So here we are, in Spain. Slightly discouraged by the rainy winter months while camping in our mini camper van, we opted for some peace and quiet. Dry peace and quiet, because we are renting an Airbnb for a little while. Slowly the fog from ongoing sleep deprivation is starting to lift, and it almost looks like the kids are getting bored. It is such a luxury to have the opportunity to think and talk and to figure out life.
One child is playing with the miniature dollhouse, the others are hanging out at the playground in front of the house. I can see the Mediterranean from the kitchen window, and we have a semi-private indoor pool. The pool is pretty fabulous. It is a saltwater pool, so much less chlorine than your average city pool, and we save the budgeted weekly entry fees. It may be a bit exhausting to go to the pool every day, but it’s the best way to improve swimming skills.
On Friday we went to the local food market. Gorgeous broccoli’s and cauliflowers were staring at us from every other booth and we roamed around for at least an hour before filling our bags. We left with broccoli, zucchinis, green onions, pumpkin and carrots, as well as raisins, figs, dates and prunes. After purchasing flowers for 1 euro, we had spent a grand total of 21 euros.
Next we went to the LIDL. It turned out that, although it can probably not compete with the freshness of local produce, this grocery store financially beat the local market. Not that this in entirely surprising, knowing that farmer’s markets in the U.S. are so pricey that we only roam them to pick up the atmosphere, but I guess I expected differently here in Spain.
But who can resist the older salesman who calls your son muy guapa when you are buying apples, or the many fancy flamenco dresses displayed in a narrow row? I like navigating the stroller around the long line in front of a churros booth. Obviously they make a great pastry. I would much rather spend my money by having my child pay the salesman of all kinds of household knickknacks, than with the little human interaction required at the grocery store. Hanging out on the rocks by the sea and having a picnic lunch together after shopping, or playing at the playground next to the grocery store parking lot? If the kids get to choose we will never see the inside of a grocery store again.
Then there is the budget. If we want to make this lifestyle last, we have to respect our financial limitations. Or to put it in a different way, we have to choose our priorities. Will it be possible to manage both? Feel the satisfaction of experiencing the Spanish lifestyle where, when and while we can, without blowing the budget? I feel like I need to have the excel sheet with my financial planning constantly in the corner of my eye, in order not to splurge or get sidetracked. We constantly need to weigh what is important or not, what is going to give us as well as the littles what we truly need.
So much is free in the world if you are only taking the time to see it. There is going to the beach to have ice cream, or there is just going to the beach to throw rocks or find pretty shells. You can order pizza, or you can enjoy a homeschool project of teaching cutting vegetables and making your own. And who needs a fancy splash park that you can only visit one time per year if you have the opportunity to swim every day for free? Especially together with mom and dad.
Often the advice is to shop with and envelope in your hand with no more cash than your budget allows. While I find that so limiting that it really is not practical, it forces you to stick to you plan. You are forced to be aware of your spending in relation to your budget, whether you like it or not. In the past I would make this work by sometimes just foregoing the grocery store altogether. We always had a filled freezer in addition to a well-stocked pantry. But not so much while traveling. The extent of my pantry reaches no further than lentils, rice and oatmeal. And I can hardly suggest to the kids to skip a meal. Although, doesn’t half the world live on lentils and rice? Maybe I can convince them if I top it off with ice cream for dessert?