A New Kind of Blog

There is a world of information about Ecuador. It is one of the most popular countries for people who want to retire to a place where the dollar goes much farther than in the US, a place for adventuresome families who want to experience a new language and exciting culture. However, much of what you read or hear does not touch on the practical, the problematic, or the local information necessary to make things work. There are many blogs which are basically daily diary’s from people who live here. But this blog will be different. We know how hard it is to get accurate and timely information. We have been through it. All of us who live here have learned step by step and we question whether it is necessary to have every newcomer reinvent the wheel. We hope this blog will help shorten the learning curve. There are many hurdles but all are surmountable. What is required is patience, an understanding of local ways, and a realization that you are going to live in a country which is not the same as the US, Canada, or Britain. Our choice was to live in the wonderful city of Cuenca in the Southern Sierra but this may not be your decision and you will therefore have to look further to find the answers you need for different areas like the coast or the Amazon. Please realize that all the suggestions and ideas are based on our experiences. Ecuadorian regulations change rapidly and must be checked before you make any investments or major decisions. Please email us at Sailorburr@gmail.com and let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cost of Living

There are three of us living in a high end apartment building in Cuenca. Except for unusual expenditures, we are living on Social Security and a pension which amounts to $3000 a month. We have those amounts automatically deposited to our bank in the US. When we need cash we withdraw fairly large amounts from any one of the many ATM machines in town. There is a $5 international transaction fee for each withdrawal. But, this is by far the most efficient way to pay for daily items in Ecuador’s cash society. Again, we are living very well and two people and a child, like us, could live far less expensively.  Here is a rough breakdown of our monthly expenses.
$740 – Rent – We pay $600 rent and $140 building maintenance fee. You would not have this expense if you owned and most apartments are less expensive especially if they are unfurnished.
$45 – Electric bill – we pay no water or gas bill as it is included in rent. It would run about $30 max.
$60 – Gasoline and maintenance – Taxis and busses are cheap but we opt to own a car so we could travel easily.
$108 – Internet – this is expensive. We have two computers therefore we need two Porta USB modems at $54 each that connect to our computer’s USB ports.
$70 – Direct TV – Cable is less expensive but Direct Satellite TV is the most English friendly and is very reliable.  We have contracted for almost every channel they offer. Fewer premium channels would cost less.
$120 – Maid – For two days a week cleaning and two evenings a week as a sitter.
$222 – School – The primary schools we have investigated run from $126 to $350 per month.
$100 – Expatriate meetings – About $25 per Friday evening covers wine and appetizers for two.
$240 – Eating out – We eat out about 8 times a month. Each evening runs approximately $30 for two.
$15 – Haircuts - $4 for men x 2, $6-11 for women x 1
$60 – Gym – 3 times a week at $5 for two for each visit
$200 – Cash – Miscellaneous pocket money
$800 – Food – purchased at the Supermaxi and the co-op, we spend about $36 a day for 3 people. Buying produce at one of the mercados would save a great deal of money.
$2780 – Total per month for three of us. This leaves about $200 for all those unexpected items like a $25 visit to a doctor, or some new clothes, or a new cell phone, etc.  Again, I want to repeat that we are living very well on about 30% of what we spent each month in the US. We know many expatriates who are living on less than half of what we spend per month.
Here is a more detailed list of a recent visit to Supermaxi.  We have not included much produce as it is so inexpensive at the coop  and the mercados as to appear almost ridiculous.

The following list is for items that we think might be more expensive than in the US.
$6.31 – Box of Aunt Jemima’s pancakes
$1.20 – 2 liter bottle of Coke Light
$4.74 – 2 kilograms uncooked whole chicken
$6.35 – Quart of Florida Natural orange juice – This is almost out of sight costwise.
$1.34 – Box of Ritz crackers
$6.21 – 40 Huggies diapers
$2.17 – 350 gram bag of Ruffles potato chips

Some of the following items are familiar and some are Ecuadorian rake-offs of more expensive imported products.
$5.93 – 12 bottles of Pilsner beer.  This is a good local beer that most people drink
$3.32 – 6 pack of yogurt – There are about 10 different brands. Yogurt is popular.
$2.89 – 500 grams of La Chonta cheese – an excellent local stringy cheese
$4.54 – 0.5 kilogram of flank steak
$0.93 – Bag of microwave pop corn
$0.80 – Stick of butter
$0.59 – liter of fresh milk in a plastic bag – milk comes in plastic bags or boxes
$3.43 – 550 grams of Gonzalez Cheddar cheese – So far the best cheddar we have found
$2.08 – 6 La Europa hot dogs – many brands available in all sizes beef and chicken
$1.73 – 200 gram package of sliced ham – many brands available in different hams
$0.91 – can of tuna
$0.74 – 400 grams of spaghetti
$2.25 – Bottle of Rubino Spaghetti sauce
$1.36 – 400 grams of Maggi ketchup
$2.43 – 400 grams of Maggi mayonnaise
$3.77 – 600 gram jar of Meil honey – This is a lot of honey
$1.84 – 550 gram jar of fruit jam
$1.34 – 2 kilograms of sugar
$2.05 – 2 kilograms of rice
$2.65 – 2.5 kilograms of small potatoes
$0.81 – bag of bread crumbs
$1.43 – large cantelope
$1.54 – 500 grams of fresh strawberries
$2.14 – Box of McDougal’s corn flakes
$1.16 – Box of Schullo’s granola – not up to par with some in the US
$1.93 – 350 gram bag of locally made potato chips
$1.18 – box of Ricas (Ritz rake-off) crackers
$2.37 – Liter of Garasol sunflower cooking oil
$1.61 – box of 12 fresh eggs – strangely they don’t refrigerate eggs when on sale
$2.37 – 3 kilograms of juice oranges – five different kinds of juice oranges available
$1.51 – liter box of Nestle orange juice
$4.85 – Liter box of Clos white wine- a very decent Chilean wine in a box
$9.12 – 750 cc Bacardi Cuban rum – yes Cuban rum. It is fantastic
$2.67 – 750 cc bottle of Zhumir Tacao chocolate liquor – actually rivals Bailey’s
$2.36 – 12 fresh red roses – this is expensive. Can get 18 for same price at flower market
$7.00 – 4 kilograms of Procan dog food – Procan is the preferred dog food here
$1.47 – Spray bottle of Virginia cleaner (Windex)
$2.21 – Roll of Diamond plastic wrap
$3.42 – package of 12 rolls of Supermaxi toilet paper
$2.20 – package of 3 rolls of Elite paper towels

This is possibly a lot to absorb but hopefully, this list will give you some comparisons when thinking about the cost of food.

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