Planning your Student Budget in Germany

Most German universities don't charge tuition fees, but that doesn't mean studying in Germany is free. So, how much does it actually cost to study in Germany? 

There are some areas in the United States with rents comparable to Germany, but the majority of students will see a huge reduction in their monthly expenses. My rent alone in the suburbs of Chicago totaled about 300 dollars more than the average monthly student budget in Germany!

Here are the national averages, provided by Fenne Deters based on responses from psychology students across the country.

Zeit Online also offers prospective students a handy calculator on their website that allows you to look up the average costs from major German universities cities. You can even compare and contrast different schools that you're interested in using the Zeit calculator.

This provides a good sense of the range of costs in German cities; Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne are all fairly expensive and comparable to American cities, while many of the cities in the east, like Leipzig, Greifswald, Dresden and Rostock, are much more affordable on average.

Average Cost of Living in Germany Cities

Source: Zeit Online

Now, there are some discrepancies with my personal experience. For example, my health insurance living in North Rhine Westphalia costs 83 € a month. Groceries actually total around 100 €. American students also need to factor in the costs of applying for visas and other administrative and bureaucratic costs that German students don't have to worry about. However, when you consider that few American students own a car in Germany, we actually come out with an even lower number.

Two things to remember when planning your budget: Location and Transportation Costs.

  • Depending on where you live, your rent will likely be around 20-30% higher or lower than the national average. Deters states that in a student residence (dorm), rent is on average around 222 €. In contrast, a room outside of the university’s domain is on average 341 € a month. In major cities, such as Cologne, Berlin, or Hamburg, these will both be around 100 € higher.
  • Once you enroll and pay your semester fee, you will receive a semester ticket which provides unlimited access to the regional transportation system, including all buses, subways and regional trains. Depending on which state you decide to study in, this could include the entire state (NRW) or just the immediate area around your university. This provides students with significant savings, since the semester fee only costs approximately 100 € - 300 € per semester (every six months).