Cost of Living in Germany in 2020 [Real-Life Case Study]

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If you are planning to move to Germany, one of the first questions you will have is: ‘Will my salary be enough to cover my expenses?’.

On average, you can expect your cost of living in Germany to range anywhere between 1.000 to 2.000 euros a month. Your monthly expenses depend greatly on your lifestyle, the city you live in, and how many family members you are living with.

The southern cities of Munich and Stuttgart are the most expensive cities to live in Germany. Berlin used to be one of the cheapest cities to live in, but their rental prices have rapidly increased in recent years. The average rent in Berlin for a 60m2 apartment could easily range between 1.300 and 1.500 euros. Berlin is now more expensive to live in than cities like Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Hamburg. Leipzig and Dresden, on the other hand, are still very affordable cities.

In this article, I will break down the cost of living per month you need to consider during your time in Germany. I will start with a real-life example of how much Yvonne (my wife) and I spend a month. These expenses will not include things like Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriptions ?.

Disclaimer: Please take the amounts and estimates in this article as a guide to help you plan your monthly budget. Do not take these numbers as the absolute truth. I would recommend you to do the proper research to find the best services and options that cover your individual needs.

An Example of Costs of Living in Germany

Yvonne and I have an average living cost of 1,084 euros per month in Germany:

  • Rent: 570 euros
  • Mobile Phone contracts: 28 euros
  • Internet: 35 euros
  • Groceries: 400 euros
  • Insurances: 51 euros
pie chart showing monthly costs of living in Germany for two people

This number might be different for you and your family. So before you jump to any conclusions, please take into account the following facts:

  • We live in Dusseldorf
  • We are a married couple without kids or pets
  • We live in a small apartment (47m2), which is on the 6th floor of a building without an elevator and very close to the train station. Which sometimes makes our home very loud.
  • We do not own a car
  • We rarely use public transportation, as we do most of our commuting with our bikes. Yup, even in winter ?
  • We cook most of our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners ??‍?
  • We eat out a maximum of two times per month
  • We pay for home contents, liability, and legal insurances
  • We are in the public health system
  • We love to save money on our day-to-day life to have a larger budget for travel ?

My recommendation for you would be to take our monthly expenses as an example. As you read this article, you can be either add or subtract things from your budget.

Cost of Renting a Home in Germany

apartment in Berlin

Rent will be the most significant part of your cost of living in Germany. The price of your lease will depend on whether you live alone or share a flat with other people. The term of a shared apartment in Germany is Wohngemeinschaft or WG for short.

The city you live in and the location of your flat will also influence the price. The further away you live from the city center, the cheaper your apartment will be.

Remember, Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin are the cities with the highest rental prices.

According to Numbeo, the average monthly rental price in all of Germany for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is 750 euros. For the same one-bedroom apartment outside of the city center, the price is 570 euros.

Monthly Costs for Renting a Home in Germany

You need to consider the following different monthly costs on top of your rent:

1. Utilities: When you rent an apartment in Germany, the rental price will either be cold (Kaltmiete) or warm (Warmmiete).

Kaltmiete means that the price of the rent does not include utilities. Warmmiete means that it does include them.

Every landlord chooses what utilities to include in the rental price. Water and heating are usually always included. Additional services the landlord might include are cable tv and maintenance costs of the building. Be aware that internet and electricity are rarely part of the rental price.

2. Internet: As I mentioned earlier, internet is a utility that most likely will not form part of the rental price. The price of this service depends on your connection speed, the company you are hiring the service from, and your location. On average, expect to pay between 30 and 40 euros a month for an internet connection. Yvonne and I pay 35 euros a month.

Related Guide: Best Internet Providers in Germany

3. Electricity: When you move to a new apartment, you will most likely need to get a contract with an electric provider. How high your electric bill is will depend on well, how much electricity you use. You can expect to pay between 50 and 150 euros a month. Yvonne and I pay 60 euros a month for electricity.

Related Guide: Best Electricity Provider in Germany

wind turbines

4. Fees for German public service broadcasting: There is a German public agency called Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten ? . Don’t worry; you won’t need to learn such a long German word! This agency also goes by the name of “the GEZ”.

In short, this agency charges all German residents a fee. This fee will finance the production of public German TV and radio shows.

It does not matter if you watch or listen to these shows, or if you speak German at all. You still need to pay up!

The official page states that the fee is 17,50 euros a month per household. The GEZ charges this amount every three months. This means you will need to pay 52,50 euros every quarter. If you live in a WG, you can split this cost amongst your fellow flatmates.

One Time Costs for Renting a Home in Germany

1. Deposit: In Germany, it is common practice to ask for a deposit when you rent a flat. This deposit can range from one to three months of rent. Therefore, you must consider this expense in your budget.

The landlord uses this deposit to cover expenses caused by any damages you might have done to the flat. So you better take good care of your German nest ? .

If you left the flat just as you found it, you should receive your deposit back. The landlord should transfer this money back to you as soon as possible after leaving the rented property.

2. Furniture: Finding furnished apartments in Germany is not that common. If you do find one, most likely, the previous renter is selling their furniture. So if you are interested in buying it, you also need to consider this cost in your budget.

3. Kitchen: In Germany, not all flats come with kitchen appliances included. Yup, you read that right!

kitchen in an apartment

You might see a few listings with a kitchen in the pictures. Be aware that this does not mean that your contract includes such kitchen.

In some cases, the kitchen might be for sale, and you will be able to purchase it. In other cases, it could be that the kitchen belongs to the previous renter and is not for sale since they will take the kitchen to their new home. So make sure to inquire about the kitchen before signing any contract.

As a rule of thumb, if you purchase a kitchen, it is your responsibility to sell this kitchen to the next renter or take it with you when you leave.

Our Monthly costs for Renting a Home in Germany

Yvonne and I spend 570 euros a month in rent. This amount is warm, and it already includes all utilities and GEZ. Here are the specs of our place:

  • 47 square meters
  • No balcony
  • On the 6th floor without any elevator
  • A 10-minute bike ride away from the city center
  • Tram and train stops are 1-minute walking distance

Cost of Mobile Phone Plans in Germany

Your monthly expense for a mobile plan will depend on the following factors:

  1. The type of contract you get: pre-paid or post-pay
  2. The amount of data you need
  3. If you wish to pay monthly installments to the provider for a new phone
  4. If you want to have a flat rate for nationwide calls and text messages

If you already own an unlocked phone that you are happy with, you can find pre-paid mobile deals of as little as 7 euros for 3 GB of data (no phone calls or SMS included) per month.

If you would like to purchase a new phone through a mobile provider, you can expect to pay between 40 and 70 euros a month. This amount will include the monthly installments of your new phone (if you choose to get one), plus the amount of data that you choose, a flat rate for phone calls and text messages.

The largest and most popular mobile providers are Vodafone, Telekom, 1&1, and O2.

Related Guide: Best Mobile Network in Germany

Our Monthly costs for Mobile Phone Service in Germany

Back in 2012, I got a contract at Vodafone with a brand new phone for a really good deal. I have finished paying my phone off, and now I am paying 20 euros for 18GB a month. Yvonne has a pre-paid plan and pays 8 euros a month for 3GB.

Transportation in Germany

Your monthly transportation cost will depend on the distance of your commute and your preferred way of transportation.

Cost of Cycling in Germany

The great thing about European cities is that most of them allow you to do most of your commutes with a bicycle. So if you are into cycling, this is by far the cheapest way to get around in Germany.

You can purchase a used bike at a flea market for as little as 25 euros or buy a new decent bike from a shop for 500 euros. Remember that the cheaper your bike is, the more you might need to pay for maintenance.

Cycling in Dusseldorf

Cost of Public Transportation in Germany

The second cheapest option is public transportation. The system in most German cities is great. A one-way ticket costs 2,80 euros. If you would like to purchase a monthly pass, this one will depend on the zones you need to travel through in your commute. The cheapest monthly pass is, on average, 70 euros.

? Tip: Some companies cover the full or partial costs of a monthly ticket. So be sure to ask your future employer about this.

Cost of Renting a Car in Germany

The cost of renting a car in Germany will depend on the size of the vehicle you are interested in, the kilometers you intend to drive, the number of days of your rental, and the time of year. Christmas and Easter are the most expensive times of the year to rent a car.

For a weekend, you can find good deals online and pay as little as 50 euros to rent a car from Friday to Monday.

The gasoline price depends on whether you are filling up on an autobahn (tends to be more expensive) or in a small village. On average, according to Numbeo, expect to pay 1,43 euros per liter.

? Tip: If you are not an EU citizen, your license will be valid in Germany for six months. During these six months, you will be able to rent cars in Germany without any issues. After this time, you might get into trouble. So it is recommended that you get a German driving license.

Cost of Taxi Services in Germany

If you wave a taxi down, they will start the ride with a fee of 3,50 euros. Every additional kilometer costs, on average, 2 euros.

You can order a taxi through apps like Uber and Free Now. Both applications are available in English and will show you a fixed rate before you place your order. Their price is sometimes lower than waving a taxi down on the street.

Cost of Shared Transportation in Germany

1. Cars: the most popular app for shared car service is Share Now. Their page is in English, and they have different rates. The basic rate is 0,19 euros per kilometer.

A car from share now

2. E-Scooters: E scooters were allowed to circulate in Germany in 2019. With this came a rise of multiple companies like Dott, Tier, Lime, and Bird. Most of them charge a 1 euro unlock fee. Their rates range between 0,15 and 0,19 cents per minute.

3. Bikes: Each city might have a different shared bike service. The one that you might find all across Germany is the one from the Deutsche Bahn. Their service is called Call a Bike, which offers different tariffs. Their basic fee is 0,10 euros per minute.

Our Monthly Costs for Transportation in Germany

Yvonne and I both own a bike and commute to work every day. I bought a bike from a flea market for 35 euros, and it ended up breaking every couple of months. Fixing a bike in Germany can get quite expensive. So I decided to ditch it and get a new proper one for about 400 euros. Yvonne’s bike is of even better quality and was 800 euros.

Be sure to get individual bicycle insurance or add it to your home contents insurance, as bike theft is common in Germany.

Neither of us owns a car, and we rarely take public transportation. We rent a car on average once every couple of months for a weekend for about 40 euros.

Related Guide: Best Bicycle Insurance in Germany

Cost of Food in Germany

Supermarkets

Your monthly grocery shopping costs will depend on the size of your family, your diet preferences, how many meals you plan to cook, and the type of supermarket you go to.

The food prices in Germany vary depending on the supermarket that you visit. The budget-friendly supermarket brands in Germany are Aldi, Lidl, and Netto. Rewe is in the semi-expensive spectrum, and Edeka is usually the most expensive option.

lidl supermarket

Our Monthly Costs in Grocery Shopping

We tend to do our grocery shopping at Aldi. They have really good quality products at an excellent price. For a family of 2 non-vegetarian female adults, we spend an average of 100 euros a week. We tend to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home.

Eating out

A night out with your loved ones or friends is always fun. Germans love to go out and eat, especially if it’s a summer night.

If you go to a low-range restaurant, like a local pizza shop, you can have a mini pizza and a beer for 8 euros.

At a mid-range restaurant, you can expect to pay somewhere between 15 and 25 euros per person. This includes an appetizer, a main course, and a small beer.

Drinks: The beer price at a restaurant or bar in Germany could range between 2 and 3 euros for a small beer. A pint (0,5 liters) could range between 3,50 and 5,50 eurosA cocktail could range between 8 and 15 euros.

Costs of Banks in Germany

There are three types of banks in Germany:

  1. Privately owned German banks
  2. International banks
  3. Online banks

Opening a bank account is generally free of charge. Keep in mind that some private German and international banks might charge you a monthly fee if you don’t have your salary transferred to the account you open with them.

Related Guide: 3 Best Banks in Germany for English Speakers

man doing a German online bank transaction

If you would like to have a credit card, you might need to pay a yearly fee to the bank. Each bank charges a different amount. The price depends on the credit card you choose and the benefits you get from it.

I used to pay for my credit card 25 euros a year and it did not include any special benefits really, that is why I cancelled it ? .

There are also some very good independent credit card providers that offer credit cards with great benefits for free.

Related Guide: Best Free Credit Card in Germany

Tax Costs in Germany

Due to its strong social system, the tax rate in Germany is quite high.

The more money you earn, the more taxes you will need to pay to the government. Also, if you are single, your taxes will be higher compared to a married couple. The percentage of taxes range between 14% and 42%.

typing machine with the words tax declaration in German

If you earn a super high salary, somewhere above the 270,000 euros per year, then you will pay 45% in taxes.

So don’t be surprised if you end up receiving only 60% of your gross salary.

The taxes and contributions you pay to the German government are:

  1. Income tax (Lohnsteuer)
  2. Health care (Krankenversicherung)
  3. Pension (Rentenversicherung)
  4. Unemployment support (Arbeitslosenversicherung)
  5. Nursing insurance for disability and old age (Pflegeversicherung)
  6. Solidarity tax (Solidaritätszuschlag). When the Berlin wall was up, Germany was divided into two parts: east and west. After the Berlin wall was taken down, Germany became a unified country. The solidarity tax, or soli for short, was introduced so the former western German states would help to improve the economic situation and infrastructure in the former eastern states of Germany.

Related Guide: How to File a Tax Declaration in Germany

Church tax

If you are religious, you might need to pay a church tax. This tax comes on top of the taxes mentioned above. You only need to pay a church tax if your religion is recognized as a corporation.

Religions that fall under these criteria are Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. Muslims and Buddhists do not pay the church tax.

In some German states, the church tax is 8%, and in others, it is 9%.

Related Guide: Church Tax in Germany Explained

Education

Daycare

If you are moving to Germany with small children between one and six years old and wish to place them in a daycare center, be aware that you might need to pay a monthly fee for this service.

child scribbling on paper

Although the state subsidizes some daycare centers, it is very hard to get a place in these. Some families apply one year in advance to get a spot for their children. Therefore, placing a kid in a private daycare might be the only option for some.

The monthly cost for a daycare in Germany depends on your income, the hours you book, the amount of kids you register, and the state where you live.

For a subsidized daycare, you can expect to pay between 100 and 200 euros a month per child. For a privately owned daycare, you can pay up to 1,000 euros a month per child. The amount really depends on the quality of the daycare.

Primary, Secondary, High School and University

If you plan for your kids to go to any public educational institution, you should know that there are no tuition fees. The parents only need to cover the materials the kids will use, such as books, notebooks, meals, etc.

In the case of universities, there might be a semester contribution fee, which could be between 50 and 300 euros.

Insurances

Germans love their insurances. They have insurance for absolutely everything! When you first arrive in Germany, you might feel overwhelmed by the information you will receive from local colleagues regarding insurance.

But fear not, we are here to shed some light on the matter.

The top 3 Insurances Germans have

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

If you tell any German that you don’t have this insurance, they will look at you with a very confused face. “This insurance is a must-have!”, they will say.

The Haftpflichtversicherung covers any damages you might cause to other property or people. For example, imagine that you accidentally cause someone to trip and break their leg. In Germany, people might sue you for this. So this insurance would pay the legal fees and reparations.

At first, I was against having this insurance. An interesting story I have is that shortly after I decided to get it, I accidentally broke a friend’s brand new iPhone (oops). I freaked out for 10 seconds, and then I remembered I had this insurance! I told my friend not to worry. Gathered his info, and the next day I contacted my insurance.

My insurance provider replied immediately and was ready to pay for my friend’s phone. However, my friend went directly to the Apple Store, and they gave him a new one. So, in the end, I did not need to use this. Phew, glad it all worked out!

The price of this insurance will depend on the number of people you are insuring (you or all of your family). You can expect to pay anywhere between 30 and 150 euros a year. Yvonne and I pay 120 euros a year for this insurance.

Related Guide: 5 Best Liability Insurances in Germany.

Home contents insurance (Hausratversicherungs)

This will cover any damages caused in your flat by fire, water, or burglary. The price of this insurance will depend on where you live and how big your house or flat is.

The additional things you can insure are:

  • The theft of your bike
  • Coverage to repair the windows or glasses in your house if they get broken
  • Coverage to the value of your belongings in case of some natural disasters

According to Check24, You can expect to pay somewhere between 50 to 150 euros a year. Yvonne and I pay 130 euros a year for this insurance.

Related Guide: 4 Best Home Contents Insurances in Germany.

Other Insurances

Legal insurance (Rechtsschutz)

This insurance is useful in case you get in some sort of legal dispute with someone. This could be because you got sued by someone, or you are disputing the deposit with your landlord.

Lawyers around the world are expensive, and Germany is no exception. You can easily pay a lawyer anywhere between 150 and 500 euros an hour!

man with a suit

Having legal insurance in Germany will definitely help you out in tough moments and hopefully save you tons of money. This insurance would reimburse you the court costs and lawyer fees. It would also cover any legal consultation you have with a lawyer.

You can expect to pay anywhere between 180 and 400 euros a year for this insurance. Yvonne and I have this insurance, and we pay 360 euros a year.

Related Guide: 3 Best Legal Insurances in Germany

Other Costs

Cost of Going to the Movies in Germany

I am not going to lie, finding a good cinema that has movies in the original language is very hard in Germany. Many movie theatres only show the original version in 3D, which naturally increases the price of the movie ticket.

You can expect to pay anywhere between 11 to 17 euros for a movie ticket. This, of course, depends on what language the movie is in, how modern the cinema is, and if the movie is 2D or 3D.

Related Guide: The Best English Movie Theaters in Germany

Cost of a Gym Membership in Germany

If you would like to join a gym in Germany, be aware that most of them will only be able to give you either a one year or two-year contract. You can expect to pay anywhere between 15 to 40 euros a month for a gym membership.

Cost of a Hair Cut in Germany

The cost of cutting your hair will depend on whether you have long or short hair, how fancy your hair salon is, and the city you live in.

On average, if you have long hair and would like to just take care of your tips, you can expect to pay anywhere between 20 to 40 euros. If you have short hair, you can expect to pay anywhere between 15 to 30 euros.

Most salons will charge an additional feel to dry and style your hair after it has been cut. So be sure to check what is included or not in the price before you sit down on that chair ? .

Resources to Help You Calculate Your Expenses in Germany

Final Thoughts

As I covered in this article, remember that your monthly costs will depend on your lifestyle, where you decide to live, and your family’s size.

The standard of living in Germany is very high, and the cost of living is relatively cheap here when you compare it to other European countries like Denmark or Switzerland.

As an expat, your salary should be more than enough to cover your basic expenses and give you extra money to travel or enjoy a few nights out with your friends!

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Thanks for reading until the end. If this article was helpful to you, and saved you time of research, please consider buying us a coffee as a small donation. It allows us to keep Simple Germany alive and striving.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We are happy to help.

Jen
Jen is originally from Guatemala and moved to Germany in 2012 to start a new job without any knowledge of German or life in Germany. Jen’s mission is to help fellow expats beat bureaucracy and to have a smooth time while they settle into their new life in Germany.