by Niall Doherty

I’ve now lived in Amsterdam for a continuous 12-month stretch (June 2015 to May 2016). During that time I tracked all my expenses, which I’ll share with you below.

We’ll also look at the following:

  • How much you can expect to pay in taxes living in the Netherlands
  • How to find an apartment in Amsterdam

(By the way, I’ve been tracking my income and expenses since 2011. If you want to check out all my monthly finance reports since then, click here.)

Autumn in Amsterdam.

Autumn in Amsterdam.

Some notes and disclaimers before diving in:

  • In this report I'm only listing expenses related to living in Amsterdam, so I've removed all my online business expenses, e-book purchases, online donations, that kind of thing.
  • During those 12 months I did take a couple of trips back to Ireland to visit family. I was probably out of town for three weeks total. I didn't separate out my expenses for those three weeks because it would be a pain in the ass to do so, but I don't think it makes much difference to the numbers anyway.
  • My expenses might be HIGHER than yours because…
  • I rented my own place in a central location. You can save big on rent if you live less central and share accommodation. (See below for tips on how to find an apartment.)
  • You may qualify for the 30% tax ruling while I didn’t. (More on this in the tax section below.)
  • My expenses might be LOWER than yours because…
  • I don’t drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or do drugs.
  • I don’t eat out a lot.
  • I didn’t start paying for health insurance until midway through the year.
  • I work from home so I don’t have any commuting expenses.

Alright, let’s get to it…

 Monthly Avg.12 Month Total
Housing & Utilities 1€ 1,259€ 15,110
Food & Drink 2€ 379€ 4,547
Clothing€ 83€ 998
Health & Fitness 3€ 75€ 901
Miscellaneous Out & About 4€ 46€ 546
Travel & Transportation 5€ 45€ 541
Taxes & Admin 6€ 44€ 526
Electronics 7€ 25€ 294
Phone 8€ 17€ 205
Miscellaneous Household 9€ 17€ 201
Toiletries€ 13€ 156
TV/Cinema/Theater 10€ 9€ 110
Laundry 11€ 3€ 39
Total€ 2,015€ 24,174
2015 monthly average
24174 12 month total

If you’re not used to thinking in Euros, use the widget below to make sense of those numbers.

Winter in Amsterdam.

Winter in Amsterdam.

"What About Taxes?"

Not included in my expense report above are income taxes, because I haven’t paid them yet.

But to give you an idea of what to expect, use this handy Dutch Income Tax Calculator.

Via that calculator, I worked out the following for the 2016 tax year…

  • Without 30% Ruling
  • WITH 30% Ruling
If you want to spend…You need to earn…
€1,500/month€1,833/month … €22,000/year
€2,000/month€2,750/month … €33,000/year
€2,500/month€3,583/month … €43,000/year
€3,000/month€4,500/month … €54,000/year

“What is the 30% ruling?”

It’s a massive tax break for highly skilled expats in the Netherlands. You should definitely look into it and see if it applies to you before you move here.

More info here: An in-depth look at the Netherlands’ 30% ruling

Street performers in front of the famous I Amsterdam sign.

Street performers in front of the famous I Amsterdam sign.

How To Find An
Apartment In Amsterdam

I’ve only been on the hunt for an apartment in Amsterdam two times, which is of course a tiny sample size, but here’s what I have concluded from my own experience and from conversations with many expat friends who have sought accommodation in this city:

  • Looking for an apartment through formal channels is usually a waste of time.

By “formal channels” I mean newspaper classifieds, rental agencies, etc.

I have never received one email response or telephone callback despite dozens of inquiries made through such channels.

What has worked much better for me (and friends) is the following approach:

  • Spend your first week or two in Amsterdam staying in a hostel, hotel or AirBnB.
  • During that time, go out and be extremely social. Meet and connect with as many people as you can and let them know that you're looking for a place to live.12
  • Join these Facebook groups, scour the listings, and perhaps even post your own request.

“How much can I expect to pay for accommodation in Amsterdam?”

The following numbers are from Numbeo.com. Note that these prices do not include utilities.

  • Apartment (1 bedroom) in city center: €1,300
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) outside city center: €950
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city center: €2,350 13
  • Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside city center: €1,600 14

Also according to Numbeo.com and some of my own research, utilities (gas/electric/wifi) are going to set you back anywhere from €100-300 per month.

Some other things to note:

  • I paid €1,150 (later €1,160) per month for the one-bedroom apartment shown in the video at the top of this page. It was 45 square meters, located just inside the canal belt (near Weteringcircuit), and all utilities (gas/electric/wifi) were included. That's about as good a deal as you'll find as an expat in Amsterdam.
  • I have several friends renting nice, spacious apartments within the canal belt for less than €600/month. But don't get too excited: the only way to rent that cheap is through social housing, for which you must qualify and then sit on a waiting list for ten years or so. More info on social housing in Amsterdam here.
  • If you plan to stay in Amsterdam long-term, consider applying for a mortgage and buying your own place. Mortgage rates in the Netherlands are relatively easy to obtain and you'll often end up paying much less per month on the repayments than you would if you were renting. Here's a good place to start if you're interested in buying property in Amsterdam.
  • One final option is anti-squat, as described here:

Anti-squat companies or, in Dutch, anti-kraak are those (some say evil) companies that look for people to move into an empty building (usually an office of old school) to prevent it from being squatted. Anti-squatters have no rights at all. The company will let you know only one month in advance that you have to move out. This is clearly stated in the contract you sign. But, it’s very cheap. You only pay electricity. There is no furniture and you’d better not invest too much in decoration any way, because it’s possible you’ll be out on the streets again in a short while. It’s popular though, especially among students, so there are waiting lists.

Some anti-kraak companies: Zwerfkei and Ad-Hoc (also for artists workplaces).

Dutching it up a bit.

Dutching it up a bit.

"How Expensive Is Amsterdam Compared To Where I'm Living Now?"

Good question, glad you asked!

Below are two sites you can use to compare the cost of living in your current city versus Amsterdam. The links will take you to a comparison between Amsterdam and Berlin, but you can easily plug in your own city and see the difference.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for how much it costs to live in Amsterdam.

As mentioned earlier, I started tracking all my income and expenses back in 2011. If you’d like to peruse all my monthly finance reports since then – and see how I’ve earned and spent my money while working from my laptop and traveling to more than 35 countries – click here.

Footnotes

  1. Breakdown:

    • Rent: €1150/month
    • Security deposit: €1150
    • 4 nights in a hostel while I looked for a place to live: €110

  2. Breakdown:

    • Groceries: €189/month
    • Eating out: €190/month

  3. Breakdown:

    • Health insurance: €50/month
    • Gym membership: €9/month
    • Events and classes: €12/month
    • Miscellaneous: €3/month

    Note that I only started buying monthly health insurance midway through my 12-month stay in Amsterdam. Health insurance is compulsory in the Netherlands and the average cost is about €90/month. Check this site to compare insurance plans.

  4. e.g. walking tours, sauna, cover charges at bars and nightclubs, salsa classes, etc.
  5. Breakdown:

    • Bicycle 1: €75
    • Bicycle 2: €160
    • Bicycle repair and equipment: €6/month
    • Public transportation: €19/month

    My favorite bike shop: FietsWinkel HeinkenPlein

  6. Breakdown:

    • City sanitation tax: €235
    • Waterways tax: €174
    • Amsterdam municipal tax: €60
    • Birth cert apostille: €40
    • Banking fees: €17

  7. Breakdown:

    • Macbook Air charger: €89
    • Food processor: €81
    • Thunderbolt/HDMI cable: €60
    • Apple earbuds: €35
    • Shaver: €26
    • Batteries: €3

  8. Breakdown:

    • Lebara sim card: €50
    • Credit: €13/month

  9. e.g. lightbulbs, cleaning products, kitchen utensils, etc.
  10. I don’t pay for any TV/cable package in my apartment apart from Netflix.
  11. I had a washing machine and dryer at home, so only accounting for detergent and softener here.
  12. The first apartment I ever found in Amsterdam came via a conversation with a guy working behind the counter at a smoothie shop. I found my second apartment via a friendly chat with the receptionist at the hotel I was staying at.
  13. €785 per person for three people sharing.
  14. €535 per person for three people sharing.
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