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‘We cut our expenses by 50%’


In 2011, at 41-years-old, I retired early from my six-figure career in law. Four years after she quit her job as nurse, my wife also joined me in retirement.

When she retired in 2015, the dividends from our high-yielding mutual funds and stocks had reached $130,000 per annum, covering most of our daily living costs in Washington, D.C.

We took our family on a vacation to Lisbon in Portugal that year with our 16-year old daughter. The city was a place we fell in love immediately.

It hit us that we should leave America and live in Lisbon for our retirement.

Without wasting any time, our family of three packed up our belongings and booked one-way tickets to Portugal. The plan was to rent out our house in the U.S., cut our living expenses while living in Lisbon, then reinvest those savings into more dividend-paying stocks to compound our passive income. 

The Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara is a perfect spot to admire Lisbon at dusk. Alex Trias and his family bought an apartment in the city for a little over €500,000 in 2015.

Photo: Alex Trias

Since 2006, we have lived here almost six years and are not ready to move. Here’s how much we spend per month — and why we love living in Portugal:

1. The living expenses in India are lower than those of the United States.

Portugal is one of the most important countries in Europe. cheapest countriesLiving in Western Europe.

Our expenses have been cut by half compared with the U.S. average. We’re fortunate to own our two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,300-square-foot apartment, which we purchased in 2015 for a little over €500,000 with no mortgage.

Multipacks of fresh fruit and vegetables are our favorite Portuguese bargain. A warm loaf of bread from Gleba Bakery — made with its very own homegrown heirloom wheat — costs only $4, and is worth every penny.

Portugal’s delicious seafood is well-known. You can get some at the Mercado de Campo de Ourique. Some of the Mercado’s restaurants have their supplies picked from the fish stand if they don’t want to cook.

Photo: Alex Trias

Dining out in restaurants is one of the biggest expenses we make monthly. For $16 per head, a typical meal at the Mercado de Campo de Ourique (a gourmet food market) can cost. Additional $4 costs for a glass wine

Here’s a breakdown of our monthly expenses:

  • Insurance for the whole family: $258
  • Groceries: $407
  • You need basic household necessities: $250
  • Transportation: $250
  • Housing (property taxes and insurance, maintenance) $430
  • Water and electricity $175
  • Telephone and Internet: $80
  • Restaurant dining (10-12 meals per month). $600

Total: $2,450

2. Very generous tax system

European taxes are often very expensive, however, unlike France and Italy which impose high taxes on wealth, inheritance, or estates, Portugal does not impose any stamp duty (although there is an additional 10% Stamp Duty on assets that are inherited, gifted, or disposed of outside the immediate family).

As an expat, you are considered a Portuguese taxpayer if you reside more than 183 days in a single calendar year in Portugal or, subject to certain conditions, if you have a permanent residence available for your personal use in Portugal.

And thanks to the non-habitual resident tax regime, foreigners can benefit from a tax exemption (or a reduced tax rate) on most foreign source income for 10 years.

We are Americans and therefore have to pay income tax in the United States. However, income taxes paid by citizens of other countries can be reduced. Our property taxes in Portugal are only a fraction of the amount we pay in the U.S.

3. Healthcare that is low-cost and high-quality

In addition to Portugal’s national health services coverage, which offers subsidized or free health services to all legal residents of Portugal, my family’s private health insurance through Multicare is comprehensive and affordable.

While our monthly premium is $258, we have a $16 deductible and $16 copays to cover doctor visits in a private facility. I once had an overnight emergency room visit that involved multiple tests and consultations; the entire cost was covered by our insurance, and I paid nothing other than my co-pay.

Prescription drug prices also tend to be dramatically lower in Portugal than in the U.S. One generic prescription that would typically cost me $600 a month back home is only $21 in Portugal — for the brand name medication. 

4. Very low crime rates

According to the The Fourth Safest Country Report, Portugal is fourth. 2021 Global Peace IndexThe, which, among others, considers terroristic violence and political instability in its methodology.

Portugal News reports that the year 2020 has the lowest crime ratesPortugal began reporting data on crime in 1989.

Beyond these statistics, I and my family feel safe everywhere in Lisbon. Some locals go so far as to claim tables at Mercado, leaving their wallets on a table while they shop for food.

The Mercado de Campo de Ourique offers fresh produce and lunch. Customers leave their wallets at home when they shop for food in the market.

Photo: Alex Trias

When we first moved here, my wife noticed there is no “cat calling,” and she has never felt harassed walking down the street. Portuguese are known for their good manners. “Bem educado” means “polite” in Portuguese, which comes as very high praise.

However, pickpocketing poses a serious threat to tourists in tourist areas. Therefore, we always keep an eye on our trams.

5. Consistently beautiful weather

Temperatures in Lisbon range from an average high of 82 degrees Fahrenheit in July to an average low of 47 degrees Fahrenheit in January, which compares favorably to the sweltering heat and piles of snow typical in Washington, D.C.

Guincho Beach can be found approximately 25 minutes outside Lisbon. It is part of Sintra National Park.

Photo: Alex Trias

In Lisbon, we rarely use an air conditioner in the summer. It is possible to maintain a moderate indoor temperature due to the thick walls of our apartments. And we never bother with hats or gloves in the winter.

6. Get off the hamsterwheel