Ah, Amsterdam, the city of lovely canals, museums, and old buildings that will knock your socks off. The city is hot on the maps, and even right now when travelling isn’t possible due to COVID-19, Instagram is still filled with old pictures of people who have travelled there in the past.
There is also a lot to say about the Netherlands in general. For those of you who think the country is just basically Amsterdam and nothing else, that could not be more far away from the truth. The Netherlands as a whole is filled with cute cities with small town feels.
And the villages scattered throughout the country are also absolutely adorable.
The fact that you’re surrounded by beauty all the time is just one of the many reasons for why moving to the Netherlands is a fantastic idea. As an American expat who now calls the Lowlands her home, I can say that I am so, so happy with my decision to move here. (And if you’re curious, check out my post on “3 Things that make the Netherlands a “gezellig” place to live“).
But of course, one of the biggest things to think about before moving somewhere is whether you can actually afford to live there. You could be in another country right now, dreaming about living by one of those canal-side apartments.
But how much is it going to cost you to live there?
Well, I’m going to tell you exactly how much you’re going to need in order to live comfortably here. I’ll talk about both, the famously expensive Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands, and compare the two. That way you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into if you’re thinking of moving to this beautiful tiny little country.
One thing that I didn’t realize before actually visiting the Netherlands is that Amsterdam is actually much cheaper than the big cities in the US. And the rest of the Netherlands, of course, is A LOT CHEAPER.
But don’t get too excited. Living in the Netherlands is cheaper than one might expect, especially since people expect it to be expensive like Norway or Sweden, but at the same time, people earn a lot less here.
A couple of years ago, one of my girlfriend Sara’s friends was telling us about her boyfriend’s new job. She said that he earned quite a lot. I was really confused when she said that “a lot” was 60k a year. Sixty thousand dollars or euros a year would not be considered a lot in the US.
In America, a salary of 60k a year is decent, but not something that someone would consider to be a high income. So I was extremely confused. That is, until Sara told me that the median income in the Netherlands was somewhere around 36k a year.
Okay, so people make less in the Netherlands, but it’s also cheap to live here. But how does all of that play out? How much do you actually need? And if you get a job here, how do you know whether your salary is good enough?
Cost of Living in Amsterdam
Many expats move to Amsterdam, so let’s start here. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, renting in Amsterdam is EXPENSIVE. Maybe not compared to New York City, D.C. or San Fransisco, but it is indeed just much more expensive compared to the rest of the Netherlands.
So how much is it to rent in Amsterdam?
My low-end estimate is about 1,500 euros a month for a one bedroom apartment. Studios are about 1,250 a month. This is based on my own experiences and research from websites like funda.nl and pararius.com. More expensive one-bedroom apartments on a canal start from 1,600 euros and month and often cost more.
I know, I know. You really want that apartment on the canal. I don’t blame you. And the heart wants what the heart wants. The question is, can the heart pay for it though?
The prices I listed above are EXCLUDING utilities. For couples, this is not so bad. You’ll end up paying 800-900 euros monthly, which is pretty decent for a nice apartment. If you’re single, and not looking to have a roommate, tough shit.
Remember, median income in the Netherlands is 36k a year. And taxes in the Netherlands is one of the highest. So on that income, it’s a stretch even to share one of these apartments as a couple.
But if you are looking to share a place, there’s some good news for you! Two bedroom apartments in Amsterdam are much cheaper than what you would pay for a studio even.
On the high end, you can get a room in the city center for 1,200 euros a month. But the average is somewhere around 900 to 1,000 euros. Sometimes even including utilities and for an apartment that’s furnished. So if you were thinking of finding something on your own, that’s one reason to reconsider.
The rent is a big difference between what you would pay in Amsterdam versus other cities or places in the Netherlands. The other big difference is going out. Things just tend to be a bit more expensive in Amsterdam. I mean, but did you expect it to be any different?
When I lived in Amsterdam, my girlfriend and I especially liked going to cafes for brunch and coffee, and we would often go to a low key bar for dinner/snacks and drinks. Nothing fancy.
For a beer, burger, and a side of fries that we would split between the two of us at one of these low-key bars, the check would end up being about 40 bucks— 20 a person. Having lived in the US, this was really reasonable to me, and it is. But if you go to a slightly nicer place, paying 30 a person would be considered a good deal.
Brunch isn’t that bad either, but again, you’re looking at 15 euros a person for some food and coffee. Prices of coffee alone can vary A LOT. I’ve paid 2.20 euros for a cappuccino, and I’ve paid almost 4 euros. And you know, if you’re a coffee addict like me, that adds up.
So now that we’ve covered the basics, how much should you expect to pay when living in Amsterdam?
I’m just going to give you my own rough estimate. Keep in mind that this can be VERY DIFFERENT depending on your lifestyle choices. Obviously!
In Amsterdam, you should expect to spend about 2,600 euros a month if you are a single person renting a studio, and want to live comfortably. You should expect to spend about 2,800 a month if you’re a single person renting a one bedroom. If you’re single and sharing a room, that drops down to about 2,300 a month.
For couples, if you’re sharing a studio, you’ll be spending about 1,900 euros a month, and a little over 2,000 if you’re sharing a one bedroom. If you’re going for a two bedroom apartment, about 2,200 euros a month is a comfortable estimate.
If you’re from the US, this probably sounds pretty low— and guess what, it is! If you’re still working at your American company that hasn’t adjusted for the Dutch cost of living. Almost all of the international companies have adjusted for the local cost of living, and that’s an important thing to remember.
Okay, so where am I getting these numbers from? Happy to explain it to you!
You already know the rent numbers, and how much it costs to go out. So let’s say you go out about twice a week to a bar, twice a week for coffee, and maybe once for brunch on the weekend?
That’s going to be 40 (bar) + 10 (coffee and maybe a pastry once) + 20 (brunch). That’s 70 euros a week. With about four and a half weeks a month, that’s about 315 euros a month. And let’s say you go to a show or a nicer restaurant once a month, that’s another 35 euros bringing it up to 350 euros on fun things to do.
Because let’s face it, you don’t want to come to Amsterdam and sit in your apartment the whole time, do you? Even if it is a fancy canal-side apartment.
The next big thing is groceries. This is probably a HUGE reason for why living in the Netherlands is so much cheaper than living in the US. Groceries are so CHEAP in comparison!
I basically buy whatever I want at the store, and spend about 180 euros a month on groceries, and that’s an expensive month. Yes, that includes a ton of wine.
And finally, this is the Netherlands so there are definitely some things non-sexy things that you need to budget for. The first one being insurance. Health insurance, of course, but things like renter’s insurance is also extremely common and essential in the Netherlands. The Dutch LOVE insurance. I know someone who’s 20-something and has a funeral insurance. THE DUTCH LOVE INSURANCE.
Luckily, health insurance is cheap in the Netherlands. Well, compared to the US anyway. If you want the most basic insurance, you can get away with paying a hundred euros a month. But add on the other kinds of insurance and an annual trip to the dentist, you’re up to about 130 euros a month for your insurances in total.
The other non-sexy thing is taxes. Which, I honestly am really happy to pay! Have you SEEN how great the streets are here? No potholes! But the biggest shock for me were the taxes for trash pickup, which you pay for separately on top of the other taxes that already come out of your paycheck. Those are about a whopping 500 euros for the year for one person! That’s a little over 40 euros a month.
As you can see, basic things like groceries, entertainment, insurances, and additional tax already add up to 700 euros a month. Once you’ve added rent and utilities to it, you’ll get most of the amount I mentioned above.
And of course, you’ll probably want to do things like buy clothes and go on holiday. Maybe you want to buy a bike or have transportation costs. Also related to taxes, you might have to pay a few hundred bucks to get someone to file them for you. Taxes in the Netherlands when you first move are too complicated for you to file on your own (after that it gets much simpler).
So there you have it. Living in Amsterdam is comparatively not a cheap affair. Pro-tip, if you’re moving from abroad and aren’t sure how much your take-home income will be after extraordinarily high Dutch taxes, use an online tax calculator to get an estimate. I can recommend this Dutch tax calculator that I’ve personally used and liked.
Cost of Living in the Netherlands
Since the Netherlands is not just Amsterdam, I want to make sure that I take some time to say that it is quite a bit cheaper to live elsewhere in the country. And maybe that’s what some of you are considering.
But before moving on, to be clear, yes, other cities in the Netherlands are also extremely beautiful. It’s not just Amsterdam!
Now, because I can’t go through every town, city, and village in the Netherlands, I’m going to pick the city of Utrecht as an example. I’ve lived in Utrecht for a few months now, and I can personally speak to how much it costs to live there.
My sense of Utrecht is that it’s still on the more expensive end compared to some places in the Netherlands, but it’s still affordable when you take into consideration the median income in the Netherlands.
There are honestly only two things that make living in a city like Utrecht in the Netherlands cheaper than living in Amsterdam. The first thing is of course the rent. And the second thing is the cost of going out in the city.
On the other hand, though, if you live in a smaller city or town like Utrecht, you might have higher transportation costs. That’s something to keep in mind since commuting by train in the Netherlands is not cheap. I pay 130 euros a month to commute to work.
So that said, how much does it cost to live somewhere else in the Netherlands?
For single person renting a studio, you might spend about 1,950 euros a month. If renting a one bedroom, I would say 2,250 euros a month is a good estimate. If you’re planning on renting a room in a house or apartment, you could expect to spend around 1,850 euros a month. And that’s if you’re living quite comfortably.
As a couple, things are of course going to be a bit cheaper! If you’re planning on living in a studio together, you would be okay budgeting 1,650 euros a month. As part of a couple sharing a one bedroom, expect to spend about 1,750 euros a month, and 1,900 euros a month if sharing a two bedroom.
As you can see, being single in the rest of the Netherlands is actually doable. And yes, splitting your rent with someone does make the cost of living go down a lot.
The biggest difference between Amsterdam and the rest of the country really comes down to the rent. Everything else can basically be ignored if you’re trying to figure out what the cost of living is going to be like. Which brings us to…
How much does it cost to rent in the Netherlands?
If you’re single and looking to rent a studio in a place like Utrecht, you could get away with paying as little as 600 euros a month, and on the higher end, 800 euros a month. I would say be prepared to pay something on the higher end since the housing market is quite competitive for the lower price ranges.
For a one bedroom in Utrecht, you might end up paying something in the 1,200 euros a month range, including utilities. If you want to live in the center, you’ll end up paying slightly more, somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 euros a month.
Sharing an apartment or house in Utrecht can bring down the prices considerably. I once saw a room in a house for 275 euros a month, including utilities. Crazy, right? The average price was in the 600 to 900 a month range.