Illustration by Matthew Tapia for Money; courtesy of Danielle Town

I’m An American Expat Living in Europe. Here’s How Much I Spend On Chocolate and Streusel

The Author Danielle Town Gives Us Her 'Weekend Money Confessions'
May 14, 2018

Weekend Money Confessions is a new series about how real people spend when they’re off the clock.

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Danielle Town always tried to avoid investing. But when the 36-year-old lawyer found herself drowning in student loan debt, mortgage payments, and a debilitating workload, she went straight to her dad (the hedge fund manager and motivational speaker Phil Town) for advice.

The father-daughter pair documented Danielle's journey to financial freedom in their book, Invested: How Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger Taught Me to Master My Mind, My Emotions, and My Money (with a Little Help from My Dad). Today, it's a New York Times bestseller.

Danielle recently moved from Boulder, Colorado to Zurich, Switzerland. She rents an apartment with her husband, Nuno, and says she spends most weekends "trying to navigate living as an expat in a new culture and language."

Here's every penny* she spent on a recent one.

*The Swiss Franc and U.S. Dollar have an equal exchange rate, so we're using the currencies interchangeably



[2:30 PM]
Cutting Edge by Thea Colson hair salon – 130 CHF
Color + Olaplex + Blowout

My hair salon is owned by a lovely Swiss-Italian named Thea who trained in London, speaks broken German, has fire-red hair, and refuses to marry her baby daddy and long-term boyfriend for no reason other than she doesn’t feel like it. I love her. Her Filipino assistant, Dante, married his Swiss husband years ago and speaks great Swiss-German, so between the two of them they have at least five languages. The mix of people, cultures, and languages in this town keeps it quite interesting to live here. Thea introduced me to Olaplex and it’s fabulous for strengthening my hair, but I’m worried my color is getting too dark? Not sure. I spent the rest of the evening on calls to the U.S. for my upcoming book launch. I work a lot of evenings because of the time difference.

Friday Total: 130 CHF


Cutting Edge by Thea Colson
courtesy of Cutting Edge by Thea Colson


I had to find a good outfit for promoting my book, Invested. I wanted to look “nice-ish, but not corporate or overly cutesy” which is a difficult mark to land on. Katie came along to help. She’s a treasure of a friend: super-smart economist by day, partner-in-crime the rest of the time, and my go-to when I need a style consultation and moral support. We met at the Zara on Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street in Zurich, and then we immediately decamped for the Starbucks up the street. Shopping is not our favorite activity. Caffeine was needed.

[1:20 PM]
Starbucks - 6 CHF
Tall latte
For energy.

[1:30 PM]
Einzigart – 8 CHF
Reading glasses + pizza cutter for Katie

This shop is across from Starbucks and had nothing to do with finding my interview outfit, but it’s super cute so we had to do a run-through. It’s this eclectic mix of adorable furniture, office supplies, art, knickknacks, and kitchen gear. It makes no sense but somehow makes all the sense. I tried on some cute reading glasses and decided to buy them because they were crazy cheap and my eyes weirdly get tired now (it must be poor lighting) and Katie found an adorable pizza cutter she had to have for her Flammkuchen (homemade German flatbread pizza) so we threw it in. The checkout lady asked “Möchtest du eine Tasche?” which taught me a new German word: eine Tasche is a bag! I’d been wondering for a year how to ask for a bag in a shop! I usually just point and resolve to look it up or ask my German teacher, and then I forget about it by the time I leave the shop.

[1:55 PM]
Sandro – 170 CHF

Nothing looked very good on me until I got to a fabulous red skirt which, amazingly, fit me. I have some booty, and most skirts are weirdly cut for women who are not me. I had to buy it.

[2:45 PM]
Essentiel Antwerp – 180 CHF
Printed top

There was a colorful dress in the window with a light blue print of birds that drew me in to the shop, but when I tried it on, it looked terribly shapeless. But then I tried the version of it that was a top, and voila – it looked fabulous. The colors might have been a bit Easter eggy, but somehow the styling took it away from that and towards fantastic, and there was a tiny bit of red in the pattern that went with my new red skirt. It was a March miracle. I tried on seventeen other items, of course, but came away with only that top. It was exhausting. And expensive. I justified it because it was my book launch, but still. I was going to have to wear this top a lot to get my per-wear stats down to a good level.

[3:50 PM]
Sprüngli – 34 CHF
Marzipan chick + 2 chocolate Easter baskets

The best chocolate shop in Zurich (yup, I’m staking my claim) makes these insanely huge 2-foot-tall Easter bunny chocolate sculptures that I only wish I could bring home in my suitcase without breaking. I wanted to get something Easter-y to bring home to the U.S. for my family, plus Sprüngli has a gorgeous old tearoom on the upper floor where they serve all their treats with silver forks and spoons, and we needed some sugar. But it was crammed with people – I supposed I should have known it would be busy on a Saturday afternoon – so Katie and I made a snap decision to buy the cutest little marzipan chick emerging from an egg for my mom, who hates chocolate (I KNOW) and some other gifts. Then we escaped the crowds, and went around the corner to a café in a hidden courtyard.

View of Zurich
Courtesy of Danielle Town —

[4:05 PM]
Milchbar – 17 CHF
2 Heisse Schoggis + 2 streusels

Coffee culture is not exactly strong in Zurich; coffee here generally comes from pods or automated machines. Still, there are a few coffee shops that take their coffee seriously, and Milchbar is one of them. Which didn’t actually matter because late afternoon is too late for caffeine for us. We got Heisse Schoggi (Swiss-German for hot chocolate) and decent streusel, and congratulated ourselves on making it through shopping. It was sad to say goodbye for several weeks but Katie had to dash.

Milchbar, Zurich
Courtesy of Milchbar

[7:45 PM]

iTunes - $5.99
The Darkest Hour movie rental

Tired and happy that I was done packing, Nuno and I rented a movie to zone out. For some reason, right now I’m obsessed with Winston Churchill. The preview was dubbed in German, but, thank goodness, we got the movie itself in English. The language is always a bit of a question mark until it begins.

Saturday Total: 420.99 CHF


[5:20 PM] – 16 CHF
Movie theater popcorn + bottle of water + Diet Coke

For our last night together before I left, Nuno took me out on an official dinner-and-a-movie date to see I, Tonya. I had to see this movie: the Nancy and Tonya drama was a defining moment of my childhood. I got the movie treats to tide us over until dinner. Not that it was enough: Nuno also went for ice cream at intermission because Swiss movies have intermissions. It’s a little jarring when the movie suddenly stops halfway through, but they’re actually pretty great. No one ever climbs over you to get to the bathroom during the movie because they can just wait for intermission. Very civilized.

Sunday Total: 16 CHF

Weekend Total: $566.99