SpainExpatBlog: How not to budget your move to Spain

SpainExpatBlog: How not to budget your move to Spain

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Britt Bohannan shares her costly mistakes to help foreigners save money when relocating to Spain.

Whether you are in Spain for a finite amount of time and are interested in making a permanent move, have made the actual move and are living here, or have no plans to either stay or leave but week after week find you are still here (as was the case with me four years ago); whatever your circumstances that find you enjoying a simplified life here in Spain for a long period of time, you will likely find yourself collecting a simplified salary. The majority of Americans I know here are either freelancing remotely with US companies and work is intermittent, work for Spanish companies, or are otherwise engaged in hourly type work that only pays you for the hours logged (English teachers, for example).

Arrive without a Plan. What you do not want to do is come here without a plan for how you are going to support yourself–unless of course you have money to burn and don’t care. I wasted exorbitant amounts of money over the course of three and a half years paying for things I did not need to pay for, which I’ll cover below.

Rent your house for less than the mortgage. The biggest money suck I set up for myself was renting my house in California out–still full of all my belongings and with the bills in my name–for $1000 less each month than the mortgage for nearly two years until I figured out I wasn’t going to move back anytime soon, and that $1000 a month to store all my junk was a bit high. I finally sold the house and moved all my stuff into storage, which lowered my storage costs by $850 dollars a month–more if you count property tax. A year later, I moved it into my mother’s garage, but paid about 1K to transport it all 400 miles away. (I am not sure what I will be doing with this giant collection of belongings I do not use, I thought I’d buy a condo in San Diego to vacation rental out, but HOA fees are so ridiculous I can’t bring myself to purchase anything.)

Pay to keep your US phone contract. The next huge money pit was paying to keep my US phone number. This required that I pay a contract plus add on services for sending and receiving text messages. Never mind that I only sent or received around one or two a week, and received a call less than once a week on average. I still paid around 60 bucks a month just to keep the contract so I could keep the same phone number. My reasoning was that I used the phone a ton when I was in the US (true), I needed to have a US number for work (true), it had been my number for nearly ten years and all my friends knew they could get hold of me with it (true) and finally, I didn’t see another option. Unfortunately when I FINALLY went to a pay-per-use card, I found out too late that it doesn’t work overseas, even though the sales person assured me that it would…though I did find a solution to that –which I will write about in a future post.

Don’t register your vehicles as non-operational. 
I never registered my vehicles in the US as non-operative. I just didn’t think about it because I sometimes used my van and a couple of motorcycles when I went to visit, which was totally unnecessary. When I finally went to sell my van to my father –thank god he wanted it, who else would buy a tan soccer mom van with only two front seats and a gutted interior to fit motorcycles into the back–I had to pay over 400 dollars in back registration fees.

I fell into some of these because I never really planned on moving here permanently. But here I am, four years later, and I find myself more and more comfortable with my simple life here in Spain. So gradually I have eliminated all of my monetary obligations in the US that cost me more than they bring me.

But then again, it’s just money – it comes and goes. And if you want to make a more here and you feel like money is what is holding you back, you might want to examine that belief more closely and see if it is just an excuse because you are afraid to make the leap.  Life is short my friends, take a risk. Even if it means losing some dough. In the end, your experiences and adventures are far more valuable and memorable than a few thousand dollars.

Reprinted with permission of

Britt Bohannan is an American currently living in Spain, the fifth foreign country she has called home. She has spent the last four years in Barcelona working as a freelance editorial and technical writer and for local magazines and businesses and runs

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3 Comments To This Article

  • 30% and just gonna get worse posted:

    on 8th December 2012, 17:34:34 - Reply

    I think you mean..How to Budget Your Move out of Spain!
  • Monte posted:

    on 5th December 2012, 17:31:35 - Reply

    Brit's article was very useful, and gave me some new ideas to consider when I move overseas after retirement! Please keep the info coming in!
  • Jessica posted:

    on 5th December 2012, 16:42:29 - Reply

    I was glad to read something (anything) posted by an AMERICAN expat in Spain since most English posts are submitted by Brits, who have different perspectives based on their EU citizen status. That is, living logistics are somewhat easier for them due to greater permissions. I disagree with this commenter's [original comment deleted by moderator] labeling of Spain as a "third world" country; it has it's problems, but what country doesn't these days? I didn't read any slams or slurs against the poster's country of origin (the US), so I wonder about the reactivity of her commenter's words. Maybe his/her experience was less than satisfactory while in Spain. Ok. But to rail against the country as a whole on a blog spot dedicated to foreigners living in Spain seems, well, misplaced. I think the commenter has misinterpreted the mindset of expats, which is largely OPEN to things foreign, different, unfamiliar and even less-than-comfortable or convenient. I would LOVE to read more substantial consejos from my compatriota about her experiences making the transition from US life to la vida en España. Keep 'em comin', mujer!!