We looked at two different apartments for rent in the last 3 days. Why? Hey, why not? We're always looking for a better deal and also for the place we can call home, and maybe we're in it already and just don't know it. Honestly, after the last two apartments we just looked at, this place is a palace! Our $500 a month all-inclusive 2 bedroom, 2 bath, room with a view "departamento" right in the heart of El Centro is beginning to look pretty fancy and quite reasonably priced. The last two apartments both had "suicide showers." Suicide showers are a home-installed water heating system where the hot water for the shower is heated directly inside the actual shower head. Stray wires, a lot of insulation tape and a combination of water and high voltages of electricity creates the warm (if you're lucky hot) water. If the installation is faulty, sparks and shocking will occur. Fun, huh??
The first "available now" rental we looked at Sunday morning was only about 6 blocks up from Simon Bolivar where we now live, so it was a perfect location and only $400 a month completely furnished. However, it was Oh So Small and had too many pink, yellow, limey green, and blue walls for me. The couple renting it proudly showed us around and were absolutely unaware they had a suicide shower! It looked deadly!! They thought that's how the bathrooms here were. They're going back to Washington anyway, so I didn't put the "you could die" fear in them. Hopefully, they won't touch it before they exit or they're in for a real shock!! The second apartment we looked at today was very rough or rustic funky - but, gee, it was only $195 a month for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath unfurnished place and right across the street from the mercado, a great location! Well, you definitely will get what you pay for here unless you happen to find the deal of the year. So, again, we are feeling quite blessed and happy right where we are at.
I got to thinking about our continued quest for the next best rental. Before we came here, we had researched many blogs and articles on-line, since we wanted to have a realistic idea of the housing and cost of living (as well as the weather, medical care, foods, and people). Housing and cost of living varied depending on what article or blog we read. So, we decided, from day one, to keep a daily running total of every penny (yes, penny!) we spent so that in two or three months we would have a realistic idea of what our own personal budget would be. Of course, with the four apartment rentals in two months and the added expenses for being on a vacation the first month here and eating out a lot, then the relocation services, etc., we knew we would be spending less once those expenses died out of our list.
Now that we're more settled in and know where to shop and are riding the bus more than taking taxis, we are able to get a more realistic monthly expense list that we will try out for the next two months to see if it works for us. I wanted to share our personal budget because I believe that there are many opinions from varying lifestyles living in Cuenca - some more extravagant than others, and some more frugal. There are many expatriates here who have enough money to go out every night to eat and not blink an eye, and there are those who are on a fixed pension income which will be the ceiling for what they can spend, hopefully with some left over to save.
When Bo and I left Oregon and the USA, we repacked our bags! By that, I mean we both wanted to truly simplify our lifestyle and live modestly and frugally, focusing on the things that are truly important to us - the people we meet and the way we spend our time. We are still both on the same page (that's a good thing when you're married), and the longer we are away from our USA rut, the more we are enjoying our new focus and way of life. Like today - we shopped frugally and wisely. We bought only what we needed, and we do not have extras of anything at home. When we run out of something, we go to the store. We have one of everything. I have 3 cleaning products and a bottle of vinegar. We buy fresh food daily, and there is little or no waste. We're getting even better about this. We cook 90% of our meals and eat out only at the delicious Ecuadorian restaurants, where we can buy a full course meal for two for $5 to $6 (Really!!!). We continue to learn more ways to be frugal and save the longer we live here.
Okay, I'm letting you all behind the curtain! Why not? We have nothing to hide and we hope to be an inspiration to many who want to learn to live simply, become self-disciplined, and live frugally and modestly. Does it mean we are sacrificing? Not really! Life is full of choices. We choose to live this way. We want to continue to save while living here, and we want to live unencumbered and free. So, this is our choice for the next few months to see just how much we can still enjoy life on a frugal and wise budget. Okay, here goes:
RENT - $500 (We live in one of the best and perfect locations of El Centro. Our apartment is large, completely and comfortably furnished, and we pay month-to-month with no added fees or charges. It works for us!)
FOOD - $289 (This figure includes produce, protein - lots of seafood, groceries, household, and limited alcohol. We love to cook and EAT fine food, and this amount will allow us to do so. We used to spend $700 a month on food in the states - Yikes!!!!)
PHONES - $10 (We each buy $5 worth of minutes each a month, so far with leftover minutes).
DINING OUT - $52 (We actually believe this could be high for how many times we now plan to eat out monthly. We'll see.....)
ENTERTAINMENT - $65 (This would be for any concerts, live plays, etc. we might attend. However, most of the arts and entertainment here is FREE!! Also, if we go on an out-of-area bus trip exploring the country.....)
GIFTS - $65 (We believe in giving - whether it's a gift to a friend or giving to an unfortunate we encounter in our day.)
TRANSPORTATION - $27 (I love not having a car nor the expenses of insurance, maintenance, etc. Every time we ride a bus for 25 cents, I smile! I don't even like taking taxis anymore even if they're only $1.50 to $2.00 a ride inner city. Man, I'm becoming a penny-pincher and a true city chica.....)
MEDICAL - $130 (We just picked a figure to cover any out-patient expenses we might incur. Still learning this area of our budget, although several doctor visits later and we think this is going to work for us - and way on the high side for what medical costs here. In the future, we will look into medical insurance which could run $100 a month for the two of us - gee!!!)
FURNISHINGS and/or CLOTHING - $130 (Though we're not buying ANYTHING extra, sometimes something may come up that we need for our apartment or in clothing. I recently had one of my photography prints matted and framed - a whooping $30 which would have cost about $150 or more in the States. So, we did allow a frugal furnishings budget - yea!!!! As for clothing, we're set for now, but one never knows!!!)
GRAND MONTHLY EXPENSE TOTAL FOR THIS FAMILY OF TWO = $1,268!!! (This is our high figure, so it could be closer to $1,200.)
For us, this is a very realistic budget right now. We are not interested in dining at fancy expensive restaurants, paying high rents, or living out of walking distance to El Centro. We like being close to all our needs, and we are excited at the possibility of having this budget work for us long-term. Of course, this could change, but for now it's feasible and what we personally hope to live on.
I'm glad we had the determination and self-discipline to keep a record of our daily spending from the day we arrived. It took a bit of time and thought, but we knew it would pay off and be helpful in the end. I'm a visual person. I have to see it before I believe it. As much as we go shopping, I was under the false illusion that we were spending a lot of money on produce and groceries. Afterall, we also buy a lot of seafood each week. In the states, that was a big big chunk of our grocery bill. So, now I know and I'm thrilled! I'm also thankful I have a husband who is money-frugal and conscientious. He is not a tight-wad and would lay the world at my feet if he could (and he has!!). Like I said, we're both on the same page at this season of our lives, and that's a good thing!!
Again, this is our story and our personal journey and choice. I hope this visual helps those planning to move here and those already here. HAPPY BUDGETING!
I LOVE CUENCA
|Our beautiful City, CUENCA!|
|We live one-half block from Cuenca's fabulous Parque Calderon. We love walking over here at night when the city is lit up and sitting on a bench and people-watching. It's an active and wonderful area of El-Centro.|
|One of four rivers that surround the City of Cuenca - El Rio Tomebamba. Bo and I can walk here in less than 10 minutes and then walk for miles along the wonderful walking/jogging paths.|
|Cuenca is a city of majestic and old churches - Historic church buildings that I never tire looking at. I hope to photograph them in the evening all lit up and sparkling.|