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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Dec 232014
 
Local Markets are plentiful in Belize. This is one of the local markets at the docks. Mennonite farmers deliver fresh fruits and vegetables every Tuesday morning.

One of the local markets at the docks. Mennonite farmers deliver fresh fruits and vegetables every Tuesday morning.

Buy at Local Markets.

If you remember my post on Dec.09, 2014, I mentioned shopping smarter in Belize. I mentioned that on the island of Ambergris Caye where we live, all merchandise arrives by boat, barge, or small plane.

Our Weekly trip to the local Market

Our weekly trip to the Marketeers Market happens every Tuesday, and today was no exception. I call it that because the people who run the local markets, street stands, restaurants, small conveniences and smaller grocery stores show up there every Tuesday morning to buy their fruits and vegetables direct from the farmers.
The Mennonite farmers arrive from the mainland in boats filled with fruits and vegetables for sale. I have stood back and watched so I know for sure that we get the same price as the owners get from the various local markets around town.

Packaged Products are often sold Individually

Packages in most places are opened and the product sold individually. If you want three carrots at the local markets, you buy three carrots. This is true of almost all products in most stores, if you want one stick of gum you can buy one stick of gum. If you want two cigarettes, you can buy two cigarettes. In one store I saw a package of three t-shirts, in marker the price said $12.50 or $5.25 each. Sugar, Rice, flour, and so on can be bought in the box, but is also bulk sold in more reasonably priced clear white bags in 1, 2, 3, or 4 lb. quantities. In the case of our vegetables, they are priced by the pound, and most vegetables are the same price per lb. I noticed today that people just filled their bags with what they wanted and then the man at the scale was removing only potatoes and weighing them separately. So potatoes were one price but everything else was the same second price.

A food storage tip

Something to remember is that the vegetables grown here come right from the garden to the local markets via boat overnight and then to our table. They contain no preservatives and little or no pesticides. As a result, I recommend based on Lorilee’s advice, that you wash them as soon as you get them home and store them in the refrigerator. If not, you will get small fruit flies and some items will spoil in the high humidity before the week is up. This is however a small price to pay for fresh clean food.

Today our bags contained;
1 large cauliflower
2 medium sized broccoli
4 large potatoes
6 onions (2 lbs.)
5 large carrots
8 small green peppers
1 flat or 2-1/2 dozen eggs
Our price was $BZ31.75 or approximately $16.00 US. This will last us until next Tuesday when we will go again for a fresh order.

A Lower Cost of Living

In general we do enjoy a lower cost of living for necessities in Belize. However if you need your brand names, things will cost you more here then back in Canada. Off the top of my head, meats are more expensive and I have not seen a steak like I bought back in Canada for the BBQ. Milk is BZ$9.95 for a 1/2 gallon or about three times the cost in Canada. All brand name cereals, cookies, and most of the comfort foods are at least three times the cost. However, if you can get by without your Capt’n Crunch and Fererro Roche’s you will find reasonable priced items in the local markets and at the grocery stores.

Tour a local Market

Our market in San Pedro is not as elaborate as those held on the mainland, But you can get an idea of one of the typical local markets from this short video of the weekend market held in San Ignacio.