Living in the rural Spain

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Alice decided to change busy London lifestyle and moved to Spain in the end of 2019. She lives with her family in the countryside of Catalonia.

Our conversation began with the question: “How to live on €1000 a month in Spain?” Alice said: “Having two children we spend a bit more than €1000 a month”. It took some time for her to count. Before publishing this article she mentioned, that her available budget is way more than 1000. It doesn’t mean that I spend way more every month, but that I can if I need to, said Alice. There are expenses and emergencies, which everyone should be prepared for.

So, here there is Alice’s story.

Living in the countryside of Catalonia

We’re a Polish-British-Irish family and have lived in Spain since the end of 2019 after moving from the UK. Our main goal was to change our busy, London lifestyle to a more relaxed, natural and family-orientated one. We wanted to work less or not at all, and spend more time together growing as much of our own food as possible. And longed for a sunny, dryish climate, but not too far from our families abroad.

Now my family – me, my fiancé (both IT analysts) and two our children, aged 2 and 6, – lives in the countryside, north-east of Tarragona in Catalonia, about 15 min drive from the coast.

We live in a 5-bed country house with a couple of hectares of land with a pine grove and a farming field. We own the house outright.

Property expenses in the rural Spain

We get free water from a well for most of the home and garden use. Also every summer we get a supply of irrigation water from a nearby dam, and run powerful pumps for several hours a day in the summer. So our expenses don’t reflect an average household’s bills.

Nevertheless, we pay an average of 270 euros a month which covers farming water, electricity, a mobile phone bill (which serves as the source of internet, as we can’t have fibre here), alarm maintenance, insurance and taxes.

“Spanish food” doesn’t always mean the “cheapest”

I know that many expats from the UK use to go to British shops. ButI have never been to a British shop in Spain and doubt there are any in our area. We eat dishes from all over the world, as I am a passionate cook, so it is also a shepherd’s pie or colcannon now and then, but with local ingredients.

I can’t agree though that they are cheaper if local. We would spend less money buying Dutch eggs, Moroccan courgettes, Romanian “baked-in-the-supermarket” bread, Irish beef, Chilean apples etc.

Spanish products, especially made or grown by independent farmers from neighborhood – which are normally our choice – rather than from big commercial farms or factories, very often cost more than their foreign equivalents.

I would however maybe save money if I didn’t make so much of exotic dishes. Either way, it’s €400-500 a month until our vegetable plot starts yielding.

Kid’s costs in Spain

Kids are definitely what’s going to bring our spendings up in the future – as they grow, more and more books will be needed, plus they will be more interested in extracurricular activities. This September we’re planning on adding tennis lessons for the older one for €30 a month. Currently the canteen, uniform, books and an annual school supplies fee come up to an average €110 a month. Plus footballs, new shoes and clothes every so often, hairdresser visits etc. would be around 20 euros a month. I’m not counting Christmas and birthday presents here though.

Medical costs, insurance, car expenses and pets

As newcomers that aren’t employed in the country, we need to have private health insurance without co-payments, that costs €174 a month to cover us all. Prescription medicine around €3 a month.

Living in the middle of nowhere we rely heavily on a car. It is a big car in fact, as it also helps to move trees or bring home a month’s supply of bottled water. It costs a monthly average of €90 a month (tax, ITV, petrol etc.)

We have 2 cats, spent last year 120 on adoption and vaccination of each, not sure yet how much the new lot of vaccines will cost. Their food is about €40 a month, plus €4 for tick and flea drops.

Is it possible to live on €1000 in Spain?

They say, it is possible to live on €1000 in Spain, if you are not down the pub every night. I don’t know, to be honest, how much a night in the pub costs. But for sure it’s easy to live on a round €1000, if you don’t have to pay rent or a mortgage. Or if you don’t have children.

If we didn’t eat out regularly, plus bought a newer and smaller, therefore much more economical car and ate simpler food, we’d go below that amount with all basic needs.

However, a big part of the joy of living in Spain is for us going out to have fun together and that includes meals out, exploring the area, buying beach equipment etc. And we’re going to really enjoy ourselves on long holidays with our families abroad this year to make up for staying home in 2020, so that’s not covered in the €1000 a month either.

One-off and rare spendings, such as a new TV or Christmas presents and food also would need an allocation of additional monthly savings that one would have to make.

Happiness is a state of mind and also a matter of habits. I can guarantee you that spending €1000 a day still won’t make some people happy, while others will be over the moon if they just can live every day reading books in their garden and eat porridge for breakfast.

I have to admit though that I feel a lot of relief-based happiness that my available money is much more than 1000 a month, so there is absolutely no stress if we need to repair the boiler, take a cat to the vet or when I see a nice pair of shoes in the store.


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