After living in Cuenca for4 + years I think I have a realistic notion of the monthly costs. I presently live in a 2200 sq. ft 3 bedroom 3.5 bath unfurnished house.
Let's first find data we can all agree about:
- Electricity is subsidized by the government. My monthly bill (Which includes a Firefighter refuse pickup and tax) has never been over $ 30
- Also Propane Gas is subsidized by the government. A 15 gallon tank delivered to the house is $ 2.50. I have never used over $ 10 a month Which room includes a propane heater.
- Water - We have over 60 plants and the monthly water bill has nver Been over $ 6
- House Phone My house phone bill has never been over $ 4 per month.
- Gasoline is $ 1.49 per gallon all over the country. Diesel is $ 1.04 a gallon
- Taxis are plentiful and cheap. A two mile trip to El Centro from my house is $ 1.70
- City Buses - 25 cents and 12 cents if you're over 65. More about buses later in the post
- If you are over 65 have a writ and a bank account you can get * all * your VAT (12%) back taxes
- General Labor is cheap. The minimum wage in Ecaudor IS ABOUT $ 2.40 an hour.
- Dental and Medical Care is a fraction of North American costs
- IESS Medical Insurance with a Cedula is $ 73 per month + $ 11 per dependent
- Food - Is more expensive in the Supermarket. We buy our food most of it in the Local Markets
OK, now for the variables. (Single, Married, Roomate, Age.)
I am a married 69 year old in relative good health. I do not own a car and I prefer city living (within 2 miles of City Central). I walk every day (3-5 miles) and take the bus everyday. I do eat breakfast out 4 times a week. My wife and I go out for dinner eleven week and twice a week for lunch. We shop at the organic markets, and SUPERMAXI Free markets.
Apartment, Condo, House. Rent or Buy?
The majority of my friends Their housing rent. Can you still find a rental for $ 300 per month? The answer is totally dependent on Where You want to live and how far you need to commute to Cuenca. For my wife and I we chose location and the need for a garden. We are Within 3 blocks of shopping, banking and seven bus lines. When the Light Rail is completed the stop will be 400 ft from our door. The big question for MOST is Whether to rent furnished or unfurnished. Our first two Were furnished rentals. After 15 months we DECIDED to furnish an Entire house. Surely you can find cheaper or used furniture but we spent $ 7,000.
Pets, Poker And Plants
We have two rescue cats. Generally, vet care is cheaper than in North America. But, good healthy cat food is twice as expensive and cat litter is 3 times as expensive as in the US Good quality Also dog food is expensive. The reason I bring up Poker and Plants Is That I Find That a few expats do not have any hobbies Because They are on tight budget. Generally plants are cheaper here and there are many Poker, Bridge games in Cuenca.
Medical, Dental, Health Insurance
Both my wife and i had disastrous results with two private health insurance plans. The first one was always a problem getting reimbursed. The second one canceled the plan one day for almost 200 hundred epats Because They Were Realized That We Submitting claims higher than the monthly premium. Presently We have the Ecuadorian Social Security Plan Which has no age restriction or copay. Mentioned as the premium is $ 84 per month for a couple. For Certain You have to have lots of patience and a understanding of Spanish (or an interpreter) to navigate the system. Recently i had complicated eye surgery (vitrectomy) and there was no doctor in Cuenca to cover the operation. The alternative was to travel to Quito and convalese 1 month in Quito. I chose to pay out of pocket and Have the operation outside of the system.
Time, Technolgy, Travel
In my past business life and now in my retirement I have lived by the motto That "Time is the currency of the workplace. In my case STI retirement. I am not handy and will More Often than not pay a professional to fix something.
Also I invest in the best and latest technology for my myself and my wife. Retirement Should be fun and relaxing.
We travel back to the US eleven year to visit friends and family in 3 different states. We are fortunate That we do not haveto rent a hotel in 3 different states. Flights, food, car rental costs, presents, and returning clothes and technology make this a $ 6,000 trip Which amortizes to an extra $ 500 per month on to your budget. I am sure people can do this for less. Again, its a style of retirement we want in our lives.
Sh * t Happens
We all think we are invincible and immune to accidents. In Cuenca it's not if you fall on the sidewalks but when. Previously, I Mentioned That I ride the bus everyday. In the 3 years I have lived in Cuenca That I estimate I have ridden the bus over 2000 times. I can count on two hands with a couple of fingers left over to the number of completely safe rides I have experienced. There are 30 bus routes in Cuenca and I have never Waited over 10 minutes for a bus. However, the bus drivers would fail almost without exception Given any test drivers in North America for bus drivers. The bus is moving Often When you get on or off. A good friend just hit His head on the window and his head was bleeding and the bus driver did not stop. All this is leading up to the following question.
Does your budget include an emergency fund for accidents or medical emergencies That are not covered with insurance?
For us living in Cuenca in a middle class life style in a unfurnished house with a garden, laundry and cleaning service our monthly budget is $ 2,000. Can you do it for less. Of course. But I just can not Agree with budgets of $ 1,300 per month That do not include trips back to North America each year and an emergency contingency allotment.
Feel free to disagree and comment.