Cost of Living Report, Jan 2017

Once in a while I track expenses so we can see how things are going, and many others seem to find it helpful as they plan their retirement. Of course your costs will be different depending on where and how you live. All I can do is share our experience. You can refer to other reports for more details on our life if you wish.

We live in an upper middle class neighborhood of professional and blue collar families on the north side of David. Our house is probably 1000 sq ft, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, unfurnished (which means no appliances). Costs are in US dollars which is also the currency of Panama.

Rent $385  (We’ve been here 4+ years for the same rent. Something similar probably costs more now)
Cable/internet 41.22  (we changed plans to something a bit less expensive)
Electricity $1.50  (our meter has been broken for months. Yes, they know and they will probably hit us up for back charges, but right now it is essentially free. Usually it is around $35-40 depending on use of AC)
Car insurance $48.30, 2 cars, one full coverage, other liability only
Netflix $9.99
Data plans for 2 iPhones $22.44
Gas for the car $40 (guestimate, hubby didn’t write it down)
Gas for the kitchen $5.12 (gas for cooking comes in a can like for your BBQ, and once a month or so you have to take in an empty can and exchange it for a full one)
Food – $288.26  (we bought a pig last month, 120 pounds worth at $2.50/lb) If we ate 10 pounds (for easy math), you can add $25 for this, total $313.26. Food also includes shampoo, paper towels, and other such things that you pick up on supermarket runs.

Total – $866.83, or if we had paid $40 for electricity,

Have I confused you all? 😀 Basically though, bottom line, just to live cost us about $900.

Optional expenses – beer/liquor $92.23 (we stocked up on a Pricesmart run)
Art classes and supplies – $60
My audible and kindle book habits – $50 (estimate)
Oh, almost forgot, $3 to fix a car tire that got a nail in it, and $20 for lunch out a few days ago, and 2 $10 dinners at Joel’s gigs, and a $5 bike repair
So, maybe around $250 in miscellaneous optional expenses

Somewhere around $1150 to live a good life where we feel like we lack for nothing!

This does not include any travel (which we didn’t do anyway in January).
It also doesn’t include health insurance which we don’t have. Joel has VA and I have insurance in the US (thank you Obamacare!!). We have savings to cover emergencies here.
We don’t take any medications, didn’t buy clothes, didn’t have car repairs, or anything else that might come up but didn’t for us in January.

Most of us have a finite amount of money. If you can’t or don’t want to increase the income, you can decrease the outgo. We came to Panama because we could afford it on our limited income. Little did we know it would be such a wonderful experience! Just think, if we were rich we would have missed it all, and what a shame that would be.


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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30 Responses to Cost of Living Report, Jan 2017

  1. Kevin says:

    “if we were rich we would have missed it all, and what a shame that would be.” But you are rich. It’s just that you don’t measure your riches in $.


  2. Jim VanZwol says:

    As always, thank you Chris!!!


  3. says:

    Can’t imagine what inspired this post🙃

    Sent from my iPhone



    • I’ve actually done a number of these reports, but not as frequently as I did in the first year or two. I’m interested to see that our expenses really haven’t changed all that much.


  4. Thanks Kris,
    Your expenses mirror mine to a large degree. I’m renting a furnished house so my rent is higher. And if I was living here full time, I would probably find ways to trim those costs as well.

    The benefits are a much healthy climate, at least to me, no winter blues, which many of my friends are suffering from right now in Canada, and it gets worse as spring gets closer.

    Living here is a joyful experience for me every day.



    • I’m so glad this has worked out and you are happy here!
      If you have the money to cover your costs and don’t feel like you are missing anything important, it’s all good 🙂


  5. David abbott says:

    Sorry this comment does not concern cost of living. My question is if there is some way for americans to qualify an attorney for getting a ceduala. I live in Las Tablus. I have heard horror stories of people taking money and doing nothing


    • You don’t need an attorney to get a cedula. You can do it yourself, though it’s probably a pain especially if you don’t live in Panama City. We got Luis Arce to help us 6536 1179 He has done it for many people, speaks English, is ethical and reliable. He did all the running around, submitted the paperwork, etc and we only had to go to Panama City once to sign and get pictures taken. Then, the finished cedulas were sent here to David for pickup. If you can find the document they gave you when you got residency that is very helpful, saves him having to track down a copy of that.
      I forget exactly what he charged but I’m sure it’s more affordable than an attorney, and you don’t need to worry about him taking your money and not getting the job done.


  6. My electric bill came in the email this afternoon. I think they applied a meter reading from next door where there’s no one living and the electricity isn’t even connected because it said I used 0 (that’s ZERO) KWH last month. The bill, which I’m not going to rush out and pay tomorrow was for $0.37. That’s NOT a misprint. The bill was THIRTY SEVEN CENTS!


    • That is just not fair! We also used 0 (ZERO) KWH, and our bill was $1.37, FOUR TIMES what yours was! What is up with that? ~hand to head~ Oh the things we have to deal with in this country, I tell ya.
      So, if you have the meter reading/bill for the house next door, who is getting your yours? 😀


  7. Hey Kris — sounds like the way we used to live in Morocco. We weren’t sure we’d be able to find a place in the US where we could afford both food and rent at the same time. (not kidding) When we found the community we’re living in now, it was a like a miracle. I’m happy you have found a place where you can live so well on so little. Great report! Alia


    • I know exactly what you mean! It wasn’t lost on me that where you are is so affordable. Between that and their excellent philosophy I understand why you are happy to be there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We applied for residency in Morocco and got consumed in red tape for over a year. Finally and sadly we realized that no matter what we did, we were not going to get that status. Then we realized that it was time to return to our home country and serve this transition — that we would not be able to do that in Morocco: we did not speak the local language well enough to make a difference, nor were we Muslims, so how could we impact other than to be good humans, exhibiting kindness and acceptance. That might have been enough for some but we wanted to give more. We have found an ideal place for ourselves at Lost Valley where we can engage the gears of our experience with other like-hearted people. AND I still have my dear ones in Morocco close at heart on FB — best of both worlds.


        • Morocco may not have worked out long term, but you still had the very cool experience of living there for a while. And now you can bring the things you liked about the people and culture back to the US.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Moroccan people inspired me to re-connect with my family of birth. Many miracles have happened in that vein since our return.


            • Were you adopted or separated from them? I was adopted too and have been fortunate enough to reconnect with my birth mother and now we have a very warm relationship. It sounds like wonderful things have happened with you too 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • In my case, self-exile might be the appropriate term. Always a bit out of step with my birth family and a lot too vocal about the differences. Ageing has mellowed me out quite a lot and humbled me considerably so that when I returned from Morocco, I was more committed to connection that being “right” about my perspective. Veritable miracles have happened in my family of birth during 2015/2016 and I have made inroads in relationship with family members whom I have considered “unapproachable” for 40 years. Love wins! Yay!


  8. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    This is the time of year where I get the credit card summaries and do an annual check of expenses in Fort Worth. Since we pay almost everything, including utilities, on our card it makes reviewing where all the money went easier. I’ll email a summary when I get it all collected if you want for comparison. I’m dumping, er, importing all the numbers into a spreadsheet for easy digestion! 🙂


  9. -Eugenia says:

    Interesting report and thank you for sharing. I have some friends that currently reside in Miami and they are moving to Panama.


  10. Graham says:

    Hello, I’m just starting to do some research about possibly moving to Panama from Thailand. I’m British and whilst I really enjoy it here…feel that owing to only having one life, I need to move on…It’s probably going to be at least double the cost of living in Thailand but feel it is an experience to be had.
    I need to find out more about the retirement options, whether crime is an issue, will I get by with little Spanish language skills, how flat is Panama city, as I love cycling…

    I found this blog very interesting…thanks.


    • Crime is probably not more of an issue than anywhere. We feel safer here than in the US. Some Spanish is very helpful because outside of places with lots of expats, there isn’t much English. If you are looking at Panama City it is going to be much more expensive. There are lots of cyclists there though in spite of the heavy traffic though they may have some safer areas and routes. I live in David and cycle all the time, and unless you head up the mountain it’s quite flat.


      • Graham says:

        Thanks for the reply Kris, how far is David from the capitol? is there a train service ? is there a shopping mall in David. Does the city have actual pavements or do pedestrians share the road with cars? Are there many bars where I can grab a beer? Any fish restaurants? what are immigration like ? I’m granted a six month visa on arrival, but is it discretionary ? have you been thro’ the retirement process, was it straight forward…questions questions…really appreciate any help…




        • Google a map. No train. Plenty of shopping. Paved streets. Lots of beer, lots of fish. What do you mean discretionary? We have jubilado (retired) residency, which you can also google.


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