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Household Spending in Spain

I’m lucky that I was able to pay for my flat in cash here in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Therefore I have no mortgage payments and don’t have to pay for extra property insurance and life insurance which are mandatory in Spain when you take on a mortgage.

Spain can be a cheap country to live in. But, of course, you can also live lavishly in other cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Rent, transportation, and entertainment can really kill your budget in those cities.

In this post I wanted to talk about my household spending in Spain and compare it to living in Portland, Oregon.

Household Spending in Spain

In the US, most Americans will have the following items in their household spending categories:

  1. housing (rent, mortgage, HOA, property taxes)
  2. transportation (car payments, insurance, repair, gas)
  3. food (groceries, eating out)
  4. healthcare (insurance, office visits, medications)
  5. entertainment (TV, socializing, gym membership, travel)
  6. utilities (home utilities, cell phone)

In the Spain it’s a little different. I’ll only write about what I’ve observed in my city, Santiago de Compostela. Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid can be a little more like US cities since there is more wealth there.

In Spain I have the following spending categories:

  • housing (HOA, property taxes)
  • food (groceries)
  • healthcare
  • entertainment (gym)
  • utilities (water, electricity, cell phone, Wifi)

1. Housing (€32/mo)

I bought this flat in cash, €90,000. I don’t have any mortgage or major property taxes.

My HOA dues (community fees) are about €25/mo. Annual property taxes are €86/year. This includes property insurance.

2. Transportation (€0)

I don’t need a car since SDC is small and is well connected with a bus and train system. My transportation costs are therefore $0.

I ended up buying an electric Brompton which was an unnecessary expense. I spent €3,000 on it, which about half of my annual household spending in Spain.

3. Food (€230/mo)

Groceries are cheap in SDC. There is a daily farmer’s market which is cheaper than the grocery stores. I can eat well for €200/mo in groceries.

Dining out is inexpensive, as well. My friends and I dined at a fancy restaurant for €41 which included drinks, 3 main dishes, and lots of Galician bread. Not bad for 3 people.

My friends here spend far less than me on groceries. For a single dude it’s easy to get by on €90/month.

4. Healthcare (€55/mo)

I pay €55/mo which is mandatory since I’m not a permanent resident of Spain. With my non-lucrative visa I’m considered a temporary resident.

I get access to both private and public care, from what I understand. I haven’t had to use it yet but will report back on that when I do.

5. Entertainment (€70/mo)

People here are rather social. But they get together at a bar for a drink and that usually comes with a healthy portion of tapas. So the cost of socializing isn’t high.

I have a gym membership which is €45/mo. That’s the extent of my entertainment, which is probably a bit more boring than the average person’s.

6. Utilities (€116/mo)

My prepaid cell plan is €10/mo. I also pay €31/mo for my home Wifi.

Water and electricity come out to around €75/mo. Electricity is €0.15/kWh here – on par with Portland, Oregon.

Total Monthly Household Spending (€503)

My monthly household spending in Spain comes out to around €500/month. This isn’t me being frugal – I still have the gym membership, the dining out, organic produce, and private health insurance

But it also doesn’t include random costs such as dental care, home repair, replacing a cell phone, clothes, travel, etc.

My household spending in Spain has a very low burn-rate which is ideal for someone who is pursuing a new career or needs a break from the spending/earning hamster wheel. More importantly, there is room to save in case I hit a dry spell.

Passive Income

500 euros converts to $575/month. I could earn this money by investing $230,000 in the market. My conservative index fund investing strategy should easily net me 3% annually.

If not from investments, I could earn this from renting out my Portland condo which is currently sitting empty. The going rate for my pad would be around $1,200/month and it’s paid off.

Household Spending in Portland

The lowest I could get my household spending in the US was around $1,000/month – realistically, $1,500.

Now, I didn’t make the move for the cost alone. It was also a decision for a better quality of life, to learn a new language, and to learn to practice medicine in a different system.

Housing would be my biggest expense in the US, even with the paid off condo. That’s because of property taxes and HOA dues. Here, my biggest expense is groceries.

According to Numbeo, cost of living in Portland is about 2x as high as in SDC.

Working in Spain

I am earning my income as a digital nomad physician these days. I haven’t yet tapped into my investment income.

If I choose to practice medicine here in Spain, I should be able to earn around €3,000/month. It’s not a lot but neither is my household spending here in Spain.

I’m maybe among the few my age who own a paid-off house in Spain. This allows me to spend less than my peers. Which means that I would have a competitive advantage if I wanted to do something like open a cafe or a residential contracting business.

9 replies on “Household Spending in Spain”

This sounds fantastic. I believe we all can live on so much less.
Since my problems started with the medical board, I have given up my expensive apartment and I now live in an AirBnb. I still have a job but have been downgraded to PRN and lost all benefits. I am paid the same as an NP. So far I am given enough shifts to pay for COBRA and my housing and maybe my attorney ($545/hour). I love my job but I am ready to give up. I am looking into moving to Italy part time. In the off season the Airbnb is the same price in Italy as what I am currently paying.
Thank you for all your suggestions.

With this website I have met a lot of doctors who have done all sorts of interesting things with their lives. They have overcome board investigations, fought the FBI on crooked charges, sued their medical boards, drank themselves into the hospital, switched to non-medical careers, started their own businesses, started their own medical practices, moved to other countries, moved to other cities… just about everything you can imagine.
Many aren’t on facebook or social media. They don’t talk about the shit they dealt with and they don’t share the details openly. But they are out there, alive post-medical-board bullshit.
There is no recipe for this shit but there is always a way out. What’s certain is that most of us are not creative. We will follow the rest of the herd right into the slaughterhouse. So if you’re willing to be different and have your friends and family mock you or ridicule you or tell you that you’re a failure, just so that you can have the exact life you want, you’ll have exactly that. And once you’re living that life, your family and friends will come around and they’ll be accepting.
Yes, the lawyers will cost a lot, the job interviews will be painful, and you’ll be judged by everyone who reads your file. I just applied for a very interesting clinical volunteer job and they told me that I can’t get that position because of what’s on my record. This medical system we’ve created makes no sense and it’s only getting more fucked up. Carve your own niche in your career path and tell everyone else to fuck off. There are a lot of ways to make money as a doctor or healthcare professional – if they don’t want us practicing medicine, no problem, we can make our money another way.

I have come across your website a couple of times in the past 6 mo the and it has been so inspiring! I finally took the plunge and got off the crazy train of American Medicine and heading to New Zealand to practice for next 6 months. Thank you for keeping it real and for having the courage to do WTF you want!

That’s wonderful, I am happy to hear that this content was helpful. There is a blog post about working in NZ here somewhere. It’s a great opportunity to try something different, with a different patient population, and different scenery. If nothing else, it gives you a lot of clarity as to what you want to do and definitely what you don’t want to do. Taking these kinds of breaks I think forces us to do some critical thinking about our careers.
My advice, when you’re there, connect with other docs who are positive minded and not the naggers and complainers, find some headspace and explore your area when you can. Start some new habit there and stick with it, maybe it’s learning something new or getting rid of a shitty habit. And finally, come back and write about it or talk about it – you’re welcome to do it here or anywhere else where other docs can learn from you.

Dr Mo, love your blog. It is refreshing to hear that there are folks like you who are “living the dream” and not using that as a sarcastic catchphrase.
I am a family medicine physician who is married to a Spanish woman from Granada. We would like to settle in Spain eventually. I am not fluent in Spanish (yet). What advice do you have for us to start planning for a future there?

Cost of living can be low in Spain, though many expats choose to settle down in expensive cities. Save money, invest, develop a baseline of passive income.
Figure out if you want to work in the local economy or earn your income as a digital nomad physician. I think it’s nice being active in the local community and I don’t speak Spanish worth a damn but I know I’ll learn it and become a productive member of this society.
I would start your convalidation processed from the US which you can do at any time. If you get a license you can start your own practice here. Or you can just do telemedicine from afar or, even better, become a healthcare consultant and work on your own terms with zero risk.

Hey Dr Mo, we’ve chatted in the past. I’m not a Dr just an old climber monitoring your exploits in Spain. We’ve recently relocated to Paris, my wife still works but I’ve proper quit and am busy learning French and getting in shape for winter Fontainebleau trips. All that said, my wife will quit in 1.5 years and the hard choice for us is Spain or southern France. I’m curious, have you tried southern France at all? Also, we’re hitting southern Spain for 3-4 weeks this XMAS and if you’re around and I can buy you a few free vegetarian tapas let me know. At present the plan is just to wander and see how we like it all…


OK, now I see that you’re not in Southern Spain at all now. I just assumed you were preferring the south with the warmer weather. This part of Spain is extremely foreign to me. I’ll need to research. Anyway, I doubt we’ll make it up there for Xmas. If you want to climb at Font. let me know…..I know you prefer the gym but Font is as close to a gym as you can get outdoors….30k problems and counting…


Hey Stump! You know, southern Spain is beautiful, warm weather, friendly people. I haven’t been to S. France but my parents have been and they love it. I gotta say that price was/is a bit of an issue for me. I suppose if I had no monetary concerns then I might consider a more popular destination. But S. Spain prices are high and tourists are everywhere which makes the summers tougher. The northwestern part of Spain, the Galician region where I’m at, is a lot cooler, very fresh weather, amazing granite climbing and unbelievably friendly people. They live simply and don’t ask for much. Water is abundant and enough sun to run solar if one chooses.
The heat was a bit too much for me in S. Spain. But again, if money wasn’t much of an issue then I suppose I’d just take a trip further north during the hot months.
Let me know if I can help in any way. I have friends living in Valencia and Sevilla and they love it. Both expats, one from US and the other from South Africa.

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