Lots of expats are already living their dream Caribbean lifestyle… Taking leisurely walks along the coast, cooled by the enticing Caribbean breeze…swimming and snorkeling in the living aquarium of the Caribbean Sea…feasting on fresh fruits, seafood and lobster…indulging in afternoon catnaps in a comfy hammock…meeting friends for a fresh catch lunch at a seaside café…
Here’s the good news—this idyllic Caribbean lifestyle is still possible for those with a decent Social Security income—if they know where to settle, and how to cut corners…
Financially savvy expats are enjoying this enviable lifestyle on $60 a day, or less. Many expats choose to spend more…but plenty get by on less. It’s a matter of making lifestyle choices that fit within your individual budget.
Belize has garnered significant tourism attention during the last few years, especially for the highly popular cayes. It is, of course, more costly to live in the most desirable regions frequented by tourists—the cayes and the Placencia Peninsula. (The cost of living on the Placencia Peninsula is now comparable to the cost of living on Ambergris Caye.) And yet there are expats who insist they have been living a comfortable, quality lifestyle in these popular regions, but on an affordable budget…
So let’s explore the daily cost of living in a few of the popular regions of Belize where the majority of expats settle—Ambergris Caye, Corozal, Punta Gorda and San Ignacio…
Cost of Living on Ambergris Caye: $60 a Day
Ambergris Caye continues to rack up awards as one of the world’s best islands to retire. This gorgeous Caribbean island is within easy reach of the spectacular World Heritage Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, with myriad options to explore its many splendors. Because it is an island, there is an “extra” cost for products shipped there. And tourism has driven up wages. And yet, retirees Judy and Dwayne Allen live comfortably on Ambergris Caye for less than $60 a day. Like many expats in Belize, they own their own home, so don’t worry about the rental trends. The Allens are living a satisfying, comfortable lifestyle.
Cost of Living in Corozal: $42 a Day
On the mainland, the town of Corozal is a less expensive alternative. This expat haven, a 90-minute water taxi ride from Ambergris Caye, sits on the picturesque Bay of Corozal. You’ll find an active, established expat community here. And quite a few of the expats living here subsist on their Social Security income. It’s possible to do because the cost of living in this region starts at $42 a day for a couple. One of the advantages in this region is that expats can easily cross the border and stock up on inexpensive bulk items in Chetumal, Mexico, at familiar chain stores like Sam’s Club.
Angi and John Eurton moved to Corozal a year-and-a-half ago. Angi notes: “It’s extremely cheap to live here. We spend far more than we need to simply because we can. You could easily spend less than $1,500 per month and live very well.”
John Wiankowski is another expat who lives in Corozal full-time. He appreciates the inexpensive fresh produce, which is ripe and full of flavor. For just 50 cents he can buy eight oranges, four limes, or eight bananas; fresh fish fillets for $3.50/lb; and local lobsters for $9/lb. He rented a one-bedroom apartment in Corozal for $450 a month before completing his new home.
Cost of Living in Punta Gorda and the Cayo: $42 a Day
Heading to the southern end of Belize, Punta Gorda is another charming small town on a bay. Penny Leonard owns a small home with a bay view. Her cost of living is $36 a day. For a couple renting a home in this area, they could get by on $42 a day.
For those who aren’t yearning to live by the Caribbean Sea, another option is to head for the hills. For some expats, the Cayo region’s rivers, ruins and jungles are more enticing than the beach and coastal towns on the Caribbean Sea. The cost of living in and around San Ignacio also starts around $42 a day.
Living on Your Social Security in Belize
Expats who depend mainly on their Social Security income to live in Belize tend to pay attention to the cost of “discretionary” items. They cut corners by buying mostly local products and brands, and eat more like the locals. For instance, a box of imported cereal runs $7. And imported potato chips are about $4.50 to $5 a bag. My husband and I prefer to buy fresh local tortillas and make our own, healthier corn chips. A pack of 20 fresh tortillas runs only $1 on Ambergris Caye. We cut up the tortillas, add some salt and seasonings, then pop them in the toaster oven. These low cost, healthy chips are perfect with homemade guacamole or the local salsa.
Another way to control costs is to buy or rent a home designed to take advantage of the Caribbean’s cooling sea breezes. Most of our expat friends seldom use their AC units, saving hundreds of dollars each month on their electricity bill.
If you do decide to live on a caye, you can also cut costs by living near town and hoofing it, instead of buying a golf cart. Expats who live close to San Pedro Town save a bundle by getting around on their bike, or on foot. When they need to make a major shopping trip to town they opt for a taxi. Their overall transportation costs are negligible.
Another trick is to opt for water taxis instead of flights and buses whenever possible. On the mainland bus fares are affordable, especially when compared to flying or renting a vehicle.
It’s easy to control your entertainment budget in Belize. There are plenty of no cost entertainment options…live bands regularly jam on the beach—for free… There are many festivals, parades and performances—also for free… Enjoy parks with no entrance fees, walk on the beach, sit under a palapa at the end of a dock, swim in the Caribbean Sea, hike in a jungle… All are pleasant, free activities expats enjoy.
And there’s no charge for the enriching companionship shared with new friends…
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