Jul 042016
 
Belize's Low cost living

Low cost living can be realized with the help of economical appliances. Our clothes dryer which is usually one of the worst energy guzzlers has been replaced with this Solar/Wind powered unit. It does require a bit planning around the weather, but It will run for 24hrs a day (or until the cows come home) if needed for $0.00. So, we have two.

Finding Belize’s Low Cost Living.

We now enjoy low cost living compared to that of Canada. After almost two years in Belize, there has been a bit of a learning curve, and in our case an attitude adjustment as well. Here are just a few of the tips we have learned.

Five Tips To Low Cost Living In Belize.

  • Our Motto ~ “Live on what you need, not on what you want.”
    Back in Canada we didn’t give much thought to  low cost living. With two good paying jobs and savings building, we would just go out and buy whatever we wanted whether we really needed it or not. The latest shiney items, sometimes on sale, but most times not, were just purchased on a whim at one of the many “Big Box” stores, Electronics outlets, or our choice of several shopping malls. Usually without much price comparison, we learned that they were all usually within $20. or $30. of each other, so it wasn’t even worth the time to price check. What’s $20. Right? (We’ll talk a bit more about that later).
    In Belize there is certainly not the selection, or the number of outlets to purchase many things, but we have learned that it does pay to shop around, or if it’s a want item, to wait for it to go on sale.But always now, we ask each other, “do we want it, or do we need it?” and you might be surprised at how often we leave empty handed.
  • Shop Wisely
    Shopping wisely, or like the Belizean’s do will also help to guard your low cost living. Convenience can be a budget killer. If you want to purchase everything at the grocery store because it is one stop, then you can expect to pay more, while sacrificing some quality in the process. Get fresh vegetables on delivery day at the local markets. Get fresh meat cut to your specifications at the local Carnicero(Butcher). Fresh fish can be bought directly from the fisherman if you are by the sea. (A little myth buster here though, we found fish are actually cheaper per pound inland then they were on the islands).
    Also know that it is generally assumed that we gringos are just visiting. We are charged more just because it is assumed that we are all rich (another myth), and therefore able to pay more.We have found, that if at first we shop around to find a vendor that has what we need, and that they are friendly and cordial with us, then we will keep going back.It only takes a few trips, and maybe a subtle hint, and they will soon realize that you are not a visitor but living here and you will see prices go down.Also, we avoid grocery stores that don’t put prices their merchandise.
  • Forget US Dollar Comparisons.
    One of the things that we did when we first moved was to convert everything to US dollars in our heads. It helped us to justify making some purchases. For example, that box of chocolates (my favorite, Ferrero Roche to be specific) was BZ$42.50, “hey, that’s only US$21.25, what’s $20.00” you might ask yourself as we did. Well, (I told you I would get back to this) at the local market we spend BZ$18.00 (US$9.00) for a whole week’s supply of fresh vegetables. US$20.00 (BZ$40.00) will purchase 160 oranges at 4/BZ$1.00 or 400 fresh bananas at 10/BZ$1.00. So if keeping up a low cost living is important to you, forget US$ and compare prices of “want” items to what can be purchased in “need” items for those same dollars.
  • Location
    The right location will also be a factor to consider if low cost living is one of the reasons you chose Belize. We had our personal reasons to select the cayes as our place to land initially, so it wasn’t something that I look back on as a mistake, but rather part of our education.  However hindsight being 20/20, one thing that we would probably have done differently, was to move to the mainland rather than the Cayes (islands). Our budget was literally cut in half when we moved from the island to Cayo District just outside of San Ignacio.
    Rent for a two bedroom apartment in San Pedro was BZ$2000.00/Mo. whereas our rent for a comparable two Bedroom house here on the mainland is BZ$1000.00/Mo.Fruits and Vegetables were typically about BZ$45.00/week on the island at the docks where the mennonite boats would deliver on Tuesday mornings. You had to get there early (like 5:00AM) to get a good selection. As I mentioned earlier on the mainland at the San Ignacio Market we pay about BZ$18.00 for the same quantity and get a better selection of fresher product.
  • Economical Appliances Keep The Cost of Living Low.
    One of the other things that I have learned is that your appliances are also important in maintaining a low cost living. This is something you may not have much control over when you are looking for places to rent, but is good to know when you are building, or when trying to estimate what your monthly rental expense might be. In San Pedro we paid anywhere from about BZ$140-180.00/Mo. For electricity. That covered an electric range, washer, dryer, hot water tank, and the difference in monthly cost was probably the A/C unit which was only used during really hot months.
    In Bullet Tree the house we rent has all economical appliances, and the experience has convinced me that when we build our own home to lay out a bit more initially to keep the monthly utility bill down.It has been hot the last few months requiring the AC unit and the electric bill last month was BZ$68.00. That’s half to a third of the island, and here are some of the reasons why.Our Range is gas (butane in Belize), and yes that is an expense, but the tank lasted for three months, then was picked up and returned full for BZ$40.00.Our Hot water is produced with a heat on demand hot water tank that is also gas, but after almost four months of use, I still can’t lift the tank, so I expect it is still good for at least another six months, and it’s controls are powered by 2 “D” batteries.
    Finally we do have a washing machine, but our clothes dryer which is usually the energy guzzler of the two is pictured above. It does require a bit planning around the weather, but this Solar/Wind powered unit will run 24hrs a day (or until the cows come home) for BZ$ or US$0.00, so we have two.

Summary

A simpler, healthy lifestyle with a low cost living, is easily obtainable in Belize. Certainly for far less than that of Canada and the United States. If you watch your habits. Shop wisely. Compare BZ prices to the buying power in Belize rather than to the US dollar. Choose your location knowing that a premium will be payed on the Cayes. Try to follow our motto of, “live on what you need, not what you want”.

To give you an idea of what US$ 800.00/Mo. will rent you, Check out this house that we rented when we first arrived in Belize.

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Oct 212015
 
Checking Belize expiry dates is a must. Common practice when the “best before” date expires is to reduce the price rather than remove the product.

Checking Belize expiry dates is a must. Common practice when the “best before” date expires is to reduce the price rather than remove the product.

Checking Belize Expiry Dates.

I must preface this post regarding checking Belize expiry dates by saying that it is neither my intention to promote nor to criticize life in Belize. It is my intention to inform, and while life here is usually everything we expected and hoped for, as with anywhere you might go, from time to time I find myself shaking my head and with an inside voice asking “why”, while at the same time with an outside voice accepting the situation and   saying, “it is what it is”.

In today’s picture you will see some familiar products that are sitting on the shelf of our local grocery store. These packages of dry cereal are priced at $3.75 while down the shelf a little further is the brightly colored box with the famous Toucan priced at $8.75 for the exact same size package and product. So, Where’s the box? Has the box been crushed? Has the box been lost? Is the box actually worth $5.00? In all cases the answer is probably no.

What’s the date in Belize today?

In Belize it is common practice that when the “best before” date passes (expires) products are not necessarily removed from the shelves but rather are reduced in price. It is important to be aware to check expiry dates on all perishables carefully. Lorilee came across mayonnaise a few weeks ago marked down to less than half price, great deal. As always watching for deals she grabbed it. At this point because we have learned the hard way in the past, she is now checking Belize expiry dates, as a result she returned the bottle while informing the young lady that was building the display that the date had expired. The young lady replied “yes ma’am, that is why it is at a reduced price”.

Where did the $5.00 go?

Back to the original question of where did the $5.00 go? Well……………..the short answer is that it simply expired. The box containing the “best before date” was removed. Again I don’t mention this as a criticism but rather to inform. I am not saying it is right or wrong, I am just saying make sure you are checking Belize expiry dates. This is one of those times I find myself shaking my head and with an inside voice saying, “it is what it is”.

What do these terms mean?

This is not a new practice in Belize and although it is not condoned by public health officials, the practice continues.  It is important to know the meaning and the difference between the following terms;

  • Shelf Life
  • Best Before
  • Use by
  • Sell by/Display until
  • Expiration Date

For the definition of these terms and for guidelines on how long some products are good for, read this 2011 article that still remains relevant.

I would Love to hear from you,
let me know if you enjoyed this post.

Leave a comment or ask your questions to help
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Dec 092014
 

Shopping in Belize.

Shopping in San Pedro is not the same as back in Canada. Being an island everything arrives by boat or plane, larger items like vehicles (golf carts) or containers holding merchandise for hardware and housewares’ stores arrive by barge, this extra shipping of course means you pay a premium for just about everything.

Gringo Pricing is a Real Thing.

There are two price lists used by merchants. The one for “the locals” and the one for “the visitors”. As new residents we find that every time we go shopping at a new store, or have to deal with a different employee at one of our regular stops, they have to ask a boss what the price is (or more correctly, what  is the price for us), even if they sold that same item to two different local people before us. The only way we found to get around the visitor price (gringo pricing) is time, and of course getting to know and patronizing the same vendors and merchants again and again. It also helps to always casually find a way to let them know that we live here and are not visitors.

Be aware of "gringo pricing" when shopping in Belize.

This is exactly the same as the golf cart we were shopping for to rent.

A perfect example of this, was the day I was shopping around to rent a golf cart for a couple of hours. After a short discussion, the man behind the desk said “the price will be BZ$110.00”.  I replied, and being honest in my reply, ” Oh OK, Thank you for your time but that is more than I wanted to spend”. Then he asked “what resort are you staying at?” to which I replied, “I just moved here, I live in the San Pablo Area”, at that point he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a second laminated price list that looked just like the first one to me and said, “I can give it to you for BZ$ 60.00”. I replied “Thank you, I’ll take it”. That was my first realization of the disparity between local and visitor prices when shopping and that it was important to blend in and become a local.

Shopping Smart.

Shopping smarter is important too, if you just walk into a local supermarket and buy your weeks groceries in one convenient stop you will pay a higher price. Buy your fish at the docks fresh from the fisherman, buy your fruits and vegetables at the local roadside stands or on Tuesday mornings we go to the docks where the fruits and vegetables arrive for the local markets, and buy direct from the Mennonite farmers there.

Avoid buying the convenience packages and brand names we are used to in Canada and the US. You will pay between two and four times the amount that they are back home. I will try and do some cost comparisons in a future post.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, I’m just saying these are some of the differences I’ve noticed, and of course after just a month we receive 10% off at two grocery stores that we frequent.

The cost of living is still far less than it was back in Canada, and of course just as important as the price is the fact that the fruits and vegetables are going from the gardens to our table without the added hormones, insecticides, and preservatives.