Student Life

The Tip Jar, Part 1: Groceries

Here’s a scenario that you’re probably familiar with:

You accept your offer to study at the Graduate Institute, do all the research on the cost of living in Geneva, and prepare yourself for the worst. Yet nothing can quell the sinking feeling in your stomach when you walk up to a restaurant for the first time and realize the simplest margherita pizza costs 25 CHF. Defeated, you stroll to the nearest Migros or Coop, load up your basket with a dozen items and check out. Your total: 50 CHF. Your mind frantically calculates the exchange rate to your national currency and now you’re going through a mini existential crisis. You resign yourself to only shop at Lidl and take-out pizza from Cité Jardin.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

The trick to saving money anywhere is to be informed. As it takes time to accumulate this knowledge yourself, the Graduate Press is bringing you the Tip Jar, a series for money-saving ideas in Geneva!

Disclaimer: There are endless articles online about saving money on groceries, such as shopping less often, sticking to a list, and buying seasonal produce. The tips below go beyond conventional wisdom to provide you with Geneva-specific knowledge.

Tip #1: Know where and how to do your grocery shopping

Tip Jar 1
Source: Green Choice

Not all grocery stores are equal. The ranking of Geneva supermarkets from fancy living to student-friendly goes something like: Globus, Manor, Coop, Migros, Denner, Aldi, and Lidl. If you live close to France, there’s also Monoprix, Carrefour, Intermarché, and Géant.

Searching for regional specialties? While there are many of them in Geneva, your wallet will suffer less if you shop across the border in France. The same goes for shopping for meat. Just a minute across the border at Moillesulaz, you’ll find several butcheries that make Geneva prices look like a joke.

Be aware that there are limits for how much you can take back into Switzerland – though in my experience, I’ve never been checked.

Tip #2: Be smart with your card

Tip Jar 2.png
Source: CreditCardGenius

If you choose to shop across the border, decide ahead of time whether you want to withdraw euros from a Swiss ATM or pay with your card. If you choose to use your card, check foreign transaction fees ahead of time.

For example, UBS charges a flat fee of 1.50 CHF when you use debit cards versus a 1.75% fee for credit cards. Each has its pros and cons depending on the purchase amount.

Tip #3: Coupons, codes, and rewards cards galore!

Tip Jar 3.jpeg
Source: Ebay

The easiest way to save money is to sign up for loyalty programs and reward cards. You can easily sign up for supermarket cards online, and download the store apps for easy access to your cards and coupons.

This is what I do personally with the Coop and Migros cards. Plus, they send you vouchers at the end of every quarter, which can be redeemed in-store or exchanged for various offers online.


Know of any tips and tricks not mentioned above? Help out your fellow students and mention it in the comments below!

2 comments on “The Tip Jar, Part 1: Groceries

  1. Pingback: IHEID: An (Unofficial) Orientation Guide – The Graduate Press

  2. Pingback: The Graduate Press: An (Unofficial) Orientation Guide – The Graduate Press

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