We haven’t tracked our expenses for a long time. Like everywhere, it seems that costs are gradually creeping up so I was curious to see if this was indeed true. It is, but thankfully we are still doing very well.
We live in a Panamanian, middle class neighborhood on the north side of David. The house has three bedrooms and two baths, and I’m guessing it’s almost 1000 sq ft. I’ve planted a lot of things in the yard so I included an old photo where you can actually see the house.
Basic expenses (in dollars) –
- house – 385
- cable/internet – 67.44
- electricity – 34.59
- car insurance – 48.30 (two cars, one full coverage, other liability only)
- netflix – 9.99
- data plans on two iPhones – 22.44
- TOTAL – 567.76
We rented the house almost four years ago and our rent hasn’t increased. A similar house today could cost a bit more. Water and trash are included in our rent (around $11 month for both) We did a report for July 2013, exactly three years ago, so this is a good basis of comparison. At that time cable/internet cost 59.06 (so today it’s 8.38 more). Electricity has remained pretty much the same. We have AC now but rarely use it. Car insurance is also about the same. I apparently didn’t list Netflix in the old report, and we didn’t have devices with data plans at that time. We also have the phones for talking and add money as needed, but since we use them very little for this we rarely need to add money.
- Food – 400.90
I thought this might be significantly higher, but according to the old report the average was also around $400/month. We bought three pigs in the last year so we eat a fair amount of pork that was paid for months ago, but otherwise our food buying habits haven’t changed significantly.
- current TOTAL – 968.66 This covers our basic expenses, the basic necessities of daily living.
The next category is miscellaneous, non essential expenses and those were quite high this last month, mainly because I bought a new camera for $180 (the display went out on my old one, and I was told it’s cheaper to just buy another so I bought a little, basic point and shoot camera for daily use). Then we had other things like beer and liquor (though I see we have four cases of beer on hand at the moment! We went a bit nuts at Pricesmart), my audio book habit, a couple lunches out, art class and supplies, couple OTC reading glasses, cold medicine, few things for the house, and some new ear buds. Total 423.95, or 243.95 without the camera, for a total of 1212.61 without the camera.
There’s always something in the miscellaneous category though – car repairs, something for the house, my books and art habits. etc. so when making a budget allow wiggle room for extras.
I’m really really happy to see that we continue to live well within our budget! This allows us enough extra for a bit of travel, and those very important and expensive trips back to the US to see my family. Since we have no immediate travel plans, however, I think I’ll continue to track expenses for another month just to see if anything in significantly different.
If you are reading this report to get an idea what if might cost you to live in Panama, keep a few things in mind. Panama City is significantly more expensive. Rents can easily be $1000/month and more for what most expats would consider a decent place. In the interior (anywhere outside of Panama City) rents vary widely. You can expect to pay more where there are lots of expats like Coronado or Boquete. You can pay much less in more rural areas. I know someone paying $125 for a decent little house in a small town not far from here.
Food is another significant expense. The advice to save money is always “eat like a Panamanian”. Eat local food. Make friends with the most tight fisted Panamanian you can find and let them teach you where they shop and what they buy. Imported food is available but it will cost more. Eating at restaurants will also raise your costs.
Internet is another expense that can vary a lot depending on area, so be sure to ask about this before you settle on a place to live. The speed and reliability can also vary a lot.
Electricity can vary widely depending on AC use. I know people with less than $10/month and others with more than $400. If you need to be cool, stay out of city centers and try going higher in the mountains.
Ask about water reliability also. Water isn’t expensive, but if your intended area has a lot of problems with keeping it flowing it might not be a comfortable place to live.
I think that’s all the advice I have at the moment. I hope you have found our report helpful.