Is Moving to Another Country Really the Cheapest Way to Live?

Is Moving to Another Country Really the Cheapest Way to Live?

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We think so, depending on the country of course. Over the past seven years, we’ve lived one year in the US and six years overseas in various countries. I can tell you, without a doubt, that moving to another country is most definitely the cheapest way to live.

Oaxaca, Mexico. Clean, safe, and cheap AF.
Oaxaca, Mexico. Clean, safe, and cheap AF.

Finding the Cheapest Way to Live Doesn’t Mean Going Without

This, I think, is a big misconception. Living cheap doesn’t mean you have to give up the things in life you enjoy. It’s simply finding a place to live where the cost of living is lower than in your home country.

As a matter of fact, living cheap overseas means you’ll have enough money left over after expenses to actually enjoy life. Something few people living in America, or any other expensive country, are able to do.

Chillin' in Nicaragua
Natasha, living cheap and chillin’ on the beach in Nicaragua.

Struggling in the States? Nearly Everything is Cheaper Overseas.

If you’re living in the US, Canada, or any other “developed” country you are overpaying for nearly everything. From housing to food to transportation. Every single expense you have right now can basically be cut in half by moving to another country.

And, just because everything is cheaper overseas, doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality. Quite the opposite actually. Let’s take a look at some normal expenses you’re paying, and see how they compare overseas.

Merida, Mexico
Living in Merida, Mexico costs less than half of what it does in the States.

Housing

This is one of the biggest expenses for anyone living in the States. In our hometown of Columbus, Ohio the cost to rent a 1-bedroom apartment averages nearly $900\month.

Taking into account the 30% rule (rent should not exceed 30% of monthly income) you would need to make around $40,000\yr just to rent a 1-bedroom apartment. That’s just not feasible for most people.

We’ve rented apartments in numerous cities overseas and never paid anywhere near this price. And these weren’t crappy apartments in dangerous cities.

As I type we’re living in an awesome 1-bedroom apartment in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. We have a giant rooftop patio with a view of the ocean. It’s completely furnished, has high-speed wifi, and utilities, except electric, are included. Our monthly rent is $350usd (and this is by far the most expensive apartment we’ve lived in overseas).

Apartment in Puerto Escondido
Living room\Dining room in Puerto Escondido.

Transportation

Transportation probably ranks as the second biggest expense in the average US household. According to USA Today, the average American spends nearly $9000\year between car payments, gas, insurance, and repairs. That’s insane.

In the 6 years we’ve lived overseas we have never once owned a vehicle. Nor have we ever needed one. Taxis, buses, and even flights are all dirt cheap nearly everywhere we’ve lived overseas.

In the city we live in now we can go from our apartment to our favorite beach restaurant 15 minutes away for about $1.50usd in a private taxi. You can’t even get into a taxi in the States for that amount, let alone go anywhere.

taxi fare in the States
$2.50 just to get into a taxi in the States as opposed to $1.50 to go across town in Mexico.

Food & Drinks

Eating out in the States is incredibly expensive and considered a luxury by most. Even a simple pasta dish in a crappy “fast-casual” chain can set you back $15 per person. Want a glass of wine with your pasta? Now you’re up to $20 per person. It’s no wonder eating out is saved for “date nights”.

Moving to another country means you can make nearly every night date night. Want a quick, delicious, and cheap dinner? Just head to any “cocina economica” in Mexico and you can get a seared chicken breast with your choice of sauce, rice, veg, and salad for around $3usd

Recently we went out for “date night” here in Mexico. We went to a beach restaurant (meaning we’re paying for the view) that we really love. We split a giant order of garlic shrimp with rice, fries, and a salad. The whole meal was $6. You can’t even eat at McDonald’s for $6.

Steak in Mexico
A huge steak dinner in a fancy restaurant in Mexico. $10usd.

Medical Care

If you live in the USA, and you’re under or un-insured, medical care is the one expense that can, literally, bankrupt you. Even with insurance, most Americans find medical care too expensive and choose to go without. This just isn’t the case anywhere else.

Quality medical care, even without insurance, is affordable in nearly every other part of the world. Here are a couple of our real-world examples:

  • In the USA – I had an infected tooth that was killing me. I was uninsured and the only place that was affordable to go was the CVS “minute clinic”. The doctor saw me for 5 minutes and wrote me a prescription. That 5-minute visit cost me nearly $150. The meds were another $20.
  • In Mexico – I developed a respiratory infection while living on Cozumel Island. I went to a doctor who gave me a thorough exam and diagnosed the infection. This cost me less than $3usd. The meds only cost me an additional $2usd.
  • In Nicaragua – Natasha had an impacted wisdom tooth causing her a lot of pain. She walked into a dentist, and came out 20 minutes later, sans wisdom tooth. This cost her less than $20usd.
  • In Panama – Our friend was in a pretty bad surfing accident. Weeks later she still had a headache from it. She went to a private hospital to get it looked at. The total cost of seeing the doctor, getting the MRI, and a consult after the MRI cost her less than $60.

Don’t let anyone fool you into believing the States has the finest medical care. That’s just not the case. Comparable, and even better, medical care can be found in nearly every country for a fraction of the price.

Where in the World can you Find the Cheapest Way to Live?

If you think living cheap can only be done in a few isolated, and dangerous, countries you’d be wrong. You can go to nearly any continent and find an affordable country to live in.

Europe

Always wanted to live in Europe? Afraid the high-cost of living just won’t allow it? Well, you’re in luck! There are numerous countries in Europe that cost a fraction of what it costs to live in the US.

There are numerous cities in Eastern Eupore that are even cheaper. And, the best part…you can fly between European countries for less than $50 one-way.

cheapest way to live in Budapest
You can save nearly 50% off food and housing living in Budapest.

Asia

Are you a sucker for Asian food and culture? Then you’re in luck. You can most definitely find the cheapest way to live in nearly every country in Asia. A couple of examples:

With the exception of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo you can pretty much live anywhere in Asia for a fraction of the cost as the States.

cheapest way to live in Vietnam
Living in Vietnam is half the price of living in the States.

Central America

We’ve spent a lot of time living in Central America. We’ve loved every bit of it. From the famous surfing in Costa Rica to Nicaragua’s Caribbean islands, Central America offers something for nearly everyone. And it’s really cheap.

  • Nicaragua – We lived all over Nicaragua for nearly 2.5 years. It’s definitely one of our favorite countries and it’s extremely affordable. Our monthly budget, for the two of us, rarely exceeded $800usd. That included rent, activities, and eating out nearly every night.
  • Costa Rica – Land of tropical rain forests, monster surf, and beautiful Caribbean beaches. You can expect to save 30% off of your food and housing bills living in this tropical paradise.

Central America gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to safety. While there are definitely some dangerous cities to avoid, for the most part, Central America is a safe place to live. We know, we’ve lived there.

cheapest way to live in Nicaragua
Cut your expenses in half living in Nicaragua.

Carribean

Always dreamed of living in the Caribbean? It’s a whole lot cheaper than you would expect.

  • The Dominican Republic – A beautiful country of rainforests and mangroves, surrounded by the Caribbean. What more could you ask for? How about housing costs that are less than half of what they are in the States?
  • Jamaica – This lovely Caribbean island just might be our favorite place to live. We were a 2-minute walk to the beach and our rent was dirt cheap. The food was amazing, and rarely cost more than a few dollars for a giant plate.

Sure there are uber-expensive all-inclusive resorts all over the Caribbean. There are also great places where you can live right next to the beach for half of what it would cost you to live in the States.

cheapest way to live in the Dominican Republic
Housing 50% less than in the States and right on the Caribbean.

North America

Living in North America and struggling to make ends meet? Maybe you’re living too far North. Our southernmost North American neighbor, Mexico, may just be what you’re looking for.

I know you’ve probably heard that it’s too dangerous to live in Mexico. We just don’t find that to be the case. We’ve lived all over Mexico, on and off, for three years now. We’ve lived in small fishing villages of 200 people and large cities of 1,000,000. We have never, ever had a problem with safety.

is it safe in Mexico
It’s just as safe in Mexico as it is in the States.

You have your choice in Mexico to live on the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, or the Sea of Cortez. All for less than half of what it costs you to live in the rest of North America.

Finding the Cheapest Way to Live can also Improve your Quality of Life

For us, finding the cheapest way to live is just a means to an end. Our end goal is quality of life. We want to do what we want, when we want, without the fear of money or a 9-5 job holding us back. 

This was impossible for us to do while living in the States. After paying all of the bills, there was seldom any money left over that could be used to actually enjoy life. Moving to another country, with a lower cost of living, has changed that.

Paul enjoying some beach time in Nicaragua.

Entertainment

Taking the family to a ball game, an amusement park, or even to the movies in the States falls outside of a lot of budgets. This just isn’t so in other countries. Entertainment prices we’ve encountered on our travels:

  • Movies – Opening night for Star Wars in Mexico. The movie was in a high-end theater, in English, and cost less than $3 per ticket.
  • Baseball Games – Baseball is huge in Nicaragua and priced so that any family can attend. A night out at a semi-pro game will cost you just a few dollars per seat.
  • Museums – Bogota, Colombia has a treasure trove of very high-end museums. Whether we went to an art museum, the gold museum, or the natural history museum, tickets were never more than $1-$2 per person.

Moving to another country has allowed us to enjoy some of the things in life that were just too expensive to bother with back in the States.

Botero Museum Bogota, Colombia
World class Botero Museum in Bogata, Colombia. Admission. is. FREE!

Travel

Traveling for a lot of families in the States is just too expensive to even consider. Those that can afford vacations usually work 40-60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, just to get away for, hopefully, two weeks a year. 

People living in other countries can travel for much cheaper than people in the States. Here are some real-world examples:

  • Mexico – Want to get from the mountains in Mexico to the beach? A six-hour ride in a comfortably air-conditioned shuttle will set you back $10usd.
  • Spain – A flight from cold and rainy Scotland to the beaches of Spain, will only cost you $30usd one-way (that’s what a taxi costs us to get from our apartment in Columbus to the airport).
  • Scotland – We recently used kiwi.com to book super cheap tickets from Cancun, Mexico to Glasgow, Scotland for around $140 per person (less than the cost of flights from Ohio to Florida).

People living in the States will always be paying more for flights and vacations than people living in other countries. If you want the cheapest way to live, and still have money for travel, you’re going to need to get out of the States. Domestic and international travel is just too expensive there.

cheapest way to live in europe
Flights from Scotland to Spain are only around $30.

More Freedom

Living in countries where the cost of living is lower means working fewer hours to make ends meet. This allows you more freedom to do the things you actually want to do.

Right now we are living in Mexico and earning US dollars through our writing company (there are many different ways to make USD’s which we’ll cover in another blog post). Our total budget for the month, including rent, utilities, going out, etc is between $800-$1000 a month for the two of us.

When the cost of living is this low we don’t have to work 40-60 hours a week to make ends meet. Less time working gives us the freedom to do the thing we want to do.

chilling on the beach in Mexico
Fewer hours working means more hours enjoying our time together.

The Ability to Save Money

Moving to another country, where the cost of living is low, allows us to easily do what is so difficult to do in the States; actually saving money as opposed to spending it.

Even if we’re just working 20 hours a week we’re still making more money than we could possibly spend here in Mexico. Saving money while living in the States meant making sacrifices like:

  • Cooking at home as opposed to eating out.
  • Canceling our internet at the house.
  • Living with roommates. 
  • Buying cheap burner phones with no monthly contracts.

Living somewhere less expensive than the States allows you to live a good life, without sacrifice, while still being able to put money away for a rainy day.

rooftop office in Mexico
Working 20 hours a week isn’t so bad. Especially in this office.

We Think that The Cheapest Way to Live is Also The Best Way to Live

We’ve lived the rat-race. We’ve worked 40-60 hours a week, just so we could get 1-2 days a week off to recoup. And then do it all over again the next week, after week, after week. That’s just no way for us to live.

We think we’ve finally got it figured out though. Moving to another country, with a lower cost of living, allows you to have the perfect work\life balance. For us, not only is it the cheapest way to live, but we think it’s also the best ways to live.

Margaritas on the beach are a lot more affordable when you live somewhere cheap.

 

 


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