Moving overseas can be stressful, but knowing what to expect – especially where expenses are concerned— can help you manage your family’s budget. AHRN.com reached out to military spouse blogger Melissa Gilliam Shaw to share her experiences budgeting for EU electricity.
Because the U.S. and Germany use different electrical voltages (Germany uses 220V electricity, while the U.S. uses 110V) and different wall plugs, your family should expect to incur some expenses as you adapt to EU electricity. This post will help you build an estimated budget for adapting your home for German electrical voltage, and it will also help you decide what to pack in your household goods when you PCS to Germany.
Getting Rid of Large Appliances
If your family owns large home appliances, you won’t need them or want them in Germany. Besides the fact that your home in Germany may not operate on the correct voltage for your American appliances, most German homes aren’t designed to accommodate large U.S. appliances.
The good news, though, is that in both of our German duty stations, the on-post housing office has provided large appliances to our family at no extra charge. You won’t be able to use your appliances overseas, but you wont’ have to pay to replace them, either.
Bottom line: Leave your large household appliances (washer, dryer, dishwasher, fridge) back in the U.S. when you PCS to Germany.
Using a Transformer for Smaller Electrical Items
If you live in on-post or government-leased housing off-post in Germany, your home will likely be wired for 110 and 220 electricity. If that’s the case, you won’t need to replace any of your smaller home appliances. That beautiful Kitchen Aid mixer? Yep, it’ll be fine. Your blow dryer? Totally okay. Your Kuerig? Golden.
If you live off-post in German housing, however, your U.S. appliances could have issues. For things like your computer, you can use a simple plug adapter ($2 at the PX), but for items with a motor (fans, mixers, blow dryer), a plug adapter won’t cut it. The only way you can run those appliances in Germany is by using a transformer.
Transformers, Plug Adapters, & Your On-Post Thrift Store
Luckily, plug adapters are cheap. When you arrive in Germany, you’ll want to snag a few of these from your PX to keep on hand for future travels, even if you don’t need them at home (you’ll need to charge your iPad from your hotel room in Paris, right?).
Transformers aren’t quite as cheap or as portable as plug adapters, but they serve an important purpose, protecting your 110V electrical appliances when you plug them into German 220V outlets. The best place to buy transformers is on post in Germany at your thrift shop. Depending on how high the transformer’s wattage is and how many plug-ins they have, you’ll pay $25-$100 for used transformers at the on-post thrift store.
Our 1000 watt transformer, which has two plug inputs (so it can run two U.S. appliances, for up to a total of 1000 watts of power) cost $75 at the Wiesbaden Thrift Store. Our smaller transformer cost $25 from a friend who was PCSing back to the U.S.A. If your family is assigned off-post housing, you need to budget for transformers. Unfortunately, you’re not likely to know whether you’ll live off post until you arrive in Germany and begin conversations with your local housing office.
Other Electronics to Budget for
In addition to plug adapters and transformer, your family may need new extension cords, surge protectors, and other basic 220 electronic supplies. The costs of these “little” things can add up quickly — our full-price surge protector was $15! Before you go to the PX looking for basic electrical supplies, check your thrift store. The same surge bar cost $1.50 there.
It’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much money to budget for your family’s adjustment to German electricity. Consider what appliances, lamps, power cords, extension cords, adapters, and transformers your family might need as a starting place, and definitely shop second-hand before paying full price on the German economy.
Preparing for an OCONUS PCS? Check out Melissa’s other OCONUS PCS Budgeting Tips:
Meet Your Contributor:
Melissa Gilliam Shaw is a freelance marketing professional and the creator of MilliGFunk: a blog about resilience, adventures, and deeply planted roots. Melissa’s husband is an officer in the Army, and they live in Germany with their daughter and their scruffy rescue dog who still hasn’t forgiven them for making her fly cargo from the U.S.A. to Germany. You can find Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, LinkedIn, and Google+.