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.
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:
Lately we’ve been receiving a lot of emails from followers with questions regarding real estate in Nicaragua. We are far from experts on this subject, but we have learned a lot in the last sixteen months that we’ve been here.
One thing in particular we’ve learned is that locale is paramount for us being happy long term.
Prior to making the move to Nicaragua our home was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We were a one hour drive from the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains, but a ten hour drive from the ocean.
Our plan when arriving in Nicaragua was to move around a bit in the first year, so that we could get a feel for where we wanted to settle down. And that’s exactly what we did.
Our first rental home was situated on the tranquil beach of Poneloya. Falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore was amazing.
But unfortunately it didn’t take long to learn that life in Poneloya wasn’t for us. This lovely little beach town was too tranquil for our liking. After a couple of weeks there we were already craving more stimulation.
We also learned that owning a beach house doesn’t come without drawbacks. Salt air does major damage to a home. It causes electronics to expire long before they should. And, unless you paint it multiple times throughout the year, metal will rust. Wood work also needs to be stained or painted annually.
After one month in Poneloya we moved into a guest house in the bustling city of Leon.
Although there’s a lot to do in Leon, there aren’t many expats living there. Getting to know a few locals was great, but we soon realized we needed at least a couple of friends with similar interests, outlooks and life experiences.
Another downfall of Leon is the unbearable heat.
During the last month of dry season temperatures soar upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 104 Fahrenheit for y’all Americans) with nearly 100% humidity and no breeze for relief.
When there is wind, it comes from the inland volcanoes rather than the ocean. It blows across the dry, dusty fields and into the city. There were days in Leon when we felt like we were standing in a giant hair-drying sand blaster.
Granada was the next city we called home. It’s similar to Leon in size and pace, but offers cool lake breezes.
We loved the location of Granada. It is close to Managua, the airport, Laguna de Apoyo and the National Handicraft market in Masaya.
Granada also offers more westernized options to coincide with the plethora of expats. But unfortunately for us, our parents fit in much more naturally with the age group of most expats who are currently living there.
Next stop? The coastal town of San Juan del Sur.
Originally we thought San Juan del Sur would be too small a place for us to settle down in, but boy were we wrong. Within a very short period of time the town had won us over.
Even though San Juan del Sur is touristy, there is a great mix of locals and expats in all age ranges. The expat community here is very diverse.
The house we currently rent is located in town about three blocks from the beach. We are up on a hill so we can take advantage of the cool breezes from Lake Nicaragua.
Sounds great? Right?
Well, it probably would be if dogs and roosters weren’t barking and cock-a-doodle-doing all day and night. Last week they were competing to be heard over parades, firecrackers and the techo beats of Semana Santa. It seems as though every second week there is a holiday accompanied by a celebration, that can sometimes last for days.
After sixteen months of moving around we think we finally have figured out it.
The San Juan del Sur area is definitely where we want to settle down. We have been (and still are) passively looking for a property to call our own.
In a perfect world our ideal location would meet the following criteria:
- Close to town
- On a hill (so we’ll have breezes)
- Ocean view
- Close to a beach
- Priced right
- Away from dogs, roosters, parades and fireworks
- Flexibility and options for house construction
Our list is long, but amazingly enough we think we’ve found something that gets a check in all the boxes.
We are super excited to be meeting with a friend (and developer) later this week to learn more about his plans for his 100 acre development located just outside of town.
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.