Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Living the dream - on 1000 euros per month?

Yesterday happened to be a nice day. The sun came out and it was fairly warm. Suddenly, as if by magic, out came all the tables and chairs onto the pavements. Flowers appeared in vases in the windows, birds were chirping away in the trees and everyone seemed to be smiling.

A lot of women decided to declare an end to spring and had their summer togs on, though oddly most of the men seemed to still be hedging their bets and were still wrapped up. I suspect there is something very significant in that difference although I can’t see it (I’m sure every female reader is now screaming at this point “It’s easy - men are all wimps” or the equivalent).

Certainly there was suddenly that ‘continental atmosphere’ around – that thing that one can rarely if ever find in an English speaking country. Felling pretty good and refreshed, I returned home to pick up some expat news. As always at the moment, it was full of doom, gloom and calamity but one item on British expats living in the Algarve caught my eye.

It was talking about how they have suffered a triple whammy this year. Firstly house prices have declined by around 25%, secondly the decline of Sterling has reduced their income levels in Euros, and thirdly they’ve had the wettest winter for 15 years.

Much of this was well-travelled stuff and nothing new. What did surprise me though was that the article happened to mention that one needs 1000 euros per month to have a modest but OK lifestyle. Well, I guess it depends a lot on how one lives, one’s personal circumstances and what one considers ‘modest’ but if you read the article I would caution against taking this as a fact.

Allow me to climb onto my soapbox for a second. In many parts of Europe there is a widespread quoting of this almost holy figure of 1000 euros per month. I have heard accountants in at least three European countries telling their clients that they should be able to have a reasonable lifestyle on that sort of profit per month (assuming they have no mortgage) and I have seen it mentioned in other articles previously.

My message is – be careful! It doesn’t really matter what EU country you’re living in, 250 euros coming in each week is NOT a lot of money to survive on even if you are mortgage free. You can probably rule it out as pure fantasy if you have children. Even if you do not or your kids have flown the nest, when your washing machine breaks down and the repairman wants 150 euros to fix it, can you pay everything else that week with 100 euros? If you have a car repair bill of 500 euros to pay, do you not eat for the next two weeks? What happens when the car repair bill and the broken down washing machine happen in the same week?

Living the dream is possible and I believe in going for it but it is important to keep a level head. Financial trouble and difficulties in making ends meet are the most commonly cited reasons for expats needing to return ‘home’ permanently. Keep a level head and do your sums before heading off to foreign parts and above all, don’t take as gospel this casually thrown-about figure of 1000 euros per month!

1 comment:

Paula said...

I guess the holy figure is €1000 as that is what many people living in European countries are expected to live on, myself included. I live on €1000 a month in Italy and pay €500 in rent, and I manage... it's just a case of what you consider a modest lifestyle. For me, these wages mean no car, buying clothes at the local market and getting up at 6.30 on a Saturday to go to the farmers market for fresh produce. It means that when I do go out for dinner, I spend no more the 20€ including wine. And it means, unfortunately, going home less often and when I do go, flying Ryanair! Entire families here survive on 1500€, so I'm sure a couple or a single person can too... but it sure as heck means tightening your belt! :)