A Week In Berlin On A $42,639 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we're tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We're asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we're tracking every last dollar.
This week: A social media and marketing manager who makes $42,639 per year and spends it on coffee and U-Bahn tickets (sometimes).
Occupation: Social media and marketing manager
Industry: Fitness Tech
Age: 24
Location: Berlin
Salary: $42,639
Paycheck Amount (1x/month): $2,238 after taxes (which are extremely high in Germany)
Monthly Expenses
Housing: $607.62 for my half of an apartment in downtown Berlin, including all utilities and Wi-Fi. (Yup, Berlin is great!)
Loan Payments: $0 because they are currently in deferral
Credit Card Payments: $120
All Other Monthly Expenses
Netflix: $10
Travel: $120 to go to and from Copenhagen where my girlfriend lives.

Day One

8:35 a.m. — I wake up a bit late since I took a six hour bus ride from Copenhagen to Berlin yesterday and then did an at-home workout once I reached my apartment. I stocked up on groceries in Denmark, so this morning I have some organic oats with chocolate-banana protein powder and peanut butter. I make a cup of instant coffee with a splash of my roommate's milk — something she would crucify me for if she saw, but luckily she's asleep.
9:30 a.m. — I walk to the U-Bahn station right outside my house. Not even gonna lie: I fare skip a lot of the time. (German stations don't have turnstiles and my job doesn't reimburse me for transportation.) I would feel terrible about it...except 90% of people I've talked to in Berlin do the same. The train arrives right as I reach the bottom of the stairs, so I bolt toward the door. No fare checker today, thank god.
11:18 a.m. — I'm starving already, so I have a cup of coffee and a huge orange with some walnuts and cinnamon from our company kitchen. We're a nutrition and fitness company, so raw nuts and fruit are always in excess around here.
12 p.m. — I recently returned from a monthlong work trip where I had gym access 24/7, so I've gotten more serious about weightlifting and cardio and want to find a good — and cheap — gym. Luckily, a music club-slash-gym just opened around the corner from work. I duck in and it turns out they have a free week trial membership! I sign up, peek around the weight room, and make a plan to do a legs circuit after work.
12:30 p.m. — I didn't have time to grocery shop when I got home last night and everything is closed in Berlin on Sundays, so I stop into a discount grocery store to pick up snacks. Turns out they have a salad bar that's .99 Euro per 100 grams! I load up on fresh-ish veggies and get a big piece of roasted chicken. Very pleased with my thriftiness. $5.20
12:45 p.m. — I grab a soy cardamom latte at a vegan food stand before heading back to work. Despite being spring, it's still freezing out and I need a warm pick-me-up. I'm from California and justify a lot of my coffee orders with this logic. $3.20
1:20 p.m. — The yoga leggings I ordered over two months ago have finally arrived. They were a birthday present to myself and were on sale, but a shipping snafu made me wonder if I'd ever see them in real life. Luckily, they fit like a glove! I also get a notification for another delivery. I assume it's a replacement order from the athletic wear company and make a mental note to collect and then return that package on Saturday.
2:50 p.m. — Still hungry. Am lusting after vegan cookies from the food stand outside but I stick to an office apple instead.
4 p.m. — I cave and get a vegan cookie. $2.13
6:45 p.m. — I head to the gym after work and start the first day of my weeklong free trial.
8 p.m. — I do the responsible thing and actually purchase my U-Bahn ticket home today, then head straight to the grocery store. $2.88
8:45 p.m. — I leave the grocery store with a week's worth of lunch and dinner essentials: spinach, soy milk, eggs, soy meat, zucchinis, sweet potatoes, frozen strawberries, garbanzo beans, tuna, and a protein bar because I'm starving post-workout and feel like I'll perish on the one block walk home. $31.49
9:30 p.m. — Make a healthy dinner with some new groceries while I watch Netflix and text my girlfriend. We're heading to London for vacation in a week and a half and are still planning logistics. After, I take a shower, pack my gym bag, and paint my nails. I've packed a salad for tomorrow's lunch and plan on hitting the gym early tomorrow because I have after-work plans. Drift off at about midnight.
Daily Total: $44.90

Day Two

7:15 a.m. — Wake up and make protein oats with peanut butter and coffee with soy from groceries at home, then clean my house a bit since my friend is coming for a last-minute visit from London tonight. I head out the door for the gym at 8:30.
10 a.m. — I'm dreading work today so I grab a soy iced flat white at the cafe near my office. I use the office fruit and nuts to make a quick post-workout snack and get to work. $3.20
12 p.m. — I brought lunch today: spinach and lamb lettuce with a can of tuna plus some stir fried zucchini and sweet potato. I'm still starving four hours after my workout, so I eat lunch as soon as possible. I have another coffee with soy, this time from the office machine.
4 p.m. — It's midday snack time and I'm starving after picking at some leftover walnuts. I head to Lidl, a super discounted grocery store nearby my office, and grab a cheese pretzel stick and some skyr. $2.11
6:45 p.m. — My friend arrives after a long detour from London to Berlin and it turns out the concert we were on the guest list for is canceled. I take her out to Burgermeister, Germany's answer to In-n-Out, and get us tofu burgers with fries before we head home to crash and relax. $14.88
Daily Total: $20.19

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I eat my typical protein oats and instant coffee at home before I leave for work with a packed lunch. (The same one as yesterday.) My friend's still half asleep but we agree to meet later in the day for vegan donuts.
10 a.m. — I buy an iced Americano at the coffee bar near my office because it's Hump Day. $2.88
2 p.m. — After eating my packed lunch, my friend meets me at a bakery near work and we each get 2 vegan donuts. She offers to pay since I covered dinner last night, so I save $4.78.
7:20 p.m. — I meet my friend at Central Station since she's about to catch a plane back to London. (She was only staying one night for the concert that was canceled.) I'm starving and had the longest day at work, so I grab a cheese pretzel on the platform. $1.20
7:45 p.m. — I top up a travel card for the U-Bahn (I had an extra pass this morning so it was free), and then head home to cook dinner and watch Friends. $7.51
Daily Total: $11.59

Day Four

7:15 a.m. — I wake up early with the intention of hitting the gym but laze around in bed with coffee and oatmeal before doing a quick cardio session at home. After, I head to work on the U-Bahn using the card I bought yesterday.
10 a.m. — I grab a soy cardamom latte from the vegan cafe by work since it's gonna be another long day. I've frozen some sliced banana at work so I munch on that as I get to work. $3.21
12 p.m. — I'm inundated with emails and projects today, so I eat my packed lunch while I work. Today's grub: lamb's lettuce, stir-fried zucchini and sweet potato, garbanzo beans, and a can of tuna. I have an office coffee with soy milk because I'm already down for a nap.
2 p.m. — I'm having a massive sugar craving before my meeting so I run out to the same vegan cafe and grab a chocolate cookie then dash back inside to continue what feels like the longest day ever. $2.70
6:45 p.m. — I head to the gym where it turns out that my "free week pass" is only good for three days. I'm annoyed but decide to cough up the initiation and monthly membership fees since it's close to work and has almost all the equipment I need. The monthly fee from here on out is $21.50 so overall it's still a bargain. $59.26
8 p.m. — After a long gym session, I take the U-Bahn home and actually pay this time. Believe it or not, it's not actually cheaper to get the monthly pass. Paying almost every day is annoying but at least I have time on the way home. $2.91
8:30 p.m. — I reheat some stir-fried zucchini, garbanzo beans, sweet potato, and add two eggs. I snack on some strawberries with peanut butter and soy milk for "dessert" before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $68.08

Day Five

10 a.m. — I have breakfast at home then head to the office, picking up an iced Americano with soy along the way. On my second coffee of the day with more to come, but it's Friday! $3.23
12:50 p.m. — We have office lunches on Fridays, meaning I get to skip another prepped meal and save some groceries for later in the week.
1:50 p.m. — I buy a new gym guide since I'm getting into weightlifting. It's super cheap and most ones are crazy expensive so why not? $4.65
4:00 p.m. — I have an office snack consisting of my leftover skyr, walnuts, and some chocolate cherry oats.
8:30 p.m. — Arrive home after a gym session. I still have groceries left, so I go with the same dinner: stir-fried veggies with eggs and a a protein shake. I'm craving chocolate and there's a bodega next door with Milka Oreo so I venture out to grab one. I take a bubble bath, watch Netflix, and fall asleep at 10 p.m. like the grandma I am. $1.40
Daily Total: $9.28

Day Six

10:10 a.m. — I wake up late and have protein oats with peanut butter and coffee for breakfast. My girlfriend and I text while I survey my mess of a room. I have to move out in two weeks and am still sorting out the details, but right now, my main priority is getting my $760 deposit back. I make a mental note to figure out where to find cheap boxes in the next few days.
12:45 p.m. — I head out to go see the new apartment in a suburb pretty far out of town. I'm still feeling groggy and a bit hungry so I grab an iced Americano and a breakfast sandwich from the Starbucks nearby. $6.94
1 p.m. — I buy roundtrip tickets to and from the suburb. Then I promptly get on the wrong train and have to call the landlord to tell him I'll be way late to see the room. Arrrghhhhh. $6.67
4:45 — After I'm done seeing the apartment, I take a bus to the biggest nearby station. It turns out that there's a 30-minute wait until the next train to Alexanderplatz comes, so I get a Subway salad, a cookie, some chips and a caramel latte from Dunkin' Donuts while I wait on the platform. The apartment was nice and roomy, but the suburb is about an hourlong commute from work and the building has a super-strict policy on guests staying overnight. My girlfriend likes to come for a week at a time when she has university breaks so we can spend quality time together. This seems like a no-go. $12.62
6:40 p.m. — I peek into the neighborhood Lululemon on my way home and try on excessively overpriced leggings. None of them are actually that flattering on me, but a nice sports bra is on sale for $40 and I'm in need. I'm tempted but I'm also broke until my next paycheck so I pass and feebly lie to the attentive saleswoman about coming back later to buy some $180 tights.
7:30 p.m. — Same dinner as all last week, plus a protein shake. I use up what's left of my groceries and remember that basically all grocery stores will be closed tomorrow so I need to make it to mine before 10 p.m. I also need to switch things up so I don't get ridiculously bored with the same recipes next week. I munch on some strawberries with soy milk while watching Friends to procrastinate on getting out of my warm bed.
8:55 p.m. — I mournfully put on pants and go back out for a last-minute grocery haul. I get pretty much the same thing but switch up the vegetables a little: zucchini, canned white beans, tuna, red peppers, pre-cooked chicken, soy "ground beef," and a chocolate bar with dried fruit and nuts because I want more sweets. I head home, unpack my groceries, and organize a few things for the move before hitting the sack. $20.17
Daily Total: $46.40

Day Seven

11 a.m. — I sleep in and then make my typical breakfast while scrolling through housing ads on WG, Berlin's answer to Craigslist for apartments. (Craigslist is available in Berlin but almost every housing listing is a scam.) My current landlord has turned out to be pretty conniving, so I'm really worried about getting my deposit back in time to move. Not having savings sucks and was a significant drawback to moving here, but I figure out ways to make it work.
2 p.m. — Have a quick pre-workout protein shake then head to the gym for a 2 hour weights and interval training session. I'm trying to get stronger while also keeping my metabolism in good shape, so I end up spending a lot more time at the gym than most people. I use the new guide I bought on Friday to do a back/biceps workout and am demolished by the end of it.
5 p.m. — I make myself a huge salad with tuna and beans while also sautéing and boiling veggies for the rest of the week. I FaceTime my girlfriend and we chat about summer housing options. It looks like she'll be moving to Berlin for a summer practicum — ! — and we definitely want to try living together for those three months. This means I'll most likely need to look for a more expensive studio apartment from June through September. (Leases run very short here.) I decide that I'll Airbnb for the next month until she has confirmed all of her practicum details and can help pay half of the deposit on a new place for the summer.
9 p.m. — I get hungry a bit later and I snack on leftover strawberries while I pack up everything I possibly can. My roommate is extremely neurotic about cleaning so I spend an hour or so cleaning the kitchen, then another 45 minutes on our tiny bathroom. I plan on doing a full sweep of everything every day after work this week. That means getting up super-early for gym time, but it's all worth it though. Next week I'll be leaving for my London vacation.
Daily Total: $0
Editor's Note: All prices have been converted to the U.S. dollar.
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