Monthly Budget

[August 2015 updated]
The one question we get asked a lot is "How much does it cost to live there?" Needless to say, this can vary drastically from person to person based upon lifestyle choices. These are just OUR numbers and will change as we live here longer. Unlike most others, we still have US based expenses since we own property there and plan to eventually move back. Property taxes, memberships, scuba insurance and our timeshare, for example. These numbers are NOT included below.

Our latest budget reflects our move to a smaller apartment, albeit one with a balcony. We are back in the same neighborhood as our first apartment and we love the area - very quiet. Plus we are saving more money, we dropped the landline and DirecTV and upgraded to a fiber optic Internet connection.

Rent (incl condo fees) 500
Water/Gas/Power 35
Cell Phones (prepaid) 5
Internet (fiber optic) 70
Netflix/Hulu/VPN 30
Food 300
Household 50
Clothing 50
Entertainment 150
Transportation 50
Medical/Insurance 100
Housekeeper 80
Vacations/Local Tours 50
US Trip 200


Our previous budget (July 2014) reflected our move to a high rise building with a rooftop terrace and views to die for. We pay more for those amenities as well as an elevator, 24/7 security, secure parking and storage areas as well as a maintenance man. We have added DirecTV, increased our maid service to weekly and installed our own landline phone.

Rent (incl condo fees)630
Cell Phones (prepaid)5
TV Services/VPN85
Vacations/Local Tours50
US Trip200


Our previous actual budget (March 2014) was amended to reflect some actual costs and some costs are still projected.  We also added a couple of categories like household and clothing. It's interesting to note that we are approaching our original overall monthly estimate.

Rent (unfurnished)400
US Trip200


Below is our original budget, developed after our visit here in April-May 2013 was based upon what we saw and heard during our visit as well as what we had read from fellow bloggers living in the same area, Cuenca.

Rent (furnished) 600
Utilities 100
Cell/Internet/TV 150
Food 300
Entertainment 200
Transportation 100
Medical/Insurance 100
US Trip 200


We originally planned to rent furnished but fell in love with our current unfurnished place so our initial "get settled" costs rose with the cost of furniture and appliances. The bedding and decorations would have been bought in either case.

Our utility estimate was based upon what our first full month bill for water, electric, garbage pickup and landline plus propane. Our first tank of propane, used for cooking and hot water, lasted us three weeks and three days. The gas man comes and swaps the empty tank for a full one, all for the cost of $2.50 a tank.

Our cell phone is still pre-paid and we use very little, a couple of dollars a month IF we call outside other Claro (our cell provider) users. The $10 I put on during our first visit still had $4 on it when I recently added another $10. We have free Internet provided by our landlord but it's at a slower speed than we need to get good TV reception and plus we share it with our downstairs neighbor. We now have our own line installed and pay for a higher speed line. The additional costs will come from subscriptions to our VPN provider - Strong VPN, NetFlix, Hulu and USTVNOW. We may not continue all three, time will tell.

Food is one thing we really don't have a handle on yet so that is somewhat a projected cost. We have finally finished stocking basics like condiments, spices and cleaning supplies.  We found a little storefront mercado five minutes from home was a bonus. Great fruits and veggies, there at a lower price, much better than the supermarket.

Entertainment includes eating out, tours, movies and the like. Transportation has been lowered and will continue as we use buses more and taxis less. We are also walking more. We got our bus passes and since I am over 65, my rides are 12.5 cents, Stu's are 25 cents. Such a bargain!

Medical and insurance rose a bit.  The health insurance for those over 65 (me) is hard to find and we discovered we were going to pay more than we projected. So far our prescription medications are also much more expensive, mainly due to the fact that we were able to use generics in the US but it is strongly advised against here. We are recently signed up for the public health insurance and hope that will lower our medication costs. The insurance costs us $70 a month.

We had no real plans to hire a housekeeper but when we ran into one of the maids from Apartmentos Otorongo as she was working at a house a block away (for some other expats), we quickly arranged for her to come and clean for us. She comes every other week and I no longer have to worry about cleaning bathrooms! <insert big grin> She does a lot more (dusting, mopping, cleaning all the nooks and crannies) and is worth every penny. We might have found someone cheaper but this is someone we know and trust implicitly.

Our US trip number is for our annual trip back to the US to see family. I'm pretty sure it won't cover everything but it's a good start. Our first trip will be next August-October and we will see what the numbers really are when that time comes. Airfare, transportation to Guayaquil and back to Cuenca, rental car in Florida, gas to our property in Tennessee and fuel to take the RV to Maryland and back. Food would be bought regardless. Time will tell...

I will take an annual look at this budget here on the blog, maybe more often, not sure. I hope this helps others build their budgets based upon their lifestyle. If you eat out a lot, like to entertain, enjoy gourmet meals and hard liquor or fine wines, then your costs will definitely be higher.

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