I have talked, since this blog was started, on numerous occasions about the cheap cost of living here. It all depends on personal spending habits, how large your family is, but we have agreed in the past that one can easily live on $1,000 (or even better 1,000 Euros) per month. We spent, last year, as a family, an average of 1146 Euros per month, so it’s definitely not very cheap if you’re not trying (and we DO try, ha!)
Still, I receive a lot of messages from people asking me what would the minimum budget be for living in Romania, and I decided to share the story of some people I know who are living as a family of four (the children are 3 and 5) on roughly $500 per month (2,000 Romanian Lei). And there are still families who manage to make it work with such a low income.
However, as you can imagine, they don’t live the life of superstars and things are really tight budget-wise. Although they didn’t have real numbers to share with me, they did say that the biggest expense was, naturally, food. They estimate spending between $148 – $198 per month for food (we spend almost double that amount!).
In order to keep costs low and have a somewhat varied diet, they always keep an eye open for discounts in the large shops, they buy in bulk to get the lower price per kilo and they always go for the cheapest products. Bones for soups, chicken for meat, vegetables and fruits bought from the peasant markets, canning their own food – these all help keep the costs low and the food as varied as possible, even though the bulk of their food is made of potatoes and rice. Fortunately, there are many ways to cook both not to get extremely bored.
They live in a one bedroom house which does get crowded at times, but also helps them keep costs really low. All the housing related bills, including electricity and garbage collection are between $30 – $40, a bit higher during the winter.
They buy most of their clothes from thrift stores and try to care for them as much as possible, they don’t have expensive smartphones to keep the bills up and they try to recondition and repair stuff that gets broken instead of buying new. They don’t have a car, but fortunately the city is small enough to allow walking anywhere: usually, you won’t spend more than 25 minutes getting from one end of the city to the other, but most things are a lot closer.
They don’t afford to go out and they did not have proper holiday since their first son was born (which means at least 5 years!) but they do take some weekends off to go to the country side or sometimes to a picnic. Still, they can afford to treat their kids with ice cream during the summer and even go “crazy” on a monthly basis and order pizza.
They live a simple life and somehow manage to make it work even though they have a small budget. They keep their chins up and don’t allow themselves to be discouraged by the current situation. Their biggest problem, though, is that they don’t have any real money put aside and any emergency (like oven or fridge breaking) would really hurt them. But somehow they managed to make it work for the past few years and they are confident they can keep going.
So it is indeed possible to live on $500 per month in Romania, even as a family. They do have the advantage of not paying rent, but eventually, if you really have just this amount per month, you might make it work. But it would be really difficult – as it is for the family in question and it would mostly be surviving, not living. But it can be done and I think that it’s these stories that should teach us to spend wisely when we do!
All in all, if you are planning to move to Romania and you would only have this budget to work with, it won’t be easy. However, if that would be the same amount you’d have to live on in a Western country or the US, you’ll surely get a lot more for the money here! But don’t expect it to be easy!