Portugal’s low cost of living is one of the main attractions for expats, but if you really want to live life on a budget, there are various things you can do to make your existence even cheaper.

It’s possible to enjoy a very pleasant existence in Portugal without spending a huge amount of money, but there are still some ways to drain your cash reserves if you’re not careful. In this article, we provide five useful tips to help you either economise, or avoid spending money you don’t have to.

The sure-fire way to burn through cash in Portugal is to go where the tourists go!

1. Learn your shopping options

Shopping in Portugal is something of a minefield, with price inconsistencies that often seem to make no sense at all. Some items vary in price hugely from supermarket chain to supermarket chain, some small stores sell certain items more cheaply than the supermarkets, and some (but not all) items cost far less at local markets.

The key is the learn all of these intricacies and plan around them. In the UK you may be able to reduce your shopping bill simply by choosing a specific supermarket chain – in Portugal it’s far more a case of learning what’s cheap where.

Portugal price comparison

Items can vary in cost hugely between stores.

2. Work out how to heat and cool your home efficiently

When people move to Portugal from colder climes, it can be a surprise to find that electric bills can go up in the summer due to the cost of air conditioning. Then, an absence of central heating in the winter can also cost a huge amount when people switch to plug-in heaters in a desperate attempt to warm those marble-tiled floors!

The way to save money here is to learn your property; Find out where the sun shines throughout the day, the way the draughts work, and what kind of heating is most economical for you in the winter. Simple things like closing curtains at certain times to prevent rooms turning into a greenhouse, and creating a through-breeze to reduce reliance on air conditioning can all be big money savers.

3. Step away from the tourist trail

The sure fire way to burn through cash in Portugal is to go where the tourists go. We’re talking places like beachfront restaurants, and pavement cafés in Central Lisbon.

Of course, there will be times when you want to visit these places and indulge yourself, but if you want to save money you should act like a local and choose more “local” places. You’ll probably enjoy better service and food too! Save the “tourist bit” for when guests visit, and they might even pay as well!

Portugal - price comparison - taking the train

Trains are a great way to keep your travel costs down.

4. Avoid the tolls – or use public transport

Portugal’s network of toll roads is of a very high quality, but they’re not cheap to use. Choosing the tolled A2 from the Algarve to Lisbon will save you stress and time, but will add over €40 to the cost of a return journey. The free road may not be such a pleasant driving experience, but will save you that sum.

Or, using the same journey as an example, consider taking the train. It’s not the fastest journey, but with an advance booking you can get a first class return for less money than you’ll spend in petrol – and that’s before you’ve even thought about Lisbon parking.

5. Become part of the community!

The Portuguese are great at sharing, and it’s great to join in. A gift of a cake or a pie sent to your Portuguese neighbours will likely be followed up by a huge bag of oranges or figs, starting a cycle of reciprocation that’s benefits all concerned and contributes to a real community feel.

At times, once you’ve lived in Portugal for a while, it feels like you never leave home without a plate or bowl to return to a neighbour for some reason! It’s a wonderful, old fashioned part of life, which really contributes to the soul of the country.

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