The short answer is- “It depends”. After living in Cuenca for 3+ years I think I have a realistic idea of the monthly costs. I presently live in a 2200 sq. ft 3 bedroom 3.5 bath unfurnished house.
Let’s first find data we can all agree about:
- Electricity is subsidized by the government. My monthly bill(which includes refuse pickup and a Firefighter tax) has never been over $30
- Propane Gas is also subsidized by the government. A 15 gallon tank delivered to the house is $2.50. I have never used over $10 a month which includes a propane room heater.
- Water – We have over 60 plants and the monthly water bill has nver been over $6
- House Phone My house phone bill has never been over $4 per month.
- Gasoline is $1.49 per gallon all over the country. Diesel is $1.04 a gallon
- Taxis are plentiful and cheap. A two mile trip to El Centro from my house is $1.70
- City Buses – 25 cents and 12 cents if you’re over 65. More about buses later in the post
- If you are over 65 have a cedula and a bank account you can get *all* your IVA (12%) taxes back
- General Labor is cheap. The minimum wage in Ecaudor is about $2.40 an hour.
- Dental and Medical Care is a fraction of North American costs
- IESS Medical Insurance with a Cedula is $70 per month + $11 per dependent
OK, now for the variables. (Single, Married, Roomate, Age.)
I am a married 69 year old in relative good health. I do not own a car and I prefer city living (within 2 miles of Parque Calderon). I walk every day (3-5 miles) and take the bus everyday. I do eat breakfast out 4 times a week. My wife and I go out once a week for dinner and twice a week for lunch. We shop at the organic markets, Feria Libre and SuperMaxi.
Apartment, Condo, House. Rent or Buy?
The majority of my friends rent their housing. Can you still find a rental for $300 per month? The answer is totally dependent on where you want to live and how far you need to commute to Cuenca. For my wife and I we chose location and the need for a garden. We are within 3 blocks of shopping, banking and 7 bus lines. When the Light Rail is completed the stop will be 400 ft from our door. The big question for most is whether to rent furnished or unfurnished. Our first two rentals were furnished. After 15 months we decided to furnish an entire house. You can surely find cheaper or used furniture but we spent $7000.
Pets, Poker And Plants
We have two rescue cats. Generally, vet care is cheaper than in North America. But, good healthy cat food is twice as expensive and cat litter is 3 times as expensive as in the U.S. Good quality dog food is also expensive. The reason I bring up Poker and Plants is that I find that a few expats don’t have hobbies because they are on tight budget. Plants are generally cheaper here and there are many Poker, Bridge games in Cuenca.
Medical, Dental, Health Insurance
Both my wife and I had disastrous results with two private health insurance plans. The first one was always a problem getting reimbursed. The second one cancelled the plan one day for almost 200 hundred epats because they realized that we were submitting claims higher than the monthly premium. Presently we have the Ecuadorian Social Security Plan which has no copay or age restriction. As mentioned the premium is $81 per month for a couple. For certain you have to have lots of patience and a understanding of Spanish (or an interpreter) to navigate the system. Recently I had complicated eye surgery (vitrectomy) and there was no doctor in Cuenca to cover the operation. The alternative was to travel to Quito and convalese 1 month in Quito. I chose to pay out of pocket and have the operation outside of the system.
Time, Technolgy, Travel
In my past business life and now in my retirement I have lived by the motto that “Time is the currency of the workplace. In my case its retirement. I am not handy and will more often than not pay a professional to fix something.
I also invest in the best and latest technology for my myself and my wife. Retirement should be fun and relaxing.
We travel back to the U.S. once a year to visit friends and family in 3 different states. We are fortunate that we don’t haveto rent a hotel in 3 different states. Flights, food, rental car costs, presents, and returning clothes and technology make this a $6000 trip which amortizes to an extra $500 per month on to your budget. I am sure people can do this for less. Again, its a style of retirement we want in our lives.