Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Cost of Living-Santa Marta de Tormes

Finances are a driving force behind the stability of any family. The monthly budget balanced against the monthly income either creates a great level of stress or allows one to relax. When you set that task against a foreign background, it can be nervewracking because you don't know what to expect. My research had given me an idea of costs and that Spain was generally a lot cheaper than Bend, Oregon. We came with $6,000 in savings to help get us to the point where we were settled in and still allow for some traveling as well. By November, that money was gone and we were back to living on our monthly income alone. You're probably thinking "holy crap, that's a lot of money gone super fast, I could have done so much better." You might be right, who knows? It was almost a thousand dollars to move into our piso with the first month, month's deposit, and agency and prorated rent. I booked a couple vacations after we arrived to Barcelona, Málaga, Rome, and Germany so it wasn't all spent in two months. We average about $500-$1000 for a 3-4 day weekend when you add in flights, AirBnB lodging, car rental/gas, food, entertainment, and the such. I didn't intend to return from this experience with a lot of money in savings, that kind of defeats the purpose of moving to Spain.

We are fortunate to live a pretty cush life over here. I don't have to work and juggle full time school anymore. While we were able to live on savings the first few months, I was finally able to get my Master's program approved under the GI Bill. In December, the University received my tuition payment for the first semester and in February, they finally processed the refund and deposited the 770€ in our BBVA Spanish bank account. This happened to be the exact same week that they also received the tuition payment for my second semester so let's see if that takes two months as well.

So here's a breakdown of our incoming money and outgoing expenses.

  • Income:
    • VA Disability: $1698
    • GI Bill/Housing Allowance: $939
    • Housesitters: $600
    • Travel with Bender: $300
    • Monthly Income: $3537
  • Expenses:
    • US Mortgage: $555
    • US utilities: $170
    • US cell phone (T-mobile): $140
    • Car payment/insurance: $230
    • Life insurance for both of us: $93
    • Spain Rent: 350€
    • Spain utilities: 160€ every two months
    • Spain cell phone (Orange): 8.95€ x 2
    • Spain cable/internet/cell (Vodafone): 78€
    • José gym membership: 30€
    • Mexico (José's Mom): $100
    • Monthly Expenses: $1288USD  and 546.95€ before household expenses


  • Household Expenses:

    • Car rental: 300€ 
    • Groceries: 100-150€ a week
    • Tapas: 10-15€ a week
    • Household Expenses: 960


  • Total Budget: Income $3537-$1288 = $2249 - (1506.95 x 1.10 = $1657.65) = $591.35 extra

  • Obviously, our budget looks extremely different than someone else might in our same shoes. Many people rent out their US homes and that is enough to fund most of their travel. My mom and José's uncle are housesitting for us so they help out with some of the bills and such but we still make the payments and have that responsibility because we're going back to it shortly. Another traveling family is borrowing our car while they are visiting the US so they send us a little money to cover the wear and tear on our Escape and whatnot. Send us home and we live on $1698 a month when José is not working. You make more, you spend more. You make less, you spend less. That is just how life works.

    The car rental is a complete fluke and not one that we had planned on. By chance, I found out that there are cheap car rentals at the Madrid airport and it was possible to rent a car for two weeks for less than $50. We have used five different companies now with different experiences but I'll be blogging about that soon! When it comes to a family of four, it is usually cheaper for us to travel by rental car than by bus or train in Spain. It costs us over 100€ to take a bus two hours from Madrid to Salamanca and around 77€ to take the three hour train the same distance. If we want to do any traveling in our own area, we need a car in order to get out of the city and explore. Our major credit cards cover the insurance on a rental car up to a 15 day period so we just drive into Madrid and swap the car every couple weeks. Now that my second semester classes are held in Valladolid (over an hour away), the car will be a nice perk for getting there and back and my classmates can help chip in to cover my costs so it's not a total loss.

    Groceries are such a personal thing too. It really takes awhile in a new area to figure out what to buy and where to buy it and which is better than another. We are also dealing in the metric system so it takes me a little more to figure out what is a better buy (compared to what I have no idea!?). For my Imperial readers, one kilo is approximately 2.2 pounds. One liter is .26 gallon. We buy our UHT milk in tetra-packs and we store them in the living room since they require no refrigeration until we open them. We buy everything in tetra-packs; milk, juice, tomato sauce, evaporated milk, chicken broth, wine. The nice part is that these are all recyclable and go in the yellow container in the street. To save money, I buy the generic milk that doesn't have a plastic spout, you have to cut open the top instead. 

    So what does food actually cost here? I know that is the burning question in everyone's mind. The current exchange rate is about $1.10USD to 1€ so it's easy for me to just add 10% to all of my purchases to get an idea of what it costs me. 

    • Grocery Store Prices (Carrefour in Salamanca)
    • Orowheat 12 Cereal bread 2,19€/$2.40
    • Carrots (1kg/2.2#) ,69€/$0.76
    • Head of Iceberg lettuce ,76€/$0.85
    • 1LT of Apple Juice ,60€/$0.66
    • Salted butter (250g/>8 oz) 1,10€/$1.20
    • 5L bottled water ,68€/$0.75
    • 1LT Olive oil 2,69€/$3.06
    • Peeled shrimp (.5kg/<1#) 4,90€/$5.39
    • 1LT Generic skim milk ,56€/$0.61
    • 6kg Oranges 4,50€/$5.00
    • Rice Krispies (13.2 oz box) 3,15€/$3.46
    • 1LT Almond Milk 1,85€/$2.03
    • 3/4LT Frizzante bubbly wine 3,99€/$4,39
    • Canned green beans (large) ,97€/$1.06
    • Sliced turkey (1/4kg/>.5#) 1,71€/$1.89
    • Box of herbal tea 2,00€/$2.20
    • Dozen eggs 1,20€/$1.32
    • Costco (Madrid)
    • 18" BBQ Pizza (food court) 9,99€/$11.00
    • Fruit smoothie (food court) 1,49€/$1.64
    • 3/1LT Almond Milk 6,49€/$7.15
    • Orowheat 12 Cereal breads 3,19€/$3.50
    • 2 6-pack muffins 5,99€/$6.59
    • Libby's canned pumpkin 15oz 2,99€/$3.29
    • Rotisserie chicken 4,99€/$5.49
    • 30 large eggs 2,99€/$3.29
    • Mozzarella (1kg/2.2#) 5,99€/$6.58
    • Clementines 5lb bag 2,79€/$3.07
    • 3 lb bag of Reese's mini 14,99€/$16.49
    • Local markets and butcher shops
    • Whole chicken raw per kilo 1,80€/$1.98
    • Ground chicken breast per kilo 5,45
    • Pork chops without bone per kilo 6
    • Ground pork per kilo 7
    • Onions per kilo ,40
    • Bananas per kilo 1,20
    • Manazas Gala per kilo 1,45
    • Mandarins per kilo ,99
    • Barra of bread (smaller than French bread) ,80
    • Ground meat (beef/pork) per kilo 4,98€/$5.49
    We eat 95% of our meals in the home and we sit down every Sunday evening and plan out our dinners for the week. We only go to the big supermarkets once a week if that where we stock up on the heavy items. As soon as we got home from the US, we drove to the Carrefour and filled up a shopping cart for 115,56€ and that included some more expensive items like shamppo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste. We try to get most of our meats and produce locally as we need them and it helps support the local economy in our small pueblo. Some weeks we could keep it closer to the 100€ mark and some weeks it is closer to the 150€ but it is quite easy to eat cheapily in our area.
    We were initially going out for tapas a couple times a week and then we got busy with school and life and stopped going. There is a bar/café every 100 meters so we are going to try going out and sampling a new place each week. Generally speaking, a tapa is less than 2€ and a glass of beer or wine is around the same price. The girls usually drink fresh squeezed orange juice which runs less than 2€ as well so we are all cheap dates

    Above all, keep in mind that the minimum wage for a Spaniard is around 700€ per month and the unemployment rate is 21% so we are extremely blessed to have the circumstances that we do!

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