Cost of Living in Ecuador: $38/day (Per Couple)

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.

So now that my husband and I have been living off and on in Cotacachi for the last couple of years, I’ve put pencil to paper to tally our own cost of living in Ecuador.

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:

Utilities:$     36
HOA fees:$   100
Food and alcohol:$   675
Entertainment:$   200
Transportation:$     10
Communications:$     85
Prescriptions:$     60
TOTAL:$1,166/month ($38/day)

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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