How much does it really cost to live in Ecuador? I’ve reported in the past about couples living in this country on no more than $500 or $600 per month. Although I’ve no reason to doubt their numbers, that seems like remarkably low-budget living to me.
Here’s what I’ve found: Thanks to the temperate climate we have no heating or air conditioning costs and our most expensive monthly electric bill over the last seven months was $23.05. Our highest monthly water bill was $9.24. A bottle of propane that we use for cooking and hot water costs $3. We buy one for the stove once a month and one for hot water every six weeks for a total cost of $4.50. So far, then, our highest monthly costs for utilities: $35.79.
We own our apartment outright so we don’t pay rent or have any mortgage expense. But we do pay $100 per month for our Homeowners Association fees. And we spend $85 per month for our cellphone service and high-speed wireless Internet. (Our association is currently looking at options to reduce this latter expense.)
We buy our fresh produce, meat, poultry and seafood mostly at the open-air mercados in Cotacachi, Otavalo or Ibarra. We spend about $40/week there and another $40/week on staples (flour, rice, bread, cleaning products, etc.). We don’t sacrifice when it comes to food—we eat very well.
We like to cook and we eat a diet of absolutely fresh foods—no prepared “convenience” items and no soft drinks. Our downfall, though, is wine and beer. We figure we spend $70/week here…yes, almost as much as our food bill! Total monthly food and alcohol expenses: $675.
We like to dine out on occasion and we spend about $40/week for that, so $180/month. Occasionally we’ll rent a movie via the Internet which adds another $20/month at the most. So figure our total monthly entertainment expenses at $200. We also spend, on average, $10/month on transportation and $60/month on prescriptions.
Here is the total monthly tally, rounded up:
|HOA fees:||$ 100|
|Food and alcohol:||$ 675|
If you’re trying to estimate how much it might cost you to live here, you can assume that you’ll spend anywhere from $150/month to $700/month to rent an apartment or house. (These figures are for the small town of Cotacachi. You’ll spend more in a metropolitan area like Cuenca or Quito. By the way, our property taxes are less than $50 per year.)
So…those couples I mentioned who are living in Ecuador on $500 to $600/month? You can see how it can be done. If we eliminated alcohol, HOA fees and prescription medications (expenses you may not have, for example), our monthly expenses would be around $700. If we watched our food and entertainment pennies just a bit, we could definitely reduce that amount to under $600.
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