It’s only been a little over a week since I moved to Seville, Spain. This is a post on the living expenses in Spain, particularly Seville. I’ll rewrite this post again in the future, after living here for a few months, and see how it compares.
Living Expense Comparison
The only other recent place in which I’ve lived is Portland, Oregon. So I thought I would plug in some numbers into Numbeo’s comparison calculator.
That’s a 63% higher cost of living in Seville, Spain compared to Portland, Oregon in the USA.
Looking over each category in detail, the numbers are fairly accurate. For example, rent in Seville is averaged to be $660/month and $1,520/month in Portland, Oregon.
Interestingly, day-to-day stuff is much cheaper in Seville, Spain. It’s the stuff that people rarely purchase such as cars, TV’s, cell phones, fast food, Nike’s which are far more expensive.
Portland has cheap beer and cheap food compared to other major metropolitan cities. Still, it’s far more expensive than here. But the big-ticket items are cheaper in Portland.
Living Expenses in Spain
Housing, food, and transportation – the main three expense categories for most individuals. These easily make up more than 50% of a person’s expenses.
I am writing this post from the perspective of a US citizen moving to Spain, either full-time or part of the year. Having earned the higher wages in the US is the key advantage, of course.
There are 1M € homes on the same street where I am renting my 500 €/month apartment. There are also 50,000 € condos in the same livable good neighborhoods.
As for neighborhoods. Sure, there are shitty neighborhoods here in Seville, but the variance just isn’t the same as you see in the US.
There are abundant advertisements for 400 €/month ($480) apartments in Seville. While in Portland, the cheapest rent for an apartment would be $900/month (750 €) in a safe neighborhood.
People are skinnier here which means they consume fewer calories = less food = less money spent on food.
Healthy food is abundant and it’s cheap. Eating less food generally means having lower living expenses in Spain.
I’m vegan so can’t comment on the meat, milk, cheese, and egg scene here. But I can get an avocado, tomatoes, cauliflower, rice, beans, mushrooms, onions, and potatoes for cheaper than in the US.
I can buy a massive baguette for $1.20.
For eating out, a ham sandwich would cost around $3.60.
A small glass of beer would be $2.00.
I can buy a bottle of wine for $3.00 all day long.
One of the fancier restaurants here in the non-touristy area has dishes in the 10-16 € range.
There are a ton of dedicated bike lanes here, just like Portland. Since the terrain is flat, there would be no need for multiple gears. But there are plenty of people who have electric bikes, though not as much as I saw in Barcelona.
The bus, metro, and train system is solid here. I can get a 1-month pass for 35 euros.
For longer distances, I can either take the trains or use the abundant carpool service called BlaBla Car. The train ticket from Madrid to Seville cost me 72 euros for an upgraded seat which included food and drinks. The trip was 2.5 hours.
I purchased a prepaid SIM card (no contract) from Vodafone with 7GB for 15 €. The data speed is impressive when I tether through my cell phone.
I have free WiFi at home since I am renting my Seville apartment through AirBnb. With these AirBnb rentals, even when you rent it for a long time, utilities and WiFi are often included.
You can get a pretty decent service here for around $40/month which is fairly comparable to what home internet costs in Portland.
Living expenses in Spain are already low. One could make the argument that it would be fine to spring for home internet. However, with the ease of a mobile hotspot, I don’t see the point.
I am paying 90 € per month because I had to get the zero-deductible plan. I also had to include a private health insurance plan on top of the public health plan. Otherwise I would pay far less.
In the future I will shop around for something cheaper. Realistic prices are 35 €/month for foreign residents.
Living expenses in Spain are probably low because the government doesn’t spend as much resources on healthcare as we do in the US.
Electricity is slightly more expensive in Seville than Portland. With more sun than SoCal, I don’t see any solar panels on the roofs.
The heat is crazy but even in 100 degree weather I’ve been comfortable not turning on the A/C, utilizing a fan instead. I realize I might be an anomaly.
It doesn’t get too cold here so I don’t expect to be using too much electricity for heating.
Currency Exchange Rates
If we’re going to talk about the cost of living of one country to another, it’s important to take into account the currency exchange rates as well.
But exchange rates can also be misleading. Media often uses this irresponsibly to make for a sexy headline: “Poverty is rampant in Guatemala! The average family earns no more than $25 a month!”
Current EUR:USD exchange rates are in the 1.17 range. Therefore, the US dollar has 85% the buying power of the euro. Even though Portland has a 63% higher cost of living, I would lose 15% to conversion rates.
In fact, this conversion rate likely will be higher once you account for fees. My own US bank gave me an exchange rate of 1.24 instead of the 1.18 rate at the time.
Despite this, Seville is a cheaper place to live, with room to spare.
If the average person in a poor country only earns $100 a month, for example, then labor wages are incredibly low. Getting your bicycle fixed, your clothes repaired, your equipment serviced, and your farm staffed, all will be cheaper.
I’ve discussed income difference in US and Spain in previous posts. The best and most recent example I had was an orthopedic trauma surgeon who earns around 80,000 € per year. Their US counterpart would earn closer to $500,000 and likely much more.
Many salaries here for labor and professionals are capped. Unemployment rates are also higher in Spain than the US. But the reporting methods the US uses are possibly a little shady compared to how other countries report unemployment.
There is ¹healthcare and ²health care and finally, there is ³health.
Health is for the most part up to the individual person. Eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding stress.
Healthcare is the health delivery system of the particular country. This would include physician availability, oversight, regulation, and ancillary services such as physical therapy, psychotherapy, and pharmacy.
Health care is the actual delivery of medical services to an individual. I rely on my physician for my health care but on myself for maintaining my health.
Finally, I rely on my government to regulate the insurance companies in order for the healthcare system to function. Though recently I have decided to opt out of the US healthcare system because it’s no longer equitable.
The move doesn’t have to be permanent. I could spend my 40’s living in Spain and then return to the US at 50 to work. By 50 I will have even better retirement options due to IRS catch-up rules.
Or, one can earn a high income in a high-paying country such as the US and retire in a lower-cost country such as Spain, Thailand, or Philippines.
For the rest of us, we can stretch the spending power of our USD by living in other countries. Spain knows this. Which is why many of their banks offer special accounts for those who are willing to transfer their pension deposits into that particular account.
Countries such as Spain also offer pension visas and other types of wealth visas.
The point of writing such a post is to make you aware of options. I hope that every reader finds sustainable and fulfilling work which they will continue to perform for a long time, making no object of money. Maybe you’ll never need to sacrifice spending but at least the option is available.