Personal finance is intensely personal – hence its name – and at the same time universal. Each person’s finances are unique, but all of us, wherever we live, have to balance our resources with our needs and wants. This series on Budgeting Around the World looks at the steps individuals and families in different environments are taking to meet their unique needs. Today we’ll discuss budgeting and personal finance with a family of four from Belgrade, Serbia.
Serbia is a landlocked state in the Balkan region of southeastern Europe. Like much of the former Soviet bloc, Serbia went through a period of dramatic economic change after the fall of the Soviet Union, and economic development was delayed by the conflicts that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Today’s Serbian economy has attracted significant investment in manufacturing, though agriculture still employs 15% of the workforce, primarily producing fruits and grains. Per capita GDP ranks 38th out of 44 European countries. The cost of living is also among the lowest in Europe, ranking 35th out of 40 European countries in the Numbeo.com cost of living index.
Did You Know
- The average take-home salary in Serbia is 1,044,696RSD (US$10,674)/year or 87,058RSD/month (US$890).
- Serbian income tax rates range from 10% to 20%, with a supplementary tax on individuals above a specified income threshold.
- Serbian employees contribute 36.5% of their salaries to a Social Security system that provides health insurance, pensions, and unemployment insurance.
- All Serbian citizens and permanent residents are covered by the National Health Insurance fund and make mandatory contributions to the fund.
- Serbia’s unemployment rate in 2020 was 12.72%.
What Does it Cost in Belgrade?
- 3-course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant: 3,000RSD (US$30.65)
- Beef round, 1 kg: 773.62RSD (US$7.90)
- Domestic beer, .5 liter: 200RSD (US$2)
- Broadband Internet: 2,462.78RSD (US$25)
- Cinema, 1 seat: 500.00RSD (US$5.11)
- Monthly public transport pass: 3,275.00RSD (US$33.46)
- 3 bedroom apartment, city center: 76,977.28RSD/month (US$786.52)
On the “Big Mac Index” Serbia ranks among the less expensive economies, between Ukraine and Azerbaijan, with the iconic burger costing the equivalent of US$2.08.
Getting to Know the Household
We started our interview with some basic questions about the household, their lifestyle, and their approach to managing their finances.
Introduce yourself – Tell us a couple of things about yourself so we get to know you better.
Male, 36, Belgrade, Serbia, I run a skilled trade business, married, father of two.
Location – Where do you live (city, country)? What kind of place is it? How do you like living there?
Belgrade, Serbia. It is the capital of Serbia, with around 2 million people, very busy, polluted, mismanaged… Currently being gentrified in a horrible way.
Household structure – How many adults, kids, what ages?
2 adults, 37 and 36, 2 kids, 6 and a 5 month old baby.
Occupation – What do you and other adults in the household do for a living?
I run my own small business, my wife works at the Post Office.
Net household income – What is the take-home pay of your household (income after taxes and other deductions)?
190,000RSD (U$1941)/month on average. My wife is getting 35,000RSD (US$358) during her maternity leave; normally she would earn 40,000RSD (US$409). My business income varies month to month.
How would you describe your standard of living? – Based on the place you live in, your income, compared to other people around you…
What is your approach to managing your finances? – What is your general approach or personal philosophy on managing your finances? Do you use a budget and if you do do you generally stick to it? How do you make financial decisions in your household?
First You pay the bills and the mortgage then you spend what is left. We do not use a budget, if we have some unexpected expenses we use the money we saved up. We make the decisions together.
Let’s Break Down the Expenses
Now we’ll break down our respondent’s monthly household expenses into different budget categories.
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72,000RSD (US$736) mortgage,
3,000RSD (US$30) taxes, insurance etc.
5,000RSD Electricity (US$51)
11,000RSD Heating, Water, Garbage, Sewer (US$112)
1,000RSD Phone (US$10)
8,000RSD Cell phones (US$82)
3,500RSD TV & Internet (US$36)
24,000RSD groceries. (US$245)
5,000RSD takeout (US$51)
1,000RSD coffee (US$10)
We mainly shop in the green market and cook at home. Green markets in Serbia are much less expensive than they are in other European countries.
5,000RSD gas (US$501)
1,000RSD parking (US$10)
2,000RSD taxis (US$21)
6,000RSD (US$61.00) diapers
6,000RSD (US$61) extra-curricular activities
8,000RSD (US$82) kindergarten
Serbian kindergartens are crowded, and the state gives us a 22,300RSD (US$228) subsidy to help pay for a private kindergarten. We pay the balance of the tuition.
👗 Clothing and personal care
1,000RSD (US$10) haircuts
2,000RSD (US$21) massages
3,000RSD (US$31) clothing
🧹 Household supplies
1,000RSD (US$10) toilet paper
1,000RSD (US$10) chemicals
Cat food, litter…
1,000 (US$10) property insurance
3,000 (US$31) life insurance
2,000RSD prescriptions (US$20)
1,000RSD supplements (US$10)
2,000RSD dental care (US$20)
Dental insurance is included in the universal health insurance program, but most Serbians prefer to pay for private services.
1,000RSD (US$10) books
1,000RSD (US$10) going out
1,000RSD (US$10) movies
Football subscription site.
* All figures are as reported by respondents. Totals may not add up to 100%.
📘 We only included the categories in which this particular household has any monthly expenses. View the full list of budget categories we used for this survey, along with what’s included in each of those categories: 110 Budget Categories.