Cost of Living: March 2017

Since I am preparing envelopes for our house sitters with two and a half months of expenses, I thought I would give you an idea of our latest cost of living expenses for the month of March 2017.

We own our home, thus no rental expenses. This month, we paid our property taxes of $25 and I included that in the miscellaneous expenses along with gas, propane, and a few other small expenses.

The amounts are in dollars. The total monthly expenses are: $960.


If you are considering living in Nicaragua, it will depend on your location and your needs. Ometepe Island is cheaper for home rentals than most of the larger cities like Granada and San Juan Del Sur. But, there are some expenses that cost more, such as a rural internet provider since we don’t have cable internet available outside of the main cities. Our service provider is Ggnet and it is on the mainland. We built a tall tower in our backyard because we need direct line of sight to the mainland to receive a strong signal for our microwave internet system.

Continue reading

How to Afford to Travel

“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” ― Dallin H. Oaks

I love reading travel essays, but before we started traveling I was disappointed when the essays never explained how one affords to travel. I received a comment on my blog the other day asking me how we afford to travel six months of the year and live abroad.

I never gave that question much thought after we started traveling because we just did it, but it is a great question and one that I think deserves a thoughtful answer.

Let me break down the quote above because it explains our process perfectly.


Arthur’s Pass in the New Zealand Southern Alps.


Continue reading

So You Want to Move Abroad if Trump is Elected President?

If Trump wins the U.S.Presidential elections, where are you going to go? It looks like Canada is not an option anymore.

But, never fear. Don’t lose hope. Nicaragua is always nice! 🙂

Continue reading

As Much Money and Life as You Could Want!

“As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all – the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


IMG_5788What would you do if money wasn’t an issue? If you live abroad in a developing country like we do, would you move? Travel more? Buy a big house and a new car? Start a charity? Pay off college loans?

We initially moved to Nicaragua because we could retire early from our teaching positions with small pensions. Nicaragua is affordable and we could live easily and simply on a fixed income. I nicknamed us “Economic Refugees” because we could never afford to retire early on fixed incomes and stay in the U.S. Money mattered in our decision to retire in Nicaragua.

Continue reading

Pros and Cons of Living on an Island

“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov


Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women from Finding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.

Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.

Pros of Island Life

Continue reading

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

doctorsMarina was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease over two years ago. Her journey through this condition led her to a public healthcare surgeon in Managua, who removed her diseased thyroid in two operations a year apart. Gloria, her daughter, brought the diseased thyroid home in a plastic cup for all to see before taking it to a private clinic for a biopsy report.

I shook my head in disbelief.

What kind of pubic health system allows patients to bring a diseased body part home, then asks them to pay a private clinic for a biopsy report?

For Ron’s birthday, we decided to make a North American meal for 15 of our Nicaraguan friends and neighbors. Marina said, “My surgeon and his family are vacationing at my house for a week. Can they come, too?”

“Of course,” I replied. Again, I shook my head in disbelief.

Why would a surgeon want to spend his vacation in a humble abode of a patient instead of a fancy hotel? “Aren’t all doctors rich?” I asked Marina.

What I learned about the public healthcare system in Nicaragua will surprise you.


Continue reading

The Bottom Line: Budgeting for Retiring Abroad

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” –Joe Biden


One of our biggest challenges in planning for retirement abroad was creating a realistic budget before we jumped into a new life. After our ‘pretirement’ experiment in Nicaragua in 2004-05, we set a goal to become financially independent. Many articles have been written about adjusting and assimilating into a different culture, but few articles stress the importance of financial planning before making the big jump.

Continue reading

Travel Theme: Numbers

“[When asked why are numbers beautiful?]

“It’s like asking why is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is.”
― Paul Erdős

Weighing fruits in a market in Mexico


I’m counting on you to continue! More numbers ahead.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Good Financial Habits…don’t exist in Nicaragua

This week’s Photo Challenge is Habit – stuff of the everyday, places we go, things we do, people we see.

IMG_3813This is our electric bill attached to our fencepost. Last month, when the electric man came to our house to cut off our electricity…AGAIN…I said, ” What happened to the bicycle deliverer this time?” You see, as hard as I try to be efficient and pay our bills in a timely manner…it’s almost an impossibility on Ometepe Island because good financial habits that I have developed throughout my lifetime don’t exist in Nicaragua.

The first time the electric guy came to our house to cut off our electricity he told me, “The fat guy on the bicycle quit delivering the bills.” In the ‘land of the not quite right’, even though we never received a bill, it was our duty to pay in a timely manner. So, Ron raced off to town on his motorcycle to pay our electric bill, while I entertained the electric shut off guy on my porch and taught him a few English phrases like efficiency, good financial habits, pay bills online, and I am never late paying my bills.

This time, the new electric bill delivery guy was afraid to deliver the bill to us because he didn’t speak English. “Oh my Lord…just tell him to hang it on the fence,” I said. And so, coming home from paying our other bills in town today, the electric bill was posted happily and fearlessly on our fencepost.

IMG_3811Let me explain the Latin logic in our bills. The big stack of receipts…over 3 years of receipts (in the picture on the right) is our Claro internet bill. We didn’t have residency when we wanted the internet at our house, so a friend of mine who had residency used her information to get us the Claro internet dongle. Every month, I have to go to the office to pay the internet bill and every month he asks me, “You are Betty?” At first, I tried to tell him that Betty passed away, and it was my internet bill. But, when he said, “Muchas gracias, Betty” after I paid the bill, I thought… what the heck. I’ll be Betty for the rest of my life as far as Claro is concerned.

The confusion at the Claro office started when I got the Claro phone plan with my residency card. I pay the bills on the same day. “Muchas gracias, Betty,” he said when I paid my internet bill. “Muchas gracias, Deborah,” he responded when I paid my Claro phone bill. I think they are humoring me and suspect that they are dealing with a loca gringa with dissociative identity disorder.

Good financial habits don’t exist in Nicaragua. Very few bills can be paid online…only my SKY satellite TV bill…and that’s from Mexico. The electric company is the only one that delivers the bills from house to house on a bicycle…no mail service here. For the other bills, we play the game of seek and pay. First, we have to find the stack of old receipts attached to the original contract, then pay them in the right office.

It really becomes tricky if we can’t find the stack of stapled receipts because the electric and water bill aren’t in our names. We tried to change the bills to our names…but don’t get me started on that fiasco…which involved Spanish words like abogado ( lawyer), escritura (our property title), and mucho dinero ( much money).

Maybe I really have developed dissociative identity disorder? Paying bills in a fiscally responsible way in Nicaragua is a habit I’ve had to break. It’s the only way to stay sane in the ‘land of the not quite right.’