A Week In Berlin On A $60,453 Salary

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Today: a marketing manager working in fashion who makes $60,453 per year and spends some of her money this week on a latte. We previously published a diary from this OP in March 2017. Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Industry: Fashion
Age: 25
Location: Berlin, Germany
Salary: $60,453.89
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,051.27
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $798 for a studio apartment I share with my girlfriend in a more expensive area of Berlin. (Utilities and water are included.) I make about twice what she does, so we pay rent proportional to our incomes.
Debt Payment: $513.30
Gym: $45.63 (This is on the pricier side for a Berlin gym membership, but it also includes classes, access to a hot tub, etc.)
Train & Bus Pass: $63, deducted from my salary pre-tax.
Health Insurance: $114 for repayment on a health insurance recalculation from when my previous work had issues transferring my visa so I had to pay myself.
Netflix & Spotify: $22.82
Doggy Daycare: $285.17 per month for four days per week. (Dogs are allowed at my office, but my job involves a lot of calls and meetings because I am client-facing, and I think dogs deserve lots of stimulation and play. Our dog walker gives us a 10% discount per month.)
Phone Package: $90-$120 (This varies according to data usage across Europe. When I travel for work, this tends to go up, but I can expense it later.)
Savings: $250 when possible. Paying down my debt has taken priority over this, but I have about $2,500 saved total, not including my pension.

Day One

6:45 a.m. — Wake up and hit snooze almost immediately, despite my dog licking my face and my girlfriend's. I'm trying to wake up earlier to get into the office earlier so I can leave work earlier — a 2019 goal that is not exactly off to a swimming start. My girlfriend gets out of bed to take the doggo for a walk while I groggily start getting ready for the day with instant coffee.
8:05 a.m. — Hop onto the train with my dog, who comes to work with me every day. My dog walker usually picks her up at 9:30 at my office and takes her for a day full of playing with other dogs, but she's away this week, so it looks like there will be an office pup until Friday. My travel card for the Berlin trains is deducted pre-tax, saving me a ton of money on tickets and a ton of mental energy I'd otherwise spend on fretting about forgetting to purchase tickets every day. Once I get to my desk, I get some office-supplied muesli with fruit and a cup of coffee. Every German office I've worked at has supplied an excess of muesli.
1 p.m. — Take the dog out for a walk to a nearby dog park as soon as my emails die down and I have a spare moment. Having a dog has vastly improved my and my girlfriend's mental health, so we don't mind the extra things we do to make sure she's happy. The walk adds about an hour to my day, so I use my lunch break for it and opt to eat later at my desk. The fresh air is freezing but nice — German winter grows on you the longer you live here. Reheat my packed lunch of mashed sweet potatoes with miso and butter, peas, stir-fried cauliflower and mushrooms, and veggie sausages.
3 p.m. — I catch myself messing around on the Google Flights calendar, looking for the cheapest tickets to the U.S. I can find. It looks like we can get round-trip tickets to the West Coast for $583.75! My best friends still live back home, and eventually we want to move back, so going once a year has become mandatory for my overall happiness. (My mom is an absolute hero and chooses to come visit me every Christmas — I really lucked out in the mother department.) I text my girlfriend and bookmark the flight so we can revisit once my schedule clears up later this month, and then immediately alert my closest friend and begin planning taco expeditions. Such deal-hunting requires a snack, so I have a banana from the office kitchen.
5 p.m. — I send an email to my freelancing point of contact to send a very friendly but firm reminder about a several-months-old outstanding invoice. I had a very hectic few months last year while I juggled full-time work and an unrelated freelancer side hustle. I've been inspired by Aja Dang's YouTube series on paying down her debt, so I chose to have a few months of hell in exchange for a healthier financial picture.
5:30 p.m. — A colleague has brought an entire tray of truffles back from a trip. I snag three of them once they're picked over and then do my weekly expenses roundup. I have started meticulously tracking my expenses since I first did it for my Money Diary in 2017. I have a Google sheet with some basic formulas, which help me to budget better week over week.
7 p.m. — Head home on the train with the doggo and then wait for my GF to get home so we can make dinner. We're almost caught up on Grey's Anatomy's 15th season, which is quite a feat considering we only restarted the entire series two months ago. Admirable commitment or a sign that we are destined to become hermits? You decide. We make dinner with some rice noodles, broccoli, carrots, and tofu with teriyaki sauce — my girlfriend picked up the tofu on her way home from work. Favorite characters on Grey's are still alive, mercifully.
10:45 p.m. — Final dog walk of the day, then off to bed. I meal-prepped for two days' worth of meals on Sunday, so I can skip cooking and Tupperware, which is always exhausting to me for some reason.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

6:30 a.m. — Okay, I'm up somewhat earlier because my girlfriend has to get in unreasonably early today, and I'm in charge of making sure the dog doesn't pee on our very nice landlord's floors. Then I have a coffee with hazelnut/rice milk and a slice of toast with peanut butter and raspberries I got last weekend from the grocery store.
8:40 a.m. — At my desk with some coffee. Even my dog is still sleepy.
1:30 p.m. — Sweet potatoes, veggies, and veggie sausage again with hummus.
6 p.m. — My GF arrives to pick up the doggie and bring her back to our apartment. I have a big client dinner tonight, so I won't be home until around midnight.
10 p.m. — Three courses into dinner and about five glasses of wine and cocktails. Client dinners are always an excuse to drink, though I usually don't drink more than one beer at any social event because I don't want to form bad habits.
12 a.m. — GF texts me that the dog has begun vomiting all over the apartment. I tipsily exit the party mid-convo with a coworker and hop into an Uber, since my boss has already given me permission to expense one on the way home. ($35 expensed)
Daily Total: $0

Day Three

4 a.m. — I have the all the warning signs of an impending hangover when the dog wakes both of us, vomiting again. She's whining because of the nausea and pain, poor baby, but German vets don't open until 8 a.m. at the earliest. We both take turns sleeping next to her and cleaning up a big mess. Thank God we are obsessive about stocking cleaning supplies. She throws up again at 6:45, and I begin cursing the typically limited German business hours of veterinary clinics.
8:05 a.m. — At the vet. They suggest an anti-nausea shot and painkiller injection. I say yes to all and let my boss know I will be working from home today since the vet has said to keep a close eye and try food later. If her appetite and energy don't return, I'll be making a return visit later today. $84.39
3:05 p.m. — No food, no water, only limited emails done between hangover nausea and anxiety over our dog's lethargy and refusal to eat or drink. I take her back to the vet at their suggestion, where they quickly decide to give her an IV infusion in order to hydrate her and order a blood test. Unluckily for us, we just signed up for pet medical insurance after deciding between a few different options, and none of this will be covered until it's fully activated. It's beginning to look like one of those weeks. $204
5 p.m. — GF arrives at the vet while we're still at the IV station, next to a very nice owner with a very sick skunk who probably won't make it. My bank account is hurting, but I say a silent thank you for good pet medical care. I haven't eaten all day, so I run next door to the supermarket to get yogurt, a protein bar, coconut water, and some salted caramel peanut butter cups for a very random snack session. $14.83
10 p.m. — Back at home and spoon-feeding the dog water like the vet told us. My GF makes significantly less than I do, so I tell her not to worry about the vet bill until it's all over with and then we can split it once she's been paid by her job. She orders us popcorn chicken via Deliveroo, since we're both not up for cooking.
Daily Total: $303.22

Day Four

8 a.m. — Pup is still lethargic and not herself. She is completely refusing water, although she has eaten a few spoonfuls of very smelly digestive-aid kibble. I make myself some peanut butter toast with pomegranate seeds while I keep an eye on her. My girlfriend has a bunch of meetings, so she has to rush to work. Luckily, I don't have any client meetings today, so I can work from home.
10 a.m. — Per the vet's orders, we bring her in yet again to get blood-test results and check if she needs another IV. She's still dehydrated, so we hook her back up. Luckily, nothing is wrong with her digestive system or major organs, according to the test. Now we have to rule out parasites with a poo test...lucky me. I wince as I hand over my debit card to pay for the IV infusion. $59.32
12 p.m. — Head home so the dog can sleep and I can do some work. We did a big grocery shop last week that's keeping me alive this week. I stir-fry buckwheat, kale, and black beans and add in some light feta. I am probably keeping the grocery chains in business based on my consumption of feta alone.
3 p.m. — Drop off poo sample at vet and learn there is truly no social protocol dictating how to tell an office assistant you have a vial of poop for her to examine. I just laugh and say, “I have a gift for you!” Per usual, my sense of humor doesn't tickle the German audience. I am charged up front for the examination of the prized sample, as well as some more cans of digestive-aid dog food, as the doggo still can't take her regular kibble. $73.88
8 p.m. — GF arrives home after a very stressful work day of worrying about our dog, and we make a dinner of tofu, halloumi, and veggies in a green coconut-curry sauce served over brown rice. We used to be terrible about eating out, but now we cook almost religiously. After we're done eating, I head out to the gym because I need a break from doggy daycare.
10 p.m. — Start putting pieces of kibble in the dog's water bowl to make her drink. My GF believes we will be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this innovation.
Daily Total: $133.20

Day Five

8 a.m. — Again, up bright and early for the pup's IV cannula to be removed at the vet's office. GF takes her while I get ready with some coffee and PB toast and then meet her there. I'm already so tired of being at the vet's, and even more frustrated when they tell me the second test showed perfect health despite her continuing lethargy and dehydration. Our vet friend tells us they're running appropriate tests and aren't taking us for a ride, but I'm just getting tired and stressed. Crazy as the bills may seem, the dog is basically our baby and we couldn't put a price on her health (although the vet certainly can). I take a conference call from the vet's office during the final three-hour IV session. The doctor says the dog can come with me to the office, since it's an easy train ride away and she has a nice plush bed to sleep on. I pay and make my way to work. $62.21
11 a.m. — Get a soy hot chocolate to reward myself for not crying at the vet this week or having a stress meltdown over juggling my demanding clients and our wreck of a house. These are very good problems to have, admittedly, but I'm also a burnout-aholic and have tried to keep everything balanced and scheduled in the new year. We make plans, God laughs. $2.41
1 p.m. — In between client calls and splashing water in my (annoyed) dog's face, I see an opening for a bigger, nicer apartment in an area close to my GF's work. I make a viewing appointment, since we know we want to move to a more spacious place in the spring anyway, and this apartment is beautiful. I inform the GF via Gchat and then enjoy my basic lunch of sweet potatoes, veggies, sausages, and hummus while telling my coworkers about the skunk we met at the vet's office.
6:40 p.m. — Head home via the train with the doggo, stopping to get a big syringe from the pharmacy so maybe we can squirt water into her mouth if she gets dehydrated. Yes, we have become those pet parents. As soon as we get home, I give in and let go of my weird half resolution to stop Deliveroo-ing and get some food. After this week, I'm sure I deserve it. (This way of thinking has never led to any poor purchasing decisions before, I'm sure...) Feed the dog. $42
8:15 p.m. — GF arrives home with groceries. Grey's Anatomy is back, thank the lord. We watch the latest episode over shrimp, beef, and veggie dumplings and then watch the Fyre Festival doc on Netflix.
9:45 p.m. — We hit the hay early. Thankfully, it's finally Friday and we can sleep off this weird, stressful week over the weekend.
Daily Total: $106.62

Day Six

11:30 a.m. — PB toast with honey and pomegranate seeds as soon as I wake up from a very long sleep. GF mercifully took the dog out to pee and has also gotten her to start drinking water. Hooray!
3 p.m. — We pause mid-Friends marathon to make lunch. I put together some red lentil pasta (I generally buy a few months' supply of it at a time so we always have it on hand), sautéed red peppers and veggie sausages, and crushed tomatoes mixed with pesto. We chat about the apartment viewing I have later today and how it would all work out financially. The apartment isn't much more expensive, but it also is unfurnished, unlike our current place. However, we plan on staying in Berlin for about two more years in our current jobs, so it would be nice to have a bigger place we've decorated ourselves. We begin looking for a bigger bed frame and mattress as a first priority, since our 60-pound dog is fond of sleeping between the two of us, no matter how many fluffy beds we buy her.
4:30 p.m. — GF and (much peppier) doggo walk me to the train so I can go check out the apartment. We don't want to risk having dog vomit all over the house, so my GF stays behind to keep an eye on her, and I promise to take video and pictures. We stop at a coffee shop right before I hop on the train, where I get an oat-milk latte and slice of banana bread for the ride. $7.28
6 p.m. — I finish up the apartment tour, which is in a suburb of Berlin. The area isn't as leafy and posh as our current spot, but the apartment building, courtyard, and floor plan are all beautiful. I excitedly call the GF after sending her pictures and let her know the agent has all but promised the spot to us since we're the first ones to look at it, and we can delay moving in until May. Plus, we can pay the deposit over three months, which means we won't have to drain our savings to do it. Hop on the bus to head home.
7:30 p.m. — Gym session as soon as I get back. One definite drawback of the new location is how far it is away from my gym, which is my bougie self-care oasis in the city. I doubt I can find another women's-only gym with an outdoor hot tub in what would be our new neighborhood, but then I remind myself this is a pretty ridiculous problem to have.
8:45 p.m. — Weekly grocery shop on my way home from the gym. My GF and I have the complete opposite tastes in food, and I'm an obsessive meal prepper, whereas she can generally get good food at the office. I buy myself food for the week based on some recipes I've scrolled past on Bon Appetit's Healthyish site. I get red cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, avocado, tofu, veggie-burger patties, light feta, halloumi, sesame oil, carrots, a berry protein shake, and some shrimp spring rolls for dinner when I get home, since I'm already hungry. I try to buy as much organic produce as possible, despite the slightly higher price tag, since in Germany that generally means it's grown in a more environmentally mindful way. $38.67
10 p.m. — Enjoy the veggie spring rolls and protein shake while we watch yet another episode of Friends. I feel like we've exhausted all of German Netflix's bingeing options. When I'm bored, I tend to start checking email and working, but I recently read Anne Helen Petersen's excellent BuzzFeed piece on millennial burnout and have since vowed to actually NOT WORK on the weekends — including not checking my email or spending inordinate amounts of time fretting over ongoing projects. I slap my hand away from the Gmail app, and instead we chat about new apartment furnishings before hitting the hay.
Daily Total: $45.95

Day Seven

11:35 a.m. — Doggo woke us up about three times in the night to go outside. This is by far preferable to having diarrhea all over our house, but I'm groggy and need about two cups of coffee to wake up. We fill out the housing application together, and I send it off to the agent along with my work contract and visa details. Germany is actually one of the easier European countries to procure a visa from, so this isn't a major concern when looking for housing. Given the state of U.S. politics and governance, I say a silent prayer of thanks every time I look at my unlimited work visa.
3:30 p.m. — Final gym session of the week. I see the gym as mostly a way to boost my endorphins and contribute to overall better mental and physical health.
7:45 p.m. — I make some more red lentil penne with veggies and sausage, then get to meal prepping. I found a really good tahini ranch dressing recipe on Bon Appetit, so I make this and toss it in with red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and shredded carrots to go alongside my roasting potatoes and tofu. I usually meal-prep two days' worth of lunches at a time, because otherwise it tends to be too smelly and old for me to find appetizing three to four days later. My GF starts packing for her trip home tomorrow, and we take turns tidying and vacuuming up dog hair. It's funny, but I really love doing this stuff, because we were long-distance for so long and now get to live together. You never appreciate mundane couple stuff until you realize you are lucky you get to do it together.
Daily Total: $0
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