Cheap thrills: Living in Europe on a budget

Cheap thrills: Living in Europe on a budget

by Grace Bernhardt
Stripes Europe

Living the European experience means learning to be thrifty so your money goes a little further. Here are some great budget-friendly ideas for gift-giving, trip-taking and merry-making just in time for the holidays. 

Holiday gifts for less 

Christmas markets are an obvious source for small gifts to give to friends and family. To stay within your budget and still find something unique, look for items such as Christmas tree ornaments (just make sure they are made in Europe!) or hand-crafted clothing such as knitted scarves or hats. Advent calendars, which offer a sweet treat on each day leading up to Christmas, are another great traditional German gift to send back home. Other tasty options include Belgian chocolates, Italian pasta and French Dijon mustard. 

Another great source for an out-of-the-ordinary gift is your local flea market. Typically held on weekends, flea markets can be a treasure trove for antiques such as pottery, decorative pieces, jewelry, fabrics, vintage clothing and more. And don’t be afraid to try your negotiation (and foreign language) skills to get a great deal! 

Budget accommodations 

If your holiday plans include a little travel, you’ll certainly want to find ways to save a little money so you can see more and spend less. One great way to do this is to look for bed & breakfasts and home rentals. 

Oftentimes you can find a quaint B&B that offers a more personal experience by giving you the chance to stay with locals in their home. Many such B&Bs still provide you the privacy of your own room and bathroom, while breakfast may be served in a common room with other guests or your hosts. To view B&Bs at your destination, check out Bed and Breakfast and Air BnB

If you are traveling with a larger group, an apartment or home rental may be just the right thing. These rentals can include multiple bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and a yard if you plan to bring Fido along. Book early for the most selection and savings: visit Home Away or VRBO. To save even more, cook meals and sample beer and wine from a local grocer near your “home” rather than at a restaurant. And when you go out for the day to sightsee, pack your own snacks. 

Thrifty festivities 

If your holiday plans don’t include travel, there are plenty of ways to have a great time at home. For a fun holiday party, have a wine and cheese tasting. Your local grocers as well as discount chain stores, such as Aldi and Lidl, carry a wide selection of European wines, cheeses, olives and fresh bread. Cheese fondue is another option, popular with locals around the holidays. Pick up a variety of German Rieslings, Italian Pinot Grigios or a French Bordeaux. European wines are sold at a variety of price points, so you don’t have to feel bad about asking guests to bring a bottle. For dessert, pick up some Spekulatius (crispy spiced cookies) or Panettone (a sweet bread loaf) from the local bakery. 

For something traditional, purchase or make your own Glühwein. This German version of mulled wine is popular at Christmas markets, but is very easy to make at home as well. Traditional recipes combine red wine with spicy flavors of citrus, cinnamon, vanilla, and clove; for a little extra kick, add some brandy or rum. 

For something fun, those stationed in the United Kingdom will want to pick up some Christmas crackers. These traditional snacks will add a spark to any party - literally. Packaged in a cardboard tube, two people grab opposite ends and pull, resulting in a bang as the packaging splits. The person with the larger portion of cracker gets to keep the small gifts contained within - usually a paper crown or a riddle. 

How do you save? 

What are your best tips for saving money while living in Europe? We’d love to hear from you; email us at contentteam[at]stripes[dot]com. Europe has so much to offer and with a little budgeting, you can make sure you experience it all without breaking the bank.

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