Your Guide to Affordability: Navigating Living Costs in Germany with Ease
Have you heard the rumours about the rising cost of living in Germany? While it’s partly true, the reality might surprise you. Though living costs have increased, they still remain lower than in some neighbouring European countries. Groceries might be more affordable than you think. In this article, we’ll explore the truth about expenses in Germany and provide insider tips on saving Euros without sacrificing your lifestyle.
As living costs rise in Germany, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction. While some items like petrol have increased due to external factors, others face temporary price hikes due to seasonal changes and supply issues. However, don’t let these rumours deter your dreams of finding a job and migrating to Germany. The country offers ample opportunities for young professionals, and a full-time employment salary is usually enough to cover expenses, provided you don’t expect to live like royalty.
We have put together some of our top tips and insider adviser on where and how to save some Euros without restricting yourself. We will tell you how to get from place A to place B without burning a whole in your pocket, how to find a cheap place to stay, how to get good bargains for your clothes, groceries and books, and how to avoid any unnecessary fees.
Whether at night, in the middle of nowhere or during strikes of public transportation employees – walking and cycling are always the most flexible, cheapest, sustainable and healthiest option to cover shorter distances in the city and in the countryside. Germany is a very safe country and pedestrians as well as cyclist are well respected on the roads, so there is no risk you are taking with these options.
For 49 euros per month, you can use all local and regional transport throughout Germany. There are also numerous other offers according to demand, such as a federal state ticket (with further other passengers), or day/month tickets for the country or a city. Particularly for a regular use of (spontaneous) longer rail journeys, the 25, 50 or 100% discount on train tickets through the purchase of a BahnCard is worthwhile. If you book well in advance, you have a good chance of getting (super) saver fares. For long-distance travels within Europe Interrail tickets are a flexible option where you pay for the days, not the trains itself – except some reservation fees for certain connections.
However, as famous and as wide the rail net is in Germany, there are often cheaper alternative for traveling.
Other cheap and usually reliable alternatives to the train on long-distance routes within Europe are also Flixbus, Blabla Bus and Blabla Car (a marketplace for carpooling and busses). If you decide to buy your own car, you can also take other passenger along with Blabla Car and they will pay you a proportion of the fuel costs. If you are planning a city trip by car, it is advisable to look for a park & ride. These parking spaces are free of charge and well connected by public transport. This way you can also avoid hectic city traffic. Significant cost factors of driving can be parking fees or fines, e.g. for illegal parking and speeding – and yes, speed limits do exist also on the German Autobahn (Highway).
A general advice for holidays and travelling is to avoid peak seasons in July and August – not only for budgetary purposes.
Rents and property purchases vary greatly between cities and regions in Germany. But in all cities and the broader areas of cities with academic institutions you will find shared apartments – the most common form of student housing. We call this in Germany Wohngemeinschaft. In 2022, 4.62 million people in Germany lived together with others in a shared flat. Beside the advantage of shared costs and housekeeping obligations, it makes everyday life more sociable, and flat mates can water your plants while travelling. However, this is an option if you are travelling to Germany on your own. If you want to move to Germany with your partner and child, you might need to look for a proper house with enough space for all of you. In such a case, you can consider looking for apartments in suburban areas, as the costs would be higher near the city center.
Fun fact: It is not as common in Germany to purchase your own home. Most German live in rented household for long term.
Clothes, Groceries & Books
Other ways to combine a low-cost and sustainable lifestyle are thrift shops and flea markets or foodsharing – an online platform and environmental movement to coordinate the collection and distribution of surplus food from private households and from business by volunteers with the aim to reduce food waste. Find out where the distribution points are in your city and maybe volunteer at some point.
Look out for “Bio” products in grocery stores. These products tend to be more expensive than the others.
Germany has a deposit system for many glass and plastic bottles as well as cans – up to 25 cents per bottle. Even if you don’t want to carry them around with you when you’re out, you can do other people a favour by putting deposit bottles on or next to public bins and not throwing them away.
Bags in grocery stores cost extra – so help the environment and bring your own jute bag or similar. Keep in mind that most shops are strictly closed on Sundays and public holidays and shop beforehand. If you end up needing to buy something on a Sunday, your only option will be a petrol station with triple the normal prices for a pack of noodles.
In many neighbourhoods you will find shelves in public places with books that you can take for free and give back to the community after reading them and donating your read books there for the community. Moreover, even many smaller towns have great libraries where you can borrow books and read magazines and newspapers for very low annual fees.
Public administration & more
To avoid fines, it is advisable to respond to administrative letters timely. German officialese is not always easy to understand, even for native speakers. So don’t hesitate to get help. For example, after registering your flat at the local citizens office, you will be informed of the compulsory public broadcasting fees. These are to be paid per flat – not per person(!). If you live with others in one household, ask your flatmates how this is handled.
It is good to know, that you pay church taxes as a member of the church in Germany. So decide in advance whether you want to indicate a membership or not. With regard to taxes, it is usually a good idea to file an informed tax return, even if you are not obliged to file one.
Finally, choose the mandatory health insurance (public or private) wisely and take a free bank account.
These valuable tips will help you navigate life in Germany without feeling overwhelmed by your expenses. If you’re curious about potential earnings in Germany, check out a reliable salary comparison tool. If you already have a job offer and are uncertain about its appropriateness, book a consultation with us to discuss your next steps confidently.