Our Budget And Actual Spend (Months 14,15 &16) – Living In Spain

Flashback to our first 18 months in Spain. How in the world is time flying by so fast?  I can’t believe we have been living in Spain for 16 months and are still on track with our budget.  In this post we will show you Quarter 4 (October – December 2013) Actual Spend.  In the past we have shared our budget of $100/day for the family of 4.  The main reason for stating it that way vs. $3000 a month is there are a few months that have 31 days.  I know that doesn’t seem like much, but I am just trying to be sure we give you an accurate representation of what we are spending.

Living_in_Spain_Actual_Spend_Oct-Dec_2013Some months we are way over on Miscellaneous and low on our spend for food or some other category.  I try to show that with a visual for you, but it seems people want to see the numbers.  You want to see it all, so we will begin to share it all with you.  We are often contacted by people planning/dreaming of moving to Spain and the number one question is about budget.  In upcoming posts, I will go over a more detailed view of what we spend, so you can see the dirt.

Our Monthly Budget in Spain for a family of 4 is $100/day.

I don’t know how we did it, but we did.  We are back on track with our budget.  For the past few months the exchange rate of USD to Euro has not been in our favor.  In fact it has been hovering around $1.36 to 1 Euro and with the banks exchange rate of $1.41 that makes a ding in our budget.  When we first arrived in Spain it was averaging $1.28 to the Euro.  I know this is the boring stuff, but believe me, I keep track.

I transfer a set amount each month from our USA bank to our Spain Bank.  Only enough to cover our direct-debit bills (rent, after-school sports, medical insurance, cell phones and internet).  I check the rates daily and try and guess which day will be the lowest.   Of course once I make my transfer for the month, I don’t keep checking.  That would be torture to see it drop way down the day after I made a transfer.  In this case, outta sight / outta mind works for me.  We use our Chase Sapphire Visa for the rest of our spending. Of course we have reviewed the benefits of that in the past, but in a nutshell we get better exchange rates.  Okay, on to the details of our spending for the last 3 months of 2013.

We are back on track!

Yes!  We are actually living in Spain for just $100 a day, as a family of 4!  This includes us exploring Europe and our daily expenses.

Yes, I have done all of the math and have some crazy spreadsheets to keep track of everything for our needs in great detail.  Just a reminder, I am providing the general buckets and how we are tracking to goal.  Sometimes when we are over budget, it is just a bit and averages out because we were under in another area.
Estepona Spain - December 2013 (6)

 Cost of living in Spain – Summary of our Actual Spend for Quarter 4, 2013.

Budget to live in Spain 3 months

 Where did we travel during October, November and December 2013?

Over Halloween, we were fortunate enough to enjoy 8 days in London, England with FREE accommodation!  Oh boy did that save our budget or what?  We experienced our first house sit and discovered we loved it!  Not only did we get some great pet time, but we also had a free place to stay.  This allowed us a little room to do a few fun things around town like kicking back on the Hop on Hop off bus tour and visiting Stonehenge.  I must admit, we also scored a great deal on our airfare to London.  I just love Skyscanner!

Over Christmas, we lucked out with another great house sit.  This time it was in Spain and we were within driving distance. So we spent our Christmas week in Estepona, Spain.  It was great to experience another location in Spain, and also have that ever-so-coveted pet time! Again our lodging was free of charge, so it was great for the travel budget.  It did balance out a bit, because we did spend more because of Christmas gifts.

Below I will provide a bit of a summary for each broad category

Once again the exchange rate wasn’t our friend, so of course our standard monthly payment in Euros was a bit more expensive when we convert to USD.  I will also show you the exact dollar amounts for each category.  On the left is our Estimated Budget in Euros and then the conversion to USD.  That Estimation was the snapshot of what we estimated as of August 2012.  The exchange rate used for the conversion at that time was $1.30 to €1 and our bank transfer rate was $1.35 to €1, as we are trying to stick to the original budget in $USD.  The only fluctuation with the exchange rate is shown in our actual spending, and we need to adjust our spend to meet that original USD budget.  Each month the rate at the time of our transfer is the rate we used to convert to USD.

Cost to live in Spain 3 months


  • This was steady and only went up due to the exchange rate.  This covers our furnished rental and most of our utilities (Water, Electric, Garbage).  Our landlord has been wonderful and didn’t raise our rent when we renewed our lease.

Food, Household Supplies, Eating Out

  • I know when you look at the raw numbers it appears food is way over budget.  For October and December it is pretty accurate as we did spend a week each of those months away.  When we are away we tend to eat our more often.  On a regular basis at home we may eat out a couple of times a month.  When we are on a “vacation” it is at least one meal a day, sometimes more.  Even though we did have house sits with a kitchen to cook, we didn’t cook as often as we would have at home. Part of that is the excitement of a new location and new restaurant options.
  • Another thing that muddies the water with the food category is the one-stop shop type stores.  About once a month we make our way to Al Campo in Motril.  This is about as close as we can get to a Target or Wal-Mart type of store.  So of course when we venture over that way, there may be a clothing item or some other non-food item that will just be calculated in with food.  These items would normally fall under the Misc category, but for my ease I just take the total spend off of the visa statement and count it as food.  As you can see our Misc and/or travel categories are low for the same months.


  • Our cell phones and internet are pretty consistent and we meet or slightly go under budget.  The real fluctuation comes into play with our Skype account and how often we call land lines or cell phones.  We try to call computer to computer, but that isn’t always easy on the people we are calling.
  • In hindsight we would not sign up for a cell phone contract again.  We aren’t using the phones as much as we anticipated and would have been much better off with a “pay as you go” contract.  Big lesson learned for us.


  • We have been either spot-on budget with our fuel and auto expenses, or a bit under each month.
  • In October we renewed our annual Auto insurance.  I decided to go ahead and include it in the detailed calculations, but I am counting it as if we are on budget.  This is an expense we did budget for, but in the past we didn’t include in our monthly budget.  It was nearly $1000, thus we are over by that amount.


  • This was pretty much a catch-all.  In Nov/ Dec it was up slightly because most Christmas gifts hit this category.  In general, we aren’t big spenders for Christmas, so it wasn’t a huge hit.
  • We also paid cash for some of our travel and cash always hits the Misc fund.  I am too lazy to keep track of every receipt!  I keep up with our money out of our bank account and visa statement each month.
  • As of October, we purchased Spanish medical insurance and it now comes out of our direct debit account monthly.  This will now appear in our monthly calculations under Misc.  Previously, we had Medical and Auto insurance separate from our monthly spend.  They were both Annual fees and they are optional for most people.  We didn’t feel it was an accurate representation of “daily living”.  That said, I have decided to add the Medical in on the monthly.  We are paying for basic preventative coverage for medical and dental and we are covered world wide for emergencies at €43 ($58) a month for a family of four.  The full coverage inclusive of hospitalization and a larger network of medics was about €125 ($169) a month.  We felt the basic coverage is what we needed at this time.  We have already had a visit to the dentist and all came out smiling!  It is all purchased online and can be changed at any time, so we will see what we do.


  • As stated previously, we scored with 2 house sits, so we saved on accommodation. In December we purchased flights for our January Morocco trip.  Other than that some of our travel ended up in the Misc fund.

Once again, we are thrilled with our actual spend.  It seems to be routine now and it gets easier to just go with it.  We have been asked to further break down our day-to-day spending and more details on groceries, so that will come in the future.  I am also working on an over all 2013 Actual Spend year in review.  So with a huge gasp, I will share how much we spent for the year.  It shouldn’t be a shock, as I have shared all of the details with you 3 months at a time, but seeing it over 12 months is scary!!!

Of course, keep the questions coming and we will do our best to answer them.  We love the feedback we have received thus far and are thrilled that this information is helping people make their plans.  Do keep in mind, we can’t speak for the masses, we can only share what we do with our lifestyle.  Of course, another family of 4 may make different choices and spend more or less than what we spend.

If you are interested in a Career Break, just ask your questions or read our post.

Thanks for reading!

Reminder here are our other budget posts:

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