You’ve seen these claims before…about how you can live well and more affordably in Ecuador. People always ask me, how realistic are those statements? What do you mean by “comfortable?” Since my wife and I have lived in Salinas for almost three years now, and I track our expenses using spreadsheets, I decided to take a look at our own monthly expenses to get a real-world example.
First, here is a little background on our “comfortable life” on the coast. We purchased our condo for cash, so we don’t have monthly rent expense. We live in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom condo on the 19th floor of a modern, oceanfront building. I love to cook, so our grocery and Mercado spending is a little higher than some, but consequently our budget for dining out is lower. We also choose to stream media rather than use cable or satellite dish for entertainment, so we also pay a little more than average for Internet. Keep in mind too that Salinas is a resort community, and that prices generally are a little lower for some items in other parts of the coast. Finally, we decided to purchase insurance for our condo and belongings as well, something not everyone chooses to do in Ecuador.
Here are the monthly totals rounded up to whole numbers:
|Gas & Water||$20|
|Cell Phones (2)||$25|
|Groceries & Household Items||$600|
|Streaming Media Accounts||$45|
As you see, other than groceries, our biggest expense is our HOA fee. We pay a little more than most, because our unit is almost 2,000 square feet. But that HOA fee covers trash pickup, 24-hour staff, security, garage, and maintenance of all of the common areas—including amenities like swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, movie room, sauna, etc. The $160 a month for electricity is averaged over the year. We use our air conditioners a lot during the warmer months, and not at all during low season. It has been as high as $290, and as low as $35. On a smaller scale, gas and water also vary a bit each month, but average $20.
My wife and I each have a cell phone, but do not use a monthly plan. We buy minutes in blocks as needed, and $25 a month is enough for our needs. We eat at home for most of our meals, but when we do eat out, dinner for two is usually less than $20—lunch less than $10. So dining out is a small part of our budget. We do not need a car since we can walk to many destinations. Taxis to most places we need to reach are $2 to $3, and we can ride the bus anywhere in the peninsula for 30 cents—so our transportation expenses are also low. Property taxes are so low they are almost not worth mentioning–ours is less than $270 per year in Ecuador, while in the U.S. we were paying more than that each month.
All in all, the numbers show that our basic living expenses range from $1,200 to $1,600 each month, and average just barely over $1,400.
Of course, some months we do spend more. We may take a day trip up the coast with friends, go shopping in Guayaquil, or go out to the movies. Several times a year we have our windows cleaned for $60. We have bought furniture, done some remodeling and painting, and we have a pet dog that sometimes needs vet visits. My wife is at the beauty parlor right now ($15 at the mall, $8 in town), and every couple of months I splurge on a $5 haircut myself. Still, we spend less than $100 a month on these kind of personal touches.
Even if you decide to rent rather than buy your home, your budget can still be close to ours. We have a friend renting a home a block off the beach for $350 a month. She pays rent, but does not have to pay HOA fees, insurance, or property taxes, so her budget is still in the same ballpark
You can, of course, choose to rent a more expensive home, or dine out more often than we do. Some choose to hire maid service (usually $20 a visit), go for frequent trips to spas, weekly massages, or even purchase a car or motorcycle. For others, “living comfortably” may mean ordering one or more satellite services so that they can watch American sports events.
While different people may disagree on what is a comfortable life, and what they feel is something they cannot live without, it is possible for two people to live very well in Salinas for $1,500 a month or less. I know that is true for my wife and me, as we enjoy a comfortable and happy life in our condo on the Pacific Coast of Ecuador.
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