We, like many of our friends who live in Cuenca, have become concerned about the world-wide publicity that Ecuador is getting in the press, publicity that often shows only the glowing side of things and not the whole picture. While this attention is mostly justified, Ecuador is often misunderstood as being a cure-all for every problem with dirt cheap living costs. In the past few years, Costa Rica and Panama received similar accolades which led to overbuilding and a rapid increase in the cost of living and eventual disappointment by many who came to find their paradise.
We have seen the effect of the world-wide recession on friends and have met and corresponded with many people who are looking for answers to their own desires for change that might bring a full and comfortable life style. Almost all are near or in retirement and are looking for a way to conserve their remaining assets and to live as well as they can on their retirement income. Living in the States and in Europe has become dicey at best for many of them. Often this means they must find a way and a place to live on Social Security and their pensions. Fortunately, this has worked for us and we have managed to live well on our retirement income. We do worry, however, that this will not remain the case if Ecuador follows the “progress” of Panama and Costa Rica. We are concerned about overbuilding, a rising cost of living, and a change in the character of Cuenca brought about by a huge influx of “wealthy” newcomers because the income, though modest by US standards, is “rich” by Ecuadorian standards.
There will be some disagreement with the lists that follow but these are our real costs not just estimates out of the blue. The column on the left represents our actual costs for two adults plus school for Jonny. The column on the right is an estimate of how these costs for two could be reduced to a lower monthly total. Somewhere in between is probably where you might land.
Rent $740 -large 4 B/R apartment $300 - 2 B/R apartment
Food $500 -supermarket food $400 - for two at Mercados, etc.
Dining out $240 - twice a week $120 - once a week
Utilities $60 – electric,gas, water $40 – electric, gas, water
Cell phone $30 – 2 phones buy minutes $10 – 2 phones used infrequently
Internet $90 – Best speed $30 – slower plan
Computer $15 – supplies – high use $5 – supplies– low use
Cable/Satellite $76 – Direct TV w/ extras $30 – Direct TV basic
Transportation $60 – car with gas expense $60 – no car, use bus and taxis
Vacations $100 – One trip a year $0 – No vacation
School $250 – private school $0 – No children
Maid $135 – 3 days at $15 day $0 – no maid
Clothing $15 $5
Haircuts $10 – for two $10 – for two
Gym $40 – for two $0 – no gym
Medical $50 – pay as you go $50 – pay as you go
Vitamins $5 $0 – no vitamins
Cash $400 little things $300 – fewer little things
The above expenses don’t include any emergency costs, unexpected medical bills, or one time purchases that always seem to pop up and ruin the budget. Our expense of roughly $3000 a month is less than half the same categories and their cost in North Carolina. Other expats will have other ideas of what it costs for them to live in Cuenca but, no matter how you massage it, the expenses for two living here will probably come somewhere within these two totals.