Something that a lot of people want to know more about when planning a move to Spain, is the cost of living compared to their home country.
Spain isn’t as cheap in comparison to the UK as it used to be, something that we have definitely noticed since moving here 4.5 years ago and the years of holidays to Spain before that. However, in our opinion you can definitely still save money in Spain compared to every day living in the UK. One of the many benefits of living in Spain for us is definitely the lower cost of living.
In fact, research has shown that not only is the cost of living in Spain 114% cheaper than in the UK, but Spain is the cheapest country to live in 2024 according to an index looking at living costs including food, petrol and energy bills. Which is good to know if you are planning a move to Spain!
Of course, not everything is cheaper though, so it’s worth looking into in a bit more detail to see where you would save money if you moved to Spain permanently. After all, you need to ensure that you can afford to live here before you drastically change your lifestyle.
It’s worth mentioning here that we live in the south of the Costa Blanca, the cost of living in Madrid or Barcelona for example will of course be a lot higher than where we live. The costs below are based on our life as a family of 3 in this part of Spain.
Let’s have a look at some of the common living expenses in Spain and see where you can save money…
Eating at restaurants and cafes in Spain is a lot more affordable than in the UK. You can often get a really good 3 or 4 course Menu del Dia for €15 or less.
Of course, local Spanish restaurants are usually cheaper than more well known chain restaurants, and you will pay considerably more in a city centre or beach front location compared to those in quieter areas. However, we’ve been really shocked by the restaurant prices in the UK since moving to Spain and can definitely afford to eat out more often here. Generally for our family of 3 we will spend under €40 for a meal out.
Wine, beer and spirits are much cheaper in Spain than in the UK, this is due to lower taxes. As an example, at our local bars costs are as follows:
- Small beer €1
- Large beer €2
- Glass of wine €2
Again, this depends on whether you visit Spanish bars, or are drinking on the coast or in a city center.
Alcohol prices in Spanish supermarkets are also good value, you can get a decent bottle of wine for around €2!
If you don’t drink alcohol you can expect to pay around €1.50 for a soft drink and €1-1.50 for a coffee.
Public transport in Spain, including buses and trains, is usually cheaper than in the UK.
Travelling by train is cheap in Spain, especially if you book your tickets in advance. RENFE is actually one of the cheapest rail transportation systems in Europe – I recently spotted a ticket from Alicante to Madrid for €19!
The local bus service where we are is almost non-existent, however a bus from Torrevieja to Alicante (50km) is a reasonable €4,50, and if you are somewhere bigger like Alicante you can book bus travel easily via Busbud.
Many larger towns and cities have a great tram service which is really affordable. In Murcia 3 of us took the tram from the outskirts into the city for €2 each.
Some brands of clothing are cheaper in Spain, for example Zara and Mango are Spanish brands so items are slightly cheaper here than overseas as you don’t have any tax or customs charges added in.
You can also get some very good value on things made locally, such as leather shoes in our area as there are a lot of shoe factories in the Elche area.
The cost of renting a property in Spain is much lower compared to the UK, though it can be very difficult to actually find a property to rent.
If you want to buy a property in Spain then houses are a fraction of the cost of those in the UK, though property prices have risen recently. You definitely get a lot more for your money when it comes to property in Spain.
One of our biggest outgoings in the UK after our mortgage was childcare, even when our daughter was at school we still needed to pay for breakfast and after school club.
We haven’t needed to use childcare in Spain but preschool can cost anything from €150 – €400 a month, a lot less than the UK!
For summer holiday care, our town hall offers a summer school for €50 for a month, Monday – Friday, 8am – 2pm which isn’t far from what we used to pay for a whole day in the UK.
You don’t pay council tax in Spain, though there is an annual property tax if you own your home. This is based on the value of your property and will differ by area.
As an example we pay €360 per year on a 3 bedroom house that is bigger than our 3 bed house in the UK where we were paying roughly £1200 per year 4.5 years ago!
The property owner pays this so if you rent you don’t need to worry about it.
When we hear what people are paying on their gas and electricity bills in the UK we are shocked! We don’t have gas, so our only bill is for electricity which averages out at about €90 per month – it seems we’d be paying at least double that in the UK when adding together gas and electricity.
Water bills seem to be a little higher than in the UK, by maybe €10 per month, but overall the cost of utilities in Spain is much less.
It’s cheaper to tax your car in Spain, though the cost does vary depending on your car and the region you live in. We pay €56 a year on a Seat Ibiza in the Alicante province. Car tax in the UK starts from £180 a year.
Not everything is cheaper in Spain though, here a few things you won’t save money on…
Second Hand Cars
Second hand car prices in Spain are extortionate, I would say they are at least 3x more what you would pay for one in the UK. As an example, a 10 year old car could still cost you over €6,000 in Spain!
However, Google tells me that new car prices in Spain are 8.5% lower than in the UK, so if you can afford to buy a brand new car outright then you will save some money.
I’m not an expert but from our experience you’ll pay more tax in Spain. To begin with the tax free personal allowance is only €5,500 compared with £12,570 in the UK, this is the same whether you work or are retired and receiving a pension.
Taxes on income are on a sliding scale from 19% – 47% in Spain, compared to the 20% or 40% range in the UK.
UK & American food brands
Any brands that aren’t Spanish are always much more expensive in Spain. Generally you need to visit an International supermarket to find any of these brands so you will inevitably pay import taxes too. Most of the time you can find a Spanish brand that is just as good, but things we find we have to buy that are UK branded include curry sauce, squash, and multi-packs of crisps as these don’t exist in Spain and as such as a lot more expensive than in the UK.
Obviously, all of the above may vary depending on location, lifestyle, and other factors so it’s essential to do research before making any assumptions. We can only talk about our experience of Alicante living costs. However, hopefully this has given you a bit of a guide about the cost of living in Spain in 2024 and whether you would be better off financially in the UK or Spain.