What Does it Cost?
It all depends...
When someone asks me what it costs to live in Portugal, my response is about 25% less than it did in the States. I could tell you exactly how much we spend each month…Denise is keeping a spreadsheet. But of course, it depends on the choices one makes. If you went out to dinner 4 nights a week at home…you will likely do that here. If you enjoyed live theater and concerts…you will buy such tickets here. If you rent in Cascais or Lisbon you will spend 3-4 times more on rent than if you rented in Estremoz…it is like comparing Southern California to Oklahoma. However, there are some generalizations that may be helpful to share.
Over the past five months, we have spent an average of 501€/month on groceries which includes beer and wine (that’s $611.72 for those in the US, $739 if you live in Canada, and 433-pound sterling). This is considerably less than we spent in the states. While we didn’t keep detailed spreadsheets as we do here, we estimate we were spending about $800/month just on food when living in the U.S. When you add wine and beer we were likely over $1000/month.
As 90% of our diet is plant-based the savings is perhaps more because we buy nearly all our fruits and vegetables at the Mercado da Vila. There are many weeks when our entire fruits and vegetable spend at the Mercado is only 30€. We also buy bread and pastries at the Mercado…we spend a lot more on bread and pastries here than we did in the States. It isn’t that it is expensive…it is just that we eat much more of it here.
Permit me to point out two items that are considerably more expensive than in the States. The first is sunscreen. Denise is very skin conscious, using 50SPF on her face and body every day. In the U.S., she was able to buy sunscreen for about $5. Here the same size bottle is 18€.
And if you are bringing a dog to Portugal, you’ll find that dog food and treats are more expensive here than in the States. We always bought Onix a premium (not crazy premium like Freshpet, but better than Purina) in the States. We can’t find the same brand here, but a small 2kg bag of “good” dog food is about 25% more expensive.
Speaking of dogs, we noticed blood in Onix’s urine last week. After collecting a urine sample we took her to the vet. There are crystals in her urine. This means a special diet for at least 60 days. In case you are wondering, vet visits are less expensive than in the States. Our visit to the vet this week costs 89€ (28€ for the office visit, 17€ for the urinalysis which was sent to a lab, and 44€ for a 3 month supply of Heartworm/Flea and Tick Medication). Not a surprise, the most expensive part of the visit was the heartworm medication.
Our vet is just one example of the lower cost of services here in Portugal. Here are a few others:
Our dog walker charges 10€ for one hour;
Our overnight, stay in our home, dog sitter charges 20€ a day;
Our housekeeper charges 8€ an hour…she comes every week and works from 09h00-noon for only 24€ a visit and since she loves Onix, she walks her before she leaves;
We hired an attorney to review a lease…25€; and finally
A friend recently had their 15-year-old Audi in the shop for 7 days. They did quite a bit of work including replacing the timing belt. As the list of repairs mounted we all tried to guess what the final bill would be. I was in the “pool” at 2000€…but the final tally was 800€. This included the owner of the shop lending his car to my friend for a day so she didn’t have to cancel the day trip she had planned. Ya got to love the Portuguese!
If you are a regular reader you know that today we do not own a car. I must admit, I like not owning a depreciating asset that is not used 90% of the time! We use our feet or public transportation for most trips. We use our electric bikes to travel back and forth to the golf course and we use car-sharing services such as Uber or Bolt when it is more convenient or we have a lot of bags to carry. On average we spend about 22€ a month on car-sharing services.
We have rented a car for out of town trips like our recent trip to Évora. We used about half a tank of gas on the trip. The cost to fill the tank before returning to the rental car agency was 45,86€. We traveled approximately 350km…or 217 miles during this trip. Yes, gas is expensive in Europe…about $6.90/gallon where we are. The Portuguese highways are first-rate and lightly traveled. Perhaps because of the tolls…on this trip, the tolls totaled 22€ for the roundtrip.
Our monthly Viver Lisboa cards cost 20€ each/month since as seniors we get a 50% discount. The card covers trains, buses, trams, metro, and ferries over a wide area…adequate for any sightseeing day trip as well as our daily needs. On a less positive note, we headed to the Cascais train station last Wednesday. We had planned to meet a friend in Belém to tour the museums we missed on our last visit. We found unusually large crowds. We then heard the announcement in Portuguese and English that service was disrupted due to a worker’s strike. I quickly looked online and found 90% of the trains were out of service. An Uber would have cost about 22€ each way…so we canceled our plans. [Update: we went to the train station the next day just to see if service was still disrupted. After a 2 day strike, service was back to normal.]
When I was renting the aforementioned car I struck up a conversation with another American that had been living in Cascais since arriving 18 months ago. He and his wife don’t own a car either. Like us, they rely on public transit, car-sharing, and the occasional car rental. The jury is still out for us on car ownership. I must admit I was a bit annoyed last week when I couldn’t go to Belém as planned. I never lived without a car before. The lack of freedom was a bit jarring to my American senses. I guess I am not as Portuguese as I thought.