How should I budget for Spain, and how much money should I take initially?
That is the million-euro question (every pun intended). Your first few weeks in Spain will be the most expensive, sin duda, and you may have to make your money stretch for months.
One thing is certain – the more you bring, the more comfortable you’ll feel. We’ve talked to many ex-assistants or veterans who say to aim to save around 2,000€ to get you set up. This amount will allow you to cover the expenses involved in getting to Spain, arranging your housing and initial bills and starting your job as a teaching assistant.
What’s the Cost of Living in Spain?
Ah, another loaded question, and one that has no easy answer.
Now that you’ve gotten your carta de nombramiento, you know where you’ll be teaching. You may be able to walk to work or even catch a ride with a coworker if you’re placed outside of a city, or perhaps you’ll need to rely on public transportation. Some assistants live and work in two separate provinces or even comunidades. You may want a studio for a little bit of privacy, or perhaps a big, international apartment à la Albergue Español is more your style. You may even want to live in the tiny pueblo where you’ve been placed to get full immersion into la cultura española. There are so many things to factor into a move to Spain, that sitting down and mapping out your hopes or goals for the year is paramount.
It pays – literally – to do your research before you come to Spain, and from there decide how much money you should bring as a cushion.
In 2014, COMO conducted a massive Cost of Living series in which assistants shared their budgets, from small towns in the backcountry of Galicia to larger cities like Madrid or Valencia. Feel free to browse nearly three dozen cities around Spain – we’ve included more than just rent and utilities, but also a night out, guilty pleasures and transportation in our interviews. Check it out here.
Want to participate and add your updated budget? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll happily send a survey your way!
Five Things You Didn’t Think to Budget For When Moving to Spain
Rent, a mobile phone and delicious tapas will probably be the first thing to blow your multi-colored euros on, but you’ll find that there’s a lot more to factor into your monthly presupuesto or budget. Think of it this way: if you arrive in Spain on September 15th and begin work on October 1st, the earliest you can expect to get paid is November 1st. That’s a whopping six weeks without a paycheck, and remember that in Spain you are paid monthly, not biweekly.
Five things you may not have considered are:
A hotel or hostel while you look for a place to live. September is primetime to look for a place to live – you’ll be competing with lots of other teachers, Erasmus students and Spanish university students. It’s a jungle out there! Consider staying in a hotel or hostel to comfortably look for a place to live. We suggest staying near the area where you’d like to live so that you can walk between showings and get a feel for the neighborhood. Just keep in mind that the cost for spending a week or so in a hostel can add up!
A deposit on your flat. Most landlords will ask for at least one month’s rent when you agree to rent a flat, which can put a huge dent in your budget. If you’ve used a renter’s agency, you can expect to pay another month’s rent, maximum, and often a tax on top of that!
Extras for your apartment, like internet installation or pots and pans. You’re likely just out of school and used to student living conditions. Renting in Spain isn’t much different, but you may need a few extras to make it comfortable. Consider bed linens and towels, a toaster or even the internet installation router if your place isn’t already connected. Check with your landlord to see what he or she is willing to invest in for your comfort.
Transportation to where your orientation will be held. While some assistants will only need to hop on a local bus, if you’re living outside a major city or even in a different province, you’ll have to get to orientation on your own dime. This could include a short flight, so plan accordingly (and factor in a hostel and food, if necessary).
Shoes. If you’re determined to be Euro-savvy, make like the locals and use your own two feet to get around. And considering shoes take up precious luggage real estate, you may need new kicks by the time you move to Spain anyway. We suggest a pair of comfortable shoes or trainers for hiking around town, flats for work and flip flops for around your house and for hostel showers. You could even factor shoes into your monthly budget if you’ll be hoofing it around town.
Credit Card or Cash?
We suggest brining at least 50€ in cash (you can order foreign bank notes at your local bank branch) for small expenses when you first land, such as transportation from the airport, a bite to eat or even cash for a SIM card. Spain may be a first-world country, but outside of Madrid, cash, or efectivo, is the preferred method of payment.
Speaking of cards…
The web is buzzing with different ways to save money when transferring money between countries. Check out your credit card company’s policy about taking money out of ATMs to see if there’s any reimbursement, or if you can get away without international surcharges. As a non-permanent resident, you will NOT be able to apply for a Spanish credit card (and they don’t give away free pots and pans for new signees anyway).
When sending payments back to your home country, we suggest using Transferwise or PayPal, which save significant cash over using your bank abroad.
Five Easy Ways to Save Money in Spain
If you’re under 26, apply for a carnet joven, a European-wide discount card that saves serious change when visiting museums or traveling on trains. And at less than 10€, it’s a worthy investment!
We are hugely into tapas and having someone else cook, but eating out is far more expensive than preparing meals for yourself. Spain produces a large number of fruits and veggies, so it’s cheap to throw together a meal on the cheap. Definitely make room in your budget for the delicious cuisine and cervezas out with your flatmates or new friends!
And if you’re living in a city where free tapas with your drink are the norm… color us envidiosas!
Lastly, and it may sound silly, but saving change can go a long way. Those euro and two euro coins can be easy to spend on a coffee or snack, but if you consciously try and put them away, you can save big! Just ask Hayley – she paid for a flamenco dress that way!
To celebrate the 2016 re-release of COMO’s Moving to Spain, we’ll be previewing excerpts from our new, updated and expanded eBook. Every Monday in July and August, check back for sneak peaks on budgeting, health care, piso hunting and more!
Are you moving to Spain to teach English this fall? With over 500 copies already sold, our 125+ page eBook Moving to Spain: A Comprehensive Guide to your First Weeks Teaching English in Iberia, is your one-stop source on moving to and working as an English teacher in Spain. We’ve compiled 18 years of experience into an easy-to-read, hopefully funny but ultimately handy eBook that details everything from what to pack, navigating Spanish transport and even earning extra income, among so much more.
You asked for it, and we’ve worked overtime to push up our release of Moving to Spain!
We’ve beefed up the contents and added a few extras so that you can make your move to Spain as smooth as possible. You can purchase Moving to Spain right now for 10 euros. Sign up for email updates and look out for special promotions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Any other packing conundrums or items you wish you’d left at home? We’d love to hear them!
Got any other great budget trips to share? Unexpected costs when moving to Spain? We’d love to hear them! Sound off below in the comments.