Most of the money I currently own was saved during the last 1.5 years. 2 years ago, me and my husband started looking for high(er) paying jobs outside our home country, which is a low-paying/low-opportunities country, and we actually found a job more or less at the same time but unfortunately in different countries. M went to Switzerland and I came to Germany. The good thing was that we actually were quite close, if you consider 5:30 hours by train or 1:30 flying close. At the end, we got used to it and we saw each other every weekend, either in one of the places or other places, as we took the opportunity to get to know other cities nearby and countries. I have realized what a beautiful country Switzerland is and I got to know many other cities in Germany, Austria and Poland. Yes, we could have saved more but your relationship is definitely more important than the savings rate, so I have decided to save on other things:
– Renting an unfurnished and cheap studio
Luckily my employer paid for all my furniture transportation from Portugal and therefore I could find a cheaper apartment as unfurnished apartments are generally cheaper. The studio was maybe a bit small for 2 but for 1 person it was more than enough.
– I bought a bike and I did not spend money on car/taxis/metro
I am lucky to live in Frankfurt, which is a very safe and relatively small city and that allows me to bike everywhere. I have saved not only 70 Euros a month, which normally people pay for monthly public transportation pass, but also I hardly ever took a cab. In addition, only in exceptional situations, i.e., if it is raining a lot, I take the metro. Currently, I am 4 months pregnant and I plan to bike everywhere until I feel good, hopefully till the end of my pregnancy! I did not and do not plan to buy a car, even though everyone tries to convince me cars are very cheap in Germany and I should do it. I did not fall into the trap of buying a car and having huge costs and worries every month. Not only you have to pay parking, taxes, insurance but also devaluation is a huge cost. If we need a car, which is very rarely, we can easily rent it for around 20/30 euros a day.
– I was always paying attention to cheap ways to get to Switzerland or other places to visit
I was always checking the cheapest way to travel, either by train or flying, not only to see my husband but also to visit my family back in Portugal. For Christmas and other high demand periods, I always bought the tickets at least 6 months in advance.
– I did not change my lifestyle
My salary increased by almost 4 times than what I was previously earning in Portugal. Germany is a relatively cheap country, only slightly more expensive than my home country. There is a huge temptation to change your lifestyle, i.e., buy expensive clothes, expensive furniture, go to fancy places and not to be careful about money in general. However, apart from travelling more often and buying a good bike (1 000 Euros), I did not change my habits. I still hardly ever buy clothes, I always have lunch in my canteen, go for dinner not more than once a week and hardly ever to expensive places. Most important of all, all the expensive things I bought/experienced I have regarded them as what they are – a luxury – and did not allow them to take any role in my habits. I did experience Michelin star restaurants but actually my favorite place to have dinner in Frankfurt is still the Moroccan place around the corner, where you pay 10 Euros per person and the food is amazing! I just did it for the experience, which is valuable for me, the same way I went skiing and did a biking competition of 110km, all of those are somehow expensive, but again, the most important thing is not to make them a part of your habits and regard it as an experience. On a normal weekend, we go biking around Frankfurt and we bring lunch and water with us, which makes it an almost free activity. And I love it!