Reasons to Rethink Your Data Plan in Germany


When my husband and I PCSed to Germany, it gave us the chance to rethink a few things, including how we spent both our money and our time. We had exciting new travel opportunities, a new baby, and we were living for the first time on just his income.

We wanted to be intentional about our finance and travel decisions. We also felt like that if we budgeted the right way, we should be able to do most of the things on our European bucket list without dipping into our savings. As we looked more closely at the details of that budget, we were surprised to realize just how important our cell phone choices were.

When we arrived here, we assumed that we’d need to get a German cell phone contract and new German cell phones. The on-post cell phone store definitely pushed new smartphones and data plans on us. For just €1, we could get the latest and greatest smartphone. We just needed to sign a contract and we’d be good to go!

We were still jet-lagged and the sales people made us feel more pressure than we were comfortable with. We thanked them, then gave ourselves a few days to think through our options. We bought a “throw away” phone for him (a €15 dumb phone with no special bells or whistles), since he needed a phone number ASAP for work. I didn’t get a new phone (also a throw away phone) until several days later, and ultimately I just had my iPhone from the US unlocked.

Insider’s Tip on Life in Germany:
You do not need to buy a new phone or sign a cell phone contract here.

What we learned over the next several days has saved us more than $1,500 each year we’ve lived in Germany. Over three years here, that’s $4,500! Definitely enough money in the bank to cover some memorable travel in Europe.

Here’s what we learned:

German providers don’t require a contract like they do in the U.S. You can simply pay-as-you-go on any unlocked phone. We’ve saved money by doing these three things:

  1. We didn’t buy new smart phones. We each unlocked our US smartphones and put our German pay-as-you-go SIM cards inside.
  2. We didn’t sign a contract. Rather than spending money every month on a fixed fee, we pay as you go. On average, we spent just €20 or so per month on both of our phones, combined. If we don’t use all of our minutes or texts one month, the money rolls over to the next month.
  3. On special occasions, I buy a temporary data plan for my iPhone. 30 days costs around $35, and is handy for times like our daughter’s birth, when we knew we’d want to be able to email to share pictures and updates with family back home from the hospital, where there wouldn’t be WiFi.

Family picture at Bous a la Mar MilliGFunk

Insider’s Tip on Life in Germany:
Save Your Money for Travel!

Before PCSing to Germany, we both had smartphones, and we paid more than $150 per month in data, cellular, texting, fees and taxes. That’s nearly $2,000 per year! After shifting to pay-as-you-go plans in Germany, we’ve spent less than $150 per year on both of our phones, combined.

$1,500+ each year goes a long way toward an extra four-day weekend somewhere awesome like Switzerland, Austria, or Budapest! I have no regrets about unplugging from email and social media on my phone since we’ve been here. There are the cost savings, of course, but I’ve also noticed a difference in how I experience life without a smartphone in hand…


Insider’s Tip on Life in Germany:
Enjoy the Place, the Moment, and the Company!

Nick and I value our time together as a family, and we’ve enjoyed putting our phones away during day trips and getaways. Without data plans, we’re also more likely to put our phones away at the table during meals.

Nixing our data plans has helped us to:

  • Interact with each other: No live-updating of our social media feeds or checking our email when we’re together!
  • Enjoy the places we go: When we travel, our heads aren’t buried in our phones.
  • Making memories: When we take day trips, we’re more focused on making memories than sharing them. Our cell phones only come out when we need to make phone calls, or if I want to snap a picture with my iPhone. Otherwise, we’re trying our best to learn to live in the moment.

You Don’t Have to Sign a Mobile Phone Contract When You Move to Germany, Either

If your family is PCSing to Germany, remember that you don’t have to sign a cell phone contract, either. If you have a US cell phone that’s either already unlocked or can be unlocked, you don’t even need to buy a new phone. By putting the money you save on your cell phone bill toward travel in Germany and around Europe, you’re setting yourself up for an awesome (and less expensive) overseas tour!

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