Cost of Living in Spain: February 2014

Cost of Living in Spain

EDITED TO ADD: My most up-to date COST OF LIVING report for JULY 2015 can be found HERE.

Every day, around one hundred people find themselves visiting my blog after typing the search term “Cost of Living in Spain” into Google.  It’s a popular subject, and for that reason each year I publish a list of the current prices of a number of items here in southern Spain.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the following information is relevant to the kind of lifestyle and area where I live, east of Málaga.  We choose to live like locals, eating fresh, seasonal produce and frequenting bars full of Spaniards rather than tourists.  Similarly, if your choice would be to only buy internationally branded foods and eat in tourist areas then you will find costs are considerably higher.

So …. whether you are fed up of the wet weather in the UK, have been dreaming of living in southern Europe for many years or you’re just curious – here’s my updated list of standard grocery items for your perusal.

For the sake of comparison,  I have once again used the largest Spanish supermarket – Mercadona.

Mercadona supermarket, Spain

STANDARD GROCERY LIST

This is the up-to-date Standard Grocery List I have published previously.  The first price shown is as it was in August 2013, with this month’s prices in RED alongside.


Milk (semi–skimmed UHT, own brand), 1 litre   0.59 €      0.60 €

Loaf  (white, baguette 250g)   0.45 €      0.45 €

Loaf (white, Bimbo brand, 460g 100% natural)  1.49€    1.49 €

Butter (250g, own brand)   1.05 €        1.25 €

Sugar (1kg, white)   0.93 €    0.93 €

Coffee (ground, 250g, Santa Cristina)   1.89 €       1.89 €

Eggs (12, own brand caged, medium)  1.35 €      1.35  €

Olive oil (1 litre, extra virgin, own brand)  3.35€   (5 litres 15.50€)    3 €   (5 litres 14.50 €)  **

Rice  (1kg, long grain, own brand)   0.71€    0.71 €

Pasta  (1kg, own brand)   0.79€      0.75 €

Pasta  (500g, wholewheat)   0.99€      0.99 €

Tinned tuna  (6 x 80g, own brand)  3.39€      3.35 €

Chicken breasts (1kg, boneless, skinless, packaged))  5.80 €       5.80 €

Pork chops (1kg)  4.60€     4.75 €

Beef mince (Store brand, pre-packed, 700g)   3.80 €       3.80 € 

Fish  (1kg Salmon steaks)  10.75 €      10.75 €

Fish  (1kg Dorada, Gilt-head bream)  6.95€       6.95 €

Apples (1kg, green, Golden Delicious)  2.00 €       1.85 €  **

Oranges (1kg)  1.19 €     0.79 €   **

Bananas (1kg)  1.29 €     1.39 €

Potatoes (1kg)  1.25 €     0.89 €    **

Lettuce (1 head, Iceberg)  0.85 €      0.87 €

Red Peppers (1kg, loose)  1.95 €    1.89 €

Green pointed “Italian” Peppers (1kg, loose)  1.35 €      1.99 €   **

Tomatoes  (1kg, loose)   0.99 €       1.29 €   **

Coca-Cola (1.5 litre bottle)  1.09 €     1.09 € 

Water (2 litre bottle)  0.42 €       0.42 € 

Domestic Beer (1 litre bottle, Cruzcampo)  1.25 €       1.25 €

Imported beer (6 x 25cl bottles Heineken)  3.05€       3.65 €

Bottle wine (medium priced)  3.00 – 3.50€      3.00 – 3.50 €

Colgate toothpaste (100 ml)   1.75€       1.75 €

Pantene shampoo  (300 ml)   3.00€       3.00€

Toilet rolls (pack of 6, own brand)   1.95 €      1.98 €

Washing powder (Box, 35 washes, Elena brand)   4.87 €       4.87 €

** Seasonal changes

For the costs of accommodation, utilities, motoring, public transport and entertainment – prices are largely unchanged since last time.  Please see HERE.

Village houses in Cómpeta, Axarquía, Spain

Many people dream of moving to southern Spain with the promise of better weather coupled with a healthier, outdoor Mediterranean lifestyle.  There are many other considerations to bear in mind when trying to compare living costs, and the following may be some of them:

  1. Unemployment in Spain is currently running at record levels with 25% of the adult population out of work.  If you are considering moving to Spain, you would need to be confident that your finances are secure or you might end up having to return to your home country after failing to find employment.
  2. Tied in with the issue of employment, comes health cover.   Unless you are employed, self-employed or retired, (thus qualifying for cover under the Spanish health system), you will be required to take out private health cover.
  3. The cost of living is really only half of the equation.  Salaries and wages may be very different in Spain from what you are used to elsewhere.  What is important is what is left each month after you have paid for your essentials.
  4. Fluctuation in currency exchange rates can make a huge difference to you if your source of income comes from outside of Spain.  For example, when we first came to live in Spain ONE BRITISH POUND bought us ONE EURO AND FIFTY CENTIMOS.  Very handy when we were purchasing our house.  However, a couple of years ago, and completely outside of our control,  we only received just ONE EURO AND EIGHT CENTIMOS for each BRITISH POUND – a staggering drop in income of almost one third.
  5. Spanish houses in this area are built to keep out the sun in summer rather than to retain heat in winter.  With tiled floors, small windows and inadequate heating systems, houses can be surprisingly chilly during the winter months, making them expensive to heat.
  6. Whilst some costs are much more favourable in Spain (for example our cost of IBI is about one quarter of the cost of a similar property in the UK for Council Tax), other costs are significantly more (i.e. when purchasing a property, costs amount to approx 11% of the purchase price).
  7. You might have to factor in the cost of flights back home to the UK (or your home country) to visit friends and relatives.  Often these can be bought through budget airlines for reasonable prices – but what if you need to return quickly for a family emergency?
  8. Then there is the question of taxes – not only of the personal variety, but also related to any property purchase.  There are many factors at play, depending on personal circumstances, and whilst I often receive messages from visitors to my blog regarding such matters, I am not a tax expert and would always recommend you seeking professional advice given your own personal financial situation.

MY ADVICE:  There are many more things to bear in mind when considering the cost of living in Spain, than the price of bread and milk.  DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST!

How does the cost of living compare where you live?  Have you ever considered moving abroad?

You might also enjoy reading this article:

Cost of Living in Spain Series: Watching The Currency Market When Buying And Selling Spanish Property

73 thoughts on “Cost of Living in Spain: February 2014

  1. Thank you for all the good info!
    I’m looking for the right city in southern Spain. Good value, fun to live there. Pretty to look at and places to visit and enjoy near by.
    A wow! Nice place to live!
    A one bedroom apt/house.
    (how much?)
    How much is a new car/not the cheapest necessarily but not expensive either?
    How much is insurance?
    How can I stay longer than just three months?
    I’m American but speak Spanish
    Sorry for all the questions…
    God Bless you for all the help and dedication, thanks!

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  4. My wife and I are going to alicante early February for a weeks holiday and will be looking to long term rent around April next year so using this weeks holiday to put our feelers out.
    We have a problem and that’s a Rottweiler dog we would like to bring him with us when we move but understand they are not a desirable breed in Spain.
    Can you advise please.
    Thank you,
    Ken O’Harro

  5. Just wanted to ask what would be a comfortable monthly income in Euros for a family of 5 to live in Marbella? Considering I will be buying the property and I don’t need to worry about rental. Thanks!

    • That’s so hard to say – as it all depends on the kind of lifestyle you live.

      We have a great life (owning our own house) spending about €1000 euros per month, but we are just two adults with no debts, and we do lots of “free” things like walking, going on the beach or visiting villages etc.

      It’s a bit like asking “how long is a piece of string”? Everyone is different.

      I think prices (and pressures to do things) are higher in Marbella – it’s much quieter here in the countryside, east of Malaga 🙂

      • Thanks! 🙂 I am not much in spending and neither is my wife.. I like tinkering at home and she loves to cook…. i guess my kids will be the big expense 🙂

  6. Great information – it would also be great to see one monthly total somwhere too – do you have this by any chance?

    • Hi Terri

      I’ve deliberately not put a monthly total, because expenses are very subjective.

      I’ve given monthly or annual figures of items I know – but so much depends on whether you rent or buy a property; how big that property is and for how many people; how long you put your heating or air conditioner on for, how much you want to travel around or eat out or at home.

      What I can do is compare the cost of living in Spain to what similar costs would be in the UK (because I lived there until 10 years ago and still return regularly to see friends and family …. yet another expense, LOL), and I would say that it’s cheaper to live in Spain.

      Exchange rates can play another factor – depending on whether you get €1.51 to each British Pound (as we did when we bought our house) or €1.08( which is the lowest we have received since we moved here).

      Hope that helps 🙂

  7. Thanks for all the info! Could you name a few nice neighbourhoods that are out of the tourist places and that aren’t to pricey?? This would really help is in trying to find an apartment 🙂

      • Hey Marianne! I am open to suggestions really… I guess not to far away from the city centre? We are moving to Malaga in September and wanted to see if I could find an apartment online before we arrive. What are some nice neighbourhoods you can suggest

        • I live about 50 kilometres to the east of the city, so to be honest, I really don’t know the best neighbourhoods to choose to live in.

          Malaga is a GREAT city – I always enjoy visiting and occasionally staying overnight. There is such a vibrant atmosphere with the newly commissioned Street Art in the bohemian SoHo district, and the new port area – Muelle Uno – which even has a Michelin starred restaurant!

          You are going to love Malaga 🙂

  8. Hello, so my question is: what do you bring back with you from UK? You listed medicines and tea. What is on your routine shopping list while you’re packing up that suitcase to go back south? My friend in France always brings back ibuprofen. I always used to buy Fructis hair conditioner in bulk while in Spain, and was so delighted when I saw the brand carried over to our markets here (USA).

    I am planning to do an extended home exchange and the month-to-month costs are interesting to me more so than the long term fixed costs of housing. You do a fabulous job on listing so many life costs out. I am amazed when my friends can’t even tell me what their budget is here in California. They just don’t keep track of it…

    As a tourist on a six week home exchange to Amsterdam, I spent about $62 a day (USD) and categorized them as food, transportation, things, and entertainment like museums. I have to did that list out and examine it thoroughly before my upcoming trip to Spain.

    • I try to limit what I bring back from the UK, because I use as many local brands as I can. Over the years I have swapped over UK brands that at one time I felt I couldn’t live without – to other brands that I now use every day 🙂 It’s all part of living in Spain – which I am very happy to do 🙂

      I guess if I have to say a couple of things I would love to have locally (but can’t) are full-sized UK Sunday newspapers instead of the tabloid-sized reduced information kind we get here – and Boots the Chemist shop (national chemist-chain shops are not permitted by law in Spain).

      Thanks for your kind words. I do my best 🙂

      My husband and I sometimes spend a few months out in Australia and New Zealand not house-swapping but housesitting whilst the homeowners are away. Always great fun 🙂

      Whereabout are you thinking of visiting in Spain, Tanya?

      • Hi Marianne,
        where do I plan visiting? I have Home exchanges set up: a few weeks in Bilboa and a few weeks in France near Talouse. I’m looking into a situation in Bejar which is near Salamanca. I have a “street” budget of $900 a month (everything except housing.). Having spent $62 a day in Amsterdam I am wondering how I will manage on 30 in Spain. In Amsterdam the daily transportation was expensive and we ate out two meals a day. (let’s not even mention the two scarves I bought at €50 each. I didn’t quite consider that conversion into US dollars when I made the purchase. What an extravagance!). I have to assure myself that I will be able to get by on $30 a day prior to sending out more requests for home exchanges. At that point, I’m going to a request exchanges in places as varied as Vigo, Madrid, Mijas, etc. If I cannot get home exchanges worked out to fill the entire time, I’m looking into workaway.info for exchanges of work for room and board. Most of it is hippy, live off the land stuff, but I have found a few (a very few) women “of a certain age” who are looking for household help or help in the garden, or just companionship after the death of their spouse. I have been to Spain about 10 times (ranging from two weeks to 2 months) and have always either taken a hotel or rented a vacation apartment. This will be the first time to cash in on some of my home exchange trades from the past. And, God bless my little heart, what 60-year-old in her right mind would think of a volunteer/room&board exchange!?!?
        Tanya

        • Good luck with your plans, Tanya – you are certainly picking some nice places to visit.

          You might be surprised to learn that I know of two women in their 50s who regularly use either workaday-type arrangements or even couch surfing (couch surfing.com), very successfully.

          Where there’s a will – there’s a way 🙂

          Good luck and happy travels!

  9. Planning our retirement move to spain we are both 66yrs in age and find your site easy,understanding ,and informative . we intend to rent and any recommendations on area,s would be appreciated. we are looking at nerja area . Thanks maze,brian

  10. I enjoyed discovering your blog…I came over from Tanya. What a wonderful post for anyone thinking of moving. It is always important to do your homework.

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  12. Hello what a great read you write ,thank you ,my wife and I are thinking of moving to Spain we are just trying to do a wee bit of home work and you have been great we will keep reading your page.We are coming over in May for a holiday but will check out some villas when we arrive keep on writing ,it’s very helpfull. Thank you Joe Hunter

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  14. I’m pleased that the supermarket prices are stable, and to hear there are bargains at the street markets but you are so right in following up with the considerations. Since we’ve been back from holidays life has been less than routine so I have no real basis to compare anything much. At the moment our grocery spending is stable but we vary from grabbing things at the local convenience store – expensive-ish but good quality, farmers markets – seems about the same but seasonal, to eating from the freezer – free, to eating out – not too expensive within reasonable limits.
    The only pricing anomally I’ve really noticed has been the price of avocados at the supermarkets – an outrageous $4.99 per kg, and NZ available. Thank goodness when we are at TA my aunt who lives nearby-ish has a tree but I’ve not had an avocado since mid January as I refuse to pay that much.
    The G.O. and I have been discussing future plans and in drawing up a spreadsheet of current and projected costs; taking in to account our own version of considerations it’s apparent we’re not going anywhere for a while longer. You are right in emphasing the necessity for doing that homework regardless of where or what the change is to. And, as we console ourselves, at least if it all goes pear-shaped an informed decision was made vs reckless 😉

    • As you know, Ella, I have considerable experience of spending lengthy periods of time in Australia, and have been shocked at how much the prices have risen over the past few years in particular. Of course, that is offset against the generally higher salaries paid to workers (particularly compared to Spain), but it’s all relative.

      Like I said – what’s important is what’s left at the end of the month when all the bills have been paid. Plus, everyone has their own idea of what they consider to be acceptable to them – which is exactly how it should be.

      Strangely enough, avocados are pretty expensive here, too (off the top of my head I’m not sure of the exact price but around 4 euros per kilo), and they are a commonly grown crop in this area. I’m lucky thatI don’t need to pay for them as we have trees on our land 🙂

      The thing we both agree on is that it is an informed choice that is keeping you from moving to your beloved Taylor’s Arm later rather than sooner – because you have considered all your options. At least you know that when you finally make that move, you won’t have to sell up and move somewhere you don’t want to live because you were reckless in making that decision. AND, in the meantime you get to enjoy the delights of Sydney on a daily basis.

      It’s a hard life, huh? 😉

  15. been following your reguar pricing list for a year or two now. Great to see not a lot of change. We are moving out for good to Frigiliana in September, so I will keep an eye on your update in August.
    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog site. Love it

    • OH I love Frigiliana. We rented a house there for the first year we moved to Spain, before we bought our house.

      Glad you’ve found my updates useful, Robert – makes all the hard work worthwhile 🙂

    • Funnily enough, I went into another supermarket today (only 200 metres away, called Supersol) and bought 5 litres of extra virgin olive oil on special offer for 10.99 euros!!

    • Yes, very high, Amy. I wonder that myself sometimes, though there does seem to be a very good family network tradition here. Times are hard for many people. I hope things pick up soon.

  16. An incredibly informative post detailing very important things. At times, people see the life of others and feel they see perfection. There are always more factors to consider. I think thoughtful planning should be done no matter where one decides to move.
    Great Marianne. You always have the best posts.
    Isadora xo

    • You’re too kind, Isadora …. thank you.

      It’s a big decision moving to live in another country. I should know. Whilst I’m by no means trying to put anyone off, I’m always amazed how many come to Spain without a thought for any further into the future than the next month!

  17. Really interesting. This type of cost comparison is an exercise that I always plan to do but never get around to. Also great advice at the end there for anyone thinking of moving here. You have to look at the whole picture or be prepared for a few surprises!

  18. Ironic that the Spanish retail prices index published last week was the lowest in 52 years – in fact since they started recording it, yet in the same week a carton of the ‘cardboardeaux’ Don Simon Tinto went up from 1.20 to 1.30 euro in my branch of Mercadona! There should be marches on the streets!

    • It’s been a very useful exercise for me too, Sandra. I’ve often thought that prices were rising faster than they really are – but when I look back at the figures from last year, or the year before, I can see the true picture.

      Happy to add any further items to the list, if you’d like me to 🙂

      • would love to know how much you’d pay for good teabags 🙂
        So glad I came across your blog – it is jam packed with excellent advice and information.
        We are looking at moving over in September this year, not decided exactly where yet but probably just outside Alicante, somewhere in the countryside 🙂

        • Good teabags are sometimes difficult to come by. I usually either bring plenty back from UK trips, get them when I go to Gibraltar or ask visiting friends or relatives to bring them. Having said that, they are available at a price from expat English shops at usually about twice the UK price.

          Good luck with your move, Kay – you’re going to have such fun!

  19. We are currently living on a very tight budget but despite that, we eat very well. Having recently moved from Indonesia, I was expecting our weekly food bill here in Andalucia to be much higher, in fact its not and in many ways living here is much cheaper and the quality and freshness of the food is superb. Once a week we go to the open air market in Alcala La Real and buy all our fruit and vegetables for the week (topping up what we run out of at Mercadona) A friend told me the other day that she bought 3 kilos of cherries at the market in Granada for 1 euro!
    The things I do find expensive are items from the pharmacy – Paracetamol and Asprin and most medicines I find are double if not treble the price of the UK. The other big benefit of living here is fresh fish and seafood. It is excellent value and a fraction of the cost of UK prices. I bought a kilo of sardines on Saturday for 3.50 euro and a kilo of fresh mussels for 1.50 euro – a veritable fish banquet for under a fiver!

    • Absolutely right, Lottie – the fish markets/counters are usually very good value. Like I said, the Mediterranean diet with lots of fresh fish and vegetables is a good, healthy and relatively cheap option.

      I’ve only looked at supermarkets here … but I’m going to be adding later articles about shopping at different kinds of outlets including street-markets (and pharmacies). Certainly there are sometimes very cheap prices – but 3 kilos of cherries for 1 euro – WOW!! I wonder if they were packing up at the end of the day? The thing is here (as you well know) that fruits like cherries and strawberries are sold seasonally – which makes them generally cheaper.

      You mentioned another thing about medicinal items which, of course, are not available in supermarkets here in Spain, like they are in the UK. You’re right, they are more expensive here. To be honest I usually bring these kind of items back from the UK when I visit.

      Great points!

    • Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE living in Spain, but what I’m saying is … IT PAYS TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK if you are considering the move 🙂

      It’s good to be happy with your choice of where you live 🙂

I´d love to hear from you, and much appreciate your comments. Thank you.

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