How We Save Thousands Every Year by Living in Portugal

The sun sparkled against the sand as the ocean breeze blew through my hair and sweat glistened on my face. It was the last few minutes of a beachfront bootcamp that a friend invited us to attend along Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The group was instructed to run a lap around the perimeter of the boardwalk as our final exercise. I was tired and had second thoughts about running through the sand and on the dusty platform, but did as I was told. Before I knew it, I was on the ground and my left arm had taken the brunt of the fall.

Although my paramedic husband did not think my arm was broken, later that day when my fingers turned to ice, we knew something was wrong. Off we went to the local public hospital to have it checked out.

One of the benefits of retiring to Portugal is having access to their low-cost, public healthcare system.

It was a Sunday afternoon as I entered the busy emergency room. I registered at the reception desk and within a few minutes I was called into a little room. An English-speaking nurse asked some questions and entered my information into the computer.

After a short spell in the waiting room, I was called into X-ray. A thorough set of X-rays were taken of my arm, hand, and wrist. Soon after, I met with an orthopedic surgeon. He explained that my elbow was broken but since it was a small fracture, it would not need a cast, just a sling. Within an hour we were walking out the door.

The cost was just $20 to see the doctor and another $20 for X-rays. Just imagine how much this would have set me back in a U.S. hospital or how long I would have waited.

As part of the requirement for our residency visa which allows us to live here, we need to carry private health insurance. Our insurance covers us at 90% if the doctor is in network, and 80% when they are not. And the best part is our health insurance here costs just $276.80 per month, for both of us.

My husband Clyde is a retired firefighter and paramedic from Corpus Christi, Texas. When he was working, the city paid a good portion of the cost of health insurance but when he retired, he would be responsible for the full amount. Eight years ago (when he retired) the cost was a staggering $1,400 per month. Compare that amount to what we are paying here and it’s a saving of over $13,000 per year.

It was about four years ago when we took our first ever trip to Europe and fell in love. I remember my husband saying that people like us didn’t go to Europe. “Only rich people go to Europe.” Yet here we are, actually living here.

The city of Caldas da Rainha literally translates to, “the baths of the queen.” Located one hour north of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, this mid-sized city just felt like home. Caldas, as it’s commonly called, was built around a thermal spring hundreds of years ago. It was Queen Leonor who ordered a thermal hospital to be built over the spring when she bathed in the warm waters and discovered their healing powers. That thermal hospital, one of the oldest in the world, is still in existence today.

Besides affordable health insurance, our goal was to find a place to rent as cheaply as possible so that we could afford to travel.

We think that our current home found us, because it’s the perfect match. With three-bedrooms, this private house is fully-furnished with plenty of antique decorations to enjoy. It also features gorgeous views of the green, rolling hills and farmland that surround it. And what we love the most is the price of $388 per month.

And since we are living so affordably, we can afford to travel to other parts of Europe. We just rang in the New Year on the border of France, outside of Geneva, Switzerland, enjoying a free stay thanks to housesitting.

Continually, we have to remind ourselves just how lucky we are, retired early and living a dream life in Europe, on Portugal’s stunning Atlantic Coast.

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