Locals Talk About The Cost Of Living In Berlin In 2021 – It seems that just about everyone wants to move to Berlin these days, even during the pandemic. People come for all sorts of reasons, like working at a startup, experiencing the epic party scene, or joining the thriving creative community. Berlin’s especially welcoming to newcomers from any background, with demographics telling us that almost half a million non-Germans from approximately 180 countries live in the city.
The hype is real and the current population of 3.5 million people has grown by 0.31% annually since 2015. While immigration has obviously slowed down over the past year, Berlin continues to remain popular, and is one of Europe’s most affordable cities when compared to the likes of London or Paris.
Locals Talk About The Cost Of Living In Berlin In 2021
This report is a personal account of my cost of living in Berlin. By no means, am I attempting to depict my life as a typical situation. I’m simply hoping this glimpse into my expenses will help you figure out how much it might cost for you to live in Berlin as well.
To put things into perspective before we get started:
- I’m unmarried and have no children (but I do embrace clichés and live with a very cute cat)
- I live on my own without any roommates
- All expenses listed here are 100% assumed by me
- I’ve a full time job and don’t receive money from other sources (i.e. a rich husband or the German government)
A couple of years ago, we informally surveyed 150 people living in Berlin about their costs of living. To make the data featured here more real, I’ve included the results of the survey for each section as an additional reference point beyond my own. While the information is now a bit dated, we still gleaned some interesting and very relevant (but not very scientific) stats.
Cost Of Living In Berlin: Fixed Monthly Expenses
1) Rent: €825 per month (warm)
I live in a 55 square meter apartment in Berlin’s Eastern district, Lichtenberg. It’s located just outside the city center (and the Ring) in a ninth story Plattenbau. It offers plenty of light with large windows on both sides of the apartment, a bathroom with a bathtub, a large bedroom and living room, and a fully equipped kitchen with stove, washing machine, and refrigerator. The place also came furnished with some basics like a dining room table, couch, and bed. It’s located directly beside an S-Bahn station, an Edeka, Apotheke, and more. I can be in Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg, or Neukölln within 30 minutes. The lease for my flat is in my name and my name also appears on the front door — it’s not a holiday or a temporary accommodation.
The only things lacking are a balcony, dishwasher, and convenience of living in an area where things are within close proximity like when I lived at Prenzlauer Berg’s Helmholtzplatz. There are still some treasures within the district worth travelling to, like Gardens Of The World, Dong Xuan Center, and Schlosspark Biesdorf.
Some information we learned from our survey participants:
- As one might expect, the most popular districts that people chose to call home were Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain at 24%, then Pankow (which includes Prenzlauer Berg) at 17%, and Mitte and Neukölln tying at 13%.
- The smallest flat size reported was 20 square meters and the largest flat size reported was a whopping 180 square meters! The average flat size was 69 square meters.
- 56% of people claimed to be living with someone else, either a significant other or roommates, while only 44% said they were flying solo.
- 64% of those living with someone else reported only living with only one other person and 28% reported living with two other people.
- Our results revealed that some lucky people were only paying €250 a month for cold rent while the richer among us were paying up to €2,200. On average, people were paying €664 per month for cold rent in different parts of the city.
For cold hard data, view the Miet-Map which shows the average cold rent for different areas across Berlin.
Services we recommend to help with your Berlin flat:
- Lyght Living – Do you need to furnish your flat quickly and easily? During those first months after you move in, we know it’s tough to find the time and money to shop for furniture while you’re paying for your rent deposit and other things. Lyght Living eliminates the burden of owning furniture by providing a subscription service for a “lighter way of living”. They offer a simple way for you to get the stylish furniture you want, for the length of time you need it, and on a pricing model you can afford. You don’t need to worry about buying, assembling, or owning any furniture and when you no longer need it, you can swap, buy it, or send it back. You can rent a single piece of furniture like a couch or choose from room packages like a living room one, starting for €30 a month.
- Nestpick – Are you looking for a flat in Berlin? We all know that finding a place to live in Berlin is one of the toughest things to do when you move here. So if you happen to be on the hunt for a new apartment or are just looking for a room to rent, check out Nestpick. They have the largest search engine for furnished apartments, rooms, and co-operative housing worldwide. To find apartments in Berlin, go to their website, type Berlin, and hit search. Different properties will be listed and you can browse through their offerings to find your new home.
2) Health Insurance: €400 per month
Healthcare’s a significant expense for all of us, but well worth it considering it covers so many things like sick days, doctor’s visits, surgeries, basic dental, etc. The amount you contribute to healthcare depends on your income level – expect to pay out 14.6% to 15.6% of your gross monthly income whether you’re employed full time or a freelancer. For those employed full time, your employer will cover half the costs, leaving you to pay about 7%. Worth noting – if you make more than €54,450 per year, the cost of health insurance is capped and stops rising. For full time employees, this works out to be about €400 per month and for freelancers, this works out to be €800 per month.
I have public insurance with TK and pay around €400 per month. As I’m employed in a permanent position, my employer covers the other half.
Why have I listed healthcare as a cost of living? Although employees may not think twice about healthcare as an expense because it’s deducted from their monthly salary, we’ve explicitly included it here for people coming outside of the European Union. For example, if you’re Canadian like me and come from a country with universal healthcare, you won’t be used to seeing such a massive deduction from your monthly salary. I’m telling you in advance so you won’t be surprised when you get that first pay cheque. I also list it here so that freelancers are aware they have to pay out of pocket and assume the costs themselves.
3) Electricity: €44 per month
When I first moved into my flat, I started paying €52 per month to Vattenfall as my fees were calculated based on the previous tenant’s average consumption. After one year, it was adjusted to €27 per month and stayed at that price until this year. One year of working from home and ongoing lockdowns saw my monthly cost for electricity rise by €17.
Our lovely survey respondents reported paying anywhere from €15 per month, all the way to €150. I’m not sure whether or not the latter people were trying to grow marijuana at home, but on average people were spending €50 a month for electricity.
Note, sometimes electricity is included in your monthly rent. Be sure to inquire with your landlord before you sign your lease.
4) Internet: €44 per month
Unfortunately, one provider controls Internet in my building so I’m held hostage by PYUR. During the first year in my flat, it cost €20 per month and the price doubled to €40 per month after one year when my first contract expired. After I started to work remotely full time, I upgraded to a higher speed and now pay about €44 a month.
62% of our survey respondents reported that they pay for Internet, while the remainder have it included in the cost of their rent. They also paid anywhere from €15 – €60 per month for Internet, which for some, also included cable TV or home phone (some people still have landlines!). On average, they were paying €30 per month.
5) Mobile Phone Provider: €15 per month
I currently don’t have a contract with a mobile phone provider and have a sim card with Alditalk. For this, I pay €10 per month for 5 GB of data and another €5.00 per month for texts and calls. I was actually able to downgrade my mobile plan over this past year as staying home so much has me using less data. That makes €5 a month in savings.
Our survey respondents were divided evenly down the middle, with the half of the group having contracts with companies like Vodafone and other half paying as they go. People said they were paying anywhere from €10 – €65 per month which includes various things like data, texting, calls, and more. On average, people claimed they were paying €25 per month.
6) Bank Account: €3 per month
I have a basic account with Sparkasse which costs me €3 per month. This has remain unchanged since I opened the account in November 2014.
61% of those who took part in our survey about the cost of living in Berlin stated they do not pay any monthly fees to their bank. Others reported paying anywhere from €2 – 11 per month, with the average cost for a bank account per month costing €6 per month.
7) Insurance: €27 per month
My insurance with Sparkasse includes home insurance, personal liability insurance, and life insurance. It’s €81 every three months or about €27 a month. My cost of insurance actually went up at the end of 2020 from €64, an increase of €17.
57% of our survey respondents indicated they have other forms of insurance, with the remaining choosing to risk it all. People are paying anywhere from €5 – €60 per month, with people paying €20 on average.
8) ARD: €17.50 per month
Even though I don’t have a television or radio, I still grin and bear it by paying the controversial “TV tax” which is not really a tax but a fee that everyone must pay to fund public broadcasting in Germany. I pay €52.50 every three months, which works out to be €17.50 a month. This cost has remain unchanged since I moved into my flat in 2016.
Cost Of Living In Berlin: Variable Monthly Expenses
1) Groceries: €300 per month
Another cost of living in Berlin is food, glorious food. Although I order takeout once or twice a week to help support local businesses, I’m cooking more at home since the pandemic started. As a result, my monthly groceries cost went up since last year and I tend to spend about €400 per month.
I mainly shop at the Edeka next to my apartment building and sometimes shop from more upscale chains like Biocompany or Frischeparadies when I want to get higher quality ingredients or cook something more special, like a fish dish. You can, of course, be more thrifty and do your shopping at Turkish markets or places like Aldi and Lidl.
All of the local supermarkets now offer online shopping options, which really helps for placing bulk orders and getting heavy items like cases of water or beer delivered. I place an online order for delivery with Rewe once per month. A new startup in Berlin, Gorillas, promises to deliver groceries to your door in 10 minutes! Some people also use companies like HelloFresh to get boxes of pre-planned meals delivered.
People’s spend on groceries was very wide, with them reporting that they spend anywhere from €50 – €600 per month on food. On average, people were coming in at €200 per month.
2) Eating Out: €125 per month
If you’re happy to eat a simple a Döner, you will only pay €3 – 4 at most spots around the city (even the trendy ones). If you want a basic meal out – pizza, pasta, a burger, ramen, or some form of Asian or Indian, most mains will be around €10. Dining at a more popular or upscale place will typically run you between €15-20 for a main, with seafood restaurants being more expensive. Berlin is filled with plenty of upscale eateries as well, with Restaurant Tim Raue being a prime example.
You can buy basic beers from any Späti (convenience store) or supermarket for €1 – 3. Buying a typical German beer in a bar or club will start at around €3 – 4, with craft beers typically starting from €5 and up. A bottle of wine at super markets will fetch you anywhere from €3 – €12. Wine in upscale speciality shops will, of course, be more. In a bar, a glass of “nicht so gut” wine will start at €3-5 , where a decent glass of wine will start around €6.
A coffee from a bakery will usually start around €2 and a fancier coffees like flat whites will fetch you around €4 at a hipster hot spot. You can also buy a decent package of coffee in the supermarket for €6 – 7 and course fork out around €20 for a high end coffee from a specialty shop like The Barn.
A great thing about Berlin is that eating out is very affordable and you can easily have a decent meal (including a glass of wine!) for €20 or so. Note, drinking alcohol, or even ordering water, will add to your meal expenses.
As I am working from home and not going out due to the pandemic, I’m saving a lot on eating out. I now spend about €125 a month on takeout. As I have a full time job, I’m really happy to support the restaurants that are really suffering right now. I try to order out or pick-up takeout at least twice per week, sometimes three if I’m feeling lazy.
I use Lieferando to have food delivered. People who live in central areas of the city tend to favour Wolt. When I visit other parts of the city, I try to order takeout from local venues and pick-up from the restaurant directly.
People who took part in our survey said they spent anywhere from €30 – €600 per month on eating out. On average, they reported spending at least €200 enjoying Berlin’s culinary scene. Note – we never specifically asked people how much they spent on partying, so this figure would probably be higher had we asked this question.
3) BVG Tickets: €18 per month
Prior to the pandemic, I had a monthly pass which cost me €63 a month. This allowed for unlimited travel within Berlin’s A/B zone. Obviously, the pandemic placed a lot of us home and have seen us seek alternative transit options. I now walk, ride a bike, take taxis, even scooters, and I very rarely, use public transit.
I use the BVG app to purchase tickets when needed. To get the most value for my money, I purchase a 4-single trip ticket for €9 about twice a month.
Our survey participants seemed to prefer public transit and riding a bike. No one talked about how often they used taxis or Uber. Very few people reported owning – or even renting cars via a car sharing program like car2go. On average people were spending anywhere from €60-80 per month on public transit.
Cost Of Living In Berlin: Other Monthly Expenses
To share a comprehensive picture of how much things cost in Berlin, I’m also sharing some other common expenses that people have, even though I’m not personally paying for these particular things at this time.
1) Fitness Studios
Fitness studios have been closed during the corona times, so I cancelled my contract just this year.
Most studios offer memberships for €20 – €30 a month if you sign-up for a long term contract. In the past, I’ve held memberships at FitX and Lady Company and paid about €20 a month. If you want more flexibility and access to different types of classes and facilities, you can always signup for Urban Sports Club which has plans which range from €29,99 – €129,99 per month.
60% of people who responded to our survey say they don’t go to the gym and other 40% who do go to the gym said they paid anywhere from €10 – €110 per month. 49% of people who go to a gym, use a company like Gympass, or take special lessons have a long-term contract. On average, people are paying €37 per month.
I’m no longer a smoker and just celebrated one year smoke free (yeah!). Unfortunately, Berlin’s quite literally a smoking city and there are smokers everywhere. A pack of 20 cigarettes will run you about €7. Most people opt to save money and buy tobacco, papers, and filters to roll the cigarettes themselves. Others stock up when visiting other countries like Poland where cigarettes are way cheaper.
Cost Of Living In Berlin: Summary
So what is my cost of living in Berlin:
- My fixed expenses come to about €975 per month (I didn’t count health insurance as it’s automatically deducted from my gross salary).
- My variable expenses are an additional €450 per month, which I can adjust at any given time if I want to save more money. I still put aside money every month too.
- In total, my expenses come to €1,425 per month.
Have we missed anything? Are there other cost of living in Berlin details you’re interested in knowing about? Let us know in the comments below.
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