The cost of living in Madrid: How to survive on €1,000 a month

The cost of living in Madrid: How to survive on €1,000 a month
Avoid over priced places popular with tourists such as anywhere in the Plaza Mayor.Photo: AFP
Jake Peterson takes a look at how much it costs to live in the Spanish capital Madrid and reveals it is possible to survive on €1,000 a month.

Congratulations! You're moving to Madrid. You've probably thought about all the places you'll visit, where you'll be living, and what you'll be doing on the weekend.

What do all of these things have in common? They all cost money.

The cost of living is always on the forefront of people's minds. In fact, most businesses factor in a COLA (cost of living adjustment) after every year. Except for Spain, of course. Raises don't really exist here.

READ ALSO: 

One of the questions I see and get asked the most is along the following lines, “How much money do I need to live in Madrid?” or “Is X amount of Euros enough to survive in Madrid?”

As someone who's been here for around seven years and lived in a wide variety of places, from a pueblo to the center to living solo, I want to dive in and tell you how much money you'll need to not only survive but have fun.

Let's get right into it.

The Frustrating Reality

Why not begin this article with a giant caveat? That always makes things interesting, right?

The number one answer to how much money you need for the city of Madrid can be summed up into two simple words: it depends.

It depends greatly on where you're going to live, how much you're going to travel, what your social life is like, how many people you're going to be living with, what you “need” for your regular life, how long your commute is, and roughly 500 other things.

My needs seemed to change every year. One year I lived 45 minutes outside of Madrid, another year I lived by myself, and one year I live in a room so small I could touch both walls by extending my arms out (I'm about 6'4, but still).

So some of you can probably get by with little money. Others of you might need more. Cool.

I'm just going to try and give an overview of what the average person may need to live and enjoy life in Madrid.

Let's start by taking each thing step-by-step in order to break down your money situation.

Where to Live

Your biggest expense, without a doubt, will be your rent.

Now, choosing where to live is entirely up to you, but if you're a first or second-year traveler coming to Madrid, then you're probably going to live in the center (inside the M-30).

While I currently avoid the center and head there maybe once a month, I completely understand those that want to live there. It's close to the action, the nightlife, and transportation hubs.

Those parts of town are usually the first to pop up on your city search. Heck, even Naked Madrid's neighborhood guide only covers the trendy, popular neighborhoods in the center.

These neighborhoods are going to be much more expensive than other neighborhoods you might find outside the M-30. Expect your cost of living to rise significantly.

According to Idealista, you're going to be paying around 18€ per square meter on average to live in the center. Compare that to my neighborhood, Carabanchel, where you pay an average of 12.5€ per square meter.

So, if you live in an 80m² apartment, the average rent cost in the center would be around 1,440 euros as compared to 1000 euros in Carabanchel.

According to a study done by enalquiler, the average cost of renting an entire living area in Madrid is roughly 1289€. If we keep that price, you can divide that by the number of roommates to show how much you'll be paying.

With two roommates, expect to pay around 600. With three, around 400. You get the gist.

However, once again, this all comes with a huge asterisk because it depends on where you choose to live.

Enough Jabbering, Let Me See Real Numbers!

You're right, I haven't been as direct as I should.

Let's say you wanted to spend a maximum of 300€. That seems like it could be enough, right? In the center of Madrid, that gives you 74 options out of a possible 2039 rooms, or 3% (as of August 28th).

In Carabanchel, you have 265 out of a possible 682 rooms, or about 38%.

Looking at some rooms in the center, the options are messy. Here are the top 5 in the order I found them:

  • Shared apartment with 6 people in a room without a closet

  • Shared apartment with 7 people in a room without a window

  • Shared apartment with a family that has to be an experienced French and English teacher

  • Shared apartment with 7 people in a room with a loft bed, no closet, and no window

  • Shared ROOM in a shared apartment with one closet to split between both of you

 


Photo: AFP

All of those sound like HOT garbage. So to live in the center, you're going to need at least 400-600€ for a proper room. You can also forget about living alone.

300€ in Carabanchel, on the other hand, will get you a solid-sized room with a desk, closet, AND window. That way, you can spit at your noisy neighbors when they leave their room.

So it really depends on where you want to live and what your priorities are. If you're fine living outside the center, expect to pay around 300-400€. For those wanting to live in the center, expect to pay more around 400-600€.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 300-600€

Utilities

Oh boy, another one that varies greatly. Are you gonna flush your toilets nine times after using them? Leave the microwave running 24/7? Turn on the heat even when you're not there?

Or will you be the opposite and only work by candlelight? Charge your phone and laptop in cafes? Never shower?

In Spain, just as you've probably guessed, you're going to be paying water, electricity, gas, internet, and sometimes the comunidad. If you're renting, you rarely pay this and it's usually already figured in the price of rent.

La comunidad is essentially your HOA fee. It goes towards maintenance of the building, cleaning, etc.

Electric, gas, and internet are usually paid every month. Water is paid every two months although they sent us our last four water bills at the same time. There is no rhyme or reason to that bill.

The last fee, la comunidad, varies greatly. Sometimes it's paid every month, other times every two months, or every three.

Since these vary so greatly, I'm going to try and breakdown how much my utilities were each month in different situations:

  • Living outside of Madrid in a five-room apartment with one other person

    • Around 60 euros a month

  • Living in Arguelles in a three-room apartment with two other people (the internet and water were included)

    • Around 40 a month

  • Living solo in Tetuan

    • Around 60 a month

  • Living in Carabanchel with one other person

    • Around 60 a month

That being said, these could easily fluctuate depending on your living situation. But these amounts are around the norm.

While you'll be lucky to find AC, heat is pretty common. This also varies greatly, as some buildings have central heat that you have no control over. Other apartments have their own individual heating unit. Expect to pay more in the winter months.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 40-75€

Food

food in spain
Photo by Jake Peterson

Who doesn't love FOOD?

One of the best parts of Spain is that when it comes to food, your meals are pretty darn cheap here. For this next part, I'm going to use some data from Expatistan and my own recent grocery bill.

  • One Dozen eggs-1.29€

  • Half a pound of chicken-3.50€

  • One bottle of wine-7€

  • Loaf of bread-.49€

  • 2 liters of Coca-Cola-1.59€

  • Large pack of peanuts-.85€

It is extremely easy to get by spending less than 40€ per week on food. Going to the grocery store is not going to bump up your cost of living by much.

FINAL ESTIMATE-160€

Transportation

You probably won't have a car or scooter upon arrival (although scooters are hella fun) so you're going to be using public transportation to get around.

Ranked in order of entertaining passengers, you have:

  • The Metro

  • Cercanias (regional trains)

  • Buses

  • The Metro Ligero (above ground Metro only available in some parts of Madrid)

One ticket will cost you 1.50 euros and a 10-pass ticket will cost you 12.20. The best bet is to go with a monthly pass, called an abono, or go for the real investment and get an annual pass!

Here is the price breakdown of a monthly pass:

The joven (whippersnapper) pass goes up the age of 26, so congratulations to you if you're that young. Tercera edad is for those over the age of 65.

There are also monthly passes for those who will never come into the center. Here is the breakdown:

For details and more information on the abono, you can go to this mess of a website.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 55-90€

Social Activities


Photo by Jake Peterson

Talk about a broad category, right?

This could go from grabbing drinks with friends, signing up for a basketball league, going swimming, heading to a museum, etc.

Overall, you'll find that social activities from eating out to clubbing to seeing a movie to heading to a social event are much cheaper than what you're accustomed to.

I mean, they give you food with each drink you order

To give you an idea of prices, let's take an overall look at everything.

  • Fast food meal-8€

  • Small beer-1.50€

  • Large beer-3€

  • Cocktail (regular bar)-5€

  • Cocktail (nice bar)-8€

  • Fancy dinner out-50€

  • Movie ticket-9.20€

What you spend here is completely up to you, so I'm not going to put an estimate on this one. If you want to go on a bender seven days in a row, be my guest. Or if you wanna go watch the same movie 10 times in one week, feel free to.

FINAL ESTIMATE-WHATEVER, COULD BE 50-500€

Miscellaneous Costs

For just about everything else random I can think of, let's go through some other common purchases you may be making.

The Gym

Gyms here are pretty affordable and you're likely to find a number of various gyms in your neighborhood. They vary from “specialty” gyms like yoga, Pilates, martial arts, boxing, etc. to your regular old gyms with treadmills and weights.

Gyms can range in cost from 15€ a month all the way up to 70€ a month. Once again, this depends on a few things.

Are you buying a yearly pass or just paying monthly? Do you want access to all gyms or just one gym? Do you want access to all the classes?

Those that buy a yearly pass will receive a bigger discount. Holiday Gym, one of the more posh gyms around, charges you 59€ per month if you pay monthly as compared to just 30€ if you pay for the whole year.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 15-70€

Health Insurance

If you're coming to Spain, you probably know that Spain has a public healthcare system. Registering is pretty easy and it's a relief to see no bill after a routine doctor's visit.

Private healthcare is available and I've used it plenty of times. It covers everything public healthcare covers and more, like physical therapy, dental, rehab, and a few other random services.

By no means is it necessary, but if you're a regular athlete it might be worth getting. As an example, I sprained my ankle really badly four years ago and had to go to 12 physical therapy sessions. Without insurance, that would have cost me around 400€.

Determining an average price is hard, however, because some run anywhere between 16€ a month and 200€ a month. A “decent” plan runs you about 45€ per month.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 30-50€

Phone Plan

In this day and age, it’s impossible to survive without a smartphone. Just having one won’t do you any good if you don’t have a phone plan.

The great news is that phone plans here are so incredibly cheap. It might take you a while to find a SIM card that works with your phone (might want to check out this site first), but you’re not going to be breaking the bank here.

In my first year, I paid 20€ a month for 1GB of data and 100 minutes of calls. Turns out I was vastly overpaying.

My current plan, with Yoigo, I pay just 8.26€ each month for 2GB of data and 50 minutes (which I never use anyway because I just call everyone on WhatsApp). 

You can easily find a plan for as little as 8€ a month (or even cheaper). Plus, some internet companies will give you a package deal if you sign up for your mobile service and internet altogether.

FINAL ESTIMATE: 8-20€

So, How Much Money Do I Need to Live in Madrid?

Returning back to the age-old question. Just how much money do you need? Is 1000€ enough to survive? Is 1200€ good?

Category

Frugal Living

The Middle Ground

The Other End

Rent

300

450

550

Utilities

45

50

60

Transportation

55

55

55

Food

120

160

200

Social Life

100

150

200

Misc.

50

100

150

Total

670

965

1215

Now, these numbers, just like this whole article, come with a huge caveat. Not only do expenses largely depend on you, but I didn't calculate travel, random purchases, or unexpected expenses.

What if your phone gets stolen? What if you want to buy supplies for your private lessons? What about an impromptu trip to Lisbon?

However, the main question here is about survival. How much do you need to survive?

Personally, I was surviving in Madrid at one point making around 900€ each month. But, I didn't go out all the time and many nights were spent at home playing video games. The nights I did go out I often wouldn't order anything. I only took two trips that year, one that had been paid for 6 months in advance.

That's why I think, in order to comfortably live in Madrid and enjoy your time here, you need to be bringing in at least 1000€ each month. If you want to live a bit more than comfortable, then you should plan to make around 1200€ each month.

So what does this mean if you’re an auxiliar? Many auxes earn over 1000€ and probably feel a bit more confident. But if you’re an auxiliar that’s making just 750-1000€ a month, you might be panicking. While I’m here to tell you that there’s no need to panic so stop running in circles screaming, please.

Photo: AFP

 

The vast majority of auxiliars make extra money by teaching private classes. Just scan any Facebook group or online forum long enough and you’re bound to find plenty of people looking for one-on-one English classes. It’s very likely that people at your school will also come up and ask about classes or refer you to parents looking for classes. There are also plenty of online options as well that pay plenty.

One hour of private classes generally run between 15-25€ and doing a handful of those each week will give you plenty of extra cash. Personally, I always used that extra cash for things I had to buy every week like groceries. It was my “keep myself away from my bank account” money.

Let’s go back to what your options are. Now, the first choice above does mean you're going to have to make some sacrifices here and there. You may not be able to everything you want when you want. Spend a weekend home instead of traveling. Cook at home more often.

Or the biggest one: live outside the center. Believe it or not, Arguelles, Moncloa, Chamberi, etc. are still the center.

Why not live a bit outside the center? Sure, public transportation may take a bit longer and the night bus home is annoying, but it's definitely going to save you a lot of money. In my opinion, it's the way to get the best out of both worlds: don't feel like you're hurting at the end of every month and have a great year or two here.

Once again, this all depends on what you want to do and what you think is most important to your time here.

But whatever you choose, Madrid has plenty to offer. You might have to make some sacrifices here and there but it's almost impossible to have a bad year. Unless you get gored by a bull.

Jake Peterson is an avid traveler, writer, and SEO specialist. Since moving to Madrid seven years ago, he’s traveled to almost every continent and eaten way too much Spanish ham. While living in Madrid, he has worked remotely for companies in Asia, Europe, and North America. When he’s not traveling or working, he’s either playing basketball, dreaming about his next PC build, or taking care of his newborn daughter.

For more of his writing check out his blog at The United States of Spain and follow his page on Facebook.

Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.