Year-Round Affordable Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Summer is such a great time of year. The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and the barbecue grills are working overtime. It’s one of the most anticipated seasons for most folks, and who can blame them? After months of battling snow, watching the mercury shrink beyond reason, and more hours of dark than light, it’s no wonder that summer makes so many people happy.

But along with lazy poolside days and sun-kissed cheeks, summer also brings added expenses. Air conditioners run non-stop during the hottest stretches, summer camps for the kids cost hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars, and those family vacations can really hurt your wallet.

But here in Ecuador, I’m loving every minute of my summer without worrying about the cost. I live in a little mountain town called Cotacachi and my life here has proven to be just as enjoyable and much more affordable than back in the U.S.

A huge reason why I save money here is because of the climate. I say I’m enjoying my summer, but honestly I enjoy my winter too. And everything in between. Because Cotacachi lies just above the equator, the weather remains more or less constant year-round. The high mountain altitude cools things down nicely, which makes for a nice average temperature of mid-60s F to low 70s F. That average is true for any day of the year, whether it be in July or December.

Because of the perfect weather conditions, I don’t need to spend money on air conditioning or heating bills. I also don’t need to worry about paying for repairs or replacement when my heating or cooling system breaks down on me. In the end, my total utility (electric, gas, water) bills for each month average less than $30.

I have two sons and we like to find fun activities in the summer months when they’re not in school. Back in the U.S. I paid over $500 for both of my sons to attend a one-week summer camp. This year, they’ll both be at a one-month music camp here in Cotacachi for just $50 total. If they want to play soccer they can join the local soccer league for free. And if we want to see a Friday night movie, we can hop on a bus for 55 cents each and head to the nearby city of Ibarra. Once there, $6.50 will get me a ticket to a first-run 3D showing and my kids each get in for just $6.

Food is one of my passions and I like good summertime fare as much as anyone. And if I have a neighborhood block party I can do it on a far cheaper scale than the average 4th of July bash stateside. A giant garden salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, and avocado) will cost less than $2. I can slice up one pineapple, one huge mango, and one pound of strawberries for a fruit platter for just $3. Five fresh trout for the grill can be mine for $5, and $2 will get me two baguettes from the German baker here in town.

Overall my family of four’s entire budget runs at between $1,200 to $1,600 per month excluding travel. The low cost of living is a fantastic perk, but it’s not why I love Cotacachi and Ecuador so much. Cotacachi is a wonderful small town with a friendly population of locals and a healthy expat community. The surrounding mountain peaks, the fresh air, and the ideal weather make it easy to get outside and be active.

And Ecuador itself is full of historical, geographical, and cultural treasures. The fact that I can live off of so little means that I can afford to enjoy everything else the country has to offer. And I can enjoy my summers, winters, falls, and springs without fretting over my finances.

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