Sunday, January 26, 2014

Living On a Budget: Auxiliar Style

A lovely day in Madrid to talk budgets.
I've had a lot of people back home, as well as people interested in teaching abroad in Spain, wonder how I'm able to live abroad and make ends meet.  Many who are not in the program have wondered if I get paid on time, how much I spend per month, and if the money I make is sufficient to live abroad in Spain.

In the Auxiliares government program you get paid  based on the location you work.  In Madrid you work 16 hours per week and make 1000€, while in the rest of Spain you work only 12 hours per week and make 700€.    As the capital, and largest city in Spain, Madrid is one of the most expensive cities to live here and with the Auxiliares you make more money to cover the extra living costs.

Though many may not believe it, in this program you can make more than enough money to live comfortably in Spain.  Especially if you find any of the abundant Private English classes.

To help give you an idea of how I live on my budget abroad, here's a breakdown of my monthly expenses:


My school isn't in the center of Madrid where I live, instead it's a city just outside of the city limits so I have to buy a monthly Abono/Transportation pass.  You can buy these Madrid monthly abonos in based on what zone you need to travel between (A, B1, B2, B3, C1, C2, E1, E2) and your age: Joven, Normal, and Tercera Edad. Because my school is in the B1 zone I buy the monthly B1 Abono, and unfortunately (for me) because I'm over 23 I have to buy the Normal B1 abono.  The card costs me 63.70€ a month but covers any (trains, metro, or bus) travel in zones A and B1.


As I said before, I live in the center of Madrid.  And when I say center, I mean center, as in three minutes from Puerta del Sol.  My boyfriend and I share a one bedroom apartment together, and obviously the rent and utilities that come with it.  Since it's only a one bedroom apartment it's very cheap for us: 280€ (for each of us) per month for just the rent.As for utilities, we don't pay for our water only for electricity and internet.

For internet and phone we each pay 17€, but this also includes a few hours of international calling to the USA per month.  [Hear that stateside friends!].  And for electricity it depends on the month and the amount we use.  In September and October it was around 11€ for each of us per month, in November and December it was closer to 25€ for each of us per month, and now that the cost of electricity has risen starting this month...we shall see...

Point being that my cost for housing in Madrid's center has ranged monthly from 308-322€.  Definitely not too shabby for living in the Country's capital.


Groceries in this household depends a lot on how much my boyfriend feels like eating in a sitting, which is usually a lot more than I do!  We still split all food costs 50/50 and usually the monthly cost is 300€ for the two of us, so around 150€ each one.  If you're wondering what grocery stores that we shop at, we generally go to the Hipercor of Cortes Ingles (which I've found far less expensive than everyone claims it to be) though sometimes I also go to the Ahorra Mas across the street from my school, or the Carrefour Express that's also near our apartment.
How can you not love the fresh food in Spain? source


In Spain this doesn't have to be you! source
Paying for my cell phone here is so cheap that it's something I rarely think (and never worry) about it.  The thing about cell phone service in Spain compared to the USA is that purchasing the actual phone is generally much more expensive (even with a contract and you don't get free upgrades!) but the plans are usually way cheaper.

The cheapest unlocked smartphone I could find was 79€ but my monthly plan with Tuenti is only 10.89€ (now changing to 10.75€!).  I chose Tuenti because of this plan of 1GB of data and 75 minutes of calls per month, so far I haven't gone over either since being here since September.  The only thing is that when I pay monthly on my account they only accept payments in increments of 5€ so sometimes I only have to pay 10€ while others I pay 15€, so I always budget a full 15€.


Like many other auxiliares in this program I'm a recent College graduate with student loans to pay off.  I didn't want to defer them but also didn't want to have to pay them while I was here, so I saved up enough money to pay for my loans for two years (seriously spent all last year saving) to prepare for if I was renewing.  In case I do want to stay in Spain for a third year, I have been saving 80€ a month that is for my loans to be transfered to my American bank account at some point this year.
Save those euros! source

General Spending:

This category is for all the general spending in a month, whether it be for: drinks, clothes shopping, having dinner out, or general miscellaneous purchases.  On average per month I spend around 200€ for all of the above, rarely going over my budget.  While Madrid may be more expensive than other cities in Spain, I've found that it's much cheaper to go out here than where I live (beers and wine for 1€, yes please).

You just have to know the different options and know the ofertas, for example: if you like shopping, know when the rebajas (sales) are during the year.  In the current post-Christmas rebajas for only 115€ I've bought a winter coat, a dress, two pairs of jeans, two blouses, and 1 t-shirt.  Score!

For those who want a clearer break-down, these are my monthly costs and the amount I have leftover:
My Average Monthly Income: (1000€ + private lessons)
63.70€ Abono
308-322€ Rent/Utilities
150€ Groceries
15€ Cell Phone
80€ Saving
200€ General Spending
816.70-830.70€ Total Expenses

Every month I clearly have plenty of euros leftover.  This money  is what I've been saving to use for future European travels, like when my Dad is coming to visit me (and Europe for the first time) in April!

If you want advice on any of the above processes like housing, abonos, and phones; read my post:

And for those who what more ideas on budgets in Spain check out these helpful posts:

How does your budget abroad differ from mine?  Do you have any questions about living costs in Spain with the Auxiliares program?


  1. Kudos to you for making loan payments! You will be so glad you're doing so -- I can't say enough how much it helped me get out of student-loan debt quicker.

    And thank you for sharing my post! I write to help others, so you're helping me do just that!

    1. I agree, I think that it's important to try and plan a way to enjoy living abroad here AND paying any student loans. The interest can catch up so quickly, and I just didn't want to be caught later paying way more than I had to.

      And no problem! Your blog and all your advice on being an auxiliar here in Madrid has helped me a lot when I moved here.