Why am I looking at the cheapest way to buy furniture? My Brussels apartment is -finally- reaching the final stages of construction and while we are not quite there yet, it’s about time to look at how I will furnish it. Having a fully furnished apartment should allow me to rent it out for about €1400/m incl. garage.
Part of the agreement between me and the property developer’s rental service is that the apartment needs to be furnished to be able to reach the target minimal rental amount of €1250 + €150. A bit of a pain as you might imagine, so the rental agency was so kind to provide an “offer”. More like a rip-off, though. The estimated total cost of a furnished apartment was €18K. Yeah, I think I can do better.
Shopping across the border is cheaper
For my furniture, as well as household appliances and clothes, the best place to be in Germany.
By shopping in neighboring countries, It’s possible to make considerable savings on your purchases. This is apparent from figures published by the European statistics office, Eurostat. In each of the categories studied, there is a neighboring country where it is cheaper to shop.
The Netherlands is on average 10 percent cheaper for food. For dairy products, such as milk and cheese, you pay almost a quarter less than in Belgium. Bread is a fifth cheaper. Meat and fish are also less expensive.
A trip to Germany is worthwhile to buy furniture. They are over 15 percent cheaper. Household appliances, such as freezers, dishwashers, microwave ovens, and toasters are also 9 percent cheaper on average. Music systems, cameras, TVs and computers are also less expensive. Clothes and shoes are 7 to 9 percent cheaper in Germany.
Luxembourg is more than a third cheaper for tobacco. Alcohol is also cheaper there, but the price is even lower in Germany: almost 9 percent below the Belgian price on average. For non-alcoholic drinks, France is the place to be: they are on average 8 percent cheaper.
Higher wage costs
Belgium is not the cheapest in any of the categories surveyed, yet Belgium is on average cheaper than the Netherlands and Luxembourg. A family that buys its goods and services in our country pays 7 percent more than on average in the eurozone. In France, it is 5 percent, in the Netherlands 9 percent, and in Luxembourg 19 percent. Germany is smack on the European average.
In 2012, the Federal agency Economy investigated why prices in supermarkets are higher than in the Netherlands, Germany, and France. According to the government department, the generally higher VAT could explain a price difference of more than 2 percentage points. Wage costs for shop staff are also higher than in the Netherlands. The Belgian supermarket chains cited in the study that they have less bargaining power with their suppliers.
Those who want to save even more on their purchases can also look beyond the neighboring countries, although the question then arises whether the extra kilometers are still worthwhile.
In the Balkan countries, such as Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia, prices are only half of what we pay in Belgium.
On the opposite side of the scale, we have Switzerland. Switzerland is by far the most expensive country in Europe. For the same basket of goods and services, a family pays 63% more than the eurozone average. In Norway and Denmark, prices are 37% higher.
So it can always be worse.