Why We Chose To Live in Spain
It Isn’t Just About the Cost of Living in Spain – It Is The Lifestyle
Almuñécar is located on the southern coast of Spain in the Granada province. It is a small city with a population of about 27,000 for 10 months of the year and well over 100,000 for the summer. This is when all of the Spaniards who live inland escape the heat and enjoy the beautiful spring-like weather on the coast. This section of the coast is referred to as Costa Tropical and it is full of picturesque beaches, pristine coves, and the glistening blue Mediterranean Sea, all complemented by the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
This haven for outdoor adventure and traditional Spanish life was to be a temporary home for us, with the intention of immersion for a year or two. We were two successful professionals in North Carolina and we quit the rat race to move with our 2 kids to Spain in August 2012. For the first 18 months living in Spain, we tracked, analyzed, and shared every single expense we had. Our budget was $3000 US per month. Years later, we still stick to that same amount and do the tracking and analyzing, but we now share sparingly.
Why We Moved From The USA to Spain
We had a traditional and normal life in North Carolina, with a big house, yard, two kids, and two cars. It was the perfect American dream and once we achieved it all, the reality was we had a different dream. We wanted to see the world, raise our kids with global awareness, and give them the gift of a second language. Thus the move to Spain. It was a temporary move, so we saved what we thought we needed to live and travel in Europe. We knew Europe was going to be far more expensive than the USA, so we were prepared for that.
Cost of Living in Spain vs USA
To our surprise, it was far less expensive to live in Spain than we had ever expected. Some of that was due to the fact that we chose to live in a traditional Spanish town and not a big city. We also greatly simplified our lives and only brought one suitcase and one backpack per person. So, just by trimming down all of our material things we were leaps and bounds ahead in the spending game. We also rented a furnished apartment with kitchen supplies and bedding included, which all helped with costs.
Time to dig into the numbers! Please remember costs always vary based on personal choices, so these are meant to be used as a guide.
Cost of Housing in Almuñécar, Spain
Almuñécar offers the full gamut of housing options from small farmhouses to grand Spanish villas, also from city center apartments to beachfront apartments and townhomes. As you would expect prices vary depending on the options you choose, but we will share the average prices in the area.
As this is a summer tourist town, there are several options for rental contracts. First of all, you may find some which are called long-term and these are usually 12-month contracts, sometimes they are 11 months. Next, there is the 10-month contract, which runs the school year from September through June. Finally, you can rent short-term contracts for any number of months you wish between 1-10 months. Keep in mind it is most common to have furnished apartments.
Finding A Long Term Rental in Spain
The best deals will be found with the 10-month contracts, as this allows the homeowners to rent their property for a higher price during the summer months. The rent charged for a 10-month rental may be 500€ per month, but during July and August, that same property would be 500€ – 600€ per week. It is fairly easy to find a 1-2 bedroom on or very near the beach for about 400€ – 700€ per month, with a 10-month contract.
Long Term Rental Prices in Spain
400€ – 600€
For this price, you can usually find a furnished 1-2 bed apartment, in the city center or near the beach, in some rare cases a 3 bedroom away from the beach. If you go inland a bit, it may be even cheaper.
600€ – 900€
A standard Spanish style, 2-3 bedroom apartment or terraced home, possibly with sea views or beachfront.
900€ – 1100€
Terraced 3 bedroom apartment with sea views or beachfront.
1100€ and up
There are some modern or luxury beachfront apartments or this will also get you into a 3 or 4 bedroom villa, with pool or yard. The average price for a villa 1200€ – 1500€ and is usually up a hill with sea views.
Cost of Utilities in Spain
Of course, this varies depending upon the size of your home and your usage. I can share with you our costs as a family of 4, living in a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment, without air conditioning or central heating.
Some of our utilities are included in our rent, which is very rare. The owner shares the information with us, so we can let you know the costs.
Cost of Electricity and Water
Electricity and Water tend to run about 90€ a month in total. I would say about 2/3 of that is for electric and the rest is for the water. We also have a butane bottle used to heat our water and it is about 17€ for a bottle and it will last us for about 3 weeks.
During the winter, the city water is noticeably colder, so a tank lasts a little 2 weeks. We also use a butane bottle in our space heater (or estufa) for those times when it’s very cold (maybe 10-15 days per year).
Cost of Internet in Spain
Our internet is about 50€ per month (for 30Mb download service) and there are several providers that sell various bundles which include a landline, mobile service, television, and internet. At this time, the 50€ only covers our internet service.
We have free satellite television that has a mix of international channels, but we really only watch about 5 regularly. We also have Amazon Prime and stream movies/shows using that service.
Cost of Mobile Internet in Spain
We have 4 mobile phones in our home and 2 of them are on a month-to-month plan with no contract for 15€ a month, for 4G data and unlimited calls. Our kids use prepaid plans and one opts for the 5€ plan with 4G data, and unlimited calls and the other 10€ a month for 4G of data and unlimited calls.
Transportation Costs in Spain
Cost of The City Bus in Almuñécar, Spain
You can easily live in Almuñécar without a car and many people do. It is very easy to walk anyway in town and there is also a public city bus, which is 1 euro per ride. Almuñécar isn’t very spread out, so if you need to take a taxi from one side to the other it would likely cost about 5€.
Cost of Long Distance Buses in Spain
The city is also connected to other parts of Spain via the national bus system. It is just 1 hour from Malaga or 1 hour from Granada, where you can access the national train system. It is about 8 euros each way to either Granada or Malaga. The high-speed train from Malaga to Madrid can cost from 45 euros up, each way.
Cost of Fuel in Spain
If you do happen to own a car or drive then the cost of fuel is something to consider. For the past several years, the price for regular diesel has been ranging from 1.14 – 1.26 euros per liter (there are 3.79 liters per gallon).
Cost of Fights in Spain
Our favorite mode of transportation is to take advantage of the inexpensive flights within Europe. Depending on the time of year, we can usually find flights to London for less than 90€ round trip, there are often deals to Italy, Germany, France, Morocco and more for 25€ – 55€ each way. So Europe is at your fingertips and the Malaga airport is just an hour from Almuñécar.
Spanish Menu Prices
This is the fun part about the cost of living in Spain! In the province of Granada, when you are at a bar or cafe and order an alcoholic or soft drink, a free tapa is usually included. Most of the time you don’t know what that will be, but it is often a good snack. We had a group of 7 people out for 2 drinks each (wine, beer and soft drinks), with free tapas and the bill was 26€.
A cup of coffee in a cafe will set you back about 1.20€, but if you are out for a full meal, the menu of the day is usually your best bargain. This is usually a 2-3 course meal with either a drink or dessert included. These can range from 6-15 euros and it is most common to order for the afternoon lunch. If you are eating out from the a la carte menu, you can find dishes from 5-35 euros, depending on the class of restaurant and your choices.
Cost of Groceries While Living in Spain
You will find groceries to be fairly inexpensive, especially if you want to buy a good bottle of wine, for about 3 euros. Produce is usually grown locally and can be a great deal during the season. Bread is often made fresh in the grocery stores throughout the day and will cost from .30€ to .80€ for a baguette. A liter of milk is about .70€, a dozen eggs about 1.40€ and a kilo of chicken breasts is about 5.50€.
Cost of Entertainment in Spain
The cultural center in the old town offers many events throughout the year, as well as movies during the week. A movie ticket will cost about 5€ and seats at the Russian Ballet, a play or concert may be more around 10€ – 20€. There are plenty of outdoor activities for free, like beaches, cycling, and hiking. In the summer there are loads of watersports available and it is about 10€ per hour to rent a kayak, paddleboat, or paddleboard, about 80€ for a jetski.
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Cost of Health Insurance & Medical Care in Spain
As a family of 4, we have full coverage, private health insurance for 385€ per quarter. That includes the entire family for medical, dental, and optical in addition to a 10€ co-pay for general medical visit and 20€ for a specialist. A 3-month supply of disposable contacts is about 35€. Medical prescriptions are usually just a few euros but can range from .50€ – 35€.
Why Did We Choose to Move From the USA to Almuñécar, Spain?
We chose Almuñécar because we wanted a traditional Spanish town on the sea and the cost of living in this part of Spain was affordable. Our goal was full immersion and not to be overrun with too many English-speakers. This is the 5th oldest town in Spain, dating back to pre Phoenicians and every day we see the history in front of us. We have Phoenician ruins, Roman aqueducts and bridges, an old castle and a fish salting factory. The people are wonderful and the kids can play freely outside, and explore the city safely. It also seems there is always something to celebrate with the fiestas, festivals, and markets.
Our Overall Cost of Living in Spain
This is our home and we are part of the local culture every day. It is next to impossible to be out and about and not run into someone we know. Our cost of living in Almuñécar, Spain is about $3000 US or 2600€ a month. As a family of 4 living a modest lifestyle and mainly eat at home. We take advantage of the municipal gym for 1€ per visit and the municipal pool for the resident rate of 2.50€ per visit. Most of our road trips are by car and we choose flight destinations based on travels deals during the school holiday windows. We do offer consulting for Americans moving to Spain and special packages for those moving to the Costa Tropical area.
About the Author
Heidi is passionate about travel (50+ countries). She and her husband Alan are American expats living in Spain and authors of the popular travel blogs Wagoners Abroad and Almuñécar Info. In Aug 2012, they left the “perfect American life”, quit their jobs, sold their belongings, and moved to Southern Spain, with their 2 kids (Lars and Anya). They also spent a year as nomads exploring Southeast Asia. Spain is their home base and they continue to embrace the world and different cultures. They have inspired hundreds of people to visit Spain and helped many actually move to Spain as well. They offer consulting and ebooks on the process to move to Spain! The Wagoners are a true source of inspiration and proof you can make your dreams come true. Follow them on social media and learn more about the details of their expat life in Spain.