Moving across the ocean is scary. The start-up costs are scarier. When I got on that plane two years ago, I really had no idea what I was doing. I had some money in the bank, some stuff in my suitcase and had found an apartment online. Other than that I was just planning on having an adventure. My friends can tell you, I’m way more big picture oriented than detail oriented. I never thought about the actual logistics of MOVING abroad. Well I’m here to tell you, that was stupid. The details are pretty damn important. Knowing exactly what you’ll need when you get there and how to get it is pretty crucial, especially in a foreign country where you may not be a master of the language. Here’s my personal list of potential start-up costs. Understandably, each item on the list won’t be essential for everyone, but I’ll just try to cover all the bases based on my experience moving to Spain. Disclaimer: this list assumes you have a job and health insurance set up already, so I have not included that.
Bedding and Towels
If you rent an apartment in Spain, it’s likely that it will come furnished. It will even come with towels and sheets and pillows! My first year here I had a room decked out in The Simpsons gear. Simpsons sheets, curtains, comforter, mirror… you get the picture. Despite the fact that The Simpsons are not my personal taste, it was a bit strange using someone else’s bedding and I quickly decided to get my own. Towels for me weren’t as much of an issue. I’ve now acquired my own beach towel and for our upcoming move to Mérida I’m sure we’ll buy some towels and sheets for our guest bedrooms. So keep this one in mind if it gives you the heebie jeebies thinking about sleeping on someone else’s old sheets.
Your kitchen will probably come furnished with the basics. Plates and bowls, forks spoons and knives, some pots and pans, a spatula… and probably not much else. You’ll be lucky if the plates match or if there are more than a few of each. My landlord’s son actually once told us that his father regretted leaving us so many dishes! Oops. Either way, you’ll probably need to supplement your kitchen supplies. I, for example, have bought pie dishes, a bread pan, sharper knives, a non-stick frying pan, mixing bowls, a strainer, a big salad bowl, a measuring cup… you can see what I’m getting at. It’s worth the investment because you’ll be cooking for yourself three times a day for at least eight months.
A Cell Phone
I have an exhaustive post about bringing your Smartphone to Spain, and whether you decide to unlock your Smartphone and bring it with you or you decide to buy one here in Spain, there will be costs involved. Buying the phone, paying the activation fee, adding money to your pay-as-you-go plan, paying your monthly bill etc. This is definitely a cost that you pretty much can’t avoid.
Getting internet at your house will undoubtedly be a hassle. Most companies require you to sign an 18-month contract which is not cool. You (and your roommates) will have to agree that you’ll split the cost of terminating the contract early at the end of the year, or you’ll have to search high and low for a company that doesn’t require a contract (good luck). Internet prices will vary. My first year here we paid 40€ a month, and my second year here 15€ a month. You’ll also have to pay for the router and the installation fee. Mine was 30€ for the router and 50€ for the installation. Again, this is another cost that you probably can’t/won’t want to avoid because having internet at home is pretty essential for communication with family, friends, and everything else.
Duh. You’ll have to pay your first month’s rent, and also probably another month’s rent as a security deposit (fianza). You’ll probably be able to find a place on your own, but if you opt to use a realtor, expect to pay the realtor half of a month’s rent. So that could be like 600€ up front… a big chunk of change. Also, make sure to look around on internet sites like idealista.com, fotocasa.es, milanuncios.es, and easypiso.com to get your bearings for what is a reasonable price per month for an apartment of the size you want. Our house was great my first year here, but later on we realized we were overpaying compared to other 3-bedroom places. *Pro tip: when apartment hunting look specifically for if it has an oven, outdoor area to dry clothes, air conditioning/heaters, electric or gas water heaters, electric or gas stoves, is facing the inside patio of a building or is facing outside, has an elevator etc. All of these factors should help you decide if the price they’re asking is worth it compared to other places with similar features/prices*
At the beginning you’ll have to stock up on the things that you’ll be using at home all year. I mean things like, cleaning supplies, a broom and mop if your place doesn’t come with one, a portable drying rack, toilet paper and paper towels, toiletries, hangers for your clothes etc. You’ll probably also want to stock up your kitchen with the basics… spices, flour, sugar, vinegar, oil, garbage bags… you get the picture, right? Your first shopping trip will probably be a big one, so be prepared.
By travel I refer to actual travel, but for many people it can also include the cost of commuting. If you want to travel during long weekends (puentes) you’ll want to book early because EVERYONE wants to travel during puentes and all of the tickets get snatched up. Buying early means cheaper prices and if you can afford to buy tickets before you get paid, I’d go for it. My first year I saved up and went to Madrid, Prague and Istanbul over winter break and it was amazing!
So, have I covered it all? Probably not, because you definitely need to expect the unexpected while here. But I think those are the basics… what else are you guys anticipating having to pay for in the beginning? Budgeted living isn’t easy, but it can be done! Good luck, everyone.
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