Cost of Living


Today is our second anniversary of living on Ometepe Island permanently. I have never done a cost of living analysis. Please keep in mind that Ometepe Island is a small, rather primitive island in the middle of a huge lake, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America. This breakdown of costs on la isla varies from the cost of living elsewhere in Nicaragua.

Our monthly expenses:

1. Utilities
a. Electric – anywhere from $20-$50 monthly. We don’t have an air conditioner. We do
have a washing machine, a refrigerator, ceiling fans, and floor fans.
b. Water- $7 a month. This is an estimate, because our water meter is covered with 2
feet of sand from the flood 2 years ago. They can’t read our water meter.

2. Internet
a. We have a 3G Claro dongle. $23.30 a month.

3. TV
a. Sky Satellite TV- $37 a month. We purchased a satellite mainly to watch the Steeler
football games.

4. Groceries
a. We have a huge garden and a vegetable truck that comes to our house every Friday.
But, we do like some of our favorite gringo foods like peanut-butter and chocolate
chips. As an estimate $200 a month on groceries.

5. Propane and Gas
a. We bought a new Pulsar 180 motorcycle for trips around the island.$2,500 We only fill
up the tank about once every 3 months. $25
b. We have a propane stove/oven and we love to cook. Our tank lasts 3 mo. $16

6. Transportation
a. We walk, kayak, or take our motorcycle around the island. When we travel off the
island, about once a month, it depends on where we are headed. If we go to
Managua, we usually hire our favorite taxi driver $60 round trip. I would estimate
monthly transportation $100 and that’s on the high side.

7. Entertainment
a. We don’t spend much on entertainment. Our entertainment is visiting friends,
swimming or kayaking, and the rare times we eat out. $30 a month

8. Travel
a. This is probably our biggest cost because we love to travel. We try to
take a trip once a month. $500

9. Pets
a. We have 10 free-range chickens, our neighbor’s dog ( who has adopted us because
we feed him), and soon we’ll add 3 kittens. Cost of food for pets- $20 monthly.

10. Health Insurance and Medicines
a. We are rarely sick, but when we are, we try holistic methods and natural teas and
remedies, first. You don’t need a prescription to go to the pharmacy. If we need
antibiotics or other pills, we go to the pharmacist, explain our symptoms, and receive
one pill or a packet of pills. Then, we return home, research the medicine before taking,
and start the regimen. $5 a month
b. Vivian Pellas hospital in Managua caters to expats. They offer two types of health
insurance for their hospital. The silver plan is $26 a mo. per person. The gold plan
is $46 a mo. per person. Our expenses: $52 for both.

11. Housing Costs
a. We bought a manzana of land that had an old beach shack on it. We have beach front
property. We remodeled our house- $12K and added a small two-story guest house/
garage for $6K.
b. The average home rental on Ometepe Island is from $150-250 per month.

12. Miscellaneous Expenses
a. Gifts and volunteer projects- $50 a month
b. Repairs and costs for other things we need don’t happen on a regular basis. For
example, I am researching gas-powered weed eaters because I am sooo tired
of using a hand sickle or a machete to mow our lawn. I can’t find what I want
in Nicaragua, so I have to order it online and have it sent to my mother’s house.
Then, when we return to the states to visit, I can pick up my purchases and bring
them back to Nicaragua. Yearly cost is about $500

13. Nicaraguan Residency
a. This was a one time cost. Overall, I would estimate that we spent $2,000 on
getting our residency. That includes lawyer fees, translations, and all costs in the
states and Nicaragua. It does not include flights to the U.S. to gather documents.

With our monthly teaching pensions, we figure that we can spend $55 a day. We rarely spend that much daily. When we are able to collect our Social Security, we will have double the income…which means more traveling for us. Our goal was to have a home base in Nicaragua and travel for several months of the year, especially during the wickedly hot months of March and April.

Overall, as an estimate our monthly expenses are: $1084. In reality, they are usually much less. We’ve lived comfortably on $500 a month with no entertainment and no traveling. It just depends on our wants and needs. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the cost of living on Ometepe Island.

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16 thoughts on “Cost of Living

  1. Debbie and Ron, thank you for a well-written and informative blog. This and your earlier blogs answered questions for those of us nearing retirement and undecided where to write the next chapter of our lives. Many of us have your same sense of adventure. I can hardly wait.

  2. Debbie! Congrats on your 2nd anniversary, many people might not understand but with a little $dinero you can live in Nicaland like a Queen/King

  3. I read one of the blogs a while back where u mention you didnt have a weedeater to not upset the culture. Are you backing out of that or are things changing on the island? Interesting analysis. Sounds pretty good. Especially fruits falling on the ground and not knowing what to do with them

    • Rod, I am the landscaper and Ron is the gardener. During the rainy season, everything grows so fast that I can’t keep up with the work. Our teenage neighbor machetes the field for us, but I use my sickle in the front part of our property. During mango season, when we were inundated with mangoes, I got bursitis and a frozen shoulder from overuse…mainly from raking, shoveling, and swinging my weed wacker. I still can’t lift my arm over my head and it’s been over 6 months. I just can’t do it anymore, so I have to compromise with my
      principles of ‘going native’. 😦

  4. Happy 2nd anniversary. You have accomplished much in these two years.I admire your simple lifestyle and ability to maintain it. Your breakdown of costs puts it it into perspective and is an example to others wanting to make that move, commitment and to do the same. Beach front property. WOW!

    • Thanks, Lynne. We do have a simple lifestyle, but the ability to maintain it is a real challenge, especially in the rainy season when everything grows a foot overnight. We were fortunate to rent the little beach shack for a year in our experiment with ‘pretirement’. Five years later, we bought it. It faces west, and in the rainy season the sunsets over the lake are gorgeous.

  5. Your frugal costs say a lot about you! You don’t need to go out, travel, etc in order to be happy! You’re happiest at home! Thanks for the breakdown; i not only compared to what costs are in Ecuador, but also across your frontera in Costa Rica. To be on the island, those prices seem very fair – especially for remodeling and new construction.

    The ‘Do-It Center” in Liberia might have your weed-whacker. Years ago i bought a swing blade from there and loved the zen of swinging it back and forth and back and forth. Works great unless you’re gone for over a month in the rainy season!
    http://www.amazon.com/Ames-True-Temper-Deluxe-1945000/dp/B00004S1RZ?tag=duckduckgo-d-20
    Z

    • Z…thanks for the link to the weed wacker. That’s exactly what I have. We brought it back from the states. Honestly, I’m tired of the zen of swinging it through mountains of tall weeds and grass. In the rainy season, I just get finished with one small area and the area that I weed wacked a week earlier needs to be done again. It’s a never ending cycle..and I’m getting too old for it. Seven years ago, Ron made me a weed wacker. See post here:
      https://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/multitasking/
      I think I’m ready for the new age of mowing. LOL

      • I know exactly what you mean! Once I lived along a stream and had to climb a ladder to get to a tiny bridge that went to my kitchen door. I remember one day as I scampered up the ladder, I thought, “one of these days, this won’t be fun any more.”

        Yes, we evolve, and I totally respect your wishes to simplify that maintenance!

        the multitasking post is a great one! yes, we have a lot to share whenever my trail brings me back to nicaragua! Z

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