Germany has one of the most significant and powerful economies in Europe. That’s why many expatriates arrive here in pursuit of better jobs and business opportunities. It also has world-class universities, making it the perfect place for international students to complete their studies. Also, the country has stunning scenery, excellent amenities and infrastructure, a well-developed public transportation system, one of the best healthcare systems, and you get the opportunity to learn the German culture and language. The fact that it borders nine different countries also means that you can hop on a train or bus and before you know it, you’re in another exciting country. Whether you’re moving to Germany for good or temporarily relocating to work, study, or retire, it helps to have a picture of what it will cost you living there.
What should you expect to spend living in Germany? First off, Germany is not that expensive compared to some European countries, but still higher than many other parts of the world. The average monthly cost of living (excluding rent) for a family of four is €2,550, for a single person is €750/month, while for a student it is €600/month. Most Germans allocate about 36% of their income to housing and utilities. They also spend quite a lot on mandatory contributions and taxes.
The exact cost of living will naturally depend on one’s lifestyle and what area they choose to live in. Living costs could be lower if you move away from the big cities. The good news is Germany has above average salaries, which ensures a decent life for all its residents. The country also ranks well in terms of quality of life and overall well-being. There are several practicalities you’ll need to consider when relocating to Germany. This guide offers an overview of the living costs in this country, including the average cost of housing, health cover, groceries, entertainment, education, public transport, and so on. Read on for more information!
Monthly Cost of Living in Germany for a Family
Those who have relocated abroad with their family will attest to the fact that it’s an extra layer of stress. You have to ensure everyone fits in; plus, there are several additional costs for those with children. Luckily, most families enjoy life in Germany due to the low cost of education, availability of leisure activities for kids, affordable childcare, a good child healthcare system, a high level of safety for everyone, and much more. Generally, a family of four will spend about €2,000 on monthly expenses (excluding rent). Of course, the exact costs will depend on their lifestyle and what city they choose to live in. That being said, here’s what a family should expect to spend on monthly expenses.
- Housing – €1,050
- Food – €400
- Health cover – €287
- Transport – €280
- Basic utilities – €235
- Clothing – €136
- Entertainment – €343
- Phone and internet – €35
Parents with kids will also need to budget for childcare and education as described below:
Germany has an excellent childcare system, which is also quite affordable. A professional nanny offers the most expensive form of childcare, but they have experience dealing with small kids and babies. Expect to pay €1,800-2,700/month, plus health cover contributions and employer’s tax. Au pairs are much more affordable but usually unqualified. This option will cost you at least €260/month, plus a room, food, and a health cover. Nurseries charge between €70 and €150/month per child. A childminder typically charges €10-15 per hour, while a baby sitter charges €6-15 per hour.
German education is of high standards. Public schools are free and a good option for expats with younger kids if they can easily pick up the German language. Alternatively, you can send your kid to an international school, especially if you want them to learn your home country’s curriculum. The latter is substantially more costly with tuition fees varying depending on the institution and the child’s grade level of schooling. Expect to pay between €16,000 and €20,000 a year. Last but not least, parents have the option of bilingual schools, which cost about €500-600/month.
Expatriates with kids enjoy several financial benefits, which can help manage these living costs. This is from a state worried about the declining birth rates. Families receive a Kindergeld payment of up to 184/month for every child under 18 years. This amount increases slightly for later children. Parents with newborns also receive Elterngeld, which is a monthly allowance for parents who have given up work to care for their kids. It pays up to 1,800/month for up to 14 months. This enables parents to stay at home during the first year after birth without being forced to go back to work or suffer financial loss.
Monthly Cost of Living in Germany for a Couple
For some couples, moving to Germany was a conscious decision. The pros and cons were carefully weighed and a decision was made. To others, it came as a surprise when one partner was offered a job in Germany. If that’s the case, it seems natural to move over with them. Then there’s the group that met the love of their lives and moved for love. Either way, relocating abroad with your partner seems romantic and exciting, but it does have its own set of challenges. For starters, one partner may end up loving the new country while the other continues to feel unsettled. One important piece of advice I would give to a couple moving to Germany is to integrate but by no means assimilate. The next important thing you need to know before moving to Germany is how much you will spend on monthly expenses.
First off, this is a subjective question and mostly depends on a couple’s lifestyle and the kind of experience they’re looking to have in Germany. But on average, a couple will spend between €1500 and €2000 on monthly expenses. Of course, this only includes the basics such as food, rent, clothing, transport, utilities, a basic health cover, and occasional eating out. Now if you both want to have a good life and enjoy everything that the country has to offer, this amount will increase to €4000/month. Given that the average net salary is €2,700 per person, a couple could make an average of €5400/month. As you can see, couples can live a pretty comfortable decent life, especially if both are working. That being said, here’s a breakdown of common monthly expenses for a couple:
A couple will need about 50 to 70 square meter apartment, which costs €850/month on average. If it’s furnished, you would pay about €1,100/month. While this seems costly, note that furnishing an apartment isn’t that cheap. For instance, it will cost you about 3000 EUR to fit a basic kitchen. Only go for an unfurnished apartment if you’re planning to stay long-term.
Eating in Germany is generally not expensive. A couple will spend about €250/month on groceries.
Socializing and having fun is important after a long day/week of work. A couple will spend about €250 going out 3-4 times a month.
Thanks to the broad and efficient public transportation system, couples don’t have to buy a car to get around in Germany. Given that the monthly travel pass is €70, the total cost of transportation for a couple could come up to €140/month. Should you require a taxi, note that the normal tariff starts at €2/km.
Monthly Cost of Living in Germany for Students
There are several reasons why students all over the world choose Germany as a study-abroad destination. For starters, it has the world’s highest-ranked universities that offer internationally compatible Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs. Also, tuition is very low if a fee is charged at all. Having a better understanding of what awaits you in terms of living costs can help you budget for your time abroad. On average, students spend about €600 – €800 on monthly living expenses. This is just a guideline as prices differ depending on how frugal one is and where they live. Living costs while studying in Munich are the highest, while Leipzig is the cheapest. Here’s a breakdown of the cost of every aspect of university life to ensure you have everything covered:
Public universities don’t charge tuition fees for Bachelor’s degree courses. Master’s degrees are also free provided they are consecutive, meaning they follow directly from Bachelor’s gained in the country. Non-consecutive Master’s Programs will cost you about €20,000/year. Some universities do charge a long-term fee of about €500-800 per semester if you exceed your standard period of study. If a private university catches your fancy, you’ll need to budget for €15,000-30,000/year. Even with added costs, Germany tuition is still quite affordable compared to some EU countries and higher learning institutions in the US.
All students are required to pay a semester contribution, which varies from university to university but generally around €250 per semester. This covers specific university services such as administrative services, semester ticket (public transport pass), sports facilities, cafeterias, and the likes.
Accommodation takes up the largest portion of a student’s budget and ranges from €200 to €900 a month, depending on the type of accommodation and where it’s found. Student halls are the cheapest form of accommodation at about €237/month (basic amenities included). But being the country with the 3rd largest international student population, finding a spot in residence halls would be a challenge. Most students, therefore, choose to live in shared flats, which cost between €210 and €360/month in a cheaper city like Leipzig, and €665 in Munich. Living in private accommodation will cost an additional €150 for basic amenities.
Choosing the right form of transport will save you time and money. If you have the semester ticket, which costs about €65/semester, it will cover your university bus ticket as well as any form of public transportation at no extra cost. If a semester ticket is not available at your university, consider public transport. A one-way ticket is about €2.50, while a monthly pass costs €70 on average. If you own a car, note that gasoline costs about €1.30/litre. Using a bicycle will also get you from one place to another, especially in over-crowded cities during rush hours.
Other monthly expenses for students include:
- Food – €168
- Clothing – €42
- Learning materials – €20-30
- Phone, internet, and TV – €30
- Health-related expenses – €50-70
- Leisure activities – €61
If done right, studying in Germany won’t cost an arm and a leg. You can also consider applying for scholarships, getting a part-time job, or trying your luck at fundraising to help offset these education costs. Remember to take advantage of student discounts, which are often offered at various stores, restaurants, state museums, cinemas, theatres, and so on if you present a student ID.
Average Monthly Costs of Living in Germany
Monthly rent for an apartment
Housing costs in Germany are fairly high but vary depending on which area you’ll be living in, type of property, as well as your standards and expectations in terms of accommodation. Munich is the most expensive city to rent in. Berlin, which is the capital, has moderate rental costs. And, the lowest housing costs are in Leipzig and Bremen. Currently, the average cost of renting in Germany is €9.00 per m2. Here’s a list of popular cities in Germany and the associated average rental costs in the city center:
In addition to rent, there are further expenses that you need to factor in. This includes a security deposit, which is usually one month’s rent, a broker fee, and sometimes Ablöse to the outgoing tenant. The other expense you need to factor in is the monthly utility. You can calculate the general cost of utilities at a rate of €2.50 per square meter. This includes gas/electricity, garbage removal, hot water, and heating. The monthly internet is around €30–€40.
Although renting is the best option for expats, they are no restrictions on buying a property. However, it’s important to learn about the German mortgage system before you go ahead. The maximum mortgage you can get will depend on your residency status. For instance, permanent residents can borrow up to 80%, while non-residents are often limited to about 55–60% of the assessed property value.
That being said, here’s the average apartment price per square meter in major cities:
- Munich – €10,255
- Frankfurt – €6,522
- Stuttgart – €6,032
- Hamburg – €5,964
- Düsseldorf – €5,900
- Berlin – €5,895
- Cologne – €5,388
- Leipzig – €3,457
- Dortmund – €3,000
The monthly cost for an internet provider
Germany has an extensive internet connection, with a wide range of open and private networks spread all over the country. DSL is the most common internet technology, but internet providers also offer cable, satellite, and fibre optic connections. Most of the internet providers in this country offer the same range of prices. In that case, the elements that vary are often speeds and customer service. Most contracts have a minimum duration of 2 years, that’s why it’s very important to choose the right provider as you’ll be stuck with them for a while.
|Internet Provider||50 Mbps||100 Mbps||250 Mbps|
If service and quality are your top priorities, then consider Telekom or 1&1, but for a cheaper option, look no further than o2 Internet.
The monthly cost for a mobile phone provider
A mobile phone is probably one of the most convenient ways to stay in contact with others. You’ll need to decide between a contract and a prepaid plan. A prepaid plan is more ideal if you’ll be staying for a short while in Germany. They come with no commitment and charge between 9 and 29 cents per minute. You’ll, however, need to top up additional credit once you run out before you can continue making calls.
Contracts are best for long stays, and some come with a new phone. Most of them last 1-2 years, so be sure to make the right choice or you might get stuck with an unfavorable contract for a while.
Popular mobile phone providers include:
- Vodafone from €14.99/month
- O2 (Telefónica) from 19.99/month
- Deutsche Telekom from €26.90/month
The monthly cost for health insurance
Should you fall sick while living in Germany, you can rest assured of receiving the best healthcare thanks to the high-quality local hospitals in the country. It’s, however, compulsory to purchase a medical cover in Germany. The cost varies depending on the provider, type of cover, and age. A basic cover starts from €80 for students and €160–400 for professionals. Those who are employed can arrange to pay for premiums through a subsidized company insurer. But those who are self-employed will have to arrange for private health cover, which can be quite costly. The good news is a private cover gives you access to more medical services, and quicker than you would through the public system.
The monthly cost for groceries
The general cost of groceries is actually inexpensive compared to other west-European countries, but still higher than in developing countries. Upmarket supermarkets like Tegut and REWE are more costly. You can save 10-15% by shopping at Aldi and Lidl. Most German supermarkets tend to stock fewer items, meaning you may have to shop at specialist stores for specific grocery items like exotic vegetables. Groceries cost between €80 and €150 per month for a single person. This only covers basic foods that you need to eat daily. Having a lot of junk food or adding extra grocery items will increase your food costs. Here are some main products, together with their average prices in Germany in Euros:
|1L of regular milk||€0.71|
|1kg of white rice||€2.09|
|1kg of chicken breasts||€7.35|
|1kg of beef round||€11.10|
|1kg of potatoes||€0.99|
|1kg of local cheese||€8.95|
|A dozen of eggs||€1.85|
|A loaf of bread (500g)||€1.30|
|1kg of tomatoes||€2.47|
|1kg of onions||€1.13|
|1kg of apples||€2.21|
|1kg of oranges||€2.14|
The monthly cost for eating out
Eating out in Germany is fairly affordable, although prices differ depending on the choice of restaurant. A decent meal costs about €10 in an inexpensive restaurant. The same will cost €30-40 per person in a more upscale restaurant. There are, however, plenty of cheaper alternatives. A combo meal in a fast-food restaurant will cost €8, a Chinese takeaway goes for €5-7, while a kebab set is €3-5. Drinks in a bar are around €3.50 for a 0.5L draft beer and €6.00 for a glass of good quality wine. You’ll also pay €2.69 for a regular cappuccino and €2.26 for a 0.33L bottle of Coke/Pepsi.
Other forms of entertainment include going to the movies, which cost about €10 per person. Renting a tennis court for an hour costs €18.82, a fitness club costs €29.21/month, while a concert ticket goes for around €95.
The monthly cost of public transport
Public transportation in Germany is highly efficient, reliable, and reasonably priced. Expect to pay around €2.70 for a one-way ticket. An all-inclusive monthly ticket costs between €60 and €90/month.
Trains are often the most efficient and fastest way to get around. Watch out for special offers such as the Bahn card, which often gives 25%, 50%, or 100% discounts on your train tickets, and is valid for a year. Buses are slightly less expensive than trains, especially if you book your ticket in advance. You can also use the Bahn card on buses.
Taxi tariffs start at €3.20-3.60, and the cost/km is about €2.
Owning a car in Germany isn’t necessary, but you can still get one for convenience. A new Toyota Corolla goes for €20,585, while a Volkswagen Golf costs about €20,000. Alternatively, you can go for used cars in Germany, which are among the least expensive in Europe. Running it will, however, cost you quite a bit given the high cost of car insurance and maintenance. Note that a liter of gasoline is €1.42, while a liter of diesel is €1.22.
Cost Of Living in Germany VS the USA
The cultures of these two countries are nothing but the same. Germans exude a ‘play-it-safe’ attitude, while Americans have a ‘go get it’ kind of attitude. There are several other differences between Germany and the US but today I’ll focus on the varying living costs between these two countries.
Generally, the cost of living is 2.5% cheaper in Germany than in the US. If you lived in Germany instead of the US, expect to pay less for housing, groceries, entertainment & sports, childcare, as well as personal care. As you can see, this list comprises of some of the largest expenses in every household. You’d, however, have to pay more for transportation, restaurants, utilities, and clothing.
Here’s a more specific comparison of cost of living per month in Germany VS the USA:
|A pair of jeans||€76||€39|
|A pair of men leather shoes||€103||€85|
|Monthly travel pass||€70||€63|
|A loaf of bread||€1.30||€2.36|
|A dozen of eggs||€1.85||€2.06|
Cost Of Living in Germany VS UK
When economists compare the cost of living between two countries or regions, they take into account the amount of money needed to reach an average lifestyle. In other words, it means comparing the cost of food, housing, healthcare, education, clothing, and transportation. By that broad measure, the general consumer prices are comparable in both countries. Even so, the cost of living in Germany is slightly cheaper than in the UK by 0.3%. Here’s a more specific breakdown of these costs:
Overall, rent is about 24.2% lower in Germany than in the UK. For instance, renting a one-bedroom apartment costs €713 in Germany and €913 in the UK. The same apartment in a less expensive city would go for 533/month in Germany and 654/month in the UK.
Transportation is also 2.3% less in Germany. A one-way ticket is €2.70 in Germany and €2.83 in the UK. A monthly travel pass, on the other hand, is cheaper in the UK at €67/month compared to the €70/month in Germany. Taxis, gasoline, as well as buying a car are cheaper in Germany than in the UK. Other things you should expect to pay less for in Germany include entertainment & sports, childcare, and restaurants.
Groceries are about 14.5% more in Germany than in the UK, and clothing is 26.2% more. Although overall housing is cheaper in Germany, expect to pay slightly more when buying an apartment in Germany.
Cost Of Living in Germany VS India
First off, comparing between Germany and India is not easy due to the drastic differences. They have entirely different cultures, different language(s) spoken, as well as a huge difference in religion and politics. Their economies are also significantly different. The German economy is very strong and stable with low unemployment rates. This is because it has been a developed country for a long time now. India’s economy, on the other hand, is constantly growing and at a fast rate, to say the least. India is still developing, making it a great destination to start a business or invest.
It goes without saying that the overall living costs in Germany are much higher than in India. Research shows that it’s 2.8 times more expensive.
If you lived in Germany instead of India, expect to pay 6 times more for housing, 3 times more for restaurants, 2.4 times more for groceries, 9 times more for childcare, 2 times more for entertainment and sports, 2 times more for clothing, and 82% more for transport.
Although everything seems more expensive in Germany than in India, their wages are also well-adjusted to cater to such high living costs. The average net salary in Germany is €2,700/month while Indian workers receive average monthly earnings of between €180 and €300/month.
Best Place to Live In Germany
Now that you have a rough idea of the overall living costs in Germany, the next big decision is where you should move to. First of all, Germany is a diverse country and has areas that appeal to different kinds of people –whether you’re looking for a place with some scenery, a town aimed towards young professionals and students, a quiet town to raise your kids, or even a historic city with impressive landmarks.
When people talk about the best place to live, they always seem to mention major cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Düsseldorf. It’s true though; these cities are home to some of the biggest and globally recognized companies, meaning they offer an endless pool of job opportunities. They also have excellent infrastructure, offer lots of things to do and see, and wages are well above the national average. But all these possibilities come at a cost!
With that said, there are several other amazing places to live in Germany, including Ulm, Nuremberg, and Heidelberg, just to name a few. If you’re looking to move to up-and-coming cities, these three might be for you. There’s no shortage of modern amenities to keep residents happy and comfortable. This comes without the huge expenses and big crowds of a big city.
Cheapest Place to Live In Germany
Although the cost of living is generally affordable in Germany, every single cent matters if you’re on a tight budget. Plus, it’s normal if you aim to save as much as possible. In that case, here are the cheapest areas to live in Germany:
Jena is known for its combination of culture, technology, innovation, and history. It also offers great job opportunities thanks to the famous companies it houses like Schott Glas and Zeiss. The average monthly rent in this city is €377, which lowers the overall cost of living.
This is home to some of the best universities in the country. It’s ideal for those looking to study and have fun. The average rent is at 371 EUR/month.
This city has a wide range of industrial facilities and is still undergoing many significant changes. The cost of living in this city is almost half that of more expensive cities like Munich. The average rent is around €344/month.
This is a small city in the southern part of Germany. Life is quite affordable here as food, rent, and utilities all come cheap compared to the big cities. You can find a one-bedroom apartment for just €600/month in the city center, and €340/month outside of the city. You’ll pay as low as €75 for monthly utilities. You’ll also enjoy eating out as restaurants are quite inexpensive. For instance, a basic meal cost €7. The same would cost you 12% more in major cities like Berlin.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.