How in Germany they save on clothes, food, heating

High inflation in Germany is already felt by everyone. Low-income people are the hardest hit, but skyrocketing prices are hitting middle-income families as well. How and from what people save in Germany.

The second-hand clothing market in the center of Mainz is neat and tidy – unlike the slums on the outskirts of the city, where the visitors are different and think about every cent. Those who sell their wares in the center must pay a five-euro stall fee, as well as provide a pastry for the general buffet – like 13-year-old Freddy and his father Christophe. The two sell the clothes they’ve scaled down for Freddy, as well as books, puzzles and video games.

“The interest is not as great as we expected, but sales are going well,” says the father. People try to save in every way, explains Christoph and shows a sweater that cost 40 euros and now sells for five.

Melanie Spengler came looking for sportswear for her two sons, aged ten and 13. She says she regularly shops for second-hand clothes – because they are cheaper, and “because I don’t think everything should be thrown away, well-preserved clothes should be used at least once more”. Melanie, 42, is a physiotherapist, raises her children alone and is forced to carefully consider all her expenses, reported “Mother well“.

Single parents are particularly affected

Both single parents and families with children will be particularly affected by the increase in prices, said Alfred Behr, who heads a charity in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. According to him, many families managed to cope with the first year of the pandemic, but the second proved more difficult, as many jobs – especially in the restaurant and hotel industry – were lost.

The effect: the savings have been spent – and just when people would need them the most because of the energy crisis and inflation.

Many need advice and counselling

The Rhineland-Palatinate Consumer Protection Center and other similar institutions report that more and more middle-class people are looking to them for advice, as skyrocketing prices mean they have to think about every euro they spend. “People coming to us are three times more than in previous years,” says Michael Behnken of the Central Office for Consumer Protection.

Seminars on “How and where to save” are organized for people – it is explained to them step by step how to start better managing their own finances, eliminate unnecessary expenses and use opportunities for savings. For this purpose, both food and energy or insurance costs are analyzed.

Heating – only in the evening

Melanie Spengler doesn’t need counseling – she knows what to do. She has already bought this and that from the bazaar, and the money saved is for the next overheads. “If necessary, I can save more – for example, from the vacation,” she says.

But heating cannot be given up. “I always tried not to turn it on before October and to stop it in April at the latest.” Since there is no one in the house during the day, during the week the heating is only turned on in the evening.

Kristof says that he is not yet forced to save. “But it can go that far.” His family does not have much potential for savings because they have already taken a number of steps in this direction: “We have been paying attention to energy efficiency for years and have insulated the house accordingly.” Therefore, their energy consumption is low – but also the potential for saving it.

“I won’t be fooled”

Reflecting on the theme of thrift, Christoph notes that in addition to selling Freddie’s old clothes, thrift stores can buy clothes for the whole family.

Among the customers of the bazaar is a man who is looking in vain for sneakers for his son – he wants to give less money than the new ones would cost in the store. However, neither he nor Melanie Spengler are all that scared of the price increase. “I’m not going to let them drive me crazy,” she says.

But that might just be a matter of time. “Because everything has its limits,” notes Albrecht Behr. “It is an illusion to think that increased energy costs in Germany will be able to be offset by savings.”


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