Whenever you compare between different countries, there’s no denying the fact that prices are one of the main considerations. In that sense, Spain seems to be a really good option.
But, is that actually true? Is the Spanish territory as cheap as people tend to assume? Before moving to any country, you should really be able to answer those questions.
That is why in this article we will explore the costs of living in Spain. We will go over the main expenses and prices so you can have a good estimate of what your monthly costs will be as an expat living here.
You simply need to compare with the other European capitals to know the answer. Spain, in general, is not an expensive country to live in. Even though there are several differences within its regions, many foreigners are able to enjoy the country that much because they can have access to food and leisure at a really cheap price.
The reason behind that fact?
According to OECD data, the income per capita in Spain is 10.000 USD lower than the average OECD level (around € 20.000). Having a lower average salary, combined with a n unemployment rate higher than in the rest of Europe, helps understand why the current price levels are relatively low .
So, in that sense, as a foreigner, you will find that Spain is pretty affordable. You can enjoy a more than decent price at a low cost.
Of course, the price guidance and comparisons we will give throughout this article are really generic. Depending on your specific lifestyle and activities prices can go up slightly.
Is it cheaper to live in Spain than the UK?
Yes, Spain is cheaper.
Even though certain prices are nearly the same, like water bills, you can find certain differences which favor the Spanish territory.
For example, in Spain telecommunication companies offer packages that include both phone and television for the whole family; which can reduce the total expense considerably.
Furthermore, it is in food where you will find another big difference. Supermarket prices are way cheaper than in the UK; specially when comparing products such as olive oil, wine and beer.
When it comes to transportation, you will also save some money. Because public transport works so well in big cities and because you can easily get everywhere walking in smaller ones, using your private transportation means won’t be necessary.
So you will save a bunch of euros on fuel.
But for those of you who enjoy driving you car, good news: fuel is much cheaper in Spain; specially when it comes to diesel.
Cost of living in Spain vs the USA
When comparing with the US we come to a similar conclusion as with the UK.
Because average salaries can double the ones in Spain, US citizens find it really cheap to live in the Spanish territory.
That is why many of them try to keep their incomes in the United States, where they work remotely; while enjoying everything Spain has to offer at a cheap price. And the legal way of doing so is trough the non-lucrative visa.
Living expenses are much cheaper. If in the US you usually pay 750$ or 1000$ for an apartment; whereas with that amount you can live in the Spanish territory for a month (including all expenses).
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Price comparison by Spanish region
As we explained in our article talking about the best places to live in Spain as an expat; each of them had an important downside: price.
Living in cities like Madrid, Barcelona or San Sebastian can be up to 40% more expensive than other interior regions of the country.
So, even though the Spanish territory, in general, has lower prices than the vast majority of EU countries; this big cities can distort a bit the comparison.
Let’s move on to see the cost of living for the cities that the vast majority of expats choose:
Cost of living in Madrid
As the capital of the country, Madrid may be the most expensive city.
There are many touristic places you should avoid if you don’t want to burn cash; and living in the center is an impossible mission.
Nevertheless, the labor market offers more opportunities; as it is one of the most important economic centers of the country, so your chances of getting a higher salary are bigger.
Furthermore, as the city is huge, it is completely possible to find cheaper rents provided that you move outside the main touristic areas.
Cost of living in Barcelona
Barcelona is another top expat destination. Offering a sea + mountain landscape, it has everything you need.
Nevertheless, the problem with the rent is completely real; moving towards the 500-700€ per month. That, compared to the average wage, is really high.
Our advice? Avoid the city center. The surroundings of Barcelona, its metropolitan area, offer cheaper opportunities.
And, as public transport is really efficient, you can get to the center in a record time.
As a student, opting for a shared flat is the go-to option.
If you really like Barcelona, you can sort things out and get a not so expensive cost of living. But if you don’t care that much of the city, Valencia, which is really similar, can be an amazing alternative.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of living in Barcelona here.
Cost of living in the South: Malaga, Sevilla and More
The southern region of the country is another preferred choice for many expats. And there’s good reasons for that: you can enjoy amazing living standards at a really low price.
That is the South of Spain is, according to our opinion, one of the top best 10 things in the country.
But you need to be careful. Cities like Marbella can be expensive, even more than Barcelona depending on the area.
General living expenses won’t be that high, but rental prices is what you need to pay attention to.
But, again, the surroundings and small towns close to the big cities of Andalusia can offer € 200 a month options worth considering.
How much money do you need to retire in Spain?
As retirees usually chose living areas that are on the surroundings of the main cities (because there’s more calmness there), you can easily retire with a yearly amount of 20.000€.
Of course, it will depend on where you choose to retire, as for example in Costa del Sol it will be much cheaper. But that can be a good enough estimate.
As Spain has tons of parks and outdoor possibilities, leisure can be enjoyed completely for free.
Going for a walk in front of the sea, exploring nature, hiking… these are all activities that any retiree can enjoy without spending a dime.
Price and Costs Examples
Just to give you some guidance, let’s now see an average for the main types of costs and living expenses you may be facing once living in Spain.
As we have mentioned throughout this article, you will find that general living costs such as food, public transport or communications are really cheap. It will be with rental and property prices where the alarms start going off.
How much does a meal cost in Spain?
Having lunch or dinner out in Spain is very cheap. You can find menus for 10 euros (including first, second, drink and dessert).
Although for dinner you will not find a menu, for 15-20 euros you can go to a restaurant and enjoy quality food.
If we focus on the fast-food options, you can get a full menu for 6 or 8 euros. This makes eating at a local restaurant a much ideal option.
Cost of purchasing a property
The answer depends considerably on where you are planning to buy.
While in the Balearic Islands or in other exclusive areas of the main cities prices do not go below one million euros; this is not the general rule.
In Barcelona or Madrid the square meter costs between 4,000 and 6,000 euros.
You can access a complete real estate guide including costs & taxes associated with the process of buying a house here.
The average monthly rent is about 600 euros. Obviously, if you move away from the central areas and avoid cities like Barcelona or Madrid, you can find rentals of 400 euros easily.
Summary: Yearly Expenditures as a foreigner
As you have seen, living in Spain is not really that costly.
Of course, it will hugely depend on where you start living (Madrid, Barcelona or Marbella being some of the most expensive options), and on your exact lifestyle.
Nevertheless, you can comfortably live with 20.000€ per year and enjoy going out for dinner regularly.
You will need to be careful with the rent; but if you use public transport, make outdoor activities the core of your leisure and buy food in regular supermarkets, Spain is cheap.