For $4.10 USD we can get for 1 watermelon, 1 pineapple, 6 green mangos, 1 very large carrot, 1 cantaloupe, 1 avocado and 1/2 dozen bananas!
After enjoying a cold Tona at sunset at one of our favorite beach bars we went to pay the bill. They couldn’t provide change for 100 cordobas so they said we could pay next time. Funny thing is C$100 is equal to $4.12 USD.
In April our Nica neighbor who has been in the same house for all 39 years of her life – and is now finally able to build a kitchen and indoor bathroom in her home – gifted us with a six pack of Guatemalan beer during Semana Santa! So, so sweet and kind of her!
We have time to cook!
We can take our dog everywhere, including our favorite bars and restaurants.
Lola, our favorite vendor at the fruits and vegetable market gifted us with a big juicy mango one day – just because! We weren’t even making a purchase.
The kind policeman that pulled Elisha over for not wearing her seatbelt (only to find out that her license had expired) allowed her to pay the C$600 ($24.79 USD) fine onsite for only C$200 ($8.26 USD).
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.
One US dollar is currently equal to 24.3 cordobas. One bottle of Joyita costs 16 cordobas.
Joyita is a sugar cane based alcohol. This stuff is not for the board short, flip flop wearing weekend warrior you typically see in San Juan del Sur. Rather, it’s for those who drink like it’s their job, working towards a promotion.
We’ve all seen this famous slogan for beer.
Well…we’re thinking the slogan for Joyita could be:
“Helping people get the rest they need, wherever they may be!”
Happy Friday y’all!
Changing dollars on the street with an independent money exchanger – also known as a “coyote” – is common place in Nicaragua.
Coyotes can be found at markets, on plazas or close to regular banks. They flash large bricks of cash and typically offer rates comparable to what you can get at the bank.
Independent money exchangers are generally honest, but it’s important to know the exchange rate and roughly how much money to expect back in the transaction. To avoid being short changed always count your money.
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.
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!
I’ll begin this post by saying that I am no expert in the subject of learning to drive in Nicaragua. We bought our truck a month ago and even though we rented vehicles while vacationing in Nica, we only used them to go from one city to the next. Even now that we live here Elisha and I only drive the truck when we make our once a week trip to the Maxi Pali supermarket or when we go on the occasional road trip. I should also be forthright about who the actual driver of the vehicle usually is – Elisha.
You are probably wondering why I am I one writing this post. Well, to be honest Elisha asked (i.e. told) me to and as some of you already know my moto is “Happy wife, happy life”… so here I am.
Driving in Nicaragua is not for the feint of heart. It’s important to stay focused at all times. In my opinion distracted driving laws really aren’t necessary in Nicaragua because if you become distracted while driving you wouldn’t make it 5 minutes without causing an accident.
On any given road you will encounter cars, trucks, busses, ox carts, horses, bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians, herds of cattle, chickens, dogs, kids selling iguanas for meat and let’s not forget – the police. All will be moving unpredictably and at various speeds – except for the police. They will be standing at the side of the road waiting to see if this roadway circus causes you to step out of line. Once you do (and you will) it’s pretty much a guarantee that they will be there. This is especially true at the entrance to any town and most certainly so near the airport. I’m not sure if it’s more feeling than fact but it would appear as though the local police are set up in places where it’s that much easier for them to extract money from you.
The ticketing system in Nicaragua is interesting. Generally the police will write you a ticket for an infraction and the costs is usually around 200 cordobas, which is just under ten bucks. They will give you a copy of the ticket and keep a copy for themselves while attaching a copy to your license which they keep. When their shift ends they will take your driver’s license (and any others they have collected) to the police station where it awaits your visit. For your fun and excitement you must take a trip to the nearest bank to pay the fine and have your your ticket stamped. You must then return to the police station of the town that issued the ticket to pick up your license. You have 15 days to do this or I’m not sure what, but I suspect it’s probably a lot less fun.
We have a friend who lives near Granada. When he gets a ticket he simply waits the 15 days to pay it and proceeds to drive without worry of receiving additional infractions during that period of time. When the police ask for his license he shows them his pending ticket and he’s free to go. It seems as though additional tickets are not issued when you already have one and with no license to threaten to take they have no bargaining power over you.
This ticket paying process isn’t terrible unless you are only passing through a town. In this case you would need to make a special trip back there to retrieve your license. I’m quite sure there is a possibility that the police understand this all too well. In all of our travels in the past three months luck has been on our side and we’ve rarely been pulled over. The couple of times we were no tickets were issued. That all changed when our friends came to visit and we were traveling with luggage on the roof rack. It seems as though this is the symbol of a foreigner on a road trip.
During the two weeks we spent traveling with our friends we were pulled over 3 times. The 1st infraction occurred just as we were leaving Leon. Elisha made a left hand turn across two lanes instead of one. When she realized what she had done she immediately moved into the correct lane. Even though no cars were near and she caused no issues this slight oversight was the result of not one, but two infractions. One for the improper turn and one for an improper lane change. According to the book the fine was 600 cordobas or if we paid the officer directly it would be 400 cordobas. Luckily we were able to settle on 200.
The next infraction was really weak. A slow moving car applied the brakes and made a right hand turn into a driveway. Elisha signalled and went around him as he pulled in. Because she crossed a solid yellow line the police officer stepped out onto the road about 100 meters up the highway and motioned for use to pull over. He gave us a long drawn out lecture about driving safety. To avoid the hassle of paying at the bank he was gentlemanly enough to allow us to pay our 200 cordoba fine directly to him.
The 3rd infraction was almost too much to take. Coincidently about 5 minutes from the airport we were pulled over after we drove through a traffic circle. The police officer wasn’t even looking in our direction until we were driving past and then he walked out toward us. He said that we lane changed in the traffic circle without signalling. This was very far from the truth and even if it was he would not have known anyway because he wasn’t even looking.
I got out of the truck and told him the ticket was a piece of shit. He said it wasn’t. Then I told him that he was a piece of shit. He didn’t agree with that statement either. I then proceeded to tell him I didn’t have time for his games and tried to push some cash into his hand. He started yelling at me and instructed me to get back in the car. I thought maybe I had really pissed him off and pushed a bit too far so I did as I was told and got back into the car. I looked over at Elisha to tell her this might be bad, but I didn’t have the chance. The cop was standing beside her window with his hand in the truck waiting for the cash. Apparently the only thing that upset him was my uncultured attempt to bribe him in plain sight. I guess I still have a lot to learn about driving in Nicaragua.
When Elisha and I decided to move to Nicaragua we knew that we would need to be on a budget – and believe it or not it was something we had never done before.
Elisha’s budget was always based on spending any extra cash that she had, while I saved whatever extra money I felt I didn’t need. That being said we have always lived below our means and have never been extravagant people.
Although we’ve been told by a few people that a budget of $1,200 USD per month in Nicaragua is quite high this is the amount we agreed upon.
We figured it would take some time to find out which restaurants, markets, shops and grocery stores would have the best deals and accepted the fact that December and January would be “learning months”. We weren’t surprised to find out that were were over budget for the month of January.
Total expenditures for the month came in at $1,201 USD.
We learned a few things things this month and have decided to make a number of changes.
First and foremost, we are going to prepare more of our own meals and have fruit on hand for breakfast. When we reviewed our detailed spreadsheet of the month’s expenses we realized we ate out 3 meals per day, more often than not. Although the nearly 50 meals we had out were cheap ($280 USD), they weren’t necessarily healthy for the waistline or the budget.
Another change will be our drinking. Apparently we’ve been celebrating because not a day went by in January where we didn’t have a cerveza or two. Even though our total expenditure for alcohol was just shy of $160 USD, we will make a couple of changes here as well. We plan to cut back some and be smarter about where we buy our liquor. Instead of paying 100 cordobas for a 375 ml bottle of rum, we will buy the 2 litre combo pack at Pali for 189 cords. And instead of paying 18 cords at the grocery store for a 355 ml can of beer we will buy a case of 12 litres at a cost of only 36 cordobas per bottle.
We spent $205 USD on groceries. With a commitment to eat in more often we expect this amount to go up slightly for the month, but since we’ve figured out the best places to shop we aren’t expecting a huge increase.
$32 USD was the amount we paid to purchase a cell phone and talking minutes for the month. For February we have purchased a package that cost $7 USD that should last through to the end of the month. $60 USD went to Amazon and iTunes for books, music and iPAD apps. $30 USD went to transportation (bus and taxi fares). We spent $52 USD on a nice dinner out to celebrate our 5th year anniversary. We enjoyed a delicious meal with 2 appetizers, a main course of filet mignon, a nice bottle of Italian wine AND pecan pie for dessert. A great night out and worth every penny we spent!
Although our friend Glyn lives on $300 a month (and thinks we are living the life of rock stars and drinking champagne every night) we happen to think we did a fine job with our first attempt at following a budget!
So we became a little more Nica today. We decided to invest in our first Nicaraguan cell phone. I say our first because to really be Nica you need two cell phones. There is actually some good logic behind this dual phone principal. Calls within your own service provider are nearly free but to call someone using the other provider it is the same price as calling Canada. When someone gives you their number here they always write down their provider as well so you know which one of your phones to call them from.
Since we are slowly working toward being Nica we decided to start with one phone. So which provider to go with. We have Claro internet but the Movistar prepaid plans look better. In the end we decided to go with Movistar because that is the main line that Carlos uses and he will be the one that we call the most, so off to a Movistar dealer we go.
On the way to the cell phone store we stopped at the bank to change some USD to cords. And yes this picture is actually how it is done. Not in the bank, but on the street in front of the bank. There are no lineups here so we are back on our way in no time at all. The only thing left to do was choose a phone.
I know that in Canada most of you are IPhone snobs and think that Blackberry is so three years ago. Well, here in a developing country Nokia is still king and I haven’t even seen an IPhone. We didn’t need anything high tech, but we didn’t want the cheapest piece of no name junk on the shelf either. There were about 50 phones on the wall and someone who only speaks Spanish, who is more than willing to tell me about all of them. I don’t understand much but pretend that I do and then just point at one.
I know all of the techno geeks reading will need to know the exact model or your curiosity would eat you alive, so as to not disappoint here you are – Nokia 1616. The phone plus SIM card, plus enough minutes for the month, plus tax rang in at a staggering $580 cordobas. Divide that by 22.8 and you have $25.44 USD all in. There is also a bonus of having one Movistar friend to call free for the first month. Since we only have a handful of Nica friends our minutes should last a long time.
Sweet! A text just came from Movistar. If we buy $50 cord in minutes today they will multiple that by 5 for free. I have no idea how many minutes that even gets me but it sure sounds like a bunch. I’m on way down to the store to jump on this deal faster than a fat kid on a Smartie.
* Conversion based on an exchange rate of 22.9 Cordobas for 1 USD.
|Monthly Rent||2 bedroom, 2 bathroom partially furnished house on the beach||350.00||8015|
|Bus Fare||Poneloya to Leon; takes 1 hour||0.45||10|
|Taxi Fare||Poneloya to Leon; takes 15 minutes||10.92||250|
|Chicken Dinner for Two & 1 Litre of Tona||Purchased at Tip Top; Nicaragua’s version of KFC||12.36||283|
|Pineapple||Bought fresh in Poneloya||0.70||15|
|Roasted Chicken||Just like you get at the Co-Op – only better; purchased at the supermarket||2.95||67.50|
|1 small cucumber||Purchased at the supermarket||0.35||8|
|1/2 litre milk||Purchased at the local corner store||0.52||12|
|Bottled Water||5 gallons||1.97||45|
|12 pack of Tona||Purchased at the supermarket||8.86||203|
|1 can Tona||Purchased at a restaurant in Poneloya||0.87||20|
|1 bottle red wine||750 ml Cabernet Sauvignon; Chilean Wine||5.46||125|
|1 litre of Tona||Purchased at the local corner store||1.66||38|
|Benadryl (Difenhidramina Clohidrato)||20 – 50 mg pills||0.87||20|
|Antibiotics (Ciprofloxacina)||10 – 500 mg pills||1.31||30|
|50 pack sandwich bags||Ziploc brand||2.51||57.45|
|Roll of Aluminum Foil||25 square feet||1.08||24.70|
|Liquid Laundry Soap||Cheer Brand; 16 loads||4.60||105.30|
|4 pack of toilet paper||Charmin’ Premium Jumbo Rolls||2.88||66|