The expensive wave not only affects poor people, the middle class is also feeling the consequences more and more drastically. A family from Brandenburg reports how their life has changed in times of energy price shock and mega-inflation.

In Brandenburg an der Havel there is a “own floe”. The so-called private housing estate nestles idyllically in the Havel landscape, embedded 100 years ago in the south of the late medieval town in the middle of the greenery. But it is not as isolated from the world as the idyll seems and its name suggests. Here, too, the inhabitants feel the consequences of world politics.

Postman Marco Berbig and his wife have lived in one of these homes on the southern outskirts of Brandenburg an der Havel for more than 20 years. The couple can look back on a relaxed past. After 1989, both were able to enjoy the years of reunification without major breaks. Ten years later, the couple found a suitable plot of land on their own soil, built a two-storey house with 90 square meters of living space and lived relatively carefree for many years.

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In view of their joint income, Berbig and his wife, who works for the city administration, are considered part of the middle class in Germany. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), this stratum of a country is defined by households that have 75 to 200 percent of the country’s median income at their disposal. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, this corresponded to a net income of 3,000 and 8,000 euros in Germany last year. The Berbigs bring it together to around 4500 euros.

The postman knows that he can’t complain despite the horrendous inflation of around ten percent. “The house is a good part paid off, we can pay all our bills. Each of us has a nice car of our own, we’re fine,” admits the 56-year-old frankly.

But after two exhausting years of the pandemic and the inflation that is now raging, something fundamental has changed in the Berbigs’ attitude towards life. “The easy years are over. It all started with Corona, when everyone had to put up with restrictions that nobody here had known before. And it is now continuing with the economic fallout from Putin’s gruesome incursion into Ukraine.”

A heart project that he and his wife had been dreaming of for years was a solar system. On the one hand, because both appreciate the climate protection aspect of it. On the other hand, because this concept would have been worthwhile as an investment. “Instead of 30,000 euros, we would have only had to pay around 25,000 euros, since the state would have waived VAT on this sustainable energy project.”

In 20 years, the Berbigs would have become micro-energy entrepreneurs, who would have completely refinanced the investment with the income from sustainably generated electricity and would have made a profit with green electricity from then on. “But because of the high inflation and the uncertainties associated with the war, we canceled the project,” Berbig sighs.

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Even when it comes to leisure activities, the Berbigs are now tightening their belts because of the crisis. “Actually, we were planning to spend a weekend with friends in a posh wellness hotel at the beginning of December. A great facility! That would have cost us 500 euros, we were really looking forward to it.” But in view of the gloomy prospects, the couple decided to cancel the weekend.

And even in everyday life, “this feeling of peace of mind” is now missing, adds the postman. “When shopping for groceries, we have been looking much more closely at the prices for quite a while now and avoid products that have simply become too expensive for us,” says the Brandenburger.

The same applies to restaurant visits. “We still go out to eat with friends from time to time. We just missed that a lot during the lockdowns. But we consciously don’t do it as often as we used to.”

Compared to the beginning of the year, the costs for hot water and heating have increased from almost 160 to 300 euros per month for the Berbgis. They have to spend around an additional 100 euros per car per month on fuel, and the situation is similar with groceries. All in all, the monthly costs have increased by around 500 euros in this way.

Postman Berbig emphasizes once again that he and his wife are still doing well and that a family of four who have 1000 euros less net at their disposal would face completely different challenges. He and his wife would not have to turn over euros or cents, they would get by.

But the feeling of suddenly not being able to build up any significant reserves is becoming more and more noticeable in her everyday life. “You suddenly question things and are more reluctant to make purchasing decisions. The old sense of security has been shaken. That is new.”