your mind is how to save money when you are just trying to figure out where to buy Baking Soda (Asian stores are a good bet for that 😉 )
Let us know if this was helpful and please share with any friends that you think need this information.