If you are considering a move to Spain, either to purchase a property or just to rent for a couple of months, the cost of living will be very much in your mind.
Prices may be different in other parts of Spain, especially in bigger cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, so bear in mind that the prices you are reading here are applicable to the area of La Axarquía – to the east of the city of Málaga on Andalucía’s Mediterrean coast.
The kind of lifestyle you choose to embrace is also an important ingredient in the financial mix.
My family eat fresh, locally-grown seasonal produce, buy mostly Spanish-branded foods at the supermarket, and eat and drink in bars and restaurants where the locals hang out. This has not only saved us money, but we feel has also enhanced our experience of moving abroad. 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’ve always dreamed of moving to southern Spain or you’re just curious, here is my up-to-date cost of living report.
Whether you choose to rent or buy is a matter of personal choice depending on how long you want to stay.
My advice would be to rent for a full twelve months prior to buying so that not only will you get a good feel for the area, but also you’ll experience it through all the seasons. This summer, Spain has been experiencing a long heatwave, but temperatures can be surprisingly chilly inside the house during the winter months.
It’s no secret that Spain has been gripped by a financial crisis over the past few years, but the signs are that things are improving. House prices are up to 20% lower than they were in 2006/2007 and there are plenty of houses on the market for sale. (For an idea of individual prices, search for estate agents on Google using the search terms: Axarquia, east of Malaga, or by the name of any of the villages or towns in the area including Nerja, Frigiliana, Competa, Torrox or any of the others I have written about previously on this blog).
Another key factor to bear in mind is the fluctuating currency exchange rate between your home currency and the Euro, especially if you need to transfer large amounts of money into Spain. As I write, the exchange rate stands at an 8-year high and would give more than €1.43 for each British pound sterling (£1). This has made a considerable difference to our income from when the rate stood around €1.08 a few years ago.
You can easily rent a lovely furnished apartment with 2-3 bedrooms, 1-2 bathrooms and a communal pool, on the coast but away from the main tourist area, for €450- €500 per month (on an 11 month contract). If you choose somewhere further inland or nearer the city, prices will vary, but there’s no substitute for actually being here and asking around. Lots of people know of places available for rent that will never make their way onto websites or an estate agent’s rental list.
If you are looking for somewhere to rent in the Axarquía area for a month or two, I have had dealings with, and can recommend Anubis in Torre del Mar. Speak to Anna and tell her I sent you (and no, I won’t earn anything for saying that)!
Electricity: For a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom detached house in the countryside with a swimming pool, we pay around €100 per month. Our consumption is generally higher in the summer than in the winter as we have air conditioning units (cooling in summer and heating in winter) plus the swimming pool pump running for 8 hours a day. We try to use the air conditioning sparingly – preferring to open windows during early morning and late evening and make use of the ceiling fans. Although sometimes, especially in July and August, you just have to put the air-con on!
Gas: We do not have a piped gas supply here, so we use bottles of gas. This is a common feature throughout many areas in this part of Spain. Gas prices in Spain are strictly controlled by the government, rather than the gas companies. A year ago, a 12.5kg bottle of Butane gas cost €17.50. They are now €14.11 (a reduction of almost 20%), with an 11kg bottle of propane gas costing a mere €12.42. For us, one bottle lasts (on average) four weeks for two people, although this could be longer in summer (depending on how many visitors we have), for all hot water, showers and cooking on a gas hob.
Water: Because we live in the countryside, approximately five kilometres from our home village of Cómpeta, we do not have mains water. When we bought our house, part of the purchase cost was for a share in a local water company. We have a 14,000 litre water deposit in which to store our house water. Our water share gives us an allowance of up to 17,500 litres of water each week at reduced cost, though if we use more than this, the price rises steeply. Needless to say, we don´t use this amount of water, even allowing for swimming pool top-ups and garden irrigation in the summer months. Our water company, Patamalara, send out their bills every two months, and some of the cost depends on the amount of repairs that have been undertaken on the system. Over the past twelve months our annual water bill has amounted to €119.
IBI or Council Tax: Paid yearly to the local council. This year’s bill is €337 – the same as it has been for the past nine years. We don’t have a rubbish collection here as we live in the countryside, so we have to take all our household waste to one of the collection centres in a local village.
Telephone: Living in a mountainous area of the countryside, Telefónica (the largest fixed phone and ADSL operator in Spain) are unable to supply us with land-line telecommunications. We therefore rely on Skype (via the internet) for most calls (which are free to other Skype users, or by using credit, if not) and have a mobile phone contract with Movistar (also owned by Telefonica) which costs €11 per month for 800 MB of data and free calls (after an initial connection charge of €0.18).
Internet: We use a 4G wireless internet option from Orange costing €34.95 (inclusive of IVA tax) per month, which gives us 35 GB of data. Orange provide us with a small router which we just plug into an electrical plug socket, and which has the benefit of using the mobile telephone system, thus making it portable.
House and Contents Insurance: Based on the re-building costs of the house, including contents, we pay €241 per annum with Linea Directa.
The cost of motoring in Spain has fluctuated considerably over the past few years.
New cars which until the last year or two were relatively expensive in Spain, now cost a similar amount in euros as their UK equivalent does in sterling. But, the currency exchange rate is €1.43 for each British pound, meaning that at present, some new cars in Spain are considerably cheaper than in the UK, though this is not true of all marques – BMW for example.
Second-hand vehicles (often with high mileage) hold their values well in Spain, making a comparable model of the same age in the UK (for example) much cheaper.
FUEL: Unleaded petrol (gasolina sin plomo) 95 Octane was €1.52 per litre last year. It is now €1.33 at the Repsol garage in Torre del Mar.
Diesel: (gasoil) at the same garage was €1.42 per litre last year and is now €1.16.
As in most countries, branded petrol stations such as Repsol are often more expensive for petrol and diesel compared to supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Carrefour. The cheapest fuel prices in the Axarquía area at the moment are:
Unleaded: 1.269 €/l at BALLENOIL, Camino Higueral El, 28 Vélez-Málaga
Diesel: 1.087 €/l at EROSKI, Avenida Juan Carlos I (at the El Ingenio shopping centre) because you can get a further 2% discount by using your credit card if you use the self-service, pay-at-the-pump option.
Click HERE for an interesting interactive map displaying the current cheapest petrol/gas stations in the area.
Car tax (Impuesto vehiculos traccion mechanica) is based on fiscal horsepower (which bears no resemblance to the mechanical horsepower of the vehicle) and is a means by which the taxation is calculated. This rate of taxation differs from village to village, depending on where you live. For our car, a Peugot 308, the cost is €51.12 per annum.
Car insurance for a two year old Peugot 308 1.6 E-HDI (with Linea Directa – the Spanish equivalent of Direct Line in the UK), for fully comprehensive cover with legal assistance included, and an excess of €150, cost €570 two years ago. However, last year we thought we could do better. We asked for quotes from other insurers and threatened to leave Linea Directa unless they matched the price. After initially refusing, they eventually relented and this year our premium was €426.
Spain’s public transport system is relatively cheap and reliable.
Trains: Because of the mountainous terrain there are no trains running through La Axarquía, though you can catch a train from Málaga to many other Spanish cities, including Granada, Seville, Córdoba, and Madrid. I can certainly recommend the AVE train (Spain´s equivalent of the Bullet Train) as an alternative to budget flights, with favourable prices being found in advance, online, via state-owned train operator, RENFE.
Buses: The main bus operator here is Alsina Graells (ALSA). Their website is in English, and from here you can study bus schedules and purchase tickets in advance of your trip. There are generally plenty of buses between towns and cities, and they usually leave on time. Buses may be infrequent to remote villages in the Axarquía, with often only one bus per day or none at all at the weekend. The cost of a bus ticket with ALSA, from Nerja to Málaga, (approx. 60 kms) one way is 4.52 € or €8.18 for a return trip.
MY TIP: If you are over 65 years of age, a resident in Andalucía and registered on the Padron of your local town hall, you can apply for an Andalucía Tarjeta 65 (full information, link to download the form and address to send it to, HERE) Once you have the card, you will not only be able to get 50% off bus fares with ALSA, but showing the card will get you a discount at many local attractions
Eating out: Menu del Día (menu of the day, usually at lunch time) 3 course meal, including bread and one glass of beer, wine or a bottle of water) 8 – 10 €
Evening dinner for 2: (three courses) at a mid-priced restaurant, including a glass of wine 45 €
Tapas: small beer or glass of wine including a tapa 1-2 € (depending on whether it’s a tourist area or not).
Cinema ticket (International release, Yelmo cinema, Malaga) 4.90 €
Round of GOLF (18 holes, 2 players + buggy, Baviera Golf course at La Caleta de Vélez) 100 €
Cigarettes (pack of 20, Marlboro) 4.85 €
STANDARD GROCERY LIST
This is the up-to-date Standard Grocery List I have published previously. The first price shown in black is as it was in February 2014, with this month’s prices in RED alongside.
For the sake of comparison, I have once again used the largest Spanish supermarket – Mercadona.
Milk (semi–skimmed UHT, own brand), 1 litre 0.60 € 0.61 €
Loaf (white, baguette 250g) 0.45 € 0.45 €
Loaf (white, Bimbo brand, 460g 100% natural) 1.49€ 1.49 €
Butter (250g, own brand) 1.25 € 1.15 €
Sugar (1kg, white) 0.93 € 0.76 €
Coffee (ground, 250g, Santa Cristina) 1.89 € 1.89 €
Eggs (12, own brand caged, medium) 1.35 € 1.20 € (special offer)
Olive oil (1 litre, extra virgin, own brand) 3€ 3.85 € (5 litres 14.50 €) (5 litres 19 €) **
Rice (1kg, long grain, own brand) 0.71€ 0.71 €
Pasta (1kg, own brand) 0.75 € 0.85 €
Pasta (500g, wholewheat) 0.99€ 0.99 €
Tinned tuna (6 x 80g, own brand in sunflower oil) 3.35 € 2.98 € (special offer)
Chicken breasts (1kg, boneless, skinless, packaged)) 5.80 € 5.10 € (or bought loose at the counter 4.65 € per kg)
Pork chops (1kg, packaged) 4.75 € 4.10 €
Beef mince (Store brand, pre-packed, 700g) 3.80 € 4.95 € (now packaged as 1kg pack)
Fish (1kg Salmon steaks) 10.75 € 11.65 €
Fish (1kg Dorada, Gilt-head bream) 6.95€ 7.50 €
Apples (1kg, green, Golden Delicious) 1.85 € 1.39 € **
Oranges (loose) (1kg) 0.79 € 1.15 € (or 0.91 € per kg if purchased as a 5.5kg bag for 4.99 €) **
Bananas (loose) (1kg) 1.39 € 1.25 € **
Potatoes (loose) (1kg) 0.89 € 0.89 €
Lettuce (1 head, Iceberg) 0.87 € 0.49 € (special offer)
Red Peppers (1kg, loose) 1.89 € 1.99 € **
Green pointed “Italian” Peppers (1kg, loose) 1.99 € 0.99 € (special offer)
Tomatoes (1kg, loose) 1.29 € 0.79 € (special offer)
Coca-Cola (1.5 litre bottle) 1.09 € 1 €
Water (2 litre bottle) 0.42 € 0.42 €
Domestic Beer (1 litre bottle, Cruzcampo) 1.25 € 1.37 € (now bottled as 1.1 litre)
Imported beer (6 x 25cl bottles Heineken) 3.65 € 3.15 €
Bottle wine (medium priced) 3.00 – 3.50€ 3.00 – 3.50 €
Colgate toothpaste (100 ml) 1.75€ 1.55 € (now packaged as 75ml)
Pantene shampoo (300 ml) 3.00€ 2.90 € (now packaged as 270ml)
Toilet rolls (pack of 6, own brand) 1.98 € 1.98 €
Washing powder (Box, 35 washes, Elena brand) 4.87 € 4.87 €
** Seasonal changes
Currency Conversion from XE €1 = 1.08 USD
So, tell me – HOW DO PRICES COMPARE WHERE YOU LIVE?