Budgeting in Spain
Not everyone retiring or emigrating to Spain has the funds to lead a millionaire’s lifestyle in Marbella. On the contrary, many people have the intention of leading a more simple life, even along the Costas. However, unfortunately the reality is due to a lack of information and little planning, many people find that the costa living (pardon the pun) can be on par with that of back home and in some cases even more!
Planning your budget for a new life in Spain should take place before you have even left the UK. Be imaginative and plan for the worst case scenario. Of course, everybody’s financial situation will be different but people need to make an allowance for the following and what ever else comes to mind.
Hiring a car until you buy one.
Buying a car.
Insuring it and paying for it to be put in your name, oh yes you have to pay for that!
Renting until you have found somewhere to buy or your off plan has been issued the License of Occupation.
Storage for your belongings whilst you are renting.
Furniture and all the work associated with your new home.
The list is endless. During the settling in period of about six months, people new to their life in Spain waste so much money before they eventually get their bearings. You will feel like you are on holiday until you become immune to the beautiful weather and notice that your bank balance has plummeted. Young families and couples who need to earn an income should be very careful as sadly many are forced to return to the UK every year due to a mixture of bad luck and unrealistic expectations.
The following are some suggestions to help to avoid unnecessary excess spending. It might be common knowledge for some people who are more familiar with the coast but I am sure it will benefit as reminder.
Learn Spanish. If you can communicate in Spanish it opens doors for you, cheaper ones! You are less likely to be ripped off and you will be able to sense potentially costly situations.
Bear in mind that for most services you pay a premium to have someone speak to you in your language, it is all part of the paid for service. For example, a wash and blow dry in a Spanish hairdressers where you will be expected to communicate in Spanish might cost you eight euros, in a similar hairdressers where a member of the staff can communicate with you in basic English it will cost fourteen but if you want the privilege of having your hair washed and styled by British hands, you can expect to pay around twenty.
Be careful in the market, market doesn’t necessarily equate cheap. When buying fruit make sure the products on display are labelled with a price. It is not unheard of for people to pay as much as nine euros for a kilo of strawberries. Which reminds me, become familiar with the metric system as it is the only system used in Spain!
Unlike in the UK, where we are following the US with economies of scale and good quality retail bargains, when products are cheap in Spain, it usually means they are poor quality. For example, you can buy a t-shirt from Tesco or Primark and the quality is reasonable and it will probably last at least a season. On the contrary, in Spain, you will be lucky if a cheap top lasts a couple of washes.
Keep an eye on your food shopping bill. There is a particular supermarket which stocks British brands at extortionate prices. Adapt your eating habits and you can save yourself loads. You don’t need to buy Kingsmill bread; there are Spanish equivalents. Check out Mercadona which is great value and excellent quality. Their own brand foods are excellent. I particularly recommend their Tiramisu in the dessert chiller. Okay, their choice isn’t overwhelming, but they stock everything that you need and their stores are a manageable size. You find that you eat more healthily without being tempted by an array of ready meals and you get your shopping done in half the time.
Eating out can be another money drainer if you don’t know the places to go to. Don’t go to the obvious touristy haunts. Drive half an hour to an hour inland and try out a “venta”, where a family of four can enjoy a delicious Spanish home made style cooking for as little as fifty euros.
Of course, it is all trial and error but keep your wits about you. I find that the best bargains are always to be had if you follow the Spanish. Watch where they shop and go out to eat and you shouldn’t go too wrong.