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5 Money Saving Tips for the Nicaraguan Expat

5 Money Saving Tips for the Nicaraguan Expat

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!

#1

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!

#2

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.

#3

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. 

#4

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.

#5

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. 

I’ve given up my Redken shampoo for a brand I can buy here. We snack on Ranchitos, instead of Doritos and when we want a little spice in our life we use Chilero instead of Sriracha.

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 Month’s Living Expenses: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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.

Expenses by Category

To view a detailed line-by-line list of our expenses for October 2012 click on the link below.

In Nica Now: Expenses – October 2012

As always if you have any questions feel free to send us an email.

A House to Write Home About: San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

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!

A House with a View

– From this high vantage point we have a great view of the city and the day to day activities of our Nica neighbors.

– There is no better place to enjoy a cup of Nicaraguan black gold with my buddy Coco.

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.

A House to Write Home About

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.  

Electricity is our only extra cost.

A House to Write Home About

– We have air conditioning in the bedrooms, but due to the high cost of electricity in Nicaragua we use it sparingly.

A House to Write Home About

– After a year of “cool” showers it’s a real treat to have hot water.

IMGP0878

– With San Juan del Sur’s frequent water outages the huge water tanks on our roof come in handy.

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.

A House to Write Home About

– Windows wrap around the entire house making it bright and airy.

Rockers

A House to Write Home About

– Our large kitchen makes meal prep easy and enjoyable.

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!

One Month’s Living Expenses: Granada, Nicaragua

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!

One Month’s Living Expenses: Leon, 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!

Monthly recurring fixed expenses include $300 for rent and $80 for Spanish lessons. Besides a few random incidentals, this is what we spent our money on for the month of January. 

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!

How much do things cost in Leon & surrounding area?

* Conversion based on an exchange rate of 22.9 Cordobas for 1 USD.

Item Description USD Cordobas
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

 

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