Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mocha Mondays and Cost of Living Reflection

Yesterday, Mocha and I took our weekly walk to El Centro and stopped at "El Cafetal de Loja" so I could rest and Mocha could sniff around. It's my absolute favorite place in Cuenca to have a "cafecito." The inner courtyard is peaceful and they treat you like royalty.

"Siga no mas!" said the owner (several times) until I reached the table with a single white rose frosted in pink.

After five minutes, my "Cafe Americano" was ready and served with a small pitcher of warm milk (total cost: $1.00).

It was sheer perfection!

Mocha sat by my feet and murmured, "Okay, I better make myself comfortable because I think we're going to be here for a while!"

Yep, Mocha can read my mind, so he laid down on the cobblestones and took a nap. Good thing because there was a conversation brewing at the next table that made my ears perk up. Evidently this guy from New York was taking a tour of the city with his guide.

The newcomer in town wanted to know the top three of everything in Cuenca: best places to eat, best bars in town, etc. Unfortunately, I only had one scrap of paper the size of a gum wrapper and my pen kept "sputtering." I did introduce myself and welcomed the new person to Cuenca, before I ran home as fast as I could so none of the information would spill out of my head!

Some of the stuff I already knew, but the gist of what the new guy in town had to say held my interest a little longer: "So you're telling me that I could probably live more cheaply in the States than in Cuenca?"

"Yes!" the guide said emphatically. "In some parts of the U.S. you probably could live on your pension, but you would miss all this beauty," he added with a smile.

Okay, now I'm going to share my side of the story "over coffee." Yes, it is true that you probably could live in the States (in some parts) more cheaply than Cuenca, but it all depends on your lifestyle.

We came to Cuenca for the medical as our medical insurance in the States would have eaten us alive with its $1,500 monthly premium and its $20,000 deductible (not to mention mortgage, cars, and the heating bill in Pennsylvania).

In Cuenca, although we live on less than most, we're still able to save approximately 20 percent of our income and we never feel deprived. In fact, this is the only time in our lives that we have two other sources of income that we use solely for savings and investment. Try to do that in the States?!? Although we came down here for the affordable health care, we ended up with a lot more in the way of quality of life.We live along the Tomebamba River, we walk everywhere and we don't need a snow shovel!

However, we do have a Plan B. What if we had to go back to the States, where would we live and how could we make it? I know it sounds impractical, but we picked Paso Robles, California (27 miles inland from San Luis Obispo). It's close enough to the ocean without the high cost of living in a coastal town. Not exactly Los Frailes, but it just might work.

We found a two bedroom, one bath apartment with a pool and all the amenities for $450 a month. It's on "El Camino" next to WalMart, Starbucks, and a large shopping center. No need for transportation because they have an excellent bus system and we can walk everywhere in town. By the way, they're emerging as the new Napa Valley with wineries galore. We figured out that we could probably live on the same amount or less and would even qualify for some health care programs (that's a really big "if" because California is bankrupt!).

Why California? Our entire family lives in either Northern or Southern California. Both of our parents are in their 80's and Mark's dad who is 85, just fell and fractured his hip. He will be in a long-term care facility as he recovers. But we've had "Plan B" in place for a while just in case something like this were to happen. In July  2012 we will be able to leave Ecuador for a period of 18 months as we will have passed the all important two-year mark in our cédula process. Don't worry, we're not going anywhere (yet), but at least we have a plan in place in case of an emergency!

Mocha Mondays are important: it gives me time to see Cuenca like a tourist, meet and greet new folks in town and reflect on our life. In August we will be vacationing in San Luis Obispo with our kids, so we'll be able to report back on our findings. And we'll get to show our kids where we spent our honeymoon (Cavalier Inn, Madonna Inn and Hearst Castle).

One thing that living in a foreign country gives you is a different perspective. You find out how simple life can be and that you don't need all that "stuff" that you thought was so important. I don't even use a cell phone anymore!

Until next time...hasta luego!

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Anonymous said...

My sister and I are thinking of retiring in Cuenca. Is it still affordable to live there? We want a better quality of life and Cuenca looks wonderful. I'm just worried that it has become to expensive as I have seen on several blogs and videos that there is a housing boom there.

We want to live there fairly frugally. We don't want to be ones to inflate prices by paying more for rent...


Connie Pombo said...

Thanks for your comment, Michelle. For us, the cost of living has remained the same -- rent is still $200 for us. But we know many folks who have moved from Costa Rica say they're seeing the same thing here -- lots of building going on. It's hard to predict, but if things keep going in the direction that it's going...it could become another Costa Rica.

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