In comparison to most other western European capitals, Berlin is a very affordable city for expats. In the past two and a half years we’ve been living here, we’ve been able to live a comfortable and enjoyable life (with lots of travel too) basically off one salary. There would be no way that we could lead the lifestyle we’re leading here back home in Melbourne, where prices are soaring. Being in Berlin has enabled us to feel like we have enough financial flexibility to take some risks and make decisions based on what makes us happy rather than what will pay mountains of bills. I get lots of emails about what it’s like to live in Berlin as an expat, so I thought I’d break down the cost of living in Berlin in terms of what we spend on the necessities every month.
Cost of Living in Berlin: Our Monthly Expenses
Ben and I rent a fully furnished, large apartment in one of Berlin’s pricier neighbourhoods, Prenzlauer Berg. Our rent is on the more expensive side compared to what a lot of people pay, but it includes all utilities and internet and we didn’t have to furnish it. Our security deposit was only €200 too.
Health insurance: €165
It’s mandatory to have health insurance in Germany and, compared to prices in Australia at least, insurance is bloody expensive. I’m insured through Techniker Krankenkasse and pay the minimum amount, which I still find to be exorbitant, given that Ben is also paying for his too. Your premium is calculated based on how much you earn. If you are employed by a company, you pay half the premium and your employer pays the other half. When I worked at my last job, I was paying €200 per month, which meant that my insurance actually cost twice that. Paying this (ridiculous) amount of money every month is something I really resent. If I shopped around, I could possibly find a cheaper premium, but the insurance system is so complicated in Germany that many people (including Germans) need to rely on an insurance broker to help them navigate the system, which in itself is expensive.
Public transport: €58
Public transport is cheap in Berlin. I purchase a 10 am monthly ticket, which means I can travel only after 10am. This suits me just fine since I usually have nowhere to be before 10 am anyway!
Gym membership: €18.50
Yep, you read that correctly. I pay less than €5 per week for the gym, an incredibly cheap price compared to what I am used to in Melbourne. I go to SuperFit, which offers Les Mills classes and is open 24 hours, 365 days per year. A bargain!
Phone credit: €15
Since my phone is unlocked, I purchased a German sim card from Vodafone here and top my credit up when I need to. €15 usually lasts me the whole month, if I don’t obsess over Instagram when I’m off Wi-Fi!
Other Expenses: Food, Drinks and Entertainment
Depending on our income for that month, out spending habits vary. Here’s an indication of what we would pay for other things like food, drinks and entertainment.
Flat white: €3
Bag of coffee beans: €16
Coffee isn’t cheap in Berlin, since the Third Wave movement is still in its early stages. If you’re not fussy with your coffee though (I am) and are happy to have it from a bakery or convenience store, you’ll get a cup for a lot cheaper.
A meal out for two: €22
Generally we would order two mains and two drinks. We don’t go to expensive restaurants in Berlin, although we do like good quality ingredients and tasty fare. This lunch was €5 each and these mains were €8.40 each.
500ml beer in a bar: €3.50
500ml beer in a Späti (convenience store): €1.70
When it’s cheaper to buy beer than water, you know you’ve got a good deal here. You can even sit out the front of some Spätis and drink your beers there, like it was a bar. It’s not illegal to drink on the streets either, like it is back home.
Glass of wine in a bar: €4
Bottle of wine from a wine shop: €5
Compared to the heavy taxes on alcohol in Australia, which makes it very expensive, in Germany and in Berlin in particular, alcohol is incredibly cheap. A night out isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, like it would in Melbourne. I definitely drink more alcohol here in Berlin than I ever did in Australia and love to pick up my favourite bottle of red wine from Portugal for only €4.80 from the wine shop down the road.
Cinema ticket (Tuesday): €8.50
So there you have it! Obviously everyone’s situation in Berlin is different and there are lots of people that would spend less/more than we do per month on both the necessities and entertainment. The important thing for us is that Berlin’s affordability has enabled us to explore our passions without being crippled by money worries.
What is the cost of living like where you are?