Foreigners or visitors often ask: ‘What is the cost of living in Amsterdam for families when compared to other multicultural cities in Western Europe?’. Of course, it depends on many factors – are you a student, a couple or a family and what lifestyle are you used to (like how often you go out or participate in some cultural activities). I decided to check how much money a family will need to cover basic monthly expenses.
The cost of living in Amsterdam for families is approximately 3,000 euro on average. This amount lets a family to cover basic expenses (without rent). The total cost of living in Amsterdam may vary from 2,500 to 6,000 depending on how big the family is. The cost of living is also highly dependent on the cost of rent or mortgage.
Even if the Netherlands is not the most expensive country in Western Europe, the cost of living in Amsterdam is much higher than in most European countries. In this article I will try to elaborate more on how much money a family needs to cover everyday expenses and how much you should earn as a head of a household to make sure you have enough money to cover all expenses.
How much does rent in Amsterdam cost?
Housing is probably the largest part of Amsterdam’s cost of living for families. The price obviously depends on your preferences but in general the higher your income, the easier it is to find an apartment or home of your dreams.
If you want to rent a flat in Amsterdam, get prepared for a monthly expense of at least 1,200 euro for a one-bedroom apartment. It will probably be unfurnished, and the price will not include the cost of water, utilities and internet. Keep in mind that you have to earn three times more than a monthly rent. For example, if rent is 1200 Euro, you have to earn 3600 Euro monthly to have a chance to rent this apartment. That is very often an expectation from a housing agency. Of course, you can rent an apartment from a private person, but most of the houses available are in hands of housing agencies.
Consider This Option
If you decide to stay in Amsterdam for at least 5 years, buying your own property is worth taking into consideration. There are three things you should consider while thinking of your new home: location, price and the process of buying. Regarding location, you should decide if you would be happy living in a city center or maybe in the outer suburbs? There are many options to choose from – starting from the heart of the city, through inner neighborhoods and Amsterdam Oost, ending at outer suburbs. Price of course depends on the size of the property and the location. It’s possible to find a small flat in outer suburbs for as little as 180,000 euro but a house in the center of Amsterdam often costs more than 1 million euro. When you compare house prices in Amsterdam to other Western Europe cities, you will see than Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities when it comes to housing. In 2017 the Netherlands was the third country when it comes to quickly increasing house prices. In the last three years financial value of an average Amsterdam’s house has grown by approximately 20%.
What about the cost of living?
Food prices are not very different when compared to prices in other European cities. Your cost of food in Amsterdam is fully dependent on where you’re shopping and what kind of meals you are buying. In an average bar, you might expect to pay between 7 and 12 euro for lunch. A cup of coffee is about 3.50 euro.
Usually, bills and household utilities cost around 200-250 euro per month for a 4-person family. The water bill comes in once a year and it’s about 300-350 euro. Of course, those numbers vary depending on the number of people in the household and their age. Electric and gas bill per month is around 100-150 euro. And there also comes an internet bill – around 30 euro per month for a quite-a-speed connection.
Be aware that Amsterdam is one of the most compact cities in the world. It is absolutely ok to walk almost everywhere. If you want to travel like a local, you should definitely get yourself a bike (this typically costs around 120 euro) and a very good bike lock. If you decide to stick with public transportation, I recommend you should purchase a monthly ticket for the public transport provided – GVB. It costs 92 euro. Owning a car in Amsterdam doesn’t pay off on the other hand. Parking fees are surprisingly high, providing that you will find an available place to park your car – honestly, I doubt it. This is why most Amsterdammers do not have cars in the city.
This is something you should definitely know – health insurance in the Netherlands is required. Be prepared to pay 90 euro for a good health insurance plan. Unfortunately, dental insurance is not included with health insurance in the Netherlands.
Other expenses in Amsterdam
There are many different ways for families to spend money. It would take ages to elaborate on all of them. But as it’s totally up to you what leisure activities your family participates in, and what other bills you need to pay regularly, I will only focus on sports and phone bills. For a basic gym membership, you will need to pay approximately 20 euro per month. Regarding phone bills, you should be prepared to pay around 30 euro per month for an unlimited phone subscription.
Is raising kids in Amsterdam expensive?
Research shows that childcare care yearly cost is close to 8,000 euro. This is an amount including food, clothing, sport and cultural activities. One of the most important expenses each parent pay is the childcare center cost – this is typically an hourly rate of between 8-10 euro. Same for nannies and babysitters, both for specific occasions and on a regular basis – their average hourly rate is between 8 and 10 euro.
When it comes to the cost of education, tuition at the local school in the Netherlands is free. However, if you want your child to go to one of the international schools, get prepared for a yearly cost of around 20,000 euro.
Support from the Government
You should remember that it’s not 100% of the yearly spend for children that is paid by the parents themselves. As in many European cities, also in the Netherlands, the government reimburses a fraction of the cost of childcare. Here we call such a benefit ‘kinderopyangtoeslag’. What reimburses from the government you can expect when you live in Amsterdam? Among the others, it depends on the number of children you have, family income and the working hours of both parents. The most important factor that determines the percentage that parents pay for their child care is their income.
On top of childcare cost reimbursement, you also have right to Child Benefit for children under the age of 18. This benefit should cover most of the expenses of care for a child, like clothing and sport activities.
How much should you earn to live in Amsterdam?
It is not a secret that the Dutch are one of the richest nations in Europe. The main industries are food processing, gas, oil and chemicals. When you compare Amsterdam to other European cities, salaries here are at above-the-average levels, a bit lower than in the UK. The unemployment has been decreasing year by year in the Netherlands and Amsterdam is one of the leaders in the country in this field. Currently, the unemployment rate here is at a very low level of 3.9%. Forecasts say that unemployment rate will be still decreasing, reaching 3.5 % in 2019. This means, the rate in 2019 might be the lowest it has been since 2001.
What about salaries? They of course vary depending on position, employer and your experience. In 2018, according to the Dutch Central Plan Bureau, the median gross salary is 37,000 euro per year which makes less than 3,000 euro monthly (this is gross, so the net pay is around 2,150 euro). When only Amsterdam is taken into account, the median gross salary is 48,018 euro per year.
So how much do you need to earn so that you can provide your 3- or 4-person family with a comfortable life in Amsterdam? Of course, it depends on what your expectations and goals are. The lifestyle you are used to also counts. If you are rather a home person, you can safely live for 2,500 – 2,700 per month per person in Amsterdam. Analogically, 5,000 – 5,500 per month for a couple with one or two kids should be enough to cover your accommodation food, bills and other necessary expenses. For such an amount, you can even afford to travel, assuming that on a daily basis you try to maintain a low-key lifestyle in the city.
The final word
With its multicultural environment, amazing green spaces, great public transportation system and a high quality public infrastructure, Amsterdam may be one of the most appealing European cities to live in. Jobs are almost as well paid as those in the UK, France or
Germany but the cost of living is also one of the highest in Europe. If you consider moving to Amsterdam with your family, you should be aware that prices here might be surprisingly high for a foreigner. However, as in the Mercer’s living standard survey, Amsterdam is among 50 countries with the highest standard of living in the world. Access to great education, famous universities, thousands of leisure activities you and your family can attend – even if the cost of living for families in Amsterdam is relatively high, the city is worth considering while choosing your new home.