April arrived and to be honest it hasn’t been the most intriguing of months!
The cover picture is from a trip to ‘Fruehlingsfest’, which was a fun trip and perhaps an exception alongside Strasbourg for what was usually a rather quiet month!
April at Heidelberg involves waiting for the next term to begin, then waiting some more and then more until term starts again on the 18th April.
I’ve found it quite a weird two month break to be honest. It was wonderful to do some travelling in March, however you can’t travel all the time and so after a two week period of travelling (see last post) I found myself back in Heidelberg with remarkably little to do.
And I hadn’t really planned for this…
The weather has remained changeable throughout April, but to all intents and purposes its been nice enough. I’ve spent a bit of time doing some extra reading for classes, planning what I want to do next term and trying to have as much fun as possible – all without spending too much money!
Therefore, this post shall be subdivided into two parts: 1. Living on a shoe string in Germany and 2. How to have fun whilst doing this!
Living on a shoe string in Germany
First off, let me clear, I’ve been under no serious financial strife in Germany, but as a student who wants to make my money count, I set myself the small challenge of trying not to waste money throughout the month of April.
To do achieve this goal, I had a good little think about my spending habits during term-time and whether they were really so necessary during the holiday period – could I make a few changes? For the record, cooking wasn’t an option as my facilities in my accommodation are dreadful and the Mensas (student canteens) here are excellent value for money. Here’s an abridged list of my thoughts:
- Coffee – I’m not a massive coffee drinker, but when times are busy I tend to go for a morning coffee and one just after lunch, as they’re very cheap from the Mensa here in Heidelberg. And they taste great. And they give me an energy boost, which I often crave when I’m studying! But an expense such as this costs about €1-2 each time and seeing as I hardly need the energy boost, I decided to cut it out. This has not been easy, but I’ve done it – I hate to admit it, but the first week was tough, but it was nice to overcome this!
- Water/drinks – During term-time I normally always fill up a water bottle when I go out for the day so I don’t always have to buy a drink. But during the holidays I forgot to do this, so I kept on having to spend money for drinks outside when I really didn’t need to. Food is really good and cheap in Heidelberg if you know where to go, however drinks retain their usual prices. Did this, no problem.
- Kebab – One of the first things you learn in Germany is that kebabs, or ‘Döner’, are invariably the food of choice particularly after a night out or if you are starving hungry if you missed breakfast. I wasn’t confident on being able to cut these out – to be quite frank they’re delicious and serve a purpose. I decided not to cut these out and I’m happier for it – they’re cheap too, so judge me if you want!
- Eating out – A somewhat tricky one given that people have birthdays which they sometimes like to celebrate in a nice restaurant. I didn’t want to be too draconian here, so I decided that on average I wouldn’t eat out in a nice restaurant more than once a week on average. The ‘on average’ is important as I didn’t want to be too strict on myself, particularly as I wasn’t in desperate need and I usually choose one of the cheaper options on the menu anyway. This was relatively easy to do.
- Alcohol – It’s quite easy on a night out to get a load of drinks in, especially when you’re with friends having a great time. I decided to make sure that I didn’t do this to excess too often and to replace some of the times I could go out with other things, like playing a bit of football with friends too. Also, knowing Heidelberg pretty well now, its easy enough to work out how to have a great night, without it hurting your wallet too much. Still, some nights were unavoidable and much was drunk and therefore spent. Verdict: a dubious challenge for an Erasmus student on their holidays…
- Make a list – At the end of every week, I’d quickly jot down what I’d spent money on that stood out in my mind. This was quite useful to keep me focused on not wasting money and has even made me think better about how I spend my money during regular term time. I wasn’t too strict on myself at all during this period, but just taking a little more time to actively think about what and how I was spending my money was an interesting exercise that will serve me well in the future.
Having fun whilst on a budget!
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in thinking more deeply about how to save money during April, it’s that having a goal is very useful to motivate yourself.
Fortunately I had a simple one in that I wanted to go away in April with my girlfriend to Strasbourg. The trip itself wasn’t to be too expensive as you can get very cheap bus tickets in Germany and what’s more each bus has free wifi, so you are also able to stay in contact with the rest of the world while travelling on a long bus journey!
Strasbourg also meant a couple of meals out in two fancy restaurants we wanted to try, but that was acceptable given the rules I’d given myself for the month.
The trip was one I will never forget and Amytis and I had so much fun and are planning to go back there in a year’s time, as it was one of the best trips we’ve done all year (and there have been many great ones).
Strasbourg aside now, there is also plenty of fun to be had in Heidelberg without spending too much money.
With the weather improving, I sought out more opportunities to do some sport and at any opportunity I’d be straight out of the house, on to my bike and off to work/play some part in Heidelberg. As I bought a bike at the end of the first Semester here in H, I decided that for the second semester I wouldn’t buy a bus ticket and just stick to my bike. And it’s been a lot more fun doing that, from bumping into people in the street and saying hello to getting more fresh air – In Heidelberg the bike is king!
So, not the most interesting month to report on, but I hope that for those of you considering or about to depart on a year abroad in Germany it was of some use.
A year abroad isn’t always packed full of excitement and crazy stories to tell, or maybe there are some things that aren’t appropriate for a university blog article 😉
Bis nachste Mal,