The reasons why people choose to move to Spain are manifold, but the promise of living cheaper is certainly one of them. Many, however, get a shock when they arrive on Mallorca and discover not everything is as inexpensive as they might have hoped…
Looking to leave the UK four years ago, we were seduced by the sunny climes of the island, its buzzing capital, and what we assumed would be a life lighter on the pocket. We soon upped sticks and settled into our palatial apartment right in the centre of historic Palma, for substantially less that our ‘cosy’ one-bedroom in the London ‘burbs. Arriving with a small child, it turned out nursery costs, too, were a snip in comparison to the eye-watering fees you would pay at home. Working remotely for pounds sterling with a favourable exchange rate (this was pre-Brexit vote) also meant pay went further. Everything seemed rosy.
Soon, however, the economic reality began to creep in. Gas and electric bills were inexplicably high, health insurance was required for the whole family (while still non-residents), and even groceries, too, seemed to offer little or no saving on what we were used to. Our hopes of ‘living cheaper’ here were dashed.
Add the fact that rental prices have shot up here in recent years, and it all starts looking less of a bargain. But it shouldn’t really be a surprise. For one, being an island means almost everything has to be imported by sea or air. Secondly, it’s historically a destination that has attracted those with plenty of disposable income, so that inevitably pushes up prices in some areas – especially in the real estate sector. Tourism can also play its part, with obvious costs such as car hire and plane tickets soaring over the summer season.
However, you can learn ways to mitigate these, or even turn some of them to an advantage. Getting residency was an obvious (and legally required) step, meaning free access to the island’s excellent public healthcare. Get yourself a certificate of ‘empadronamiento’ and you can qualify for a hefty discount on all travel around Spanish territories. And, while renting a car is pricey when demand is high, off-season you can snag a deal for under a euro a day. When food shopping, keeping a close eye on seasonal market produce, too, can make a surprising difference to your grocery bill – as well as help save the planet, of course.
Ultimately, though, it comes down to the quality of life that Mallorca can offer. Beaches and forests, clean air and sunshine; these are priceless in both senses of the word, and we happily all have equal rights to them – irrespective of the depth of our pockets.
Photos by Sara Savage