How to move to Spain with no money

Image - no money in Spain: lunopark/shutterstock

Image - no money in Spain: lunopark/shutterstock

Perhaps one of the things stopping you from finally following your dreams and moving to Spain is that small issue of having no – or at least very little – money in your savings.

Whilst this might inhibit you from putting down a mortgage on a Spanish property and living the lavish, cosmopolitan lifestyle somewhere like Madrid or Barcelona, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to move to Spain without having money coming out of your ears. Especially since rent in Spain is 22.65 per cent cheaper than in the UK, groceries are 19.2 per cent cheaper and restaurants are 29.7 per cent cheaper – surely it seems like a no-brainer! 

Moving to Spain without a single penny to your name might be slightly unrealistic, as there are certain unavoidable costs that arise immediately, such as obtaining an NIE (an identification number) and, obviously, somewhere to live and a means of actually getting there. Spanish VISA regulations also require you to prove you have an income or savings in order to sustain yourself once in Spain.

That being said, that doesn’t mean you should helplessly thrust your passport to the back of a drawer and completely abandon your Mediterranean dreams of gorgeous weather and a more relaxed lifestyle. There are many ways of moving to Spain with virtually no money, such as volunteer work-aways, teaching English or becoming an Au Pair. 

Image - moving to Spain: Millenius/shutterstock
Image – moving to Spain: Millenius/shutterstock

Volunteer Workaway 

If you’re not looking for a particularly well-paid job but just enough for board and the opportunity to do something extraordinary, a workaway volunteering programme could be the perfect way for you to move to Spain without much spending money in your back pocket. 

Workaway volunteering could have you contributing your time to an NGO, experiencing a cultural exchange by living with a family, helping at a local school or even house sitting. However, workaways often don’t pay you any money other than providing you with accommodation and maybe your meals each day that you work. To make ends meet, a lot of workaway hosts accept digital nomads so you can do some freelance or remote work on the side as well as immersing yourself in the Spanish culture with your workaway host! 

Check out some workaway volunteering options here. 

Image - Rooftop in Aragon: Workaway
Image – Rooftop in Aragon: Workaway

Bar Work (with accommodation provided) 

If a workaway doesn’t seem like it’ll provide you with as much financial aid as you’d be comfortable with whilst in Spain, acquiring some bar work (with accommodation provided) could be another way for you to move to Spain with no money.

Especially throughout the summer months, although there will be vacancies all years, many bars throughout Spain will need extra hands to deal with the flocks of tourists and local customers in search of a refreshing caña or a cocktail or two in the sun. 

If you’re not too bothered about being in the city centre, often campsite bars are a pretty safe option for acquiring some work and having somewhere to stay as employers will often offer to put you up in a cabin or dormitory on the campsite. 

It often helps if you can speak a bit of Spanish as well because although many bars will be filled with tourists, you’ll massively expand your options if you can speak the native language to be able to deal with local customers as well. This is particularly useful in a fast-paced bar environment. 

Image - bartender in Spain: Alex Segre/shutterstock
Image – bartender in Spain: Alex Segre/shutterstock

Websites like ThinkSpain are a great way to find these types of jobs

Bar jobs in Spain don’t tend to pay travelling workers very much (if at all), but will potentially cover your board and on your days off you could do some sort of freelance work. See here for the Euro Weekly News’s guide on how to work abroad as a digital nomad. 

Image - Digital Nomad: GaudiLab/shutterstock
Image – Digital Nomad: GaudiLab/shutterstock

Au Pair 

If you like kids and quality family time, an Au Pair position might just suit you down to the ground. A popular option amongst non-EU residents who want to live in Spain, an Au Pair position would provide accommodation in the form of a room in the family’s home and maybe some weekly spending money (usually between €50 and €80 a week) in exchange for looking after their kids. 

Spanish parents often hire Au Pairs because it’s cheaper than other forms of childcare in Spain and it’s also a great opportunity for the whole family to learn the language of the Au Pair (English-speaking Au Pairs tend to be particularly popular). Your role will usually include taking the kids to school and picking them up at the end of the day, helping them with their homework, cooking their meals and generally helping out around the home (although you’re not there to be the cleaner, which is why it’s important to set out exactly what the family will expect from you before you go). 

This can be a great way to experience Spain and get to know a lovely Spanish family by living with them in their home. The majority of families who hire an Au Pair will also be really relaxed and understanding about you wanting to go out and explore on your days off, which usually tend to be weekends when the parents can be home to look after the kids. Hiring an Au Pair is also quite a popular option for parents in the summer months whilst their kids are off school and they’re still working, so you get the best of the Spanish weather whilst you’re there! 

Image - Au Pair: New Africa/shutterstock
Image – Au Pair: New Africa/shutterstock

There are many ways to find Au Pairing positions in Spain but one of the most popular is AuPair World. 

Teaching English as a foreign language 

If you’d be interested in inspiring the young minds of the future (or adults wanting to develop their language skills), then teaching English as a foreign language could be a great way for you to move to Spain in a more permanent role than a workaway or an Au Pair position. 

Having a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) can often be quite useful in finding a placement and occasionally they have deals on, so an online TEFL course isn’t too expensive if you’re a bit stumped for cash! Once you’ve got the qualification it also means you can apply for teaching positions in any country that accepts TEFLs, today Spain, in the future, anywhere in the world! 

Image - TeflinSpain
Image – TeflinSpain

Another great way to find a teaching position in Spain is through the Auxiliar de Conversacion programme, directed towards native English speakers, which gives you a choice of schools in various Spanish cities and towns. Although you’d still have to save up enough money for your flight, accommodation and living expenses for the first month, the programme will help you find somewhere to stay and you’d only be expected to work around 16 hours a week so again, you could pick up some freelance or digital nomad work on the side. 

Find out more about teaching English as a foreign language in Spain here.

Image - Teaching English:
Image – Teaching English:

Retiring in Spain

As well as finding a job, there are certain benefits you may be entitled to whilst in Spain that could make any money you do have go a little further. For example, the SSC (Social Security Contributions), which are Spain’s equivalent of a UK NIC (National Insurance-type contributions) entitles you to free health care. 

Image - pensioners in Spain: Lucigerma/shutterstock
Image – pensioners in Spain: Lucigerma/shutterstock

Likewise, if you are entitled to a UK state pension, even if you move to Spain this will be increased each year in line with the pay rate in the UK. You can also claim the following benefits if you meet the relevant criteria: 

  • Bereavement Support Payment and other bereavement benefits 
  • Industrial injuries benefits 
  • Maternity allowance 
  • Statutory Maternity Pay 
  • Statutory Paternity Pay 
  • Statutory Sick Pay 

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Image - Annie Dabb
Written by

Annie Dabb

From Newcastle originally, Annie is based in Manchester and is a writer for the Euro Weekly News covering news and features. Got a story you want to share? Then get in touch at