Living in Luxury for as Little as $1200 a Month: American Expats

With the cost of living in the U.S. on the rise, some Americans are beginning to look at new places to live, travel for extended periods, or even retire.

The world’s a big place and the good news is, there are still pockets of the world where your U.S. dollars can afford you a decent standard of living — perhaps even a luxurious standard of living.

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We assembled a list of some of the most interesting places to live or visit for extended periods. In the order of the most expensive (Ireland) to the least expensive (Philippines), here are some locations to consider:

Ireland – $4,000 per month

Ireland is a country known for its beautiful green countryside and calm scenery. It has a temperate climate; 65°F in summer and 37°F in winter. Not bad. But don’t forget your umbrella; that lush green grass comes at a price. The island gets a lot of rain–about 150 days of it every year!

Cost of living in Ireland:

Ireland is the most expensive on our list. Living expenses have skyrocketed in recent years, especially in cities like Dublin where you could expect to shell out $4000 a month all-in, or $48,000 in after tax dollars for two people. Household help will cost from $12 to $15 per hour in Ireland.

Irish cuisine:

Traditional northern European cuisine, British food, and unique dishes can all be found in Ireland. Stews, soda bread, boiled meats, and healthy breakfasts are staples with delicacies such as Black Pudding, Colcannon, and shellfish also commonly available.

A senior couple can expect to pay around $70 in a mid-range restaurant offering three courses, with items such as famous domestic beer averaging around $6.

Medical care in Ireland: 

Ordinary residents who pass the means test are entitled to free healthcare in Ireland. A medical card gives holders access to many healthcare services, including visits to the emergency room and most medical procedures. Prescription medication with a medical card costs as little as €2 per item.

Security in Ireland: 

Violent crime rates are low, but petty crimes such as drug use, vandalism as well residential crime are common. That’s especially true in urban areas like Drogheda, Dublin, Limerick, and Cork with large immigrant populations. Although, “the Troubles” as the conflict between Northern and Southern Ireland is known, has recently resurfaced.


American citizens that wish to retire to Ireland must have an annual income of no less than $55,138 per person for the remainder of their lives in Ireland, regardless of their existing funds or lack of debt. This is to ensure that the retirees are not a burden to the state.

An Irish retirement visa doesn’t allow retired seniors to work in Ireland, but they still need to file there. For the most part, retirement income won’t be taxed in Ireland if it was generated outside the borders of Ireland.

Italy -$3800 per month

Italy remains one of the top locations for both tourists and retirees. Exquisite cuisine, affordable living, unique landmarks and historical wonders attract many visitors. However, U.S. citizens might be deterred by the language barrier and occasional issues with garbage disposal and petty crime in the south of the country.


The process of acquiring residency in Italy begins at home. The first step is to acquire a requisite stamp in the passport from the Italian consulate which will allow a temporary residence permit and is renewable for up to 5 years. At the end of those five years, residents can apply for permanent residency.

Costs of living in Italy:

The cost of living in the U.S. is 34% more expensive than it is in Italy. Rent in the U.S., for example, is about twice as expensive as it is in Italy. One-bedroom apartments average around $680 in urban areas and $521 in the city outskirts. Household help in Italy averages around $11 per hour. However, Italy does have higher gas prices.

Italian cuisine:

Everyone knows the Italian staples: pasta, pizza, salads, cured meats, and sauces dominate the menus. However, there’s much more to Italian cuisine than that. Each region has its own unique dishes and it will take a while for any visitor to taste them all.

Restaurants can be pricy, with prices ranging from around $50 to $95 for a three-course meal for two. Famous Italian cappuccinos cost less than $2.

Medical care in Italy:

Italy offers affordable and high-quality health care. As non-EU citizens, U.S. seniors can gain access to the public system at a cost of about $400 per year. The public plan includes tests, medications, surgeries and hospitalization.

Security in Italy:

Crime in Italy itself ranks from low to moderate, with most of the serious and violent crimes happening in urban areas (with the crime capital being the city of Milan). The region of Lombardy is known for its thefts and robbery while people residing in the south should be wary of car thefts.

How will US taxation affect you in Italy:

Italy has a progressive income tax, ranging from 23% to 43%. However, it also has a double taxation treaty with the U.S., which means you shouldn’t pay tax twice on your income.

Spain and Portugal – $2500 per month

South of Ireland, encompassing the entire Iberian Peninsula, are the Republic of Portugal and the Kingdom of Spain. These neighboring countries offer a ton of unique experiences, tastes, sights and much more to any U.S. senior who would choose to retire there.

The climate and average temperature are quite varied in Spain. The northern coast is quite humid and cool, while the southern regions are exceptionally hot, sometimes over 104°F  during summertime. In Portugal, the temperature typically varies from 47°F to 83°F.

To be able to retire in Spain, a U.S. citizen will need to acquire a residence Visa, which allows them to reside or retire in the country without being able to work there. To acquire such a Visa, Americans must prove they have a monthly income of at least 2130 euros ($2522) and expect to live in Spain at least six months a year. Depending on one’s lifestyle, expenses can vary considerably – but, Spain is still one of the cheapest destinations in Western Europe. A couple with $28,000 in after-tax income a year can live quite well.

As for Portugal, the visa process is simpler but it can take a while. An American needs to prove a monthly income of $1070 to get a year-long residence permit. After living in Portugal for five years, foreigners can apply for permanent residency status.

The cost of living in Portugal is, like Spain, considerably lower than that of the U.S. An expat couple can live in Portugal  decently well (including regular meals out) on $28,000-$33,000 per year.

Costs of living:

The cost of living in Spain is much lower than in the U.S. For example, San Francisco is 72% more expensive than Madrid, one of the priciest locations in whole Spain.

Housing is much more affordable too, but it’s often difficult to find good quality housing in Spanish cities.

Comparatively, the cost of living in Portugal is almost 29% lower than that of the U.S. average.

What to expect from cuisine and its pricing:

Cuisine in Portugal and Spain ranges from cheap, filling staples with rice, beans, tomato soups, and stews to expensive delicacies. Goose barnacles, known as Galician percebes are priced at $200 per kilo. Iberian ham can cost as much as $4,500 per piece. There’s also food with which Americans will be familiar, such as tortillas and churros.

Portuguese food is mostly based around seafood, including cod stew, sardines and seafood sandwiches. The average price of meals in Portugal will amount to around $30 per day when eating out; about as much as one meal for two in Florida

Medical care:

Spain’s healthcare system is one of the advantages of moving there in retirement. The country offers universal coverage for all legal residents over 65-year-old. 

Portugal’s healthcare system covering all basic needs, accidents and illnesses. The service is generally free, although some fees may apply. Generic drugs cost less for insured patients, about 10% to 25% of their costs in the U.S.


Global peace ranking in 2021 designates Portugal as the 4th most peaceful country in the world, with a low violent crime rate. However, petty crimes like pickpocketing, vehicle break-ins and purse snatchings are common in major cities of both Spain and Portugal.

How will US taxation affect you:

U.S. retirees in Spain and Portugal may face double taxation. In Portugal, any income generated in the nation itself is taxed at a flat rate of 20%. All tax residents are also required to pay taxes on their global income.

In Spain, anyone who lives longer than six months becomes a tax resident and is required to pay income tax at 19% for the first $7,103 and 21% for the rest.

Philippines – $1200 per month

The Republic of the Philippines in Southeast Asia may be the best deal going for Americans hoping for decadent lifestyle on a fixed budget. Situated upon the western Pacific ocean it offers spectacular ocean scenery and exotic culture. With English being widely spoken and the low cost of living, the Phillippines could be a great option for U.S. retirees.

Costs of living in the Philippines:

The cost of living is extremely low in the Philippines. With $1200 a month one can live in relative luxury in the country.

Apartments can be bought for as little as $70,000 while repair services like plumbing cost less than a $12. However, foreigners can only buy condominiums and townhouses, as land ownership is only permitted for Filipino citizens.

Labor costs in the Philippines are quite low, meaning that many U.S. citizens living abroad may be able to afford luxuries such as household help or chauffeurs included in that $1200 a month budget

What to expect from cuisine and its pricing in the Philippines:

The cuisine of the Philippines reflects its position in Southeast Asia. Stewed chicken and pork are often mixed with vegetables and rice. Unique seafood like fermented pastes, broths like Sinigang, and stone-fried chow called Sisig are all well-known meals.

Medical care in the Philippines:

Medical care is not free, however the services are relatively affordable compared to the U.S. A visit to a GP costs around $7 while an x-ray costs around $20. Hospitals are comparable to those in the U.S., and many Filipino doctors are trained abroad and are affiliated with international medical associations.

Security in the Philippines:

One downside of the Philippines is that safety and security are remain a concern. A large percentage of the population lives in poverty, making the country more likely to experience unrest. The frequent power outages don’t help either.

One good thing is that retirement communities are placed far away from areas prone to crime. The government is committed to protecting its tourism revenue, with safety in the areas frequented by foreigners and tourists being a top priority.

How will US taxation affect you in the Philippines:

Foreigners are only taxed on income that is earned from sources in the Philippines. The government does not tax any outside retirement income.

Beach in Philippines

Happy Traveling – and Happy Retirement!

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