How Much Money Do I Need to Live in Latin America?

I live in Bogota, what I would classify as a middle income city with a middle-of-the-road cost of living. One of the most frequent questions I get as an expat is: Do you think I can live on X amount of money per month in X country? My answer is always that it depends how you want to live and where you want to live. If your idea of retirement is living a simple life in a small house far outside any major city, then yes, you can probably live on $1,000 a month. Of course, if you want to live in a nice apartment in a nice part of town in a large city, your cost of life goes up. But the truth is, it’s really quite hard to answer this question because some countries are more expensive than others and some cities are pricier than others; you can live like a king on your social security check in rural Bolivia, but in Sao Paolo, you may find yourself struggling on a single retirement income.

However, in an attempt to better answer this question more scientifically, I’ve been keeping track of my expenses for the last few weeks here in Bogota, and it breaks down like this:

(1) Rent (1 bedroom with cable, Wi-Fi, electricity, gas, water and once-a-week maid service included in a “nice” area of town): $225.00

***Of course, if you are 60, you probably don’t want to live in a 5-bedroom apartment with a bunch of 25 year-olds, so I called some rental agencies in a variety of middle upperclass neighborhood and found that a 1-bedroom (no utilities) apartment runs between $250 and $1,000.

(2) Utilities in an upper middle-class neighborhood (electricity, gas, Internet, cable, water) if you decide to live on your own: $195 per month

(3) ”Typical” Meal in a middle class neighborhood: $3.00

(4) Nice meal in Bogota’s most upscale dining district (without appetizer or wine): $10.00-$17.00

(5) Gym membership in a nicer gym (per month): $30.00-$100.00

(6) Bottle of water: $0.75

(7) Taxi, 65 city blocks: $4.50

(8) Typical monthly grocery bill at a “higher-end” chain store: $80.00-$100.oo

(9) Gallon of gas: $3.00-$4.00

(10) Normal bus: $0.65; Transmilenio bus: $0.80.

(11) Cocktail at a high-end bar: $7.50-$12.50

(12) Beer at your average bar: $0.90

(13) Coffee at a casual bakery or cafe: $0.50-$1.00

(14) Skim milk frappaccino with light cream at a “fancy” cafe: $2-$4

(15) Health Insurance (I have my own in the U.S., but I’ve called around and a policy, depending whether you get public or private, runs anywhere between): $35-$120 per month

(16) Misc (because I always seem to spend money and have nothing to show for it): $150.00

Total Expenditures in Bogota:

$225 rent $39 bus twice a day $72 taxi twice a week $100 (groceries) $50 3 (nice meals a month) $36 ( 9 “typical” meals a month) $60 (6 fancy cocktails a month) $11 (12 beers a month) $12 4 (fancy coffees a month) $9 12 (water bottles per month) $150 (misc)

Total: $764.00

Total Expenditures in the U.S:

$139 ( U.S-based health insurance) $300 (s tudent loan) $200 ( credit cards/Misc)

Total: $639.00

So basically, I need $1,303 to live every month. Obviously, this figure doesn’t reflect leisure travel, home-insurance, car insurance, car payment or savings, but this budget should give you an idea how much you need to get by and have a few nice dinners and drinks along the way.

Share 🙂

%d bloggers like this: