Thursday, June 13, 2013

Saving money while living in Germany, or, how do I afford these adventures?

I like to go off on one adventure or another as often as possible. It usually means taking a day trip to a town  nearby (or heck, another country!), and occasionally, a weekend away somewhere. The main thing keeping me from taking off any farther away is that I don't have enough vacation time saved up yet.

This might make one wonder: how can ATW afford this? I guess one answer might be that it's noneya business, but another part says why not share how I make it work? There might be some useful hints.

First of all, my travel lifestyle is not that extravagant. Friends and I usually take public transportation and the awesome thing about Germany (and some other countries, too!) is that there is a group day travel ticket available for a reduced fee. For example, my portion of a 4 hour round trip train ticket to Trier cost about 12 euros. Even paying US prices for gas I couldn't have driven that cheaply.

Also, we often stay with friends in other cities if we're visiting. I've been known to pack my own air mattress, air pump, and head out to sleep in air mattressy style after a day of fun with friends. It's like a sleepover and so much more fun! I feel a bit silly saying that because I'm quite a bit beyond being a teenager, but it's enjoyable and so much more personable than staying in a hotel. On the flip side, I enjoy hosting my friends at my place, too.

Another savings area is that when dining, I don't order a huge meat-filled meal and I don't enjoy expensive restaurants, because again, they're full of meat, which does not interest me. When traveling, I like to stop and buy something at the farmers' market or get something cheap from an ethnic restaurant like take-out Turkish food. I just found this thing that's like a spicy durum wheat in a pita thing in Mannheim; sehr lecker! yum, and less than 5 euros for a filling meal. I also usually avoid ordering a drink at the restaurant as it might cost almost as much as the meal! I bring a collapsible water bottle and keep it in my purse. If I'm thirsty, I drink after I leave the restaurant. Even if I'm not getting take-out food, my meals are still reasonably priced because I avoid meat.

One can afford a meal out because there are so many events to enjoy that are FREE or cheap around here. There are many festivals, concerts, hikes, etc. Many of the festivals don't have an admission fee; the only cost is what you spend there.

Much of my everyday living contributes to being afford these fun trips. First of all, I don't have a tv hooked up, much less do I have cable tv. Think about your cable bills and how much extra money that would be. I could imagine that cable tv is anywhere from about $25-100 a month. I don't miss tv one bit and I enjoy going on adventures with my friends so much more.

In order to keep in touch with people, I have a cell phone and high speed internet. My phone is a cheap pay-as-you go plan. I rarely call people; instead, we keep in contact using Whatsapp, a free text messaging app. I use Skype on the internet to keep in touch with people in the US.

On the other side of the homefront, I maintain mostly vegetarian, if not vegan, shopping habits (well, when I can resist the Siren call of German dairy products!). Not buying meat and limiting buying dairy yield great cost savings. I usually eat pretty boring stuff on a day to day basis, like vegetable soup and when I'm behaving, meals made from scratch. One of my favorite things to make is pizza, from scratch, and it's less than $2 to make a large pizza.

I also don't buy a ton of stuff; if I do need something, I usually thrift shop for clothes and housewares (poppin' tags because I have $20 in my pocket...sure!). For entertainment by myself, I get my books and movies from the library. I go for a walk. I hang out with Moo.

I also don't have kids, either...I hear those are really expensive ;) 

So, with savings in my daily life, doing things that don't cost a lot of money, and staying with friends and taking group mass transit, I am able to afford to experience many fun things. And of course, I save my pennies for some of the bigger trips, too.


  1. You sound like you have the right take on how to do Germany the right way. Whatever way you save, you can do the most by making sure you never get a car. Boat or mini, it's a huge cash drain.

  2. I do have a car, but it is paid off and I'm lucky enough that my employer paid to ship it. I would have preferred to not have a car here, but there are places I have to go for work that are not easily accessible via public transport :( I had been so looking forward to the idea of going carfree, too.