Part IV: Prices of the CrisisThis is a follow up post on the series “The Crisis in Spain: By a Taxpaying Expat”. Previous content: Part I: Introduction and Something Part II: Crisis and Entrepreneurship Part III: Working on a Regular Day Job
I come from Costa Rica, a Central American and underdeveloped country.
And as surprising as it might be, prices over there are not quite different from certain things in Europe. I speak as for prices in Barcelona, where I have been living for the last three and a half years. I managed to get a job while the crisis was just starting to explode, when it was barely getting to feel obvious how cuts would affect us all. Luckily, I found a job in the first place!
Let me explain in a few lines how prices are around here and how I have noticed the difference compared to my first months in 2010, involving all life/social matters regarding salary, food, bills, and more. I am not an economist but a physician, so this post is just a simple but true analysis on prices in Spain within the so well-known crisis between 2010 and 2013.
Barcelona is probably not the cheapest place to live in Spain but prices have changed. When we first arrived we went on a flat search for about a week, when we found one place that suited all our needs and one where the owners did not ask for an impossible listing of requirements as they usually did. It was a realistic price for a couple of students coming from a tiny tropical and Central American country in order to study for a while.
In January 2010, €625 was the price for a 40 m2 flat, with just two windows in the entire place, none on the toilet, and almost no natural light getting in during the whole day. It was located in a nice neighborhood, close to down town, not so close to metro stations but who cared back then. We were simply amazed. Besides, it was going to be our first newlywed flat ever! The one who will give us our first home. We lived there for two and a half years, until we decided we were going to stay longer and a larger flat would be better for us.
Flat searching began again…over an important surprise: prices had dropped down quite a bit since we got here. After a while, we found a new place, larger, fresher and brighter. Perfect! In June 2012, €700 was the price for a super well located 2-bedroom flat, near the Sagrada Familia, metro stations, park and green areas, plenty of supermarkets, drugstores, schools and more. It was aprox. 60-65 m2, with huge windows all over the place and in every room, giving excessively perfect air flow, which we really wanted. Not to mention two cute comfortable balconies! This was definitely a great deal in this city, a flat that would normally cost almost €900. Crisis had prices dropped down and it was good news to us. So we took it! And here we are.
And not only rentals went down. In case you are wondering, buying a flat these days is the best deal in decades within the country! A comfortable flat like the one we are living in would have been priced in more than €300.000 a few years ago. And now, prices like this (and any others) have come down to almost €150.000…half price! For a nice place in Barcelona? I wish I had this kind of money now! Not even in Costa Rica I would dream of finding a place on the city (which is not great at all as Barcelona) over these prices.
So the time to buy a flat is now!
Regular price at the supermarket for a monthly buy for two people usually goes between €150-200.
Not counting those times when you eat at a restaurant or similar. Prices have been almost the same since we arrived. But the generic brands have taken the aisles without doubt. Same products, without a known brand but the supermarket’s brand over a significant lower price.
A regular menu when eating at a restaurant ranges between €9-11, for the whole meal including drink and dessert. Of course you can get cheaper prices on other regions in Spain, but as for Barcelona, these are the regular and common prices since the Euro kicked in.
This has been for sure a win-win situation for everyone, employed or not. People values the price more than the quality now, and it is easy to listen people talking and comparing all of these products while walking along with your grocery car. Listening the crisis as it speaks. Yes, we have saved some euros buying this way and we rather do so, because you never know. And this is the new way of thinking. Plus, fuck brands over higher prices…non sense. Who cares?
Drinks and Night Life
While a beautiful and fancy cocktail used to cost between €8-10 back in 2010, you can now breath deeply when wanting to go out on a party night. Moijitos at €3-4 everywhere! And regular cocktails between €5-8. Not bad at all, right? Yes, night life has been touched too by the crisis in Spain.
Who doesn’t need a good night out with friends every once in a while? Well, we all do and no matter what, we usually pay the price. But bars and night businesses had to adapt as well. People are not willing to pay more than they consider they should for a night out, even if that means buying beer from a paki at the Ramblas, 1 beer/€1-2. We all need to have peace of mind until the end of the month so going out at night on a budget is a must. But bars are still there, so adaptation seems to work. So another win-win relationship out there thanks to the recession in Spain.
Probably one of the few things going up instead of down.
In Barcelona, a 10-trip metro/bus/tram ticket used to cost €8 in January 2010, and now, it is at €10. The cost of having and actually using a car, in case you own one here, is way higher than just using public transport, which happens to be quite efficient and neat in this city, regardless of what many locals might think. As a local, you always see things at home in a different way as any other users, right?
This has forced people to leave cars at the parking lot and go out for a good dose of public contact, aromas and sounds. As in many other cities around Europe and the world, there is also the public biking system, for €50 per year. Healthy and on a budget, so why not!
Despite all this, public transport is still a very good option in my opinion. They are certainly making a better service constantly for all users, which deserves the small amount of rise in prices, as you really see it being well used out there. Is all positive in the end.
Bills at Home
Somehow steady all these years as I can think of it now and then. Monthly costs in Barcelona for water, electricity and internet services go around these prices I am about to mention, and they haven’t really changed. Affordable so far.
Electricity €40-60/month – depending on summer or winter: electric heating system or fans.
Internet: €30-40/month including a phone number at home.
Gas: No idea as I haven’t been a user since arrival. Been on electric devices all the time.
Health and Exercise
Fortunately, Europe is quite friendly on this matter and gyms are not needed many times (only if you are strongly disciplined, if you have a particular need or if you simply are a gym person).
Gyms have found a way throughout the crisis, and this is: “low cost” prices! While you probably had to pay €80-100/monthly for gym access in older times, you can now get as low as €20/monthly in well-known gyms, with quality infrastructure and equipment. Gyms where service and cleanliness are quite neat, not cheap. Definitely affordable and worth a try!
Being healthy despite the crisis is completely possible.
And it is definitely a good thing how all kinds of businesses have adapted their needs within customers needs. Because that is what rules everything nowadays.
Clothing and Shopping
Barcelona is way out of my league as a shopping destination if I was living in Costa Rica. But it is definitely one great and constant deal while living here or nearby. I have never seen such low prices on clothing as I have seen around the continent.
Since January 2010, sales have increased and it seems to me like streets are always on SALE! And that is how you know the real costs of clothing (again, fuck brands which make people think it is all status-related). Of course I am not talking about famous designers, which are still on high prices (but with huge window sales too!). Those are out of my range and I wouldn’t buy there anyways. You can see the fancy Louis Vuitton’s windows with huge and flashy SALE signs!
So, wether you are into expensive brands or not, Barcelona has a good selection for everyone. Thank you crisis for letting us dress nicely over such low prices! Stores are always open and filled with people, making transactions here and there.
Crisis is here but we still buy new stuff every season. Crisis? Hmm…Okay. Maybe we just need to release some stress and drop it at the cashier every once in a while.
The real transaction here and now, is not only about the money.
When having a regular workplace , on a job with a schedule, you definitely can be able enjoy the benefits of having extra payments, social security coverage, insurance plans, maternity hours and many others depending on your country and its own regulations.
It is quite good and safe right? What you NEVER expect is to be taken any of these benefits at some point and without being able to fight for it.
Well, the crisis in Spain has shown me (and us all) a significant cut off from our monthly paychecks. In 2010 a full time job in the health industry such as nurses, social workers and physiotherapists would pay around €1500 (gross/without deductions salary), while nowadays it has come to €1100 aprox. Significant money as for paying bills and making the monthly groceries. Can you imagine how this could count when having children at home?
Now you can sense the stress, right? …sadly.
Travel (Of Course)
Certainly one great issue for all of us! Travel has found a deep decrease in prices most of the times, except during summer of course. And yet, you can still find good deals during this time of the year.
If travel was never in your plans, despite living the crisis, you might want to reconsider and just hit the road one time. Low cost flights in Europe are letting people move all over the place. Prices are not low but super low!
The same happens with accommodation everywhere. There is no need now to pay expensive hotel rooms if you don’t want to or if you can’t afford it. Alternative options have appeared in order for travelers to save some money and still be able to visit a city without being on the last corner where it’s dangerous, uncomfortable or expensive to get there.
People have found out how this is a good option both for owners and travellers, gaining/saving some extra money while relaxing from the daily routine. And this is not only regarding sleep time but also transportation, food and more.
So despite the crisis, prices have been fluctuating in balanced directions. Business owners have been looking for ways to provide a positive relation for everyone and business users look for suitable and affordable options regarding almost everything. Some people have become entrepreneurial, some people have stood on the steady side under the commands from a boss, some people have been removed from their position, some are receiving government’s economical aid.
But in the very end, we all are simply living, eating, trying to relax and free our minds every once in a while.
Because with or without the crisis, the show must go on.
I would love to read your comments on how the crisis has touched and affected the place where you live in. Are prices similar in your city? Are you sensing it too? Or are you still on the safe side? All opinions are important and welcome. Let us know how is your city doing. Who knows, we might end up moving away!
Follow the entire series:
Part IV: Prices of the Crisis (The one you are reading right now)