Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Cost of Paradise 2014

After four years, things have changed in our "cost of paradise" budget!

We've made a few alternations. And gone are the days when you can live comfortably on $600 a month, although we know several single people who live on that amount and do just fine. And you can still find rents for $300; in fact, I saw one on Craigslist the other day for $280 that was two bedrooms, one bath with granite counter tops and modern kitchen, but it was only 538 square feet. We live in 800 square feet and it's perfect for us: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and every room with a view. That works for us!

However, I still get sticker shock at Supermaxi -- in the make-up aisle -- when I see Maybelline mascara for $16.00. Ouch! I guess we can't put a price tag on beauty -- right?  I just make sure I stock up on all those "necessary" items on our trips back to the States.

Thankfully, we're vegetarians, we don't drink, don't smoke, and have no other vices so we're fortunate in that regard.

Our shopping list looks basically the same almost every week. The fruit and veggies change, depending on what's in season. We juice a lot, so we keep everything fresh and sometimes we'll make 2-3 trips a week to Coral, Supermaxi or the mercado to get what we need.

Broccoli                                      .54
Pulpa de Pina (pineapple pulp) 1.68
Cauliflower                               1.03
Mora (Blackberries)                 1.12
Avocadoes (3 large)                   .83
Tomatoes (6 large)                     .81
Onions   (4 large)                       .78
Cucumbers   (3)                         .53
Pre-pizza                                  1.27
Bouquet of flowers                  1.29
Dental floss                             2.94 (x2)

As you can see the most expensive thing on the "menu" is dental floss; it's by Oral B and imported. I have no idea how much dental floss costs in the States, but something tells me it might be cheaper.

If you shop on Wednesdays at Supermaxi you can get a discount of 20% on produce and flowers, so that's usually when we shop, along with the rest of Cuenca!

I know, we're NOT your typical expat couple in that we don't drink alcohol, but we can drink all the "jugo" (juice) we want. We enjoy eating healthy and our blood pressure thanks us (and so does the rest of our body).

Our new budget is about the same with a few exceptions; we don't pay rent!

Rent                                  0
Alicuota  (condo fees)   $45
Water & Gas            $9
Electric                           $25
ETAPA phone                 $4
ETAPA Internet             $39            
Groceries                      $330
Medical/IESS               $142
Transportation                $50
Savings                         $160
Life Ins.                          $94
Rx's                                 $50
Misc.                               $50
Entertainment                 $50
Cell                                   $5
Doctor                             $50
Charity                          $152

Total                            $1,210

Our allotted budget is $1,317.17, so we are below budget. We cancelled Direct TV and switched to Apple TV. Initial investment was $150, but we love it (no commercials). We actually spend less than we did four years ago, but that's because we own our home. All the rest that we make goes into savings -- including our teaching and writing income. We use the extras to go on vacation to the States once a year and take a few vacations within Ecuador. This year we went to the coast twice and enjoyed a few overnight trips. We don't have private medical insurance because we have found it to be a waste of money and only use IESS. Our medical insurance is a little more expensive because we're considered professionals (teachers). Normally it should be $70 with the dependent paying $11.

We don't have an iPhone with a data plan (just a flip phone -- like Gibs on NCIS) and we use Skype or FaceTime to connect with family and friends. We don't own a car as we live 3 blocks to the main shopping mall (Mall del Rio) and 20 minutes to El Centro. We walk a lot, take the bus and hail an occasional taxi.

Life is simple -- just how we like it!

Jardin del Valle
For others, this budget would NOT work -- not at all. I would say that $1,500 - $2,000 per month would bring you into the category of the majority as 70 percent of expats rent and eat out more often. When Mark and I dine out we never spend more than $12-15 (total) unless it's a special occasion, like a birthday or anniversary. We always split entrees. One thing I didn't include in the budget is our Spanish Intensives which is $80 a month, but it's not part of our regular budget.

I exercise at the park around the corner where they have resistance training equipment, dance therapy at 8:00 p.m. Monday-Friday, and swim at Hosteria Duran once a week for $3.10. We ride our bikes on the weekends and use that time to explore the city.

My $3.10 pool at Hosteria Duran on a busy day!
We are still considered young retirees (59) and won't receive Social Security for another three years, but life has taught us -- "never rely on the future." If we do receive it, we'll triple our income and look forward to more travel. But in the meantime, we're enjoying life and saving too!

The best part: We savor each day to the fullest. I love my writing world and look forward to some more stories coming out this year, including Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power of Forgiveness, and Mark enjoys teaching at CEDEI.  Mark always wanted girls and this cycle he has 16 of them!

Life is still good in paradise!

Until next time...hasta luego!


Anonymous said...

Hi Connie (my wife's name also). I bought your book on cuenca and read it through twice. I have a small pension from teaching and both of us will be ss age next year. We are considering living abroad on my pension and my wife's modest ira untill ground zero social security kicks in. I was looking at both quenca and medellin but after your comments on the evangelical work in cuenca, I'm sold. I am a preacher's kid and want very much to get involved with the people where we land. For the last year, I have been driven to learn Spanish, and can read, write and speak (howbeit minimal) conversationally. Now I think I know why the drive. God work in strange ways. Anyway, can you help me out with a couple things? What do the prices to purchase a place the size of yours go for? How safe is water and produce? Finally, if I fly down this January, where can I stay for a week without breaking the bank. I would also like to meet your pastor and a few folks there. Thanks for your help, Dan

Connie Pombo said...

Hi Dan & Connie -- Nice to meet you both! Congratulations on getting a jump on Spanish! We attend Calvary Chapel (Cuenca) and love it. There's the English service at 9 AM and the Spanish speaking service at 11 AM. Lots of ways to be involved! We paid 67K for our 2-bedroom, 2-bath, which now goes for 85K (a year later), so you can't go wrong buying in Cuenca. Ecuadorians don't put their money in the bank; they put it in property or real estate. It was probably the best decision we've ever made. January is a great time to visit -- wonderful weather. I really like The Forum Hotel and their restaurant (La Brasserie), but if you want an efficiency where you can do your own cooking there are some good deals on Air B&B (Cuenca). Here's the link to The Forum Hotel http://forumhotel.ec/

The water in Cuenca is supposedly the best in Ecuador. We use the water right out of our tap and run it through our Brita filter -- no problem. Fruits and vegetables are the best; Ecuador doesn't spray crops and no GMO's. We just soak our fruit and veggies in a vinegar solution for 20 minutes. You can e-mail me privately by going to www.thebestoflivingandretiringinecuador.com and hit the "contact button" and I'll be happy to answer any other questions you might have.

BTW, you should be fine on your monthly income. Like I said, we're able to save a lot now that we own our place. Mark turns 60 in March 2015 and then the countdown to Social Security!

All the best to you both!

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