How to live in Germany on a student budget?
Worried that studying in Germany will burn a big hole in your pocket? Worry not, here are some ways to live in Germany on a student budget.
While it’s exciting to try the different cuisines in Germany, eating out all the time is expensive. On top of that, in proper German restaurants, you are expected to tip for the service.
Picture: Maultaschen is a traditional German dish from Baden-Württemberg. It’s a mixture of meat, vegetables, bread crumbs, and onions enclosed in pasta dough. Maultaschen are the larger relative to the Italian ravioli.
A student can stretch his or her dollar by choosing to cook and dine at home as opposed to dining in a German restaurant. The savings can be quite major as the price difference between eating in and eating out can be quite steep. A hearty meal at home will only cost €2 to €3 while a dinner at a German Ratskeller (bar or restaurant located in the basement of a city hall) will set you back by €10 and more!
Street food like kebabs, sausages and Chinese takeaways are priced decently, so it can be an option. Kebabs especially is quite a complete meal and has a good balance of carbs, protein and vegetables.
Cooking at home can be so cheap due to discount stores like Lidl and Aldi, where the products are more value for money.
Pro tip: Learn to cook to save money. Furthermore, you will feel less homesick as you can cook your favourite dishes. It also makes for a great icebreaker with German and other international students.
Pro tip: If you are looking for more exotic ingredients, for example, ingredients found in many Asian recipes, you can find them at the so-called Asian stores.
Instead of shopping along the pedestrian street or shopping malls, students can opt to shop at factory outlets or wait for seasonal sales. Students can also visit a thrift shop. It’s a fun visit and you can discover very great bargains at thrift shops.
Pro tip: Wait for seasonal sales and buy ahead for next year. For example, stores will clear their winter clothing at the end of winter so a winter jacket will only cost a fraction of its price 3 months earlier. Shops want to clear their winter stock so that they can stock up for summer. Buying off-season helps with living in Germany on a student budget.
Sports and fitness
Universities offer a wide range of sports activities (Hochschulsport) for students. Do check with your university which activities are offered. If your city has more than 1 university, you can also check if the other university extends their sports facilities to you.
There are also private gyms which are reasonably priced. For example, McFIT, the largest fitness centre chain in Germany and Europe charges €19.90 per month if you sign a contract for one year with them. McFIT fitness centres can be found in over 164 locations across Germany and you can use the facilities in any location with your membership. That means you don’t have to miss your weekend training session if you are visiting other towns in Germany.
In most universities, the International Offices will coordinate contact-building activities for international students. It’s free to participate in and a great way to meet new friends!
Student bodies in universities will also organise student parties. Drinks are a lot cheaper at these student parties compared to a club. It’s a lot safer to party too as the entrance is limited to students only.
On weekends, students can utilise their semester ticket to visit nearby villages at no additional cost. Do look out for cultural festivals in those villages!
Pro tip: Semester ticket is a big help to help students live in Germany on a student budget as it allows a student to use public transportation within a specified area for unlimited times during their study semester (six months!). The semester ticket usually covers quite a large area and it’s often interesting to visit nearby villages or towns during weekends. There might just be a World Heritage attraction nearby your university.
Germany has many parks and nature reserves where you can hike (Nordic walking is a popular pastime). If you love nature, you won’t ever be bored in Germany.
Pro tip: In summer, there are many free open-air concerts or free movie-screenings in parks.
To summarize, students can maximize their experience studying in Germany by learning how to cook and dining in more often, shopping online and off-season, take part in student’s activities (sports and other events) especially those organised by the university (students also enjoy a special discount at public swimming pools) and utilizing their semester ticket to explore towns within the ticket’s coverage area.
What are some other ways to live in Germany on a student budget? If you have lived abroad, especially in Germany, do share with us. We will love to hear from you. To reach us, simply email us at [email protected]