Have you ever thought about a long term stay abroad but guessed it would be too expensive? We have just spent 6 weeks in Spain, including Christmas and New Years and yes it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be!
As we tend to frequently get questions about our lifestyle, how we can afford this and that and how much we must be spending etc, I decided to share this post. Bear in mind that we never do charter holidays which seems to be the reference point for most, that for sure would have been expensive and on top of that living like tourists once at the destination!
Let me just put it out there to start with, our travels probably cost 50-70% less in total compared to what an “average” person would spend on a holiday! In this case we are talking about around 2,500 USD for two adults and one baby girl for a full month including everything! I’ll get into the breakdown further down. If you think we are missing out on loads of experiences etc, then… well think again and read the full post and let me know if you still think the same!
As most of you know I am a huge fan of value! I always want to make sure I get value out of my money as it’s my money! I don’t want to be “cheap” but I do want to make sure we get value and hence use our money wisely.
I’ll divide this post into a few sections. Starting with the background on how we resonate etc and just a little bit on how we plan prior to a long term stay abroad. Secondly what we experienced during our stay and thirdly how much it all has cost us.
Our starting point prior to any trip
Since we left our office jobs in mid 2017 we of course have the luxury of flexibility in terms of how we spend our time. This is a great advantage as we can travel whenever, which often means when other people are not traveling! Two good things = less people and lower prices!
Don’t quit on me yet as regardless of your situation this “exercise” might actually be quite interesting as you might see things from a different perspective afterwards!
Ideally we want to spend more than 4 weeks whenever we go on a longer trip because that brings two advantages (at least). Firstly the cost of the flight is spread over a longer period of time and flight tickets is usually a big item and secondly, booking a place to stay for a month normally comes with a big discount.
This time we were mainly keen on leaving the Swedish winter behind because of the lack of daylight and the grayish cold weather. Since our baby girl is only 11 months (now) we didn’t want to fly too far so southern Spain felt ideal as it’s about 4 hours from Sweden. We wanted to leave end of November and come back early January as we had some things to take care of back home mid Jan. This also meant that we wanted a long term stay abroad during both Christmas and New Years which normally comes at an extra cost…
So the absolute key things if you want to get the most value out of your money prior to booking are:
- When checking flights, the more flexible you can be on dates and exact location, the better and always use a comparison site like skyskanner.com and always use your browser in incognito mode (as otherwise it leaves cookies and when you come back to make the booking the prices have often increased!)!
- As for accommodation, same as the above and for a long term stay abroad we tend to use Airbnb.com. We use them both when travelling ourselves and to let our own summer house to tourists, it’s brilliant!
- If we are renting a car, we check different providers often using rentalcars.com and make sure we have the insurance we want. Either we use the one via our credit card or we might have bought it separately but avoid paying the extortionate prices they charge at the rental desk!
- Understand all transport costs to and from airports and to/from activities, how much we will be needing a taxi etc. Sometimes it’s better to pay more to live in a different location than having to rely upon taxis as that will come at a dear cost!
When the above is checked and reviewed a few times we are ready to book, of course using a credit card that gives us a bonus on every purchase (this varies from country to country so you will have to check which one is the most beneficial in your country).
As we are away for 6 weeks this time and with a baby girl, we needed to have large luggage and paid extra for that which is fine. Had it only been the two of us and a shorter trip we would have gone for hand luggage only but from now on that is unlikely.
Costs (all rounded):
- Flights: 500 USD
- Flat: 1000 USD including the fee to Airbnb
- Hotel one night by the airport (early returning flight): 65 USD
- Car rental: 10 days 250 USD
Total costs: 1,815 USD (basically the cost of a 2 week charter (a cheap one) to the same destination for two people excluding any other costs while there…!)
Did we really experience anything?
When on a long term stay abroad we are not living like tourist every day with a packed schedule of things to do and see. This means we are combining our normal day-to-day living with some new experiences here and there.
A normal day would start between 06:00-07:00 because that is when our daughter wakes up. We of course have breakfast at home (in our rented flat) and then normally go for a 2h walk along the beach including a half an hour coffee break by the beach. Not a bad way to start off the day and our baby sleeps so well in the baby carrier. Unless we had something in particular planned for the day, then we might go for a second walk during the afternoon and sometimes enjoy a beer down the harbor.
Anyway, below are some of the things we did whilst on this trip:
- Visited the following places: Gibraltar (twice), Sevilla (including a hotel night), Malaga, Marbella, Estepona (5-6 times as it was a beautiful city), Jerez de la frontera, Casares (twice), Cadiz (hotel night), Jimena de la frontera, Sotogrande etc..
- Driving in Sevilla, crazy experience that alone with all the super narrow streets!
- We saw dolphins whilst walking along the beach one day
- We had lunch or dinner at restaurants>10 times
- Visited coffee shops>30 times
- Practiced my Spanish every day!
- Celebrated Christmas with my mother in law who came to visit us
- Spent some quality time with my parents who also came to visit for about a week
- We spent quality time in the sun on our balcony with amazing views!
The actual numbers…
These are our actual numbers (I’ve just bulked them together and rounded):
- Accommodation (apartment and hotel nights): 1,230 USD
- Flights: 500 USD
- Car rental: 250 USD
- Petrol: 150 USD
- Groceries (everything for the household basically and we try to buy as much organic as we can, in this case around 80%): 700 USD
- Restaurants/coffee shops: 600 USD
- Miscellaneous (parking, road tolls etc): 100 USD
Total for 42 days: 3,530 USD which gives 84 USD per day (3530/42) or 2,520 USD for one month (30 days)
One can of course easily spend way more but also be able to live on less if one wanted… Skipping things like renting a car and going to restaurants and coffee shops basically means living like a local but in a nice and comfortable place.
Interesting fact: Compared to a normal tourist who would buy bottled water in 0,5-1l bottles we have probably saved around 200 USD on water alone!
We only used bottled water as the quality of water here is relatively poor, so that meant on average around 5 liters per day as we also used it for brewing coffee etc.
Had we instead only bought 1 liter bottles from the local supermarket, we would probably have spent in total: 5(liters per day)*42(number of days)*1(usd) = 210 USD on water alone! This is how most tourists behave and can’t even be bothered finding a larger supermarket so buying at the local store which is often even more expensive!
Our cost: 0,8 USD per 8l which is 0,1 UDS per liter and hence our cost for drinking water was: 5*42*0,1 = 21 USD
Well, if you want to spend 200 USD on water (add beers and sodas and the amount would be much, much higher!), that’s up to you but our priorities are other things like quality food.
Some key things to think about whilst on a long term stay abroad:
- Find the best large supermarket where you can buy the products you need, small shopping here and there gets expensive (always the case)!
- Always bring a bottle of water in your bag.
- Always pay using a credit card with a low or no currency conversion fee.
- Always pay in the local currency when using your credit card, else they will charge you 5-10% for each purchase!
- Find great local places and avoid the touristy ones (unless that is the experience you want). Often you will get way more bang for your buck and a very different experience!
We are very fortunate to be able to prioritize our time and we for sure want to make the most of it. By being intentional and smart with our money we can do and experience so much more as we don’t have to sell our time to finance it! This might be an eye opener and hopefully it’s pretty clear that one can spend a month abroad, having a good time and end up spending less than what most people would spend when they are away for even 1 week (two adults and a small child)!
If you are going on a long term stay abroad, maybe you want to make some extra money whilst away and if you are comfortable with it, why not let your place on Airbnb during this time. If you are flexible and happy to do that, you might actually be able to cover your whole trip with the income you get from letting your property! On this particular occasion the rental income from our summer house (which we also let during the winter) grossed us about the same amount and netted us around 65% of the monthly expenses we had in Spain in December!
Actions to take:
- If you have not yet tried out Airbnb either as a guest or host, you should! Use this link (affiliate) but we will both get a discount, you cirka 50 USD and I cirka 30 USD so win-win:): Discount on Airbnb!
- If you are interested, I have done a few posts on how to find and let a holiday property
- Check out our Savings section!
- Check out our Wealth section – more money in your pocket!
- Why you have to know your numbers!
- The Language of Money – a language for life! – learn it and enjoy it!