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In Expat Diaries

How to Live on a Thousand Euros a Month (and Save Enough to Travel)

Mileurista…  I remember the first time I was introduced to the term referring to those who live on a monthly income of around 1,000 euros. It was a little over two years ago in a Spanish culture class, and I thought to myself, how is it even possible to live on just a thousand a month? Little did I know then that I would soon be living in Spain as a “mileurista” myself, budgeting my monthly salary just like the rest of them, without finding it anywhere near difficult as I had once imagined.

One of the biggest worries that many participants in the Auxiliares de Conversación program face before moving to Spain is how to budget 1,000€ a month and still live comfortably. Before moving here, I worried about it too. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that it’s not only entirely possible, but actually very easy to live well (and travel) as a mileurista in Spain.

While I don’t eat out every night or go on shopping sprees on Gran Vía, I’ve discovered that a thousand euros a month is more than enough to buy everything I really need here in Madrid AND save up for traveling around Spain and Europe. Although it’s not difficult to live like this, it does require a little planning. At the beginning of each month, I work out a loose budget for myself that looks something like this:


 

1,000€ + about 270€ that I make teaching private lessons each month = 1,270€ – …

Rent: 325€

Electricity, water, heat, and internet: 50€

Metro/Transport pass: 60€

Groceries: 100€

Pay-as-you-go SIM card for my phone with 1GB data: 10€

Gym membership: 45€

Going out to eat/drink: 80€ (I budget 80€ but, in reality, spend much less.)

Clothes/other expenses: 100€ (Coming to Spain for a year with one suitcase means getting tired of your clothes fast.)

=

Savings (let’s be honest, this is a travel fund): 500€

For the most part, it’s easy to find ways to save money. I cook dinner at home almost every night and save all my grocery receipts to add up how much I spend on food at the end of the month. It’s amazing how much money you can save just by eating in. Groceries here are so much cheaper than at home! (And if you’re like me, it also helps to save when you can’t help but compare every price you see to what that amount could buy you in airfare.) After a couple of months, the savings really start to add up, making it easy to plan several short weekend trips and even a longer one for my three-week break in December.


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So now that living expenses are taken care of, how do I save money on travel? Budget travel is so easy in Europe. If you’re flexible with dates and times, you can get some really great deals.

Transportation:

Websites like Skyscanner and GoEuro are great for finding cheap transportation. I love Skyscanner because it allows you to search in the most flexible way possible. You can choose a destination and easily find the dates it’s cheapest to travel there, or (my favorite part) you can search “Madrid to … Everywhere” on a specific date to find the cheapest flights to any destination at that time. If you’re flexible, there’s really no reason to ever pay more than 100 euros for a round-trip flight in Europe.

GoEuro is great because it’s the easiest way to find the cheapest trains all over Europe all on one website. It also allows you to easily compare the prices of plane tickets to train tickets.

I usually end up flying budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet. With these airlines, you can sometimes get round-trip tickets for as little as 30 euros, so you can save big time (you just have to be careful to follow all their strict regulations, or you end up paying for it big time).

I never check bags when I fly in Europe. It saves so much money, and it’s much easier to travel light anyway.

Accommodations:

Staying in hostel dorms is usually the cheapest, and if you find the right place with good reviews, hostels usually make for a unique and fun travel  experience. If you’re willing to stay in a dorm room, you can find accommodations for practically nothing, like my four nights in Prague for just 40 euros total (including breakfast). My favorite site for booking is Hostelworld

Airbnb is another great option. You can rent entire apartments in the city center at really affordable prices, or rent a room in someone’s apartment or house for a unique experience with a local host.

Touring:

There’s so much you can do for free in any city, from visiting parks and free museums, to people watching, strolling through food markets, and just getting lost while wandering quaint European streets. It’s also a good idea to check out museum websites to find out if they offer any free or discounted days to visit. I’ve recently discovered these free walking tours as well, and I’m so excited to try my first one in Prague next month. I’ve heard great things about them and you can’t beat free!

I also really like Viator for finding interesting  tours and activities in any destination that fit my budget.

Finally, I absolutely love Utrip. It’s a travel planning website that allows you to enter your dates, destinations, budget, and interests, and gives you a personalized itinerary for your trip, complete with restaurant recommendations and ideas for free things to do.

Food:

Accommodations that offer free breakfasts are great, and I sometimes take advantage of them to pack a lunch for later. I also try to avoid eating in the city center.  Not only is it cheaper to get away from the more touristy areas, but the food it usually better. Checking out food market is also a great way to eat cheap and delicious local food.


So living and traveling on 1,000 euros a month isn’t so hard after all. It’s all a learning process, but I’ve gotten pretty good at budgeting and saving my euros. I’m sure that before this year is over, I’ll discover even more ways to stretch them as far as possible.

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