Learning how to live on a budget is just part of “growing up.” For most people, there’s a terrible moment when you realize that maybe you don’t want to trade eating out every night with friends and a cute new dress for having money to pay your electric bill. But how do you balance learning this life lesson of saving money for mandatory expenses and funding your travels that you want to experience to the fullest while you’re in Europe? I’m slowly learning this month by month here in Spain, and I now know that saving money can be possible by arranging your priorities and simplifying your life. Here’s some tips I can share.
1. Change your consumer mindset
If you want to make travel a priority, you must change your mindset. At home, I love to go shopping. In college my favorite friend dates were heading to a boutique in between our classes. However, here in Spain, when I see the price of a new shirt or sweater I compare that to the price of a ticket. Through budget airlines, a flight to Portugal could be less than 30€. So do you really want that cute sweater? Or do you want to visit a different country? This is applicable to many tempting purchases.
The bane of my existence twice a year is rebajas. The Christmas sales in Spain begin after the Reyes Magos on January 6 and last until the end of February. The discounts continue to increase as the weeks pass. Especially when I first arrive in Europe, I wanted to buy every piece of clothing I saw in the window. “New place, new me! Look how stylish and European I am!”
This comes down to your priorities. If being fashionable means a lot to you, stick to budget stores like H&M, Bershka, Mango, Zara sales, etc. I’m progressively altering my wardrobe to basic, higher-quality items in a similar color scheme so that I can have less clothes. Jewelry is still a weakness!
2. Hustle for private classes
There are many, many people looking for private lessons to improve their conversational English. That’s why we’re here in Spain after all, right? You don’t even have to try to find students yourself, they will come to you by word of mouth. I have students that are young children forced to practice with me by their mom, adults who are currently out of work, and high school students studying to pass English exams.
Through the website below, I was hired by one mother with two kids who wanted one hour for each of her children, separately. She then told her next door neighbor who also hired me, and we arranged their schedules so that I can have 3 hours in a row and walk away with 45€. The same mother told her son’s closest school friends as well, which ended in me being hired by two other families who mentioned me to their coworker (as you can see this web is quickly tangling) and two weeks into the start of school I was already having to turn people away.
I have eleven hours of extra private classes each week. I know that to some that is just an insane amount, but my priorities are to save money and travel. I can’t imagine another time in my life where I’ll be paid 15€/hour to hold a conversation in my native language. If no one cancels, I can make about 650€ extra each month. By U.S. standards that’s hardly anything to celebrate, but without a car payment or my American lifestyle here in Spain, it really counts. I take care of all weekly expenses (groceries, nights out, bills, bus fares) with that cash and my bank account goes untouched.
If you are interested in advertising yourself for private lessons, I’ve use this website at the beginning of every year. Write your bio in Spanish!
3. Limit your nights out
Living in the capital of Spain’s wine country, there’s the great advantage of amazing prices for good quality wine. This is one thing I worry I will struggle to adjust to when I go back home. Maybe by the time I make it back a bar will have glasses of wine for 80 cents?
However, when you go out, the cost of copas can quickly add up. Going out is good for bonding with other native teachers, but we are choosy about when we will go out. Maybe that means your priorities are different from others, so do what feels right for you during your time in Spain!
The take-away from that is that while I have had few experiences at the all-night Spanish clubs, I can still have a good time. The first couple of months here, I felt like I was seriously missing out on making Spanish friends and an aspect of life in Logroño. To alleviate that problem, I met a few different people through intercambios. Sometimes I meet them for coffee, sometimes I’m treated to dinner at their house, and sometimes we just go for walks. This way I get to learn about Logroño, Spanish people in general, and practice the language. Personally, I think it’s much easier to make friends when you’re both vulnerable trying not to embarrass yourself in a second language than being at a club surround by another’s group of friends.
The most typical social event in Logroño is going for pinchos on Calle Laurel, arguably the most popular street in Logroño for wine and food. Walking past it every day, it’s hard to resist eating out every night. I have a coworker who says he loves Calle Laurel, but it’s very expensive. That’s because when he “goes out” there he spend an average of 40€ just for himself! If I did that, I’d be broke in a hurry. Calle Laurel is so fun. On the weekends every one and their mom is out enjoying the food, atmosphere, and live music. I’m not going to deprive myself, so I go and enjoy two or three pinchos, but not more.
4. Accept that you can’t eat the same
My memory of grocery shopping in the United States is a bit hazy, but I’m pretty sure that vegetables here in Logroño are insanely cheap. The large, fresh produce market is right down the street from my apartment. Eating more produce and simple meals (i.e. chicken fillets, pasta) rather than trying to re-create my favorite meals I enjoyed in the US with different ingredients has helped my wallet. Plus, it isn’t frustrating. Do you really need that 6€ bottle of maple syrup to top your mediocre pancakes?
Also, I have a problem of always wanting something sweet to eat after every meal. I handle this by popping a piece of gum, sliced apples with Carrefour brand Nutella, or a couple scoops out of a tub of chocolate ice cream. When we first arrived, Jay and I usually alleviated the stress of those first couple weeks with ice cream on Calle Portales. We got the smallest cups and it totaled 5€ each time. Last week, I found a tub of ice cream at Carrefour for under 2€.
5. Find a roommate or the most basic of apartments
Shared living is the way to go as an auxiliar in Spain (for way more reasons than just saving money). In our last apartment, Jay and I would split 500€ each month for our rent. This is pretty equal to my rent for the house I lived in during my senior year of college, for example, but it’s on the pricier side of living here in Logroño. However, I loved the location and having guests in our spacious, historic apartment.
However, this past February we moved into a different, far cheaper apartment. It’s still in the city center, still two bedroom and one bath, but now we split 350€. That, my friends, is it’s own kind of upgrade. We no longer live backed up to the famous Calle Laurel, but this apartment is much more simple, functioning, and all that we need. I wish we would have been here from the beginning.
That’s an important part of focusing on saving money for travel, as well as simplifying your life in general. Don’t carry more than you need.
6. Track your progress
I put extra money into a jar and display it right by the door to see each day when I come home. It’s nice to see it fill up, and disheartening to have to take money out for unexpected expenses, but it goes both ways. If you have a goal and remind yourself of it each and very day, you will be more motivated to achieve it. As far as saving money for travel is concerned, you’ll only achieve it if you make it your priority. It shapes how you live and spend.
These are my basic monthly expenses in Logroño:
Rent: 175€/month (half of 350€)
Cell phone plan: 9€/month
Utilities (electric, gas): <100€/2months <em>Water is paid each 6 months.</em>
Bus ride (urbano): <a href=”http://transporteurbano.logro-o.org/v_portal/apartados/apartado.asp?te=21″>0,72€</a>
Pincho + <em>copa de vino</em>: 3,25€
Do you agree? What are your tips to save money for travel? Questions about the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program?