Navigation Pages

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So How Much Does It Really Cost to Live Here?

A burning question for many people seems to be "how much does it cost to live in Ecuador?".  Well, we can only speak for Cuenca and we have limited experience, but we can share what we've learned so far.

Housing is our most expensive cost, but we've set ourselves up in the heart of El Centro in very modern digs.  We pay $700 US a month, but this includes a fully furnished 1 bedroom apartment, very well located, and encompasses all our utilities and weekly maid service. You can definitely get housing for less, but we wanted to have a comfortable, familiar place as we made this big transition.

As the maximum amount we can pull out of a bank machine is $600, we decided to try and live off of that for a month, once we set ourselves up with necessaries. (It cost about $300 for us to get our fridge filled up satisfactorily and our cupboards half filled with the usual things that one has in the kitchen - olive oil, condiments etc. It's amazing how much stuff you collect over time and overwhelming when you have to replace it all at once!)

The good news?  We got through the month(and this was a five week month), quite well, actually, with our budget, but we spent every cent.  Here's how it broke down:

     Groceries:        464.73
     Eating out:        79.35
     Miscellaneous:   51.30
     Sub-Total:       595.38 
     Housing:          700.00
     Grand Total:   1295.38

We ate dinner at home most of the time (only going out for dinner once and it cost a whopping $13.20!), but, as my previous blog "The Joy of Almuerzo" indicates, we go out lunch out 2 to 3 times a week.  As a codicil, I should mention that we eat well at scrimping on good ingredients. Another note is that, twice, at lunch, we paid twice as much as we thought we were going to, not a crisis at $6 instead of $3, but a difference, none the less.)

Chicken Cacciatore Cuenca Style a la Danica

Spinach Fettucine with Red Pepper

Baked Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

Roasted Chicken and Roasted Vegetables
The miscellaneous stuff included vitamins, some cooking implements that our suite lacked and other items that I would classify as "unusual" and not regular expenses.

So suffice to say that it can be done on $1300 a month, but we'd like to eat dinner out a couple more times a month, not necessarily fancy places, but there's lots of intriguing restaurants to try.  

There are many places that you can either scrimp or, eating out, lodging, groceries.  It would be easy to spend $3000 a month between eating out, buying luxury liquor and even having one dollar scoops of ice-cream every day.

We're slowly learning what is more affordable at the mercados versus the grocery store.  I bring my calculator to the Super Maxi and weigh vegetables, just to see if the ladies of the mercado are giving me a good deal or not.  I've discovered that carrots are cheaper at the Super Maxi than the price I'm charged at the mercado (at least with our membership card), but bananas are more expensive. 

You can be taken advantage of here, we were regularly paying 50 cents for good sized mangoes, and then suddenly one lady wanted a dollar each, the same happened for pitayas, but we've learned to ask first (for most things) and not buy if we feel the price isn't right.

This is a Pitaya (aka Dragon Fruit)

The black dots are seeds the flesh is white or clear and quite delicious. This one already has a bite missing.
We do buy what I would consider "luxury" items, things like peanut butter, 500mL cost almost $6, cheese (my weakness) also around $5, fortunately, I also like the very popular "queso fresco" which is quite inexpensive (for cheese).

We've walked everywhere, including bringing groceries home, we've yet to get in a cab or bus, so we've had zero transportation expense. (At least until we have to replace our shoes!) You may have noticed that we haven't included any expense for medical or travel.  This isn't an oversight, we just don't include it in our day to day expenses (yet).  If we decide to get a local health care plan, that will have to wiggle in to the budget.

In a later blog, I'll provide a list of food items and prices for those who are curious.


  1. Great info, I have been wondering about this and how the estimates you hear about compare with reality.

    What about getting around with no Spanish, are there enough people that speak English in the service industry, restaurants, buses, etc. or would it be really difficult ?

  2. I think that prices are higher than those you read about on the internet. It depends how you want to live...I wouldn't want to try with less than $1200 not including travel. Spanish is a definite benefit...not many people speak conversational Spanish, so there's a lot of gesturing, smiling and general silliness when trying to buy things if you don't have a passing knowledge of Spanish. (It can be done, I'm sure, but it might not be all that fun.)