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Stress-Free Budgeting: Managing Your Finances As An International Student In Germany

Admin 2024-02-16


In this article, we explore ways that you can live on a budget as an international student in Germany while still savoring the experience of living abroad and enjoying the culture.


You may have a romantic notion of studying abroad in Germany. Perhaps it conjures up images of strolling along the Rhine at night, eating soft pretzels, and exploring castles in German forests. The biggest impediment to studying abroad is often the money involved. Thinking about your finances and planning a budget is absolutely essential. 

Germany is one of the more affordable options when it comes to studying in Western Europe as an international student. There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available for anybody looking to spend a year or a semester at a German university. 

Start Writing A Budget

Studying abroad can be the first experience of traveling alone for many people. Perhaps you have never had to plan a budget before. Living abroad can lead to many unforeseen expenses. Being prepared is very important.

Before you travel, start a spreadsheet. Make a list of all the possible costs. Be sure to add a budget for fun and entertainment. Keep all your receipts and track your spending when you arrive in Germany. 

All of this may seem a bit tedious, but it will help you to track your spending habits. You will realize what is essential and what you can cut back on. You will also develop good financial habits that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

Speak To Locals

Speaking to locals will help you feel immersed in the culture. They will also be able to tell you where you can find the best deals. They can tell you where to buy cheap groceries and where the nice, hidden restaurants are. 

Locals can be your best resource. You can learn where to buy cheap clothes and where to get the best SIM card deal. 

Explore German Stores

Studying abroad is not the same as being on vacation. It might feel like that in the beginning. However, you really need to learn to live like a local. 

Spending lots of money on food will destroy your budget. Find local German markets and learn how to cook for yourself. If you are staying with a German family or you have German friends, ask them how to cook their favorite German dishes. 

Do A Homestay

A homestay can be a wonderful experience that will make you feel like you are immersed in German life. Host families will often cook for you once or twice a day, which can be a major advantage. 

They can also provide small essentials for you, such as towels, bandages, bed linen, and so on. This offer can save a lot of money. Staying with a family will also allow you to practice your German. You may pick up the language really quickly if you are exposed to it all the time. 

Find An Affordable Study Program 

There are many study abroad programs that are very affordable. Have a browse through Expatrio’s Study Finder. Find out if your school has any existing relationships with German schools. 

Search for scholarship opportunities. The application process is likely to be longer, but the potential payoff can be massive.

Find Free Activities

Germany has an exciting range of fun activities that won’t drain your wallet. You can go mountain hiking in the Bavarian Alps, visit some museums, stroll through outdoor markets, or visit the Brandenburg Gate. 

Do some research before taking day trips to find out if attractions offer free or discounted days. Consider joining some social clubs, either through your University or online. 

Find Friends Living On A Budget

If you surround yourself with people with the same interests and with a similar budget, it will be much easier to control your spending. Spending a lot of time with someone who has the cash to burn could make things awkward. 

Be honest about what you can’t afford. You are solely responsible for staying within your budget. If you splurge loads of money on a night out, you may end up eating noodles for the rest of the week. 

Figure Out Your Banking

Set up a meeting with your home bank before leaving to study abroad. Ask them what the best options are for using money while in another country. Ask about fees. Would it be cheaper to pay by card or take out a ton of money each month and pay by cash?

Small charges can add up to a lot over time. Travel rewards credit cards may have the best exchange rates. International students can also look into student credit cards for when they don’t have credit. Be sure to add any banking fees to your budget.

You could also open a current bank account in Germany and save a lot of money on international money transfer fees.

Get A Bike

Germans love to use bikes to commute to work and to school. Many German cities are relatively small. Ask around and find out where you can buy a cheap second-hand bicycle. You can also look online. 

Don’t forget to invest in a sturdy bike lock. Public transport in Germany is very punctual and affordable. However, riding a bike is free and great for your health. Getting a bike can be a wonderful option if you have a limited budget. 

Save On Phone Charges

German cell phones offer plans that are very affordable. These days there is WiFi everywhere. You can use Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime to make your international calls to your family. 

If you are bringing your cell phone from home, make sure that it is unlocked so you can use a German SIM card. 

Get a Job

It may not be super high-paying or related to your studies. However, finding some part-time work will give you a bit of extra pocket money and allow you to enjoy life in Germany more. 

International students are permitted to work up to 120 full days or 240 half-days every year. International students may also look for internships related to their course of study. 

Get Public Health Insurance

This tip could save you a lot of headaches down the line. Student health insurance in Germany is very affordable, as you’ll be paying a discounted fee when enrolled in the public healthcare scheme. Your health insurance provider will cover a wide range of things. You will be able to receive basic dental care, medical check-ups, and hospital care. 

In Summary 

Making a budget and sticking to it is essential if you want to manage your finances as an international student in Germany. Before you go, try to save as much money as you can. Try to find grants and scholarships. Be sure to always have an emergency fund. 

While you are in Germany, speak to locals and try to find the best deals. Go to German markets and learn to cook for yourself. Consider staying in a homestay with a German family. Try to find fun, free activities. Spend your time with other people living on a budget. 

Try to find ways to save money on bank fees, transport, and phone charges. Consider getting a part-time job, and always make sure that you have health insurance. 

About the author: Ellie Lott is a content writer passionate about millennial financial planning and uses her website to help educate her generation on making smart decisions with their money.

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