Category Archives: Cost of Living
We moved to Nicaragua nearly two years ago. Along the way have discovered a plethora of ways to save a buck.
We now live in a nicer home and own and maintain a vehicle. Overall of our quality of life is better.
The interesting thing? Our budget hasn’t really changed.
Here’s how we do it!
BUY BEVERAGES FROM THE LOCAL DISTRIBUTOR
No matter where you buy it in Nicaragua beer and rum is cheap, but purchasing it at our local distributor allows us to save more than 50%.
To put things into perspective…
A can of Tona purchased at the corner store costs $1 USD, while a bottle purchased at the distributor rings it at just 0.53₵. If you want even more bang for your buck you can purchase beer by the liter – at the distributor – for just $1.14 USD per unit.
Another plus purchasing from the distributor? They’ll deliver the goods right to your door … for FREE!
EAT OUT LESS
When we arrived in Nicaragua the food was new and impressive, but within a couple of months it became very unexciting.
With access to fresh ingredients and more time to cook we prefer to eat most of our meals in. Eating more meals in allows us to save a decent amount of money, which in turn means we can afford to splurge on a special dinner out now and again.
BUY CELL PHONE MINUTES ON PROMOTIONAL DAYS
For the first few months after moving we shared a cell phone. During that time we were spending an average of $20 USD per month and we were constantly running out of minutes.
With a bit of research and some trial and error we now average $12 per month for two phones and we rarely run out of minutes.
We purchase minutes on promotional days where the carrier sometimes gives us up to six times our minutes. And instead of paying for individual text messages, we purchase packages.
PURCHASE FRUIT & VEGETABLES FROM THE FRUIT TRUCK
In Canada we bought most of our fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Occasionally we would go to a Farmer’s Market for better quality produce. Ironically the prices were even higher.
Here in Nicaragua fresh produce is available at our local Pali (grocery store), but the freshness and quality of our local vendors is far superior, not to mention much cheaper. We actually prefer to support our local entrepreneurs – and 9 times out of 10 – that is exactly what we do.
Depending on what we buy and where we buy it, it’s possible to save as much as 50% on produce.
Here’s an example:
At the grocery store one medium avocado is 40 cordobas or $1.66 USD. At the local market the same sized avocado can be purchased for 25 or 30 cordobas. If we purchase from the fruit truck that visits our neighborhood daily we can get an avocado for 20 cordobas. And if we’re lucky enough to be around when a vendor comes to our door an avocado may cost as little as 15 cordobas.
LIVE THE LOCAL LIFESTYLE
I sometimes crave familiar brands from home, but have learned to limit myself to one or two treats (pretzels, peanut butter, chocolate chips and extra sharp cheddar cheese) now and then.
By learning to live without some of our favorite and familiar brands we’re able to stay on budget.
BEWARE: If you insist on buying imported products from your home country you will significantly increase your living expenses.
These are just a few of the ways we’ve learned to save while enhancing our lifestyle. We’d love to hear from other savvy expats who’ve found additional ways to save. Leave a reply in comments section below.
Each day International Living uncovers some of the most desirable–and cheapest–retirement havens on earth, including Nicaragua. In International Living’s free daily postcards, you can learn about retirement, property, travel and lifestyle opportunities from around the world.
An article of mine was recently published as an International Living postcard and I’m pleased to able to share it with you!
Life in This Beach Town Keeps Getting Better…
By Elisha MacKay
With our toes in the sand and mojitos in hand, my husband Gordon and I clink our glasses to another spectacular San Juan del Sur sunset. The sky is a brilliant hue of orange, yellow and red. Our four-month-old miniature schnauzer puppy lies at our feet, spent from her romp on the beach. Sixteen months have passed since we left our home, our jobs and friends and family in Alberta to start a new life in Nicaragua.
Our Nicaraguan adventure began in Poneloya where we rented a lovely little house on the beach. From there we moved to a guest house in Leon. Three months later we were living large in a luxury apartment in Granada. Opportunity knocked and we found ourselves living with three dogs, two cats and a goat in a beautiful six-bedroom lodge in Laguna de Apoyo.
And finally here we are in San Juan del Sur.
Not long after establishing roots in San Juan we knew we had found the place where we wanted to settle down.
San Juan can be touristy at times, but maintains a great mix of locals and expats. Within a month of living in San Juan we had formed a large network of friends. And it’s easy to get by here with little Spanish.
A budget of $1,400 per month allows us to live very well.
Affordable rental homes are fairly easy to find—$500 covers our rent for a very nice three-bedroom, two-bathroom home; cable TV and Internet are included. Electricity is extra, with monthly bills averaging around $50.
Our monthly grocery bill averages between $250 and $350. We eat very well. In addition to the fruit and vegetables that are delivered to our neighborhood daily via a farmer’s truck, we enjoy fresh fish from local fisherman and grass-fed filet mignon.
We have a vehicle, but could certainly get by without one. Living in town allows us to walk almost everywhere we need (and want) to go. We spend an average of $60 per month on fuel.
Neither one of us surfs, but San Juan has plenty to keep us entertained.
Tuesday evenings are reserved for Trivia Night at our favorite expat bar, Republika.
The Saturday morning Farmer’s Market at Big Wave Dave’s is a great place to catch up with friends. It’s here where we pick up delicious baked bread, smoked ham, cinnamon buns and other tasty treats that we have difficulty finding elsewhere.
If we’re in the mood on Sunday evenings we can catch a flick under the stars at the newest, coolest place in town—Howler Bar. It’s also become our favorite place to go for live music.
When we want to cool off we visit one of many nearby beaches. Sometimes we head south to Playa Hermosa.
Other times we go north to Playa Maderas. Both are within 20 minutes from our home and have beach bars that serve some of the tastiest fish tacos around.
The “Palm Island Pool” and swim-up bar (literally a bar you swim up to) at the Surf Ranch resort is our preferred place to catch some rays while sipping cheap, frosty Tonas (the local beer).
Gordon and I have really grown to love the laid-back coastal lifestyle San Juan del Sur offers. And as each sunshiny day passes, life in Nicaragua just keeps getting better and better.
Other International Living Postcards that may interest you:
1. NOT REALLY FOR SALE
These are properties where the owner advertises an outrageous, out of market price and says,
“If someone will pay “x” amount of dollars, then I’ll sell it”.
Here’s an example:
Two homes in Granada are side by side, have the same exterior (aside from color), the same square footage and were built by the same developer. The interior lay out is slightly different, but comparable, as are the finishings.
One house recently came on the market for $149K. The other house has been for sale since we started looking at real estate in Nicaragua 3 years ago. It is currently listed at $229K.
Without MLS (and no practical way to track comparable sales) this situation is more common than you might think. We’ve come to learn that real estate – especially in Nicaragua – is worth what ever someone will pay for it.
2. THE MOTIVATED SELLER
Sometimes properties owned by motivated sellers never actually make it onto a real estate agency’s website because agents already have buyers waiting in the wings for this type of deal to come along.
Also in this category are a number of developers and single property owners that prefer not to work with real estate agencies.
There can be some really interesting properties to be found in this particular category. But unfortunately – since they aren’t actually listed anywhere – they can be challenging to find.
Word of mouth is great for these types of deals, but if you aren’t living here finding these hidden gems proves to be very difficult.
3. THE DESPERATE GRINGO
We’ve often thought about starting a website called desperategringos.com.
Every once in a while we hear about a Nicaraguan expat who wants to leave immediately and needs to liquidate everything.
This is a great way to make a purchase if…
- The type of property you hear about happens to be one that interests you
- You have readily available cash
- You actually hear about it in time.
This category is by far the smallest market segment.
We’ve been focusing our search within the second group. We live in Nicaragua and have good connections, so it’s been our hope to find a property that wasn’t listed.
We recently found a great example of this type of real estate.
The development is called Congo Hills.
We met with our friend Irish Seamus for coffee and he told us a little bit about the history of the project.
Seven years ago the real estate market was booming worldwide. Nicaragua was no exception. Many developers were selling properties before water, electricity or even roads led to the lots.
Seamus Fitzgerald and his business partner Bendt Bregstein wanted to have a project they could be proud of so they built roads, dug a huge well and installed underground electricity. They even built a club house with a pool and hot tub before starting construction on their spec homes.
With the infrastructure in place, some lots cleared off and a handful of homes built Seamus and his partner started selling properties.
But unfortunately this time frame coincided with the global financial crash and all construction came to a standstill. Seamus and Bendt decided to lay low for awhile. Thankfully their project was not leveraged with bank loans, which meant they could afford to wait for better times.
These two Irishmen were confident the market would eventually bounce back so they’ve had a cuidador (property caretaker and security guard) on-site maintaining the existing homes, clubhouse and pool.
And with the luck of the Irish on their side the market in Nicaragua is starting to heat up again.
Seamus thinks the “time is now” and we think he might be onto something.
The crazy thing is that we can’t even get a sneak peak. Congo Hills isn’t listed with a real estate company and – as of this post – doesn’t have a website. We’re pretty sure this won’t be the case for long so our plan is to check out this development ASAP!
Rarely a day goes by when “cost of living” is not on the list of daily search engine terms for In Nica Now.
Everyone wants to know how much it “really” costs to live in Nicaragua…
…so we’re going to tell you!
For the month of October we tracked every single cordobas we spent. Despite the fact that we ate out a lot, drank a bunch and took a road trip to Managua we still managed to stay within our $1400 budget.
The table below shows a detailed summary of our expenses by category. Please note that the exchange rate is based on 23.65 cordobas per $1 USD.
To view a detailed line-by-line list of our expenses for October 2012 click on the link below.
As always if you have any questions feel free to send us an email.
Gord and I are pleased to share with you our very first publication titled ““Reinvented” at 37 and Loving Life in Nicaragua”. It’s a two page spread in the Lifestyle section of the January 2013 issue of International Living Magazine.
To read our article click on the image below.
We look forward to continuing to work with International Living in 2013 and hope to have more articles to share with you real soon!
To learn more about International Living click here.
One month shy of our one year anniversary in Nicaragua we moved into our seventh rental house.
Our new place sits high on a hill in a neighborhood that locals refer to as Barrio Chino. The extra altitude allows us to take advantage of the nearly constant offshore breezes.
Situated three short blocks from the beach and about 130 steps from our best friend’s place the location of our seventh rental couldn’t be better!
The market comes to us daily via the fruit and vegetable trucks that stop in our neighborhood.
Water, pop, juice and beer are delivered to our door from a local distributor. Our delivery boy – who comes by almost every day to see if we have an order – is a young man who drives a three-wheel bike with a huge basket on the front.
We often see an older fellow with a horse drawn buggy delivering milk in the mornings. He transports the milk in large metal canisters and uses a huge ladle to scoop it into into his customers’ pitchers, bowls or buckets.
The monthly rent for this lovely three bedroom, two bathroom casa on the hill is $500 USD per month. High speed Internet and Cable TV are included in our rent.
The kitchen and living area is open concept, which we love. A living room with two seating areas, combined with a”bar” in the kitchen makes this house perfect for entertaining.
As mentioned in previous posts finding a comfortable and affordable long term rental in San Juan del Sur takes a bit of effort. So as you can imagine we feel quite lucky to have found such a nice place.
For the first time since leaving Canada twelve months ago we finally have a home and it feels great!
We are really enjoying our new digs and San Juan del Sur. For now we’ve committed to six months here, but quite honestly, we don’t foresee moving again until we take the plunge and buy (or build) something of our own.
We’re looking forward to celebrating the Christmas season and ringing in the New Year with our friends and family here in beautiful San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua!
Grocery shopping in San Juan del Sur takes a bit of effort. One stop shopping is unheard of. In this article we’ll attempt to make your San Juan del Sur shopping experience better by telling you where to buy what and how much you can expect to to pay for things.
Although Pali (owned by Walmart) is the largest grocery store in San Juan del Sur it’s my least favorite place to shop. The aisles are narrow and the selection is limited. Pali stocks the basics and essentials, but not a whole lot more.
Items like sesame seeds, peanut oil, rice wine vinegar, wasabi paste and extra virgin olive oil can be purchased at Miscelania Sanchez. Nutella, Kraft salad dressing and Frank’s Red Hot Sauce are part of the regular inventory. They also carry instant cake mixes, confectioners sugar, baking soda and brown sugar. If you want cheese this is the place to go.
I’ve been told by other expats if you don’t see a particular item you’re looking for at Sanchez just speak to the owner Gloria. She’ll do her best to find the item(s) you’re looking for and and bring them in for you.
Feta Cheese (171 g) – $4.65
Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (680 ml) – $5.27
Nutella (350 g) – $7.59
Peter Pan Peanut Butter (426 g) – $5.99
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese $1.35
On a side note many spices have been difficult to find here in San Juan del Sur (or any other place in Nicaragua – including Managua – for that matter). If you have favorites that you absolutely cannot live without you should bring them with you.
For your shopping convenience there are two Sanchez locations in town – one next to the market (shown above) and the other kitty corner to Barrio Cafe (shown below).
Aside from fruit and vegetable trucks that drive through our neighborhood, the market is the best place to stock up on produce.
1 Pitaya (Dragon-fruit) – $1.06
1 Watermelon – $1.27
1/2 dozen bananas – $0.21
1 Large avocado – $1.27
1 Pineapple – $0.85
30 eggs – $3.38
The market has the best selection, but if you can find what you need on the truck there are deals to be had.
Being so close to the ocean has it’s advantages. We know of four fish markets in town, but our favorite (shown in the photo below) is located just beyond the marina. To ensure you get what you want plan to make this your first stop, early in the day.
Lobster – $6.34 per lb
Shrimp – $4.65 per lb
Mahi-mahi – $2.96 per lb
For the best deal on beverages we go directly to the distributor in town. It is located on the main road as you’re coming into San Juan del Sur. It’s on the right hand side, just down past Pan de Vida Bakery, about two blocks from the beach.
24 – 350 ml bottles of Tona – $13.87
12 cans of Coca-Cola -$5.07
5 gallons of water – $1.78
Even though we have to drive thirty minutes to Rivas to get to the nearest Maxi Pali it’s my favorite place to shop. Maxi Pali is as close as you’ll get to a North American supermarket. The store is bright and clean and the air conditioning is chilly.
Maxi Pali offers a bit more variety when it comes to certain items. Here we can get green, red and yellow peppers. They also carry grapes, kiwi and strawberries. We prefer to buy our meat at Maxi Pali.
Filet Mignon – $3.38/lb
Ground Beef – $2.05/lb
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast – $2.55/lb
Like other Maxi Pali stores in Nicaragua the one in Rivas has a pharmacy and a small clothing section. They also carry housewares and a few electronics. They even have a “dollar” section.
And last, but certainly not least is on my list of places to shop in San Juan del Sur is Pan de Vida.
Pan de Vida is located 100 meters West of the Uno. It is here is where you’ll find tasty bread and other delicious baked goods you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Nicaragua. Everything is baked in the brick oven.
To date I’ve only tried the foccacia bread, the cinnamon buns and the banana bread, but I can’t wait to sample more of their daily offerings.
Banana Bread $4.64
Foccacia Bread $1.48
Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread $5.70
Round Multigrain Loaf $5.06
Items at Pan de Vida are a bit on the pricey side for an expat on a budget in Nicaragua, but if having good bread means giving up a few Tonas per month – I’m in. These delicious baked goods are worth every penny!
When we add everything up we usually spend between $250 and $300 on groceries each month. We don’t eat filet mignon and lobster every night, but we aren’t eating gallo pinto every night either. We also eat our fair share of meals out.
Hands down we eat more healthy then we did in Canada. We are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. And it’s rare for a week to go by that hasn’t included a nice thick tenderloin steak grilled on hard wood coals. Now that we have more time meal planning and prep is something we both really enjoy.
Life and food in Nica is A-OK!
On October 4th we moved into our sixth rental since arriving in Nicaragua ten and a half months ago. It is a fully furnished two bedroom, one bath home in the barrio of Frente Sur. The monthly rent is $300 USD. Water and cable TV are included, but we are responsible to cover the extra cost of electricity and internet.
When Gord and I were planning our move to Nicaragua we discussed living in a Nica neighborhood, rather than a gated community and this is just one of the things we love our new place – it’s location.
The front porch is our favorite part of the house. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy a cold Tona (local beer) while watching real Nica life happen around us.
As with most Nicaraguan neighborhoods there are a few roosters and some noisy dogs around. There are also lots of kids playing in the street, some of which happen to be very entertaining.
We have traveling sales people come through selling everything you can imagine – and maybe even some things you can’t. The lady who came by the other day carrying an armload of bras and a suitcase full of boxers made us chuckle. Door to door underwear sales? Really?
Through the front door you enter the living room which comfortably seats four.
To the right of the living room is the master bedroom. It’s just big enough for a queen bed and wardrobe for our clothes. We may not have a lot of space, but we do have a comfy mattress and that makes me very happy.
Our second favourite feature in the house is the shower. It’s double wide and has loads of water flow and pressure. Of all the places we’ve rented in Nicaragua to date, this shower gets our vote as the best!
Compared to our last place the kitchen in our new house is a dream. We are excited to have counter space for food prep which means we can get back to eating more meals at home again.
Our guest bedroom is just off the kitchen. It too, is very basic with a queen bed and small wardrobe for clothes. I find it a bit odd that there is no window in the room, but apparently this is quite common here in Nica.
We are really enjoying everything our new little house has to offer. In fact it’s the first place we rented that feels like a home. But – we’re only here temporarily.
Next month we’re moving on to bigger and better things. We were able to secure a three bedroom, two bathroom, air conditioned house here in town. It’s up on the hill overlooking San Juan and has huge windows on three sides that will allow the nearly constant off-shore winds to blow through. We have committed to 6 months in this house, but realistically we can’t see moving…unless…we decide to build a home of our own.
We can’t wait to move in to the new place and are super pumped that friends and family will now have a comfortable place to stay in beautiful San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Soooooooo….who wants to come for a visit???
Starting on April 1st Gord and I have tracked every single cordoba we’ve spent through to the end of the month. To help us with this task we’re using a great little app called iXpenseIt. It’s available on iTunes for $4.99 USD and so far it’s worked great in helping us track our purchases and better manage our money.
Before you ask us why we would bother to take the time to do such a let me explain why. When Gord and I were researching our move to Nicaragua the burning question was,
“How much does it cost to live in Nicaragua?”
We had difficulty finding the kind of detailed information we were looking for so today’s blog post is dedicated to those of you out there with the same question.
Before jumping right to the numbers I want to share a few important details regarding our lifestyle and the way we chose to live.
- We are currently renting a brand new studio apartment in Granada, Nicaragua. It is fully furnished and our apartment complex has large saltwater pool, rooftop terrace and too many other amenities to mention. Although our apartment offers hot water and air conditioning we choose to live without.
- We own a 2001 Hyundai Galloper that we use for the occasional road trip and out of town travel. Granada is a very walkable, so that’s how we typically get around.
- We have no children or pets.
- We prepare and eat most of our meals in house, but enjoy dining out at least a couple of times per week. We are also big fans of ice cold Tona and Flor de Cana.
Our targeted budget for this month was $1400 USD. We know some expats who are living on a lot less and others who are living on much more. We are very pleased that we managed to end the month off at $1404.51, just $4.51 over budget.
Now onto the numbers…
The table below shows a detailed summary of our expenses by category. Please note that the exchange rate is based on 23 cordobas per $1 USD.
And for those of you that want even more detail just scroll down the page to review every single purchase we made during the month of April.
If you have any questions regarding the Cost of Living in Nicaragua please feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!
For $550 USD per month, plus electricity we are now living large at Vista Mombacho Apartments. Our brand new studio apartment is centrally located in the beautiful colonial city of Granada. We are just four blocks from La Colonial Supermercado and about seven blocks from Calle la Calzeda.
Our favorite thing about Vista Mombacho is the large saltwater pool. Although this area looks a little sparse at the moment plants are being delivered and planted daily.
We’ve already enjoyed a couple of days relaxing pool side with our kindles and cold Tona and we look forward to many more to come.
Second on our list of favorite features at Vista Mombacho is the BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) Rooftop Terrace. It offers great views and cool gentle breezes off the lake. We can’t wait for the barbecue to be installed so we can start taking advantage of this awesome outdoor space.
The living, dining and kitchen area is a combined space. In case we have a guest that needs to crash over for the night the futon lays out flat to make a bed.
In the kitchen we have ample cupboard space with a double stainless steel sink and a full size fridge with freezer. Our four burner gas stove has an oven and we are equipped with everything we need to cook and bake. From pots and pans and cutlery to baking sheets – we have it all!
Our dining table seats two and doubles as our office at times when we are working on blog updates or just surfing the net.
Our bedroom area is outfitted with a very cozy, but comfortable double bed. The large windows allow for a nice breeze to blow through pretty much all of the time. The ceiling fan helps with the airflow and allows us to sleep very well at night without having to use the air conditioner.
We have a extra large closet with built in dresser and shelving that allows us to tuck away our clothes and other miscellaneous belongings so that everything is out of sight and that I like!
Vista Mombacho offers a couple different floor plans but we opted for the studio apartment. We were drawn to it’s open concept and the gorgeous cane ceilings.
As a bonus we have a great spot to store our suitcases and other large items that wouldn’t fit in the closet. Gord being a “do-it-yourselfer” decided it wasn’t necessary to bother our maintenance guy Ricardo for the ladder; he just climbed on up and got the job done.
I love, love that our place is brand new and clean. To ensure it stays that way we have maid service twice per week that is included in the cost of our rent. Wi-fi and cable television are also included in the monthly rental fee. Worth noting is the fact that we have hot water and air conditioning, even though we aren’t currently using either one.
Our bathroom isn’t overly large but it’s functional and like the rest of the apartment it’s new and clean! The shower is equipped with an on-demand hot water heating system but with daily temperatures in the mid to high 30s we’re not sure who would ever want a hot shower. Not us – that’s for sure! We turned off the breaker on day one.
In the event that we want to entertain we have a large community kitchen available by reservation. However, with the limited number of Nica friends we currently have we don’t forsee any dinner parties in our near future. It’s nice to have, just the same.
And last, but certainly not least, another great feature at our apartment complex is the two bedroom guest suite available for friends and family who don’t want to pay for expensive hotels when they come to visit. It doesn’t have a kitchen, but sleeps five and the rental fee of just $20 USD per night. Gord and I are wondering who our first guests will be. *Hint, hint!*
Here at Vista Mombacho we feel like we are living on a mini-resort. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet – IT ROCKS!If you would like more information regarding Vista Mombacho Apartments or are interested in renting a unit you may contact Glenn or Jeannie Koons by telephone at (512) 346-2326 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.