When I speak to students and parents about the prospect of completing a degree in Germany, the question that invariably comes up is,”Ok, there’s no tuition, but how much does it really cost?” The answer is a bit complicated, but it largely depends on where you study and what type of lifestyle you want.
On average, the cost of living in Germany for students is vastly lower than that in the United States. According to the Bundesministerium fuer Bildung und Forschung, German students spend on average 864 Euros per month. This figure includes the cost of rent, food, clothing, entertainment, and books, as well as university-related fees and required costs, like health insurance.
That being said, the actual costs can vary widely depending on where and how students live. An average student who plans to live in Munich should budget, on average, over 900 euros per month, whereas the same student can reasonably expect their outlays to be less than 700/month in Leipzig. Cities in the south and west tend to be more expensive, while the cities in the east are much more affordable.
Dorms at most universities cost approximately 250 euros/month, and WGs (shared flats) usually run from 300-400 euros/month. If you want to live on your own, on the other hand, you can expect to spend between 400-600 euros/month, depending on which city you live in. These figures obviously vary considerably, and it’s always wise to check out sites like WG Gesucht and Immobilien Scout before you move to get a sense of what rents are like in the area you plan to move to.
Rent is the single largest student expense, but you should also consider the following questions before moving:
- What do you normally spend on groceries, and how much do you spend eating out?
- Do you like to go to bars and club?
- Do you want to travel while in Germany?
- How often do you plan to go home during your studies?
Your answers to these questions should inform your ultimate budget. Students who currently spend $200/month on groceries can reasonably expect to spend around the same in Germany. Unfortunately, most students underestimate their costs by leaving out many of these very realistic expenses. You should also factor in administrative and bureaucratic expenses like:
- Visa application fees (Once per year)
- Health insurance (Every month)
- University fees (Once every 6 months at public universities)
A good general rule of thumb is to use your current expenses using a 1 for 1 dollar to euro conversion, factor in the additional outlays you’ll have in Germany, and then add 10% to create a budget. This is more precise than using the figures provided by previous students, who inevitably have different priorities for how they spend their money.
Be careful not to underestimate; it is highly unlikely that you will change your current lifestyle significantly while in Germany. Even though it is cheaper to live here overall, convincing yourself that you can live on 400 euros a month will almost definitely lead to trouble down the road. Most international students in Germany have money woes, mainly for this reason, leading to many sleepless nights and unnecessary stress. But if you create a realistic and honest plan ahead of your move, you’ll be left to focus on what’s really important: studying.