Cost of Living Report – November 2014

We live in David, Chiriqui, Panama in a comfortable middle class neighborhood. Now and then, I track expenses and post a cost of living report. Costs to live in Panama vary widely depending on where and how you live. All I can write about are our own experiences.

So, for November 2014 –

Rent $385 Totals $385
Cable/internet $60.49 $445.49
Electricity $48.43 $493.92
Netflix $7.99 $501.91
Data plans for 2 tablets $22.54 $524.45
Car insurance (2 cars, monthly) $50.00 $574.45
Food $322.65 $897.10
Gas for cars $130.07 $1027.17
Misc things from DoIt Center $47.09 $1074.26
Bike repair stuff $3.50 $1077.76
Restaurant (a smoothy with a friend) $3.95 $1081.71
2 tires for the Mazda, installed and balanced $90.42 $1172.13

I usually forget something, or add something I forgot last month, but I think this gives a pretty good idea of what it cost us in November. Without the new tires, it was $1081.71. As you can see, we generally don’t eat out. We also buy very little imported food, preferring local food for both taste, quality, and cost. We spent quite a bit more than usual on gas for the cars because I filled up my Mazda which isn’t driven much, and Joel made a number of trips to Boquete for rehearsals with his new music duo. No month is exactly like another and there is often a one time thing like the tires, but generally we have been staying in the $1050-1200 range every month for basic expenses.

I am so thankful to be here! Not only is it a wonderful life in this beautiful country with good people, it is well within our means. We definitely couldn’t afford to live like this in the US, but here I feel like we have everything we want and need.

To see other cost of living reports over the last couple years, check THIS LINK where they are all listed.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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45 Responses to Cost of Living Report – November 2014

  1. I appreciate these every time you post them, Kris!! Thanks 🙂

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  2. Rick Flaherty says:

    Hi Kris,
    Sally and I are new to Panama and decided to be in Boquete. We tracked our expenses for the first full month in our house here and if you would like to share them for others to get a feel for our area that is fine. I can add them as an attachment to an email with descriptions if you would like. Some friends have asked me to blog some of our experiences and background. What do you think?

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    • I started this blog as an easy way to tell friends and family what was going on without writing a lot of separate emails. You would be surprised how such a thing can grow and how many interesting people you meet! You might want to consider having a blog. Mine is on WordPress and it’s pretty easy to set up and use. Or, if you’d rather I post your expenses I’d be happy to do that too. I’ll send you an email so we can be in touch.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’d really love to see the expenses there as it is defintely one of the places I want to visit before deciding where to live.

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      • It may not be as fancy as other places but we like having everything we need close by, we’ve made so many great friends here, and it is easy to explore many places from here. I’m glad you found the expenses helpful.

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    • I, for one, would love to see that! My husband and I have not made the plunge and moved, so we’re still watching from here in California. It would be really nice to get a snapshot of yet another area of Chiriqui. Thanks in advance!

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  3. Thanks again Kris, btw, love the Live Traffic Feed (sidebar) I just noticed it!

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  4. sandyvi says:

    Hi, Kris
    I really enjoy your posts and am very interested in the cost of living for a couple. My husband & I plan to visit Panama again in May 2016 (our first visit was in June 2014) to visit a few places we may want to retire in and see what rents are in these areas. Thanks.

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    • My pleasure, glad you found it helpful. It wasn’t that long ago when we were going through the decision process, so we understand how useful it is to have real information.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Chris. We rented a home in Santa Lucia. We are now back in Saint Lucia to arrange the paper work for the 4 dogs. Trust to arrive in Panama on the 16th of december. We bought the kennels in October at Melo in Albrook Mall.

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  6. tombseekers says:

    People say Boquete is so much more expensive, but except for rent (higher) and electricity (lower), the other costs are about the same. The benefits of living in David though are the amenities of a real town and so many Spanish only speakers that force you to learn the language. We also buy local items (except for Thanksgiving and my husband’s affinity for Hellman’s mayonnaise) since they are fresher and much cheaper. You keeping track and posting expenses should be most appreciated by your readers.

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    • I think rents are higher, and since that is a big chunk of the budget that can make a difference. Otherwise yes, as long as you don’t succumb to the temptation of the many interesting restaurants up there, it should be about the same. And yes, there are plenty of chances to practice your Spanish down here. What has helped me the most though are two close friends who speak no English, and who continue to patiently put up with my inadequacies while teaching me about many aspects of life here.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Love when you do this. It really helps us plan for when we move. Have things gone up or gone down? If so is it in certain areas such as food? Your posts answers all our questions.
    You posting tells us we are still on track for retirement.

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  8. Jerry says:

    As always, very informative and interesting. We have been living in Boquete now for 6 months and find your expenses to be “right on”. My only problem is learning to make the switch from all of my favorite U.S. brands to Panamanian brands. You told us right from the start that expenses can be quite a bit cheaper but a little self control goes a long way. :). One of the best benefits to us is lots of really great restaurants with very inexpensive prices. Breakfast this morning for two people was $4.20 – included coffee, juice, eggs, and toast. That is not per person but total bill. Lunch is often $7.00 and includes meat (choice of chicken, beef, port, or fish), salad, potatoes, and iced tea. Again, that is total bill. I often have a little trouble only giving 10% tip.- — I mean that would be $.70 cents — I just can’t bring myself to tip less than a dollar. I must say that moving to Panama was one of the best decisions we have ever made. We love it. Thanks again for helping to start us in the right direction with your blog. Blessings, Jerru

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    • I’m so glad it is working out for you! I always worry that someone will take my happiness here as a forecast for their own success, and then it won’t work out. But, I think you came with realistic expectations and a good understanding of what to expect, and I’m really glad it is working out as well as we all hoped.

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  9. I cannot TELL you how excited I get when I see these Cost of Living Reports! Thanks so much for doing them! It keeps me motivated to get mine and my husband’s stuff together and moved! If all goes well and we can get a few other issues together, we would like to move in the next year or so.

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  10. oldsalt1942 says:

    re: food expenses…It does help the budget avoiding the U.S. imports, but there are certain things you just can’t get away from for one reason or another. Some examples: Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, Pace salsa, any olive oil, and, I’m sorry, but nobody in the world makes better peanut butter than gringos so it’s Jiff or Peter Pan with a side of Smuckers. Both here and in the U.S. processed foods never took up much cupboard or freezer space. Cooked from scratch by your own hands is healthier and tastier than anything you’re going to find in a can or the frozen food section.

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  11. hrosson says:

    do you have health insurance? just wondering!

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    • No, we do not have health insurance. Since we are both healthy (knock on wood) we have chosen to pay as we go. Care here is so much less expensive. Chiriqui Hospital has a discount plan that one can use here, or there are various options with international health insurance. If we need something major my husband has access to VA in the US. Hopefully I won’t need anything until I’m eligible for medicare (or if I do I’d be a medicaid patient).

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  12. John & Susan says:

    Kris,
    Another great report on your expenses. It is very helpful.
    Do you factor in your travel expense as you go, or would it be better to allocate a certain amount every month to get a sense of that cost included as well? Also I agree with hrosson above, what about cost for heath care/prescriptions/insurance?
    Thanks for the information.
    Cheers,
    John & Susan

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    • No, this doesn’t count travel expenses. Those costs would vary so much depending on what people plan to do and where they want to go.
      As for health care over the years we have needed very little, thankfully. We could afford a surgery or emergency here if we had to, or we have the option to return to the US. He has VA, or come to think of it I think it is enrollment time for Obamacare where I am so low income I can get insurance for $1! That’s certainly better than medicaid. Thanks for the question to remind me.

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  13. rick & kathie says:

    hello Kris so glad I found you we had international living mag for three years but dang you have to pay for any info. our ? is do you know anything about valcan we have looked at everything we could and find that seems to match what we are looking for climate and a garden for me. would you share your thoughts for us. thanks Rick & Kathie

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    • Volcan? Up in the mountains of Chiriqui? I know a little, was just there a couple days ago. It is really beautiful, cooler, and more spacious feeling (unlike Boquete which is tucked in between the mountains). It’s big enough to have a couple supermarkets and stores for basic things so you wouldn’t have to be driving to David all the time, through you probably would need to occasionally. I can see why people like to live in that area. It is absolutely gorgeous, and if you like to garden the climate is good for all sorts of things.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    thanks Kris if you would ever talk to someone through e mail please talk to us you know it is pretty hard just to talk to someone. our email is rickbch@yahoo.com we are very excited to talk to you. thanks rick & kathie

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  15. RJ says:

    I just found your blog and appreciate the ‘cost of living’ list I saw.
    I have interest in David and have checked into Boquette as well.
    Could you hook me up to someone living in David so I may ask a few particulars?

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  16. smkelly8 says:

    Fascinating reading. I’m going to try to post such data from China when I return in March. I do think people will find that interesting. Do you find that this simple living is more satisfying?

    I find living in China with less extras is more satisfying than the aptly named rat race.

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    • That would be interesting. If you think of it, put a link over here so I’ll know it’s up.
      Yes indeed, a simple life is satisfying and feels much more free. I don’t want to be weighted down with stuff. I’d much rather collect friends and experiences and live at a slower pace.

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  17. Irene Lee says:

    Thank you Kris. My husband and I want to retire in 12 years when I turn 60 and my government pension and insurance kick in. I’m researching locations now so that we have a wish list to travel to and explore over the coming few years. Your blog is helpful in estimating costs and for the future to see how much things have increased in cost. I was nervous about only retiring on $3800-$5000 (before taxes) per month. We would not buy a house right away so we’d have to calculate rent for a decent sized house. I was thinking about the Coronado area because I like beaches but—I hate heat and humidity 🙂 So I’m going to be checking out the David and Boquete areas as well. Any advice for researching or planning is welcome. Thanks for posting so much detail about your finances.

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    • It sounds like you will have plenty of money for retirement depending of course on your wants and needs and how prices change between now and then. Panama is in the tropics though, just a few degrees from the equator. Anywhere at sea level is going to be hot and humid, and even the cooler mountains are humid and have a lot of rain much of the time. Definitely come and visit and see how it feels to you, and don’t buy anything for a year or more. A lot of people like the El Valle area which is in the mountains but not far from Coronado. In Chiriqui I think Volcan and Cero Punta are also beautiful areas, and Cero Punta is high enough to be quite cool. Thanks, glad you find my bog helpful 🙂

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      • Irene Lee says:

        I live in Alaska so my concept of cost living is warped 🙂 Thanks again!

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        • I’ve heard that Alaska is terribly expensive. We had a wonderful trip there last summer and what a beautiful place!! It was just gorgeous, but I’d never survive the winters there. I wonder how you will do with such a drastic climate change? You might think you are melting here for a while. I remember wearing my winter clothes in Alaska in August.

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          • Irene Lee says:

            LOL! We travel to the Caribbean and Hawaii every year. We die for the first couple days and then get used it. We re scuba divers so we spend a lot of time in the water which helps. We both grew up in NY City area so crazy heat isn’t new to us. I’m tired of being cold all the time. I’m Cuban! I need to be near the equator 🙂

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            • Scuba? You’ll have to check out the Caribbean side then, even if just for visits. It’s really beautiful with the warm, clear Caribbean water that should be wonderful for diving. NYC? I’m from there too. You get not only the heat, but some miserable winters too. I know what you mean. I hate to be cold too and even Florida could be quite uncomfortable in the winter. But (as long as I stay out of the mountains at night) I don’t have to worry about that here.

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