Frugal Living Tips We Can All Copy from Germans

I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again: living in Germany is expensive. I recently got a pedicure and paid a whopping 30€ for it! Yes, that wasn’t a typo, 30€ for a pedicure. Oh my, I could’ve gotten 10 of which with that amount back home *tsk tsk. Good thing I keep a budget for all the things I deem important and this expense went straight to my ‘kaartehan/vanity’ fund. The high cost of living here forces people to devise frugal living tips to get by.

While it’s definitely wrong to say that all Germans are thrifty, I noticed some interesting habits they practice which are impressively money-saving. The following are some frugal living tips the world can learn from them:

They walk

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One friend once told me that walking is the German way of life, and boy do they love doing it. When I go out with German friends and they refuse to take the bus or train, I try to be nice at first but eventually I insist that we don’t walk, haha. I mean, I have a very tiring job and I’d like to save all the energy I’ve got. That makes sense, right?

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The locals walk for different reasons: either to save money or to save time. Sometimes, relying on your own feet to bring you to your destination is faster than waiting for the next bus or train. Yeah, makes sense.

They have group tickets for commuters

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One bus or train ticket can cost 2.50€ but there’s an option to buy a “4-er ticket” which can be used by four people or by one person four times and this can cost 9.50€, making each ride 2.38€. Honestly, I wouldn’t really go to the trouble just to save cents, but I’m slowly learning that Euro has huge value, that’s why every cent counts.

Day tickets are also available. One can use them the entire day to ride buses and trains no matter how many times they want and it can cost 7€. Group day tickets, which are valid for up to five people, can cost 12.30€, making it only 2.46€ per person. This one I can call saving.

They recycle cans and bottles and get money from it

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Germany, just like everywhere else, contributes to the world’s serious problem on garbage. What sets this country apart from the rest of the world is that they’re doing something about it: people go to Pfandautomaten (reverse vending machines) where they return empty cans and bottles and they receive 0.25€ (per piece) in exchange. I honestly don’t benefit from this much because I’m not fond of drinking juice or soda, I prefer water.

These vending machines can be found in supermarkets and malls and it isn’t actually free money: when you buy drinks in bottles and cans, you have to pay 0.25€ on top of the beverage amount as deposit (Pfand). Some people claim back their deposits while others don’t, they just throw the containers. This then becomes a way for homeless people perhaps, or those who doesn’t earn much, to get extra cash.

They bring reusable bags

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Yet another environmental advocacy in practice here is the use of reusable bags. But I’m not really sure if people bring them because they want to save the environment or they want to save money. Because again, plastic bags here are not for free. Nothing is ever free, really.

When you to the grocery for example, you’ll need to stuff all the things you bought in your bag or carry them in your hands if you have no bags to place them in. No one will give you free boxes, paper bags, or sacks.

I didn’t know this at first and when I went shopping one time, the lady at the counter asked me if I’d like a plastic bag. I thought that was so nice of her to offer, so I said yes.

And then she punched 0.15€ onto my purchase!!!

I was so shocked I wasn’t able to say anything.

Oh well, now I know.

They drink water from the tap

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Again, not everybody does this. Some Germans like carbon-infused water, which in my opinion is salty, so I don’t know why they like it, haha. Anyway, tap water is very clean here in Germany and is safe for consumption. And that, is yet again one of the frugal living tips I’ve learned.

It’s really clean, take it from me: my stomach is so sensitive that I instantly get diarrhea after one glass of non-distilled water back home. To date, I’ve been drinking from the tap for three months and my stomach isn’t complaining. I’m quite thankful I don’t need to pay for drinking water, that’s one thing less for my household budget.

[Related post: Want to Know How Budgeting Money Improves My Life Every Day? Read This]

Final Words

I notice that generally, Germans value their money to the last centavo. Again, blame it to the expensive cost of living. This article even says they’re addicted to saving money!

To be honest, in my more than three months living here, I’m still having a hard time budgeting my money. There’s just too much to pay for (rent, taxes, insurance) that my salary doesn’t go very far. But it’s really interesting to observe these German frugal living tips and I’m just happy to follow suit. Few budgeting trial and errors to go and I’ll be able to perfect this whole “spending in Euros” thing.

Hopefully. Pray for me!