5 ways to save money as a foreign student

As a student, unless you happen to be a minority, you are usually constrained by a limited budget that your parents/savings/scholarship/job allows you to have. Every cent saved goes into your future miscellaneous bundle of happiness (travel, beer, concert, elephant rides et Al). None of the things I say here will be miracle savers and if you’re the kind of person who is some how always on a negative balance in your current account (no judgement), I wouldn’t be able to show you the way out of darkness. However, it is the small things that matter and I’d like to feel useful on this particular afternoon. Here’s my top money-saving tips!

Groceries


Germany has a plethora of supermarkets, usually categorized into discount and non-discount stores. Depending on where you originally hail from, you may find them otherwise.  For example, I find the cost of fresh vegetables and fruits usually quite cheap compared to India since due to a high food inflation, we got used to ridiculous prices back home. Rewe being the most expensive one in my opinion and Netto/Penny/Lidl being the cheapest ones. Aldi & Edeka would be somewhere in the middle.

Rewe comes with its own brand called ‘Ja’ which manufactures pretty much everything and is cheaper than other guest brands (lower margins to be transferred to producers). I haven’t tried home brands from other stores but I can bet you they do exist in many categories and are worth the bargain. Seek and thee shall find!

Another way to save some money on grocery shopping is to do it together with your flat mate (if you have one). Me and my flatmate often have a lot of meals together and it’s easier to swap cooking duties as well as bring down overall food costs when you cook for two instead of one. The food portions you see in supermarkets tend to be large enough for more than one (human average) person’s consumption. (Here’s more from me on German Food)

Transportation 


I have to admit it was strange for me to start biking again since high school, after having lived in 8-16 million plus cities where if I were biking, I would have had a hard time surviving. However, I love it here. With the exception of a few big cities, Germany is extremely bike friendly. Swap your extra ticket on whichever transport network you are on for a good city bike and you can save  40-50 euros/month on average. Unless you need to travel for work to a nearby city often, there’s really no point in getting the extra ticket.

As for travel, with your basic student ticket you would have a lot of free options to check out on weekends. For example, I’m currently on the VGN network and if you are too, here’s a link to check out nearby cities in Bayern for no extra cost : Free cities VGN. Another great way to save money is to look for regional offers/tickets on Deutsche Bahn when you are travelling. I didn’t know when I first arrived that I could go to Salzburg (Austria) for a day trip on 29 euros if alone and less than 10 euros if in a group of 4 using the Bayern day ticket. Now I do.

Medicines


Even with excellent and (almost) free medical care, when it comes to buying medicines they can fast burn a whole in your pocket. My advise for this, is to replenish your general stock whenever you are in your home country. Not only do you know all the over-the-counter medicines from your native home by name or color (or whatever other genius mechanism you devised), you would in many cases save a lot of money and time looking for similar ones here. A pack of my general kit back in India would cost me less than 25 euros for a supply that would last me a year. In Germany, just a nose spray could set you back 10 euros (and what’s worse is you may not even like it). As I said earlier, it is the small things that matter.

Telephone Bills


I was lucky to have done my exchange previously in Europe, so I knew which carrier was cheapest for international folks while travelling across the EU. It is definitely Lebara. This would greatly vary on your needs of course. Mine is fast and cheap internet, some free international calling minutes, as well as national calls. I pay 10 euros currently for 3 GB internet, 250 international minutes (to 48 countries), and unlimited free-calling in Germany. Not bad right? Here’s a link to some of the current offers (Lebara Offers). I almost never have a lack of network since Lebara is backed by Deutsche Telekom network so it’s as reliable as a phone connection can get.

Clothes 


This one’s a no-brainer. You will most certainly save money when you shop during seasonal/festival discounts. Germany tends to have brilliant sales after Christmas as well as in Spring and Autumn. The only downside, is that the majority of the items on sale are from the season that has just finished. Who cares though? I got an Eskimo jacket (exaggeration, I really mean a fat parka) for 50% off in December which helped me endure sub-zero temperatures for a good two months. It also happens to be waterproof so I can pretty much wear it all the time during winter. Since I have at least one more winter in Germany left to endure and I spend a total of 70 euros on it (35 euros/season for 2 years), it is a solid bargain for keeping me alive. Maybe I will move to Canada next, and it would certainly come in handy there. Anyway, point is look out for these discounts. You never know what you may find. It is also a great time to shop for loved ones back home so you don’t have a last-minute budget mishap before you fly back.

I hope these tips would come in handy to you, especially if you are a new student here in Germany. Please feel free to comment, like, follow or unfollow!

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