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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Speaking of Dinero

I know many of my readers are actually NOT in Ecuador.  They are reading from abroad and, in most cases, considering relocation at some point in time.  

There are a lot of resources on the internets (GW Bush).  Some of them tend to be puffed up pieces where they overstate the glory and understate the reality.  There's usually money lurking behind the scenes which obscures the real truth people are seeking. 

On another side of the scale, you have real people stating they have no problem living on $199.99 (my exageration) per month...for TWO!!!   Yeah, well, they don't own a car...they either walk or take the bus, grow their own food, clean their own house, hand-wash their clothes and hang them out to dry, never go to a movie, don't eat out, don't have internet, don't have a TV, make their own clothes, forego haircuts, trade used books, and barter moonshine fer Grandpa Walton to come mend the fence.   Ok, ok.....so I went a tad overboard.

Swing the pendulum to the other side of the scale and you'll find those that claim it costs $2,000 a month to live here for two.   However, they live in a 3 bedroom, 3 bath apartment on the 12th floor of a modern highrise, with security guard, and pay $1,000 for rent.   They have a housecleaner come once a week.  They also have a dishwasher, flat screen TV in the living room AND bedroom, high-speed internet, cable TV with premium channels, eat out regularly, go to social gatherings and spend a nice chunk on cocktails (nothing less than Absolut), have their clothes laundered, buy only at the supermarkets (not the open-air markets), own a car (or use taxi's frequently), order clothes online and have them shipped and/or have them custom-made locally, blah, blah, blah you get the idea.

I think I'm somewhere in-between.  I'm the average Joe who prefers more than bare bones but doesn't need premium labels or the best-of-the-best either.  After all, my wardrobe is a la Costco.   I have internet, I have one nice TV, I do own a dishwasher, washer, and dryer (I will NOT do without those!!!), own a car (gives me freedom to explore the countryside and go where I want, when I want), buy at the open-air markets and supplement things from the supermarkets, go to free concerts, eat cheap $3 four-course lunch specials and dine out for dinner once in awhile, attend social gatherings a few times a month and enjoy a few (ahem) cocktails (Bahbushka is fine), have nice dishes I bought at 70% off (blems) from a local artesan, clean my own house, do my own laundry, and fix what I can myself.

Where in the heck am I going with this?   Sometimes I forget why I launched into a story in the first place.  I call it 'Oldsheimers'.  With all that in mind, here's some expenditures and experiences I've had with the costs of living here.  It is NOT complete.  It is random.  If you're trying to figure out what it costs to live here, gleen what you will and adjust to your prefered lifestyle.


Now that I've been here almost one year, I have a pretty good average on what I pay for these recurring expenses.  Remember, I'm one person living in a good-sized house.
  • Gas (cooking, hot water, dryer) $2 per month (I know, ridiculous huh?)
  • Water $9 per month
  • Electric $40 per month
  • Internet $34 per month
  • DirectTV $33 per month
    • I just eliminated this cost by purchasing a satellite system for $250 (one-time cost) and no monthly fees.  This gives me hundreds of channels including HBO, Cinemax, CNN, Bloomberg, Playboy (ahem).  So far, I have found 40 channels in English.
    • In addition, I connect to http://www.ustvnow.com/ on my laptop then connect it to my TV and I can watch NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX for free.   FREE!!
  • Cell phone $10-$20 per month depending on how much I blab.  I do not have a 'plan'.  I buy minutes as I need them at any one of a zillion stores around town.
  • Other phone for long distance calls to/from the USA.  I use MagicJack which has an initial purchase cost plus approximately $20 a year for the subscription.   No costs beyond that for either the caller or the callee.

Hot topic for a lot of retirees.   So far, I've been to a regular doctor, a dentist, and a dermatologist.  In each case, no one had a receptionist.  They each had basic offices.  You arrive at your appointed time and pick a seat from a row of chairs outside their office.  When he's ready, he opens his door and waves you in.  Each of them did their own data-entry of your basic information into their computer, they collected their own fees, and wrote their own receipts and booked your future appointments themselves.  When an assistant was needed (ie; two sets of hands), one was there.  They also answer their own phones and usually, you get their home phone, too.  Oh, and so far, I have not had to fill out any forms or sign disclosures and waivers of liability, etc.

I had a root canal done on Thanksgiving.   Dentists are specialists here...meaning the same person usually doesn't do more than one thing.   There's a root canal dentist, a cleaning/filling dentist, a crown dentist, etc.  The crown dentist charged me $10 for an x-ray where he determined I likely needed a root canal.  I went to the RC dentist and that same day he performed the root canal and gave me a temporary filler.  The next week, I returned to get the permanent filler.  Total cost $280.  

Later, I had a follow-up appointment with the crown dentist.   He installed a post and a protective cap and took an x-ray, all of which took 45 minutes.  Cost $55

I went to a Dermatologist.  Same routine as the others.  I've had a history of bumps on my face caused by cerbaceous glands that get clogged (or something like that).  I had 20 of them treated....$50.   A few weeks later, I returned and had 40 more done...$90.    I also had out-patient surgery in his office to remove a quarter-sized benign tumor from my back....$100 including follow-ups to check on healing and later, to remove the stitches.  At the same time, he excised a nickel-sized mole....$50.  A friend of mine asked me to inquire of the cost for Botox.  $250 for 50 units.

Medical Insurance

I belong to Coopera.  I pay $2.83 a month for medical and dental coverage.  I started this program AFTER the expenses above.   They have their own dentist to go to.  Cleaning costs $2.   You get 80% off prescriptions.  You can see specialists if their own internal resources don't suffice.

Household stuff

I hired an electrician (well, someone who knows how to do electrical work) because I had several lights and switches that weren't operating properly and I couldn't figure them out myself even though I tried everything in the book.  He spent 7 hours and they're all working fine now.  $60

I had a water leak that was making an outside wall wet.  I hired my handyman to fix it.  He had to chip away at the concrete wall to expose the pipes, replace two sections of pipe, and patch the wall.  Several hours work.  $50

I had a sheet mirror cut for my master bath vanity.  It is about 2.5 ft by 5 ft.   The glass itself, cut, delivered, and installed...$20.


Take a look back in my 2011 blog archives and you'll find a couple where I've listed several grocery items.   There are some things that are cheap here, but others that are just as much as back home.  Cheap here....$1.30 lb chicken, $4.50 lb large prawns, fruits and vegetables ridiculously inexpensive.   Just the same as back home...$2 loaf of bread, liquid laundry soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cheese, milk, pet food.

  • $1.50 videos (purchase, not rent)
  • $4 movie theater
  • Free symphony
  • Many free theatrical experiences
  • $3 lunch specials include juice, soup, main course of meat, vegetable, and rice, plus dessert.
  • Many good restaurants with very good entrees priced from $5 - $8.  I've had plates with gigantic hamburgers and fries for $5 and recently a dinner with a dozen or more shrimp, rice and veggies for $6.
  • Beer $2 regular - $3 grande
Auto Expenses
  • Insurance:  Approximately $500 a year for full-coverage, $250 deductible, on a $10,000 value car.  It is solely based on the value of the car, not based on past driving record, occupation, income, credit score, etc.
  • Repairs:  I've established a relationship with a mechanic down the street.  He gave me his home address and home phone #.  He tells me when I DON'T need something.   He spent the course of 5 days to find and resolve a noise in my steering wheel, did an alignment and balanced my tires.  $31.  The shop rate at the local Chevy and Peugeot dealers is $25 an hour.
  • Gas:   $1.48 for regular (called 'Extra' here) which is a government-fixed price...doesn't fluctuate...the same everywhere.   $2.10 - $2.20 for Super...which DOES fluctuate based on demand and competition.  Approximately $1.00 a gallon for diesel.
Miscellaneous (always gotta have one of these)
  • Taxis - $2 is usually the minimum, up to $4 for longer travels
  • Parking - .50 cents an hour on the streets, lesser in parking lots, free in many areas
  • Post Office Box - $30 a year
  • Bus - .25 cents
    • Sales Tax - 12% (but it's almost always included in the price you see, not added on top of)
  • Property Tax - $100 to $150 per year average
  • National Flights - Cuenca to Quito roundtrip $60 to $80 depending on when booked/availability

Well, I hope this sheds some light for someone out there.   Sorry, no photos this time!!



  1. Great post again. One question about the direct tv. So after paying the $250 to purchase the system are you saying that you no longer have to pay the monthly fee of $33 and that you get all those channels forever?

  2. Hola Dano,
    Would like to share this cat post with you...

    You would not believe what my cat uses for litter in North America! I think/hope it might be available in Cuenca,too.Would you please post an update about your cats? Food? Vets? Litter? :)
    Gracious for all the time you give!

  3. just love your posts! can't wait to see the "pakage" in person -- David (the husband) and I think you could easily run for "ECguru" we were planning on getting to EC next year, spring, but the military just made up our minds for us by giving us 60 days to clear out of Germany --- so, Cuenca, here we come -- will definitely knock on your door for advice and assistance.

    take care, and again thanks for being so entertaining.
    Elke and David -- tihso10@hotmail.com

  4. Dano,
    My wife and have lived in Cuenca for 9 months now.Need some advice on your med insurance. Can you e-mail me or lets get together.

    1. Dan...you didn't leave me a way to contact you. Feel free to write me at danoinec@gmail.com

  5. Hi,

    I plan to be in Cuenca for July and August would you recommend a good dentist for a root canal and cap? Also one to finish an implant with a tooth (post is installed). Jbarton2004@yahoo.com



  6. Interesting about how dentists are specialists. I didn't know that! Thanks. Learning something new all the time. We are heading back to EC in May for a finalization of the 'where' on the coast. If I can get my kitchen reno done, and houses sold, then heading to EC permanently. In the meantime, I will continue to read your very humorous, yet informative posts!

  7. Dano, thanks for all the info. A couple of questions: I've heard about repair people in Ecuador not showing up at the appointed time; have you had such issues and how did you deal with them? Also, do the taxis have seat-belts for passengers? If not, how concerned have you been for your safety in rides you'v e taken? Thanks.

    1. Hi Tay. Hope you see the response here since I don't have any other way of contacting you. I have had very good luck with repair people being on time. Part of that, though, is because I have gotten referrals from others who've used them and know their good/bad habits. I have established a relationship with a man and his 2-person team that can do most handyman repairs. I made it clear upfront that I expected him to be on time, or if he will be late or can't show, to call me...not leave me hanging. Treat me bad and they won't get referrals from me.

      Taxis. To be frank, I haven't noticed whether they have seat belts available or if they're lost underneath the seat. 90% are modern cars and come equipped with them. Whether they or passengers use them or not is another matter. I sit in the back and don't wear them. Baaaad me!! Some people freak at the traffic here. I don't. It depends on how you handle things. I find drivers here to be very assertive but also defensive. It is RARE that you see an accident even though traffic appears to be a frenzy. If you know the rules yourself (ie; yield to those on the LEFT) and understand how roundabouts work, you'll be much more comfortable. Dano

  8. Hola Dano;
    I am moving to Cuenca in the next few months and I am enjoying your blog. It would appear that the only thing missing from your life is a loving Ecuadorian woman. There are many middle aged women who got tired of their husband's Latin Machisimo attitude and their running around, so the when this kids grew up, they threw them out.

    I have met several on Latinamericancupid.com and have developed a great relationship one lady in Cuenca. Check it out. Latin women are very respectful, loving and loyal but they look for the same thing and are drawn to non Latino men.

    If you give me the details: last name, address, phone, I will put you in my address book. My Claro phone # is 09-062-5065
    Send it to dunnovn@mac.com


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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