Portugal continues to be at the top of best-places-to-retire-abroad lists. This got my attention when I retired three years ago as a midlife woman of 59. I was intrigued by the thought of lowering my living expenses, and the possibility of being able to afford to live on the ocean as a single retiree. The month I spent living in Portugal in 2019 convinced me it’s the country for me to move to in retirement. After returning home, I planned to save money and move to Portugal at 65. But when my house sold unexpectedly late last year, I realized I could move this fall, three years ahead of plan. Each month I will share a Midlife Expat Learning post here as I navigate the complex process of immigrating to Portugal.
Happy holidays! Christmas Eve day marked 12 weeks since I moved to Portugal. Now that I’ve been living in my new home for three months, I’m going to wrap up the Midlife Expat Learning series with:
- a brief peek at Christmas in Portugal
- a quick recap of my spending as a new expat
- a snapshot of food here.
Ho Wow! Christmas in Portugal
I’ve had a wonderful time exploring more of Portugal with friends visiting from Cleveland. They’ve been a joy to host as experienced international travelers and house guests who get it.
In addition to my little beachside village and the nearby town of Lourinha, we visited Lisbon to the south, and then headed north to Costa Nova, Aveiro, Porto, and Coimbra. Portugal’s Christmas markets and displays don’t compare to those in other European cities. I saw little glitz and glam, which I appreciate. Many Portugal towns are conserving energy, opting for minimal lighting displays during limited hours. What a welcome change.
In Lourinha, there were more dinosaurs than people on the streets at night, when simple lighted displays were turned on for a few hours.
Lisbon’s Christmas markets, malls, and squares were alive with holiday spirit.
In Porto, no holiday display can compete with Livraria Lello, billed as the most beautiful bookstore in the world and an inspiration for the Harry Potter series of books.
Coimbra was Portugal’s capital from 1139 to 1256. The city is famous for its university, which was founded in 1290 and is one of the oldest in Europe. Coimbra also features an aqueduct built in 1570, on the site of an ancient Roman aqueduct.
The colorful striped homes of Costa Nova need no holiday lighting.
Aveiro is called the Venice of Portugal, with its canals and gondolas.
Ho What? Spending in Portugal
One of the reasons Portugal is a popular draw for retirees is the low cost of living here. My monthly expenses for housing, food, utilities, transportation, and health insurance total approximately $1,940. I live in a three-bedroom townhouse overlooking the ocean, in a small farming village on the Silver Coast. Living in a larger city is more expensive.
(Note: My expenses for food and utilities are based on a three-month average that reflects hosting houseguests for 21 days. My solo expenses will be lower going forward.)
It’s also important to budget for extras, such as thank-you and holiday gifts for new friends and neighbors. I’ve spent approximately $500 on Christmas gifts, thank-you gifts, and food/drink to show my gratitude to kind people here over the last three months. A small price to pay for such generosity.
I budgeted $3,000 for the initial set-up of my furnished home. This included completely equipping the kitchen; stocking pantry, laundry, and cleaning supplies; buying additional interior furniture and lighting; furnishing two outdoor spaces; and buying bedding, towels, pillows, mattress, electronics, rugs, plants, wall art, and curtains. I also had the existing upholstered sectional sofa professionally cleaned. Because I hosted a visiting friend for two weeks soon after I arrived, my initial set-up expenses were higher and I did go over budget my first month, but the extra purchases would’ve been necessary eventually.
More needs to be done, but for now I’m good with some pictures and plants for a simple, clean aesthetic that reflects my minimalist mindset. Like Portugal’s holiday decorations, less is more.
Ho K! Food in Portugal
Sweets of every shape, size, and type dominate here in Portugal.
Seafood is another prevalent specialty here.
I spend about 260 euros a month at the grocery store, which also sells wine and liquor, and delivers to my door for free with orders of 90 euros or more. I spend approximately 130 euros a month on dining out, which is important to do for socializing.
Moving to another country is a complex process, and information can change quickly without notice. Everyone’s experience can be different. I’m remembering to take it all in stride, stay flexible, prepared, pivot-ready, and positive. Stay tuned. Thank you for reading!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Boas Festas e Feliz Natal. This is the last post for 2022 on The Hot Goddess. Thank you for reading and subscribing all year. I appreciate your support and hope to see you back here in 2023.
Midlife Expat Learning Posts
February: Residency visa requirements
March: Finding housing in Portugal
April: Taxes & money in Portugal
May: World Portuguese Language Day
June: Healthcare in Portugal (postponed). See Cutting expenses to move abroad
July: Voting as an expat
August: Visa application timeline and expenses
September/October: Moving, meeting folks, making friends
November/December: Food, spending, Christmas in Portugal
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