Data in Deutschland #2: Money

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Jason Lebofsky
June 30, 2024

Back when I was deciding on a summer in Berlin, money was one of the biggest concerns for me. I wrestled with the fact that for an entire summer, I would be unable to earn any money and would be losing a substantial amount. So, I needed to make sure that if I went ahead and did an internship, I would be financially stable for the future. Thankfully, I was able to make my expenses work out for the summer, with the help of aid from my home university. Still, the cost of admission was only half the battle. There was still all the money I would spend on things like food and attractions. So, money became the next, natural data to analyze while in Berlin.

For me, it has been a constant battle between saving for the betterment of my future and spending to live in the moment. While initially difficult when to use each mantra of life, I have since developed a strategy. For example, I cut corners on things like food. Often when I am invited out to eat, I will pass because it is simply more cost-efficient to eat something from the fridge I got at two of my favorite grocery stores in Berlin: EDEKA and Netto. Food is not essential to me as aside from a few like schnitzel or döner kebab, I don’t mind the simpleness of making scrambled eggs. It’s all in an effort to funnel money to a place where I find my euros have more value, like the pursuit of attractions. Things like museums are generally affordable and made especially so when I flash my University ID to get the student discounts. Meanwhile, nightlife is the fast track towards blowing major wads of cash. Cubs, for example, generally require a fee of at least $20 just to get inside.

The following chart shows my spendings between May 27th to June 30th

The chart illustrated above shows the money spent in the first 5 weeks of my time in Berlin (It does not track the “boilerplate” costs like the program itself or airfare). As seen in the chart, I have spent $1067.07. In euros, the currency of Berlin and much of the European Union, that is 994,35€. On a daily basis, that accounts for $30.49 (or 28,41€) a day. Initially, I was splurging through the rush of finally being in Berlin. However, that rush ended once I extrapolated the bills from my credit card onto a spreadsheet and knew something needed to change. For that, budgeting is one of the most important things I recommend anybody going abroad do. It keeps you grounded in reality while in a place that can feel like a fantasy. As you keep tapping your card, you lose track of just how often you have done it. Even the money itself, being in euros, can be misleading. Its colors remind me of monopoly money and it makes me nearly lose the severity of spending a funny-looking, orange 50€ bill.

June 8th is a huge outlier as I parted ways with $246.82 but the context for that day matters. For one, I had an issue paying for my $8.40 currywurst when my credit card was denied. So I tried to pay again with my credit card and then again with my debit card but none of those attempts worked. I ultimately had to pay with cash but as I would later see in my transaction history, I was charged for the previous 3 attempts. Thankfully, the business was understanding when I went back and vowed to refund me. I also converted $224.62 into 200€. Unfortunately, this is where the graph is misleading. Unlike cards where I could check transaction histories, cash does not have that luxury. I never tracked individual purchases with cash but merely the transaction of getting the cash. So, while I did spend $224.62 that day, the money is still being used as I have approximately 100€ remaining. I try to use cash as infrequently as possible for integrity of the data but for things like a flea market, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody accepting a card.

Since June 8th, I have only spent $335.92 as I simmer down. Part of that results from my interest in doing things which are free, like hanging out at a park reading a book. Or alternatively, it could be navigating the streets on a 50 mile bike ride all the way to Potsdam and seeing beautiful sights. This is all in an effort for my plans in July, which are inevitably going to leave a huge hole in my wallet. While May and June were almost entirely spent in Berlin, July is the month where I plan to travel outside the city to see more of what not only Germany but Europe has to offer. Thanks to my frugality, I can now afford to take these trips, which of all the things to do while abroad, can ultimately be one of the most expensive things to do.

The following chart shows my spendage divided up into different categories

Shown above is a pie chart showing my expenses by categories I created. Here, it’s easy to see just how expensive food is. Despite eating most meals from groceries I get, the cost of dining out a handful of times a week is nearly the same. Meanwhile, attractions generally make up museums, with my favorite so far having been the Altes Museum ($6.49) and its expansive exhibit on Roman History. Then, there is nightlife with a highlight from that category being a Karaoke Bar ($11.78) when I sang Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. My biggest expense when shopping was easily a Germany Euros Jersey ($65.36), which believe it or not, could have been even more money. I could have opted in for a fancier jersey with player numbers on it and longer stripes ($128.81). Then, I of course have been shopping for others so I can give out gifts to my family and friends. 

Essentials include things I could not do without like toilet paper ($1.72). The last category, missing its name because of how tiny the slice is, turned out to be transportation. Due to the public transportation pass IES gives out, I have hardly had any expenses from there. Finally, there is cash which makes up over a third of all expenses that I do not have categorical data on. However, it is safe to assume that a lot of these expenses would fall into the shopping, shopping for others, nightlife, and attractions. One such attraction eating up my funds are video game tournaments, a hidden gem I found in Berlin early on. Since then, I have been going on Thursdays to compete in ($4.29).

Finances is a not-so fun reality check while abroad, though necessary to do. It’s helped me make informed decisions on where I should be spending money and where I certainly should not be. Next in a few weeks, I’ll be reporting back on perhaps the most profound piece of data yet. Bis später!

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Jason Lebofsky Headshot

Jason Lebofsky

Hi there, I’m Jason. I’m a Junior Data Science major at Commonwealth University Bloomsburg. I enjoying running my video game club at my campus and playing ultimate frisbee. Back at home in Philadelphia, I like relaxing with my tortoise Merle.

2024 Summer 1
Home University:
Bloomsburg University of PA
Data Science
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