Blog Archives

International Living Article #4

Click anywhere on the image or text below to read my most recent International Living article.

I Couldn't Even ask for a Cerveza

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!

Soon We’ll Be Speaking Spanish

I’m happy to report that we now have 4 hours of Spanish lessons under our belt.  

Alberto, a watch repairman by day, is our teacher. We pay him $5 per hour for our lessons.  Although $5 an hour for private lessons may not seem like much, it’s actually on the high side of day’s wage for a Nicaraguan.  To put things into perspective the maids working in our guest house earn a mere $4 for each twelve-hour shift they work.

We didn’t want learning Spanish to feel like work so we’ve made arrangements for Alberto to come to our house just 4 days a week for one hour at a time. 

We have a mutually beneficial relationship with Alberto.  He’s helping us learn Spanish on our own time, at our own pace, in the comfort of our home.  In return we have helped him to nearly double his monthly wage. Being Alberto’s first students ever, not only are we helping him earn some extra cash, we are also providing him the opportunity to improve his teaching skills.  

On class days Alberto shows up promptly at 5 pm (if not earlier) always with a smile on his face, ready to sit down and get to work. It didn’t take Gord and I long to recognize that have two very different learning styles.  Acting as our scribe I sit close to Alberto focusing intently on his every word.  Gord has a bit more of a relaxed approach to our lessons;  he generally sits back and casually takes everything in.

Although Alberto isn’t formally trained as a teacher our lessons are going very well.  We are learning a bit more Spanish every day and the fact that we are helping out a local is definitely an added bonus!

Living in Leon

It’s day two at our new digs in Leon and we are settling in quite nicely. We have rented a room in a colonial guest house at a cost $300 USD for the month.

Finding a decent long term rental in Leon isn’t easy so we feel very fortunate to have found this place. With next to nothing advertised on the internet the best way to find more desirable rental property in Leon is by word of mouth.  Luckily one of the staff members at Lazy Bones Hostel gave us the heads up on this hidden gem.

From the outside our place doesn’t look all that interesting; not much by way of curb side appeal and notice there are no signs indicating that there are rooms for rent.

But as you open the doors and step inside what a world of difference.  Beautiful artwork adorn the walls with tasteful decor throughout.

In the front of the house there is a common area to watch television.

As you walk through the property towards the back of the house there is a beautiful, large and lush garden.

I love the contrast of the greens in the garden against the checkered tile floor.

We share a nice little kitchen with the other house guests.  It’s equipped with the basics, but not much more.  We have a cabinet to call our own where we store the little bit of groceries we keep.  To ensure we are the ones enjoying the Tonas we bought we use a permanent marker to put our names on the cans.

There are plenty of additional dining tables.  A great place to take some Spanish lessons in the evening.

We have no shortage of places to sit down, relax, read a book or enjoy a beverage.  Classic rocking chairs and seating areas are plentiful.

This is our favourite garden in the house.  There are two little turtles that live here.

As you continue through to the back of the house (getting closer to where our room is located) there is another garden.

The door to our room is on the right. This area is a great place to sit during the day, as well as the evening.  It’s nice and quiet with warm breezes blowing through.  Very tranquil! 

Finally we have our room.  The bed is very comfy and has great pillows.  The fan does an awesome job of keeping the room cool, both during the day and at night.  It seems like we may not even need to use the air conditioner.  I guess I should have listened to Gord when he said we probably wouldn’t need it and we could have saved ourselves $100.

We have cable TV with a couple of English channels which I’m quite excited about.  After not watching any television at all for over a month it’ll be nice to sit down and watch a show or enjoy a movie once in awhile.  Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to get The Bachelor. 😦

The closet is a bit smaller than the one we had at our house in Poneloya, but combined with the space in the dresser we managed to squeeze everything in.

Not quite as fantastic as waking up to the ocean – but still not bad – this is the view from our room.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and description of our place here in Leon. We are looking forward to starting Spanish classes, exploring the city during the day and night, discovering some hot spots for cheap eats, meeting more interesting people and continuing on and enjoying every moment of this amazing Nicaraguan adventure!

%d bloggers like this: