I’ve lived in Germany for almost two years now, and I still miss coupons. And Slickdeals. Oh my, do I miss Slickdeals.
And, while Germans in my corner of the country are obsessed with saving the planet, it seems like they aren’t really interested in saving money. And, that’s a shame, because the truth remains: stuff in Germany is expensive.
So, what’s a thrifty mama to do?
Shop around, and shop online.
Here are the best ways I’ve found to save money on items we need for every day life.
Food. Every weekend, I check the Aldi Süd and Lidl websites. Special offers and sales are listed for the upcoming week. Food discounts on regularly-stocked items are actually quite rare. If a sale exists on food, it’s almost always for a name brand (and often the store brand is still cheaper) or it’s a measly 10 to 50 cents off the normal price.
When I do spot a sale on something we eat regularly, I buy as much as my fridge/freezer/pantry can hold. Unfortunately, sales on food items are not on a rotating schedule like in the US, so I have no idea when (or even, if) that same item will be on sale again.
More often, food sales offered by Aldi and Lidl are for “ethnic” food (and I use that term very loosely). For instance, during Asian week, I buy sesame oil, chow mein noodles, stir fry kits, etc. These special items are usually offered 2-3 times per year. I’m sure there’s a yearly schedule online somewhere for when certain items will be available, but I have yet to find it.
Household Goods. Aldi and Lidl also regularly offer an array of household goods at very good (for Germany) prices. The quality varies, but it is usually much better than 1 euro stores and cheap import stores. I’ve found great prices in both stores on toys, cheap house shoes, kids costumes, office supplies, kitchen gadgets, linens, etc. Again, all of these items make an appearance 1-3 times per year, and once the inventory is gone, it’s gone.
The other great place to find deals on household goods is Amazon.de. I often will compare the prices I find on Aldi and Lidl with Amazon. That way, I know if 9,99 is a good price or not for a king-sized fitted sheet. Amazon sometimes has sales, but I have not found any to fit my needs yet.
As in the US, Amazon.de offers a prime option. It’s cheaper (29 euros per year, I believe), but not particularly necessary. Germany is a much smaller country, so shipping time is not as long here as it is in America. Almost everything I order from Amazon.de (with or without prime – I’ve had two prime trials) arrives at my home within 1-3 days. Plus, orders over 20 euros come with free shipping anyway.
Clothing and Shoes. Semi-annual sales (January and July) seem to be the best times to buy new clothing for cheap. Department stores (even the expensive ones) have decent markdowns as do the discounters like H&M, C&A, etc.
I buy almost all my kids clothing, toys, and gear at flohmarkts. Most people sell items that are in good condition (sometimes like new or brand new), and bargaining is acceptable. I also find it easier to let boys be boys in second-hand clothing. If their jeans rip because they had an epic time learning to ride a bike or playing soccer, I don’t care because I only paid 2 euros for the pair instead of 20.
And, speaking of bikes, every bike the boys have had has come from a flohmarkt. I’ve also purchased a bike seat and other bike accessories at flohmarkts. Unfortunately, these markets are like garage sales. I never know if I am going to find what I am looking for – I just have to go and have a look around.
Zalando is the German version of Zappos. I have not personally ordered any shoes from here, but friends have told me it works the same way as it does in the US – shipping is free both ways. Order as many shoes as you like, and return what you don’t want.
Electronics and Appliances. For both of these categories, I have found Amazon.de to have the best deals. Sometimes local electronics stores will have sales, but the prices are still often not as good as Amazon. And, even if they are the same, Amazon delivers for free whereas the stores do not. So far, we have purchased a washer, dryer, and a TV from Amazon. All were delivered gratis.
The only other place I’ve found online (and, actually, I didn’t find it – a friend sent me the link) that seems to be a good place for electronics and the like is dealdoktor.de. This website regularly has deals for iPads, cell phones, TV’s, and the like – all of which are terribly expensive in Germany. Occasionally, I’ve seen deals for shoes, clothing, toiletries, etc. And, just a tip, I find Deal Doktor easier to read in Google Reader than on it’s actual website.
The only other trick I have up my sleeve is to stock up on food, clothing, etc. while in America. Even with the cost to check an extra bag on my flight, the cost of items in America still usually comes up cheaper than in Europe.
So, what about you? What deal websites or tips/tricks have you found to help save money while living in Europe?