Budgeting in Spain

The cost of living is much cheaper in Spain, but the salaries are also much lower. How do I budget? What should I expect to spend and save?

TL;DR Budgeting in Madrid

Just like the U.S, some places in Spain are more expensive than others. Madrid is one of the most expensive cities in Spain, so if you live elsewhere, expect similar or lower costs. This is a full budget for myself in Madrid. The most expensive part of your budget will be rent.

Rent – Renting an apartment in Spain can be tricky. First of all, some landlords might require a NIE (identification number) to rent. They also may ask for a bank transfer to pay your initial rent + deposit + additional fees.

This can make things difficult for auxiliaries because not all consulates provide a NIE with your visa. This will come later when you get your TIE (which requires you to have a permanent address to complete). It can also be difficult to open a Spanish bank account because many banks also require you to have a permanent address. It’s a bit it of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

For those that do not have a NIE, unfortunately, you will have to keep searching for a landlord that will accept you with just your passport and Carta de Nombramiento. You can also look for roommate openings and find permanent housing that way.

Apartments, Temporary Stay, and WIFI

For the banking situation, you have 3 options. These options are explained in the link below:

Getting a Spanish Bank Account + First Day Finances

There is another issue with renting in Spain. Many landlords use an agency to manage renting out their property. Instead of communicating issues with the landlord, you will message the agency… which will contact the landlord on your behalf. For this amazing service, you will pay a one time agency fee along with your security deposit and first month’s rent. In total, this will cost three times your monthly rent.

Along with utilities, you might also be required to pay a “community fee”. The fee will be added to your monthly rent to pay for maintenance of shared community space such as pools, patios, and park areas. It is a good idea to ask about your payment obligations when you rent. Sometimes the landlord covers certain utilities and/or the community fee.

Overall, renting in Spain will be much cheaper than renting in the U.S.

Unlike a security deposit, you never get back the agency fee

How I Save Money

Extra Income – I balance my budget by making 150 euros a month with private English lessons. I offer 3 hours of private lessons a week with a family from Madrid.

The student visa from the NALCAP program does not typically provide the right to work in Spain without first getting authorization from the Oficina de Extranjería through a company request. It was difficult for many auxiliaries to get work permission this way, and even then, you were only allowed to work 20 hours a week. For that reason, many auxiliaries provided and continue to provide under the table private lessons.

The TIE (residency card) will indicate if you do not have the legal right to work. “NO AUTORIZA A TRABAJAR”.

There are a few changes for 2022-2023 participants due to a newly announced law during the 2022 NALCAP Webinar. The work authorization will be expanded to 30 hours a week, and in the future it will become easier to convert to a work visa. Additionally, many individuals are automatically receiving the work permission with the student visa TIE.

How to Get Work Permission on a Student Visa in Spain – Guide (if you don’t already have permission)

This is a separate blog that does a great job of explaining the steps in getting your work permission.

“A lot of people have been asking also about supplemental income. I have breaking news today. When you go on a student visa, you’re not allowed to have any other kind of job because you’re a student. As of today, there is a new regulation in Spain that will be in effect, I was told at the end of August, where you will be able to do something up until 30 hours (a week), so you might be able to find some private classes. I’m sure at the school where you go they will be able to help you out with that kind of stuff, so that will help you a little bit because the grant is the grant. It is what it is.

The government of Spain makes a huge effort to provide language assistants for the school system, and it adds up, so it is hard to increase that grant. Now it is perfectly legal to look for private classes to supplement your income while in Spain.”

Source: 2022 NALCAP Webinar

Link to the actual law discussed

From what I’ve read of the law, it appears that the main change for auxiliary teachers with student visas is the work hour permissions. It also includes sections that help facilitate the change from a student visa to a work visa in the future along with small changes that help improve the work authorization process for many foreigners.

What this means to you, though, is that employers, such as English academies, will be more likely to provide work authorization for people on a student visa due to the greater flexibility in work hours. Remember, your position will be taxed unlike the stipend provided through the auxiliary program.

Private, Under-the-Table Lessons

Many auxiliaries take under-the-table payments.

Those that are unable to find an employer willing to provide work authorization typically provide private tutoring lessons. It is common and well known by the schools involved in the program. In fact, both schools I’ve worked with have offered me private lesson opportunities.

Individuals working and providing private English lessons without work authorization always work under the table only using cash. They are unable to pay Spanish taxes on their income because they legally don’t have the right to work outside of the program.

They are able to find private lessons by using the following common advice:

  • Get in contact with the teachers in your school. Usually they will have connections and can help you out.
  • Get in contact with other auxiliaries. Many auxiliaries are in contact with English academies, and there is always a lack of English teachers to go around. When auxiliaries offer lessons, they often get asked by the academy and the students they work with if they know any native teachers that are available to teach. Most are unable to meet demand.
  • Contact local English academies. Especially now with the changes to work permissions as an auxiliary, it is a great opportunity to directly get in touch with local English academies to set up lessons. Many academies provide under the table private lessons too, even if they are unwilling to go through the work permission process.
  • Join a regional auxiliary Facebook page. Throughout the year, people post private lesson opportunities online.
Many people can find opportunities through regional auxiliary Facebook pages.

(I do not *officially* recommend anyone pursue private, under the table English lessons.)

Cheap Transportation Cost – I use the Tarjeta Joven de Transporte in Madrid. It is a public transit card for people under the age of 26 in Madrid. With this card, you pay 20 euros a month to take unlimited bus, train, or subway trips within the region of Madrid. This includes more than just the city of Madrid, and many regions have their own Tarjeta Joven de Transporte. Take advantage of this! If you are over the qualifying age in your region, there are other comparable deals.

Unlimited public transit for 20 euros a month. What a bargain!

Extra Expenses – Travelling and experiencing all that Europe has to offer will add to your monthly expenses, but it is completely worth it. When living in Europe, you are able to travel cheaply between culturally and geographically distinct regions. I highly recommend you take advantage of your time in Spain to explore and create memories. I typically travel between Spanish regions using Renfe and my youth discount. A trip there and back will cost around 100 euros total. It’s great to save money and stay within budget, but make sure to create some memories too.

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