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Published by jack elliot

Germans' mania for saving

The desire to conserve cash is seen not just as a question of personal morality but a way to support the country’s interests



The German habit of saving money is so entrenched it has come to define the national character, according to the curators of an exhibition who say they hope to spark a much-needed debate about whether the obsession is healthy.

A museim in Berlin seeks to uncover why saving money is central to most Germans’ lives – even in times of historically low interest rates.

“In Germany everyone takes it for granted that they should save, both privately and on a state level,” s “The idea of making sure you stay in the black, is seen as a goal that is worth striving for at all costs, and is fetishistically stuck to.”

Saving boxes, money socks and piggy banks from every era since the foundation of the German nation in 1871 are on display in the exhibition. They illustrate the everyday acceptance of saving in Germany, as well as the extent to which it has been linked not just with personal morality but with serving a national purpose.

“The fate of the nation rests solely in our own strength,”  “Without saving your chest will be empty. If you have nothing, you’ll be a burden.”


“The question is, why are Germans often so proud to be the world’s champion savers?” 


Most Germans will readily admit that belt-tightening and putting off enjoying the fruits of their labour are German-specific traits. Some put it down to the Protestant work ethic that has a great influence on German life to this day. The state where saving is most prevalent, however, is Baden-Württemberg, which is mainly Catholic.



The exhibition also explores certain advertising slogans including the highly successful “Geiz ist Geil”, or “Thriftiness is sexy”, which was used by a major electronics retailer for several years.

“This is the worst phrase to have been invented in this country since ‘Heil Hitler’,” says Henryk M Broder, a controversial commentator for the daily Die Welt and a speaking head on a video loop in the exhibition. “While I would myself baulk at paying €24 for a salade nicoise, I think saving can sometimes be pathological.” He calls the “national sport” of collecting coupons and driving considerable distances between supermarkets to pick up the money-off deals “a waste of a life”.

The exhibition examines the origin of savings banks. The first savings bank in the world was founded in Hamburg in 1778. It was inspired by the enlightenment ideals of social progress and was set up to serve the urban poor and help them emerge from their plight.

Later, from around the 1850s, saving developed into something of a national movement. Schools were encouraged to teach their pupils to save with the introduction of a schools savings bank. Simultaneously, there was an exponential rise in the number of savings accounts. Far from just being a means to fight poverty, people started to save for the national good. By 1875, at least a quarter of the German population had savings accounts. Local savings banks, or sparkassen, were used by municipal authorities to help fund the new Germany’s infrastructure.

The popularity of personal savings grew even more in the first world war when people were encouraged to invest in war bonds, enticed by slogans that insisted this would help shorten the conflict and help Germany to victory.

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It's good for everybody to save. Here in the U.S we're a country of debt. One day we'll crash.
credit union is a great place to save