10 Tips for Saving Money in Germany
When you add up rent, food, health insurance, university fees, and other expenses, it can sometimes feel like there isn't much left over to enjoy the German lifestyle. However, put that thought out of your mind.
There are many ways to save money when living in Germany. Germany is actually kind of a “savers' paradise” because it is definitely not the most expensive country in Europe and, for example, grocery shopping at German discounters is a great way to not spend a lot of money on a daily basis.
Save money as a student without effort
If you are a student and want to keep an eye on your budget, use your student ID! Not only you can buy a cheap transportation semester ticket or open a free bank account, but you can also show your ID whenever going to a museum, for example, to pay for the discounted rate. You can also get all kinds of things at student rates and it's really easy to get discounts and save money at a lot of places.
Tip: For a student ID card like ISIC, you only have to pay a small membership fee per year and after that, you have access to amazing discounts!
Get your own ID as soon as you move to Germany so you can start to save money right away.
Also, keep in mind that as a student in Germany, you most likely won't have to worry about any tuition fee, so you'll have money available to spend just on living expenses!
Here are 10 ways to save money in Germany
Now let's get straight to the main topic of this article: 10 great ways on how to save a lot of money each month in Germany!
Check out these 10 ideas that will make your money go further and let you save money in Germany:
1. Plan Your Meals
Everyone needs to eat as healthily as possible
Thankfully, in Germany that's easily achievable, thanks to markets, supermarkets, and local stores.
However, the way you shop for groceries can dramatically influence how much you pay. Instead of shopping as you go, planning every meal can result in huge savings.
Plan ahead to buy big bags of rice and pasta. Make soups and freeze what you can't eat for later. And make a list every week of what to buy.
Tip: If at some point you don't feel like cooking anymore, there are many restaurants where you can enjoy a special lunch offer - this will save you money and the effort of cooking!
Stash of plastic containers
It's really helpful to have a stash of plastic containers to store meals. Takeout containers are ideally sized to store individual meals.
2. Join University - Sports clubs
When subscriptions can amount to €20/month, German gyms are expensive – at least for people on a budget
Despite this, it's still important to stay in shape. So how can you do so without sapping your financial resources?
Students have plenty of great ways to exercise for less. University sports clubs will often charge tiny fees and have their own gyms. They are also great places to make friends or find someone to exercise with and try sports like Ultimate Frisbee or Handball that may not be as popular elsewhere.
3. Second-hand Shops
Sure, it's great to shop in fashionable boutiques and designer furniture studios, but for cash-strapped German residents, that's not necessarily achievable
Fortunately, you can shop for clothes, ornaments, footwear, and even larger furniture at second-hand stores. Kleiderkammer (charity shops) are a great source of bargains.
Many larger towns in Germany host regular Flohmärkte (flea markets), which are crammed with bargains and fascinating places to browse. Make sure that you visit a flea market at some point! It is not only a very nice place to save money, but also has a cultural aspect: you can learn a lot about the German way of life there! Besides, it is one of the cheapest ways to buy items for your household!
4. Go by bike
Cycling is an (almost) cost-free alternative to driving that gets you from A to B
It's enjoyable, and provides excellent exercise - so why stay cramped in an automobile?
In Germany, cycling is massively popular. Some estimates suggest that there are 43,000 miles of cycling paths.
Tip: Flea markets are the perfect spot to find cheap vintage bikes! You may need to take it to a workshop to repair some essentials, but it's definitely a great advantage to have your own bike in Germany.
You don't even need to buy bikes to get on the road. Bike share schemes like nextbike are common in Germany, allowing you to pick up a bike as and when you need it.
5. Working part-time
While it's not exactly a money-saving tip, there's no doubt that working part-time can make your living costs seem a lot more manageable
Have a look at our guide to working as a student for more information, as there are some regulations to note down.
When you've done that, enquire at student services or make an appointment at the local Bundesagentur für Arbeit to find out what's available.
Most importantly, Germans pay no tax on "mini jobs", which pay up to 450 € per month but still come with all standard working rights.
6. Sharing is caring
Life is cheaper when it's shared, so why not team up with friends to share the cost of living?
This kind of arrangement is totally routine in Germany, where it is usually referred to as WG (or Wohngemeinschaft). In a WG, flatmates team up to sign tenancy agreements, saving €100-200 each in many cases.
There is a thriving community of people looking for flatmates. So make use of online portals like WG-Gesucht to find rental partners.
7. Explore free leisure activities
In Germany, leisure doesn't have to cost the earth
In fact, some of the most memorable experiences are completely free.
For instance, it costs nothing to walk or cycle along the Rhine, read a book in Munich's English Garden, or to relax with friends at Berlin's Tempelhofer Field.
If you're at a loose end, head to local parks for pick-up games of football or frisbee. Germans will usually be happy to welcome new players.
8. Use the "Aktionstage"
Some days on the German calendar offer better value than others
Dubbed Aktionstage (Action Days), these occasions feature a host of discounts, across a wide range of activities.
For instance, May 19 is International Museum Day, and museums across Germany open their doors for free in classic Aktionstage fashion.
Tip: If you're a student, you only need to show your university ID card to get a discount at any cinema in Germany!
Almost every cinema will have a Kinotag, where admission prices drop to €5-6. Always check to see if your local screen is offering a discount before booking seats.
9. Watch out for a “Fairteiler” in your neighborhood
Germans are obsessed with fairness, and this extends to food prices
That's why recent years have seen the emergence of the Fairteiler movement.
Literally “fair sharers,” Fairteilers take donated food and provide it at highly subsidized prices to whoever needs it. They may also take unsold food from supermarkets that would otherwise go to waste.
Finding the nearest Fairteiler isn't hard. Just use the food sharing website to call up maps of outlets across Germany.
Sometimes, we can help ourselves get more from our possessions
For example, how often do you throw away items that could be repaired or used for something else? Known as upcycling, this approach is common in Germany, where people hate unnecessarily adding to the world's trash mountain.
If you are near Berlin and need some inspiration, head to Upcycling Deluxe to find out how ordinary items can be preserved or enhanced. Almost all major cities will have similar eco-friendly boutiques.
Bonus: How to save money - health insurance
Public health insurance is compulsory in Germany. That means, no matter whether you are an employee or a student: you need to be insured during your whole stay in the country.
If you have a contract with a German company, you have to pay taxes, like income tax, but you also benefit from joint health insurance. The company pays half of it and you, as an employee, pay the other half. And you can probably save money if you do a tax return at the end of the year. The government will most likely pay you back some taxes.
Students generally have to pay a very small contribution to the public health insurance every month, which should be around €110-120, depending on your profile.
As you can see, Germany is one of the best countries to save money! There are so many options that you really don't have to think too much about how to lower your cost of living. A little effort will go a long way!
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