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frugal is the new black: how to live on less in portugal

I sometimes get emails from people who are looking to simplify their lives. They are tired of the stress, the traffic and noise of the city, of working all their waking hours for little personal reward and never having enough time for the people they love. Perhaps you too are wishing you had more time to do things you actually enjoy? Would you like to escape the tyranny of spending and consumerism and the desire for things you don’t need? Do you fill your life with possessions as a reward for the pressure, pain and emptiness of modern living? Maybe you’re thinking about downsizing, having less clutter, no more drawers overflowing with unused mobile phone chargers. And you would like to reduce your carbon footprint, and have a more sensitive relationship with Mother Earth? Can you see yourself, happy and free, running naked through a sunny field of daisies?

WELL SNAP OUT OF IT YOU DAYDREAMER AND GET BACK TO WORK.

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If there’s one thing I know now it’s this:

POVERTY IS OVERRATED.

Yes, trouble is, once you have a healthy cash flow it’s rather difficult to remember what it’s like not having one. Of course, I know you’re not planning on being poor and desperate, but if you’re going to give up working your bum off, then you are inevitably going to have to adjust to living on less. A lot less. And then, as time goes on, even less and less. It sounds fine as an idea, but believe me it is extremely difficult to change your mentality from “rich” to “poor”, and to change it fast enough to keep pace with your economic status.

How much do you need to live on in Portugal? The minimum wage here is €450/ month: I cannot see how anyone can live on that. I get by, in a painfully, unhappily, penny-watching way (see the Support button below) on about €600, and some months this blows out dramatically: all it takes is a sick car or dog, an insurance bill or a visitor or two and my budget goes out the window. I estimate that a couple with a cat should budget for $1200/month or €15000 a year. PLUS accommodation – allow another €250/ month for renting a 3 bedroom house (you’ll need a guest room, or two). Readers please throw in your two cents worth on this, as costs, as people, vary region to region.

Debt is the enemy. I seriously do not recommend giving up work if you have any debt. What you are undertaking is already enormously financially challenging and complicating the risk with old financial baggage is a bad idea. If you have a mortgage at home or on your new life, then either you or your dog needs a regular job. Sorry about that.

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Should the math still be working in your favour, I have this to say. Doing without feels quite good at first. But after a while the novelty wears off and you’d rather have back a flushing toilet, a kitchen with plumbing, a shiny black golf and a goddam dishwasher. So here’s my first piece of advice for those who are persisting with the idea:

1. Don’t Throw the Baby Out With The Bathwater.

I know some people who have tossed their lives away, like me, but they are still living comfortably in a house with modern appliances, eating interesting meals, and maintaining proper standards of personal hygiene. Their secret has been better financial planning coupled with a more moderate approach to deprivation. In essence, they started with more money and they did not elect to live in their ruin.

So, if your other half (or your other identity) is advising caution and saying `let’s give it another 6 months and then we’ll be more financially secure´, then listen to them. On the other hand, that advice would not have saved me. As a freelancer, I may have been waiting forever for that last 50 grand to appear, and it is critical to getting a new life that you don’t put it off forever and to know when you have to make the leap. So if you think your team mate (or you yourself) is just procrastinating and they don’t really want to go and live in Portugal, then dump them and move on. 😯

The point I’m trying to make is when you’re making-frugal, don’t go overboard. Going from living in a penthouse to living in a tent is not nice. Try not to overestimate your stamina and try not to underestimate the length of time your money has to last.

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2. Start Living Frugal Immediately And Be Committed.

Somehow you have to guess at the most basic living conditions you can tolerate for an unknown period of time… and then start living that life and stick to it. Even though your money hasn’t run out yet try to live as though it may run out tomorrow. It might sound a bit contradictory to the first advice, but this is about not living in denial about your financial situation. As soon as you stop earning you need to stop spending. Make a long term budget and be sure to include a bucketload of contingency.

One of the trickier things is getting other people to understand your new situation. I am still being invited to skiing trips in Val d’Isère when I haven’t earned a dime in three years. And I don’t even like skiing. You’ll have to tell your friends and family loud and clear, and over and over. No more lavish gifts, no more expensive restaurants. You are Frugalling. You may have to start a blog as well or get a tattoo on your forehead.

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3. Go Bush

Mission Frugal should involve the switch from city to country.

The biggest advantage for country living for the ex-city materialist is the absence of temptations. I really appreciate not being surrounded by shops full of shiny things. And there’s something about living in the city that results in needing $15 cocktails on a Friday night. As much as I miss the food, I am glad that I cannot accidentally blow $50 on a sushi tray. Thank god rural Portugal is not a glamorous place – or rather, it is a very unpretentious place. One may comfortably go about looking like a sack and no one snorts or huffs or looks you up and down… On the contrary, I’ve been complimented on my nice dressing gown.

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4. Making Friends With The Natives

Let’s now assume you’ve quit your job and moved to Portugal.

Your Portuguese neighbours will be an enormous support and resource to you, even if they want to kill your dog. Firstly because frugality is a way of life in rural Portugal, and secondly they will help you overcome the foreigner/local price divide.

In most places in the world, foreigners are presumed to be better off than the locals, based on the simple principle that you’re travelling and they’re not. It is now your job to undo this misunderstanding. You will ingratiate yourself with your neighbours by complaining about the price of things, griping about being poor and moaning about your poor health. Once you graduate from whingeing you can move onto the higher subjects like local supermarket specials. After that it’s carte blanche on cheap tips: what price they get on sand, which car mechanic won’t rip you off, and what you should have paid for those onion seedlings. And all this invaluable assistance just for your time, your witty banter and your liver.

market-roosters

Unlike your friends at home, your Portuguese neighbours will not expect you to bring a fine wine every time you drop over. On the contrary, my neighbours have scorned all my gifts like home made jam, spaghetti sauce and marinated olives because this gift giving nonsense is just not on. It’s not because they are stingey or ungrateful (no siree, just watch them force food on you) it’s because they don’t have money to waste. Christmas is the best. They gave me crap (but useful) gifts like tea towels, and in return I gave them crap (but useful) things like tea towels.

4. Trading

I discovered the village bartering system by accident. Tia Maria had been abandoned by her children (they went to France to work) which meant she had to walk up and down the hill to tend to the crops. It’s a bitch of a hill and she’s 30 years older than me, so we’d throw the pumpkins the back of my van and I’d give her a lift. No biggie. But then in return she’d try to give me three weeks worth of green beans, a dozen eggs and a bottle of wine.

Once we’d negotiated a more restrained quantity of produce, this became a regular thing. Then I realised that everyone was up for this trading thing. Next door would drop over some lemons, I’d leave a bag of dog food my dog doesn’t like. Lately we’ve been getting into car swapping, internet access for labour, land clearing for firewood.  Of course it’s been going on between them for ever: one historic transaction was when one neighbour fixed the other one’s car for 6 jars of honey. It seems so right that I wonder why we aren’t living like this all our lives…

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5. Grow Your Own

Of course you’ll need something to trade, and your exotic city tastes may help. I can’t compete with my neighbour’s talent for horticulture, but I can offer them things they don’t grow or have never tried. My stuff has novelty value. And other friends will appreciate your efforts too – so instead of bringing a bottle of wine you can take a pot of basil, cherry tomatoes or some rocket – things we can’t often find in our local markets. Of course anything else you can grow in your garden will help your frug-style. Growing stuff in Portuguese soil will be made easier if you also raise chickens, and while you’re at it, get a pig, some goats and sheep too.

6. Think Global, Buy Local

The biggest immediate saving to you is that you’ll spend less on petrol, but that’s the next point. You have to buy locally because rural areas are in rapid decline and things will get more expensive if we don’t invest in our tiny towns. Your custom with local business will help you forge relationships which will get you better prices in the long run. If you don’t take an interest in your local shop you might find that it no longer exists next year.

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While regular customers are the most valuable, you should try to share the love around. The most obvious example is to buy whatever you can from local markets and not from big supermarkets. At the market I even prefer the smaller, older stallholders who are not importing fruit and vegies, but growing it themselves. Your money goes directly into the local’s pocket and keeps the local economy working. Just now a neighbour proudly showed me some apples that have come from Argentina… can you imagine the real cost of those apples, and can they be so much better than what’s hanging on the tree outside? Maybe they are not paying the extra cost right now, but the economy and the planet’s environment is, and if you’re thinking big picture, it is relevant to your personal operation frugal.

7. Step Off The Gas.

Apart from the urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels, the cost of petrol and the distances you often need to travel in the country is a major handicap to the frugal life. I consider every hour in the car costs me nearly €10. Most of the time I’m better off spending more on individual items at the nearer corner shop than driving further to the supermarket. And I prefer to buy things from my neighbours for more than I’d pay elsewhere because of what I save on petrol. It’s a strong argument for using the bread, fish and veg trucks that visit the village. My neighbours, the dedicated bargain hunters, once recommended I buy car tyres about 1 1/2 hrs drive away. So those cheap €20 retreads really cost me €35 each… and they’ll need replacing again in a year’s time… see more about “false economy” below.

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When you have to use the car, take your foot off the gas. Driving slower in this country may even save your life.  And while on the road I try to encourage others to slow down too.  I flirt lasciviously at men who attempt to overtake me, which works a treat. My parents had a test of not using the accelerator on the way home from the shops. In turn us kids would do it too, and make it more fun by not using the brakes either… I still do this today, when there are no other cars around, of course.

8. Beware of False Economy.

There are false economy traps everywhere. Initially I bought cheap vacuum cleaners, cheap power tools and kitchen appliances which all had to be replaced. Buying stuff at the bottom of the market is rarely worth it unless you are really only using it once. When I researched my purchases properly by using organizations like Choice (Australia) I bought things that actually worked, and still work today. Beware especially the lojas chinesas (el-cheapo import shops) in Portugal. I have some strict rules about the things I am allowed to buy in them. I can’t tell you how many hose fittings I’ve been through because I stubbornly refuse to spend three times as much for something that actually functions. So instead I buy things that break before I get them home. Clever.

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Frugal shortcuts; Electricity is not your friend. Use the free Espaços Internet if you are only an occasional net user. Give up cheese, or save it for restaurants. Eat less meat. And if you like to take a coffee, you should do as the Porties do and drink espresso… a 55c café is the kind of treat you never have to do without.

For specific prices consult the following:

http://www.mosqueteiros.com/. They publish their brochures on line for both groceries (Intermarché) and hardware (Bricomarché). See “Folhetos”.

Groceries and larger stuff http://www.modelo.pt

Now, nudie hippie dude, go forth and frugal yourself!

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55 Comments

  1. Ad June 7, 2010 12:24 pm Reply

    Frugality is relative; I manage to get by in the big city without working too hard (for The Man, that is- I work on my own projects industriously), yet I’m clearly not in your league.

    A bit more money would be nice though, so I can finally visit that friend in Portugal…

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Ad, you are a champion… you do all right. Having you here would be a super luxury x

    [Reply to comment]

  2. matt s June 7, 2010 1:25 pm Reply

    Great blog and great advice there Emma. I laughed after reading this and then thought back to life in Sydney, and being thankful for the crowded grumpy snotty No.440 bus into the city each cold morning. It rained here almost non-stop for 2 days. People get up each others noses and are tired, overworked and cranky but really like you say they have it pretty good. $15 for a glass of “phlegm” as my Geordie friend says. Life is too short. thanks for this life-line !

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    thanks for the phlegm image matt, nice one 😉

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  3. rodrigo June 7, 2010 6:10 pm Reply

    Love your frugal ways! I live along similar lines. If I bring home R10 000.00, round about 1 000€ , now declining, yet still blessed. The secret is to have a home paid for or in my case semi-paid. I kept my home loan frugal and have no credit card. My car is paid for and I repair it myself where I can. The home was built by myself with the help of labour. Plumbing, sewerage, roof and electrical done by me, passed and certeffied by professionals. I do grow some fruits and Veggies, but cannot do so due to the baboon problem in our area, but would be a great orchid and veggie patch if I could. Keep small and bills paid, preferably in advance.
    Problems do arise, like how am I going to replace my citigolf 1991 with 300 000km on the clock and rusting to bits. What happens when I fall hill and cannot work (self employed), where is more money coming in for that luxury tit-bit 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    can´t do it due to the baboon problem!!!
    And I agree totally, the secret is have the home paid for…

    [Reply to comment]

    http://rodrigo@wam.co.za

  4. Anna June 7, 2010 6:11 pm Reply

    I have family in Portugal who make half of what I do & yet everything in Portugal seems to be so expensive,I don’t know how they do it.Unless you grow your on & trade it’s really hard.
    I love visiting family to see how simple they live,here in Sydney I just have too much stuff.I use things for a while & then throw it out or buy brocoli only to throw it out because I didn’t use it.I’m embarressed to say. Your article made me remeber I need to be more frugal in my life.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Yep, I don´t how how my neighbours do it, on their tiny pensions, but they do have a field full of cabbage. It´s funny you say broccoli, it would go in the bin at my place too… but here I stand over the grillos, I can´t wait for them to be big enough to eat!

    [Reply to comment]

    http://portuguesekitchen.blogspot.com

  5. Emma June 7, 2010 7:04 pm Reply

    I loved the barter system we had in our old village. Lifts in cars = bread, oil, eggs, potatoes etc. etc. A SOS appeal when a friend hurt her back and Loz gave her a fireman’s lift up the track resulted in us not having to buy fruit and veg for at least a month.
    We live on one income and each month dip into our savings. Not good when the pension is non existent and the old rellies don’t look anywhere near popping their clogs. In-laws can’t get their head around the fact that if I’m not working and out playing with them, I am not earning. If I’m not earning, we don’t eat. It really is that simple. We used to rent, which was a bitch. But having an online business means that I can’t skimp on electricity/internet or phone connections. Otherwise I go out of business. And where would that leave us.
    But living frugally does have it’s benefits. I’ve dropped a dress size (yes, honestly Em) and Loz has lost at least 3 stone. We were big in London. Lard arses. Here, tilling your own land and walking to the stores beats the hell out of a gym membership you don’t use.
    I think I live quite well, all things considered. I have no mortgage, don’t pay any rent and my outgoings on utilities are quite reasonable. I still like nice, new, shiny things, but I can’t remember the last time I bought a pair of shoes (though my last frock purchase was €200!!!). I’d rather have a great meal or take a tour of the Douro than buy something that will sit in my wardrobe unworn as I no longer go to soirées!
    Rambling now. You get the picture! xx

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Oh yeah I have 3 sensational cocktail dresses in the cupboard, brought from sydney, never worn here, probably can´t fit into anymore anyway… will make a nice gift for some skinny porty friend one day…

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.redboxvirtualoffice.com/blog

  6. Patricia June 7, 2010 9:22 pm Reply

    I think a lot of your ideas are great, but for us your budget is way off mark… we live in approx 4,000 euros PER YEAR! 600 euros per month… wow… never in a million years…

    some weeks we only spend 5-6 euros ..
    And before you ask, we live frugally but not in the dark ages either… I have a washing machine… a freezer.. a flushing loo and bath… and we live and eat well…
    Best wishes
    Patrica

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 7th, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Patricia, that is seriously impressive. What´s your secret?

    [Reply to comment]

    Richard   Reply: June 8th, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Yes Patricia!
    Would love to know how you do it on that kind of money.
    Regards
    Richard

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 9th, 2010 at 2:15 am

    this came from patricia via email:

    Hmmm where to start.. some people recoil in horror when I describe our way
    of life… others love it..
    Firstly we rent out a little holiday cottage which brings in the 4-5000
    euros we live in each year..

    Our house is semi ruin still (but all paid for) but we have hot n cold
    water, a tempory bathroom & loo (only temp as we want to move it somewhere
    else soon) sewage is in, we are cool in summer , warm in winter. We have a
    log fired kitchen range which heats my water, drys my washing, cooks our
    food and heats the house… all for free… just plenty of work on our
    part to collect enough scrap wood to fill the barn ..
    We have next to know gadgets.. a dvd player we watch occasionally during
    winter, a large chest freezer I couldnt manage without, and a hand
    blender… and my washing machine that never gets set above 30degrees for
    any wash… oh and we use low energy light bulbs
    my electricity bills are never above around 37-38 euros for 2 months and
    that includes the cottage too…
    We have no water bills , as we have a well. but obvously we have to put
    fuel in to pump water …
    I grow my own veggies, so vegwise, what I dont grow we dont eat… The
    staples like oats, flour rice ect I bulk buy when there are offers on…
    Intermarche sell cheap white flour for 32 c a kilo, if you add a handful
    of seseme seeds and oats and flax seed its as good as integral for half
    the price… probably healthier…
    We dont have internet, why pay for something thats free in the internet
    space in town?
    Oh so much more I could say… but dont want to bore everyone to death…

    [Reply to comment]

    Carol Staton   Reply: June 22nd, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    @Patricia, I would love to hear more about how you manage on that sort of money. I am thinking of retiring to Portugal,but my pension is messed up as I paid a married woman’s NI stamp for years and then lived abroad for nearly 10 years. Do you think that two of us would be able to manage OK on say £500 per month including running a car? We would not have a mortgage or rent to pay. Which part of Portugal do you live in? How much is the council tax equivalent? My hubby would have to have private medical insurance as he is not an EU citizen which I think may be expensive!

    [Reply to comment]

    Zita   Reply: March 15th, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    @Patricia,
    I have just bought my dream patch of land, I intend to live on very little too. Solar powered shower (can also heat water through a compost heap!) compost toilet… VERY good for the soil and perfectly clean/smell-free. Phone-line – yes, that I DO need.
    I have a huge spring water well and a stream to irrigate my land.
    The neighbours seem very friendly and I intend to become part of village life and swopping produce. That’s how life was when I was a child. That’s how it should be. I have to manage on about 400 a month including running a car and feeding the dog, cats, goats and my son!

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.livingthedreamportugal.com

  7. Wendy June 8, 2010 3:11 am Reply

    Frugal está fixe, não e? But green’s the colour of envy as well as all things eco, even if green is the new black. If the Portuguese thought the frugal rural lifestyle were so wonderful, then these villages wouldn’t be suffering such ‘desertification’. Isn’t the real key to this lifestyle a change in attitude? One that perceives the simple rural treadmill as infinitely richer in all respects (with the possible exception of the ability to collect coloured pieces of paper) to the sophisticated city wage-slave treadmill? Poverty is lack, insufficiency. But if you don’t feel you lack anything you might want or need, then how can you be poor?

    And contentment is the single biggest disincentive to spending money I know of …!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 9th, 2010 at 1:07 am

    touché wendy.

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.permaculturinginportugal.net/blog/

  8. Clive June 8, 2010 9:09 am Reply

    Hi Emma. We live in Central Portugal and while out walking the dog we met Penfold today (good guy, interesting blog too. papersurfer.com) whence I found your site. I agree with your costings, we use about €1000 euros a month, of which petrol is €150 but we do a lot of driving through necessity. Without moving we spend electricity €80, phone and internet €50. We could live on maybe €800.
    I checked out your minipreco link and I think its in Brazil . . . the prices are in Reals.
    Like your pictures and blog, will return and re-read it when I have some time after planting all my veg and pruning and tying hundreds of vines and . . .
    @wendy you’re so right about contentment.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 9th, 2010 at 12:56 am

    @Clive, thanks re the link to Brazil… have fixed it. Hope the rain has got you inside on the lounge today 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.cliveboden.wordpress.com

  9. Isabel June 8, 2010 9:01 pm Reply

    Very good.

    I thought we were the only family that would try to arrive home without touching the accelerator, with all us kids trying to help the car move forward by bouncing in our seats.

    Very nice blog, Clive 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 9th, 2010 at 12:54 am

    funny…. across the other side of the world… another nutty family

    [Reply to comment]

  10. Fletch June 10, 2010 1:37 pm Reply

    It all makes good sense, but I think me and frugal don’t get along too well.

    My way is to NOT spend anything for some considerable time and then ‘do’ the shopping mall (Colombo) and spend impetuously.

    Ah well, can’t take it with you …

    [Reply to comment]

    http://paradise-discovered.blogspot.com/

  11. Nuno H June 10, 2010 6:45 pm Reply

    Hello Emma.

    For frugality, perhaps this jolly lad can give you a hint or two: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/09/mark-boyle-money
    He lives around Bristol (UK) with no money. The interview was last year, but it was still having a go at it a few months ago.
    Youtube has a few videos on the guy http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mark+boyle+no+money&aq=1

    Most of my extended family is from and still lives in ‘aldeias’ (tiny villages) and they do pretty much what you do, including now owning a dishwasher. However, they go to the supermarket and buy heavily (to compensate for the travelling costs) and go for product offers and unbranded products (unless they suck). Different supermarkets have different quality products.

    Another thing that is not a money sink-hole for them is going out or travel. They pretty much only go to cafés or bakeries.

    As most of them raise animals, some of them eat several parts, which are consider inedible by most. For instance, how would you fancy sucking a chicken/rooster’s head dry?

    A long haul possibility is to raise children. They bring loads of stuff when they visit.

    Good luck :]

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 13th, 2010 at 1:32 am

    children, eh? never thought of that… must work out a way wookie and mao can contribute… tv commercials?

    [Reply to comment]

  12. Another Nuno June 12, 2010 4:01 am Reply

    Hello, enjoyed the post and learned a few things too.

    It is true that the vast majority of the country lives on 600eur or less a month (from 700 eur is considered middle class salary).

    The only insurance against epidemic famine is government housing and basic staples offered by the food bank, as well as family support and small gardens. The interior is on its way to be deserted, I don’t know if you have neighbours with children but they will soon close all schools with less than 20 students so that’s the death sentence for renewing population. I really hope that more open-minded foreigners at least partially reverse this trend.

    Thats the depressing part, the good part is that more and more people are becoming interested in what has been called the voluntary simplicity movement. I started with a Thoreau-ish naive desire to make my life more concise but am now facing the reality that it is hard to gather money on an average salary, impossible to escape loans if you don’t have land in the family, etc, etc. Thankfully I can partly share other people’s projects such as the ones I find on the internet like yours or the ones I encounter while wwoofing and I get by on these short encounters.

    I’ve heard that this attitude comes as a reaction to our current lifestyle and that it’s a re-issue of the back-to-the-land movement from the 70’s. I think it goes way beyond that because people of all ages, backgrounds and places are starting to converge on this, it’s not a fringe thing anymore.

    I think I’ve written too much already :S so here are two related articles I encountered recently that illustrate this posts subject, if you’re waiting for the chuva to pass:

    “Happiness: No Purchase Necessary, Says Study”
    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/happiness-no-purchase-necessary-says-study.php

    Kind of duh, right? But sometimes obvious things are hard to see, like a commuter who doesn’t know how many hours or how much money a year he spends on his car. Then one day a epiphany happens.

    “Living without money”
    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/article6928744.ece

    The famous story of a woman who manages to live on bartering alone for more than 10 years. All it takes is a build up of the things you mention, villages ( Portugal included) once functioned in efficient complementarity through bartering.

    Cheers and keep up the good work!

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 13th, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Dear Another, great contribution, thanks. I like “voluntary simplicity”, a nice plain phrase…

    [Reply to comment]

  13. Errol June 12, 2010 11:26 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, Just discovered your blog on “expat focus” it makes fascinating reading. Havn’t had time to read all your postings yet but look forward to absorbing them over the next few days.
    They remind me of my experiences of buying an old farmhouse in the Algarve many years ago and I fully understand your trials and tribulations particularly with beaurocracy. The property had 2 numbers so I renovated one small part to live in and spent 5 years renovating the remainder. As money was tight I worked as a swimming instructor/lifeguard at a holiday camp in Polperro, Cornwall from Easter to September each year to earn enough for building materials then returned to the Algarve during the Winter to work on the property. Back then most of my fixtures and fittings (Kitchens, Batroom suites etc.) were brought from the UK with an old Landrover towing a 3 ton trailer brim full of bits and pieces even a 3 piece suite as back then there were no such places as MaxMat or Leroy Merlin.

    [Reply to comment]

  14. michelle June 14, 2010 2:48 am Reply

    another thoughtful and interesting post Emma.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 14th, 2010 at 8:40 am

    thanks michelle

    [Reply to comment]

  15. Mariola Stone June 15, 2010 7:26 pm Reply

    Hi Emma, excellent blog. My husband will occasionally throw in a ‘lets pack up and move to Portugal’ and I’m going to make him read your blog. I remind him we still have two lads at university with only half a brain between them, and aging parents to deal with- oh how I wish I could be totally selfish and leave them to fend for themselves. But the reality is I can do frugal in short bursts interspersed with mad blowouts on magazines and yummy goodies. The comment about your dressing gown made me laugh out loud as I am unnaturally attached to mine- come home and count the minutes until I can put it on. Oh and whats the point of getting out of your jammies if you’re not going anywhere?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 15th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Dear Mariola
    Bring the parents with you (after all, portugal is their speed), and the lads will have to grow a brain when you leave them behind. As for the jammies I see little point in getting out of them even when I am going somewhere… 😉

    [Reply to comment]

    Zita   Reply: March 15th, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    @Mariola Stone,
    Just do it! I did! My daughter decided to remain in the UK and is very happy with her new job and is saving to come over for a visit. My son hated the UK & decided to come with me. He’s 23 and a GREAT help as I have Fybromialgia Syndrome. But, I am living my dream! Huge piece of land with water and class A soil, lovely village, not far from Fundao & Castelo Branco.
    Starting from scratch, quite an adventure, but I just HAD to do it before I get too old! Frugal is a challenge, but a rewarding one in so many ways. Even on only 400 a month, I still treat myself occasionally and that makes the treat much more satisfying 😀 I would welcome any visiting helpers any time too!!! Z

    [Reply to comment]

  16. Mariola Stone June 15, 2010 7:33 pm Reply

    PS. how do you do frugal when you suffer from CAB (cant be arsed) syndrome. Can it be achieved with big bursts of activity followed by bigger bursts of inertia? It’s a revelation when you finally admit things aren’t going well because you’re just too bloody lazy! Is there a pill for it? I wonder…..

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 15th, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Actually sloth can be an excellent weapon in the frugal fight. Sleeping in, for instance, costs nothing, provided you´re not using the electric blanket. It has a very low impact on the environment and builds the self esteem and a bond between you and whoever is luckily enough to share the bed with you (cat, dog, husband, next door neighbour). The portuguese also have a pill, it´s called café.

    [Reply to comment]

    Mariola Stone   Reply: June 15th, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    @Emma, Emma you are SO my kind of girl!

    [Reply to comment]

  17. Peter Wilton-Davies June 17, 2010 4:46 am Reply

    Hi again Emma,
    Just got around to reading your blog again and this page is fantastic and very funny. It inspired Helen, my other half, to start our own as you may have seen. The writing and photography are both fantastic, I don’t know how you get the time. Keep up the great work. I didn’t know you lived so close as we’re in Pera, we might have seen you at Figueiro dos Vonhos market. It would be great to meet up sometime and say hello.
    Peter & Helen

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.helenandpeterinportugal.blogspot.com/

  18. yozzee June 17, 2010 7:43 am Reply

    Hi again Emma.

    Good advice as usual, but I would suggest that anyone planning to live a simple life needs to address basic shit like their addictions. Tobacco, alcohol or whatever else costs on many levels…

    x

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 17th, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Too right. And cake. Give. It. Up.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 20th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    actually yozzee, you bring up something interesting which I´ve found in common with other escape artists. They might find that in the new life they dont need these crutches anymore. Certainly in my case there was a direct correlation between 12 hr work days and a-bottle-of-wine-nights.

    [Reply to comment]

  19. Fiona June 23, 2010 1:06 am Reply

    Hi Emma,
    Haven’t been on your blog for a long time – yes, my life has alternated between the joys of travel and the the reality of working to pay for those travels. So, found my way back to your blog and have been reading it to husband and daughter – what a great read and the comments provided even more. We are never truly alone with the Internet, no matter where we may live! Thanks for such an entertaining read. We have for such a long time contemplated moving permanently overseas, particularly as Chairman Rudd has now decided to take half my husband’s overseas take home pay (last wrote to you when we were trying to decide whether to leave Australia or stay)…but with aging sick parents, children at Uni here and the tax situation not much better elsewhere, have decided to stay here in Oz change the way we live. Now we are making serious plans to move back to the land and live the lifestyle we have always dreamed of. My vege garden in the city is great but I cannot wait till the country one is started. Luckily we work only six months a year and have the rest of the year to develop our place to a point where we have a viable income from a source other than our current jobs. We also plan to build as eco friendly a place as possible and have the time to plan it.
    Reading your blog tonight made me feel positive rather than negative about the changes coming and I will make sure I read more frequently.
    Best get back to reading all your other entries that I missed !
    xx

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 30th, 2010 at 1:11 am

    hi fiona, nice to see you!

    [Reply to comment]

  20. Manuel Neto July 23, 2010 2:41 am Reply

    «Now, nudie hippie dude, go forth and frugal yourself!»

    God Damn Woman, I got to meet you sometime!

    (I’ll bring you some frugal Pastéis de Belém)

    [Reply to comment]

  21. khrysa edwards August 29, 2010 9:54 pm Reply

    hi guys,we are coming out to live in obidos,silver coast in april next year.where is the best place to buy a car without being ripped off.any help gratefully accepted

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: August 30th, 2010 at 2:07 am

    well, shopping around is key to not getting ripped off. I like the strip of car shops between Leiria and Pombal on the IC2. See a lot, compare, take a portuguese speaker. 2nd hand cars are all overpriced here, so it´s only about being more or less ripped off, really. You should be slightly safer with a delaer than a private seller unless your portuguese is fluent and you know the beaurocracy well.

    [Reply to comment]

  22. Diana September 18, 2010 9:07 pm Reply

    Dear Emma,
    Thank you so very much for your heart-touching post. I’m already 4 years in Portugal and still can’t fit in Portuguese frugal lifestyle. I’m wondering about people who are happy to live like that. Museum, theater, opera, concerts, traveling (at least in homeland) all that goes out of the frugality… but I’m dying for.
    It’s hard. It’s really hard to live in foreign country without your own lifestyle, without friends, family and people who know and love you there, in your country.
    I’m going to search through your blog the things make you happy here. Maybe I can find something for me to substitute the missed things…

    Um abraço
    Diana

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: September 19th, 2010 at 8:55 am

    That’s the clear fine spirit of truth you´re speaking, Diana. It is damn hard, no doubt. Yes it´s about finding the things that make you happy here, and treating your saudades as they come. Some needs can be nourished, some can’t. How I miss live jazz! But gradually all the pieces of the new life come together – and you re-discover your luxuries, feeling them more luxurious than before. Remember the dream, whatever it is: to be free, to speak another language, to grow your own tomatoes. Remember the dream. Abraços e força para ti tambem. 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    http://www.lagoadesigns.com

  23. fernando g.s. September 30, 2010 4:21 pm Reply

    almost 1, another five minutes or so and I can go upstairs and sov gott but not yet, just need to see the end of this drawn out french love saga on the sundance channel, because if I remember Alfred Deller will be singing The Plaint at the very end but then I found your blog and what a treat, now I know I’m staying downstairs much later than expected.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: October 6th, 2010 at 12:07 am

    pleased to have distracted you, I think….

    [Reply to comment]

  24. Abramowitz December 4, 2012 12:37 pm Reply

    Love your blog. I live in a tiny place on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island. There are days I love it. There are days when I’d murder the whole population for another 24 hours with my erstwhile advertising career expense account.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 5th, 2012 at 6:27 am

    🙂

    bloganoceros 🙂

    [Reply to comment]

    http://Bloganoceros.wordpress.com

  25. Sarah Lovett February 20, 2013 1:18 am Reply

    Inspirational blog me dear, well done all round. I just chanced upon it, whilst looking for a sign (:-0 for what should I do with my life . . . Should I bid on this little bit of land in Somerset or sell up and go to Portugal where it is warmer and sunnier. Still haven’t decided but you certainly helped me put my feet back on the ground. Your style is great, cheeky and insightful. Also inspires me to keep my new blog up.
    regards and best wishes, Sarah Lovett.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: February 20th, 2013 at 9:19 am

    thanks sarah

    [Reply to comment]

  26. d October 7, 2015 9:05 am Reply

    hi emma,

    I’ve recently found i have Candida, and am in the process of getting shot of it via natural diet and healthy living. I have this notion of renting somewhere in rural portugal for 3 months, holing myself up with my dog and a supply of the necessities diet-wise, and spending the time meditating, playing my keyboard, writing, probably going a bit mental and sorting this out once and for all…

    I could be dreaming, but i had a notion that if i was near the coast, freshly caught fish would be cheap(ish) and plentiful, and local markets stocked with locally grown and reasonable priced veg. Is this not the case?

    I have a monthly income of 750 pounds (around 1000 euros), which will keep coming in. Do you think this is doable? I am happy with the basic lifestyle, though i want to be as stressfree as possible, and good fresh food is vital for me. I also have around 3000 pounds in savings, which if possible i’d like to keep at least the majority of.

    I am currently in Spain, and hear Portugal is a fair bit cheaper.

    What do you think?

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: December 20th, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    @d, yes I’d say 1000 is enough – and yes fresh fish is indeed plentiful and not just on the coast…

    [Reply to comment]

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