People are like shoes. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. And one size never fits all.
The more research I do about living, working, retiring, and doing business overseas…the more apparent it becomes that this is not a “one size fits all” idea. Everyone has different dreams, perceptions, and lifestyle requirements.
Like the comment I saw from an IL reader: “I was looking to move to Belize and everyone I spoke to said you CAN NOT live there for less than 5k a month unless you live in a shack…even a modest house cost over 100k USD. So why is it posted you can live comfortably for under $2,500 per month?”
Hmmm…how to respond to that, I wondered—especially not knowing this guy personally. What kind of “shoes” will fit and make him comfortable?
(And hopefully he realizes that the exchange rate for the Belize dollar to the U.S. dollar is fixed 2:1. A beer priced at $4 in Belize will cost you US$2.)
Cost of living predictions can be difficult to put an exact number to. For some people, my “comfortable lifestyle” may be poorhouse living. It may be over-the-top lavish to others.
Can you apply a one-size fits-all cost of living to the States? If you live in San Francisco or Miami, would you assume your monthly costs to be the same as those who live in Des Moines or Chattanooga? Who spends more to maintain his lifestyle—the guy who prefers beer and hotdogs…or the champagne and caviar aficionado? If you’re a woman, do you wear Manolo Blahniks or flip flops from Target?
You can see where this is going. So let’s talk specifically about the cost of living in Belize. The rules are the same as anywhere else—it depends where you choose to live, what your requirements are, and more.
If you rent, you’ll have a monthly rent payment. If you buy a home, you won’t have that cost—but you may have maintenance or homeowners fees. Is it just you or do you have a partner? Do you go out on the town a lot? Will you need a car? Do you take medications? Do you have a computer and need full-time Internet access or just occasionally use an Internet café? What about health insurance?
Get out a piece of paper and write it all down…
Here are the big-ticket items you need to include: Rent, utilities, food, transportation, health care, entertainment, communications.
And don’t forget that you’ll need to buy personal items and clothes once in a while (although not too many…Belize may be the most casual destination of all. A swimsuit is about all you need). And yes, perhaps you’ll want to go back home once or twice a year to visit the kids—but chance are, if you’re living in Belize, they’d rather come see you.
Now, let’s assign the values. I was in Belize recently, and I collected these average numbers (in U.S. dollars) from expats who live in Belize:
If you have a car—which you may not need, depending where you live—add $300 for gas and maintenance every month. Belize is a small country and you won’t go far, but gas is expensive (more so than in the U.S.).
Only you know what your health care costs are. Add that in, too. Now we’re getting close to $2,500/month. But if you plan to buy a house, subtract the $700 rent. Add in a little more for entertainment if you like to go out more than once or twice a week.
If you want to treat yourself and hire someone to clean your home or swimming pool, this won’t add much to your bottom line—the going rate in Belize for household help is $2-$3/hour. Even once a week, who doesn’t want this?
Are you starting to see what I mean when I say one size doesn’t fit all?
Remember that just as at home, there are places to live in Belize that are cheaper than others. If you live on an island where everything must be imported, you’ll pay extra for that. Many people believe the island lifestyle is more than worth the small extra cost.
Where are the best places in Belize to live if you’re on a budget—but where you can still walk the beach every day or pick oranges, lemons and limes for trees in your own backyard…without giving up your comfortable, modern amenities? There are a couple of places where expats tell me they get by on about $1,200/month.