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MONEY

Money-saving hacks for living in Italy on a budget

Whether you're a student arriving for a semester abroad or a professional in it for the long haul, moving to a new country often involves unexpected expenses. But there are plenty of ways to save money in Italy, so from food to travel to those miscellaneous items that are easily forgotten, here's a guide to the money-saving hacks that will keep you within your budget.

Money-saving hacks for living in Italy on a budget
Photo: oneinchpunch/Depositphotos

Food and drink

In Italy, food is generally something to savour, but it can pay to eat on the go.

Getting takeaway pizza, piadina, or foccaccia usually only sets you back a couple of euros – look for 'pizza al taglio' to buy pizza by the slice, or seek out delis where you can get a sandwich made from fresh ingredients to order.

And at cafes, you'll almost always pay less if you have your sandwich or coffee standing by the counter rather than sitting down at a table. 

READ ALSO: Why coffee in Italy is a culture you must taste to understand

Photo: Evelyn Hill/Flickr

Restaurants are usually reasonably priced in Italy, but don't get caught out by pricey tourist traps. Some red flags include huge and fancy signage, menus translated into multiple languages and illustrated with pictures, and anyone standing outside to beckon you in – the best (and cheapest) places know they don't need to advertise.

In cities with a university, you'll find well-priced eateries close to the campus, while business districts in large towns tend to offer plenty of 'tavole calde' – a type of cafeteria that's a great way to get good quality, fresh food at a low price. Having your main meal at lunchtime rather than in the evening saves money too, with many restaurants serving generous portions at lower prices.

Come dinner time, look for bars offering 'aperitivo' – for around €5-10, you get access to a buffet with your drink. It pays to do your research, as depending on the venue, 'aperitivo' can range from a few crisps to a delicious spread of hot and cold foods which will leave you feeling satisfied.

READ ALSO: Five great spots for aperitivo on a budget in Milan

Five great spots for aperitivo on a budget in Milan

Aperitivo. Photo: oneinchpunch/Deposit Photos

Cooking for yourself? Head to a local market where you'll be able to pick up in-season produce at a lower price than the grocery store. Italians look for fruit which is 'brutto ma buono' (ugly but good), so it might be a bit lopsided but the flavour should be incredible.

Alternatively, look for budget supermarkets such as In's Mercato, Lidl, or Penny Market rather than more upmarket chains.

As for drinking, a water bottle is a good investment as Italy's towns and villages have plenty of public water fountains dotted around.

In the mood for something stronger? Alcohol, especially wine, is often great value in Italy (though mixed drinks in clubs get expensive), but to get more for your money, try to track down 'vino sfuso' – wine sold from vineyards or trattorias where you take your own bottle or container to fill up at an absurdly low price.

Vino sfuso. Photo: Fabio Ingrosso/Flickr

Travel

In many Italian cities, you can get around on foot or by a bike. But when you need to use public transport, it's cheaper to get your ticket beforehand rather than on the bus or tram (which isn't even an option in some cities) and students can almost always get discounts on transport passes by showing university ID. 

Taxis are an expensive option, but women should know that in several big cities including Rome and Florence, there's a discount for women travelling alone at night.

The Sicilian countryside. Photo: Scott Wylie/Flickr

For longer trips, make sure you buy train tickets in advance – the Trenitalia website is easy to use and you can even navigate it in English. Sign up for a Frecciarossa card to get emailed with special offers for these more expensive but quicker trains, or enjoy the scenery on a slower route to save money.

Remember that Italy's major cities are well-served by budget airlines including Ryanair and Easyjet, so it's often worth checking if a flight would get you there quicker for less money.

READ ALSO: Nine unmissable Italian train journeys through magic landscapes

Culture 

There are plenty of beautiful things to see for free in Italy, from churches housing priceless art to ancient ruins you can walk around to some of the country's best museums.

The Villa Borghese park is one of the capital's best free sights. Photo: Erik/Flickr

In Rome, many of the most popular sights are open for free on the first Sunday of each month, which means long queues in the summer, but is a great option outside tourist season.

READ ALSO: From taps to ancient erotica: Fifteen of the strangest museums in Italy

Otherwise, make sure you have your student card with you, as many places offer discounts for EU citizens under the age of 25 and/or students – particularly if you're enrolled on an art, history, or archaeology course.

Essentials

Italy is a cheap country compared to northern Europe and the US, but there are a few things that might catch you out. For example, pharmacies and medicines are often pricey, so it can pay to bring supplies of anything you think you might need from home.

Another common gripe from expats is that public toilets in Italy are hard to find and are rarely free – in Venice, they cost €1.50. It's usually a better bet to stop at a cafe, bar, or restaurant and use their facilities, though note that it's considered rude to do this without buying something as well.

The marketplace in Arezzo. Photo: VisitTuscany/Flickr

Clothes are typically more expensive in Italy than in the US, for example, but you can save money by going to local markets (don't be afraid to haggle!) or waiting until the sales, held twice a year in January and August.

You may well be coming to Italy to improve your language skills, but there's no need to shell out on private lessons. Most towns and cities have active language exchange or 'tandem' groups where you can meet native speakers who will help you practise Italian in return for some help with English (or any other language you speak).

And for the miscellaneous items you realize too late that you didn't bring with you, it's worth checking out Bakeca and Kijiji. These are two online classifieds listings where you can pick up furniture, bicycles, gadgets, sports equipment, and more or less anything else you can think of. In a university town, there will often be noticeboards where students advertise secondhand items such as textbooks and bicycles at a cheap price.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know before a semester abroad in Italy

 

MONEY

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

How big is the financial commitment parents have to make in Italy to pay for their offspring’s needs and expenses until they’re grown up and independent? Here's a look at the predicted costs.

How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

Family is the bedrock of Italian society, but it’s also an unbalanced economic crutch, propping up children who leave home much later than most of their European counterparts.

Various factors are at play, from a declining birth rate, youth unemployment, being unable to get on the property ladder to young Italians moving abroad in search of better financial opportunities.

It probably comes as little shock, then, that parents in Italy end up forking out huge sums of cash to support their offspring through childhood and early adulthood (and beyond).

Even just up to the age of 18, raising a child in Italy can cost upwards of €320,000, according to data from Italian consumer research body ONF (Osservatorio Nazionale Federconsumatori).

The average spend of raising a child from 0-18 years is €175,642, but it rises in families with high incomes, classed as over €70,000 per year.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

Researchers noted that the cost of bringing up children has jumped up following the effects of the pandemic too: compared to 2018, child-rearing expenses increased by 1.2 percent by 2020.

The decrease in expenditure related to transport due to spending more time at home, as well as those incurred for sports and leisure activities, was not enough to mitigate the increase in costs for housing and utilities, which increased by 12 percent compared to 2018.

Photo by Suzanne Emily O’Connor on Unsplash

Food prices rose by 8 percent compared to 2018 and education and care jumped by 6 percent for the same timeframe.

In fact, Italy ranks as the third most expensive country in the world for raising children, only coming behind South Korea and China, according to data from investment bank JEF.

The pandemic has contributed to extending an already growing phenomenon: the decrease in annual income of Italian households.

Household income dropped by 2.8 percent from 2019 to 2020, the report found, citing data from national statistics agency Istat. It marks a further squeeze for families, especially low-income and single-parent families.

Depending on earnings, the amount needed to bring up a child until the age of 18 varies considerably.

READ ALSO: ‘Kids are adored here’: What being a parent in Italy is really like

A two-parent family with an annual income of €22,500 spends an average of €118,234.15 to bring up a child until the age of 18; for the same type of family but with an average income of €34,000 per year, the total expenditure to bring up a child increases to €175,642.72.

For high-income families, stated as over €70,000 annually, raising a child costs €321,617.36 on average.

The figures mark an increase of around €5,000 for low- and middle-income families, and a much sharper rise of €50,000 for high-income families, compared to ten years ago.

The money gets spent on housing, food, clothing, health, education and ‘other’ categories. The report revealed that the average spend on a child aged 16 years old is almost €11,500 annually, amounting to €955.78 per month.

Almost €2,000 per year gets spent on food, €1,615 goes on transport and communication, €782 goes on clothing and €1,600 goes on education annually, the report found.

They begin small, yet the costs are anything but. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

For the ONF, “these data highlight how, today more than ever, having a child is becoming a luxury reserved for the few, which fewer and fewer Italians are able to afford.”

READ ALSO:

The numbers on supporting children after their 18th birthday are a little hazier, as when children eventually fly the nest varies – but figures from Eurostat show that Italy ranks third in Europe for the average oldest age at which children move out of the parental home, at 30.2 years old.

Only young people from Croatia and Slovakia wait longer to live independently, while the EU average for flying the nest is 26.4 years old.

Even then after eventually leaving home at over 30 years old, it’s not entirely clear how many Italians are fully independent once they get their own address, or whether their parents continue to bankroll their living costs.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella sent a message to Italy’s Birth Foundation (Fondazione per la Natalità) in May stating, “The demographic structure of the country suffers from serious imbalances that significantly affect the development of our society.”

In response to worsening economic circumstances, the Italian government has recently pledged to do more to help people have families and reverse Italy’s continuing declining birth rate.

It has introduced the Single Universal Allowance (L’assegno unico e universale), but along with it has dropped various so-called ‘baby bonuses’ that provided lump sums to new parents.

The new allowance is a monthly means-tested benefit for those who have children, or are about to have a child. It is payable from the seventh month of pregnancy until the child reaches the age of 18 or in some cases, 21. For more information on what it is and how to claim it, see here.

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