It seems that every year a number of publications like to gather around, spend lots of money, and use up all their intellectual and financial resources to come up with some sort of cheapest places to live list. The problem is that the word “cheap” is extremely relative. What I consider to be cheap will differ from what you consider to be cheap. On top of this, I can let you know of a number of destinations where you can live for a mere couple of hundred dollars of month. However, people are sure to get up in arms and argue that they live there, have visited there, or had a dream about living there, and it costs them much more. Truth be told, cost of living will differ from person to person just as much as it will from place to place. To truly take advantage of a low cost of living you have to be willing to live like a local, sacrifice a number of things, and change your way of life. Are there stunning and elegant beach houses in Central America for sale for less than $90,000? Absolutely. Are there still expats and retirees who manage to spend upwards of $2,000 dollars a month in those destinations? Of course.
On top of this, moving abroad isn’t the only option if you want to cut down on your living costs. You don’t always have to move abroad to save money. Just picking up and moving from a major city like New York to somewhere in Ohio can save you thousands of dollars. The same can be said for other countries where the cost of living is known to be incredibly high, such as Italy, Spain, and Japan. Even the most expensive countries offer areas, country sides, and communities where you can escape and live off a lot less. Everything is relative; Location, cost of living, accommodations, and especially lifestyle. I may be comfortable renting a beach hut with a leaky roof for $70 a month, but you may not. One person reading this article may be all for eating street meat from an unlicensed vendor for 30 cents, another person may scoff at eating anywhere other than a fine dining establishment with candles and wine.
That is why there always seem to be “problems” when magazines and websites publish a list of the cheapest places to live. Not everyone will agree and not everyone will like what the list has to say. What we as readers have to keep in mind is that these lists should just be used as a way to open our minds and show us what the world has to offer. So that is what I am here to do. Let’s open up our minds a little and take a look at some of the options out there. We are going to do a quick run down of some of the 2009 cheapest places to live and what they have to offer. Does this mean everyone can live in these destinations for less than $500 a month? Absolutely not. You have to be determined to break free from overspending and be ok with saying goodbye to some expensive comforts you have at home. I am just here to let you know that the opportunity is out there, and it is yours for the taking………………………if you want it.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Moving to Mexico is an excellent way to cut your entire expenditures by between 30 to 50% if not more. Now before you purchase your flight ticket it is important to remember that there are many retirees and expats that live there and spend anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 a month. This includes eating out often, traveling around the country, hiring maids, gardeners, and living a pretty luxurious life. Keep in mind as well, just like anywhere else, it is going to cost more to live in major urban areas as opposed to rural counties. Cities such as Puerto Vallarta are jammed up like a can of sardines with expatriates from Canada and the USA. Nothing inflates cost of living and real estate prices as much as foreigners overcrowding an area.
However if you are willing to make the trek two hours in any direction things get a whole lot more affordable. Real estate is priced relatively low, property taxes are so low you won’t even notice you pay them, and if you are over 60 you get all the benefits that the locals do. That means big discounts, cheap medicine, and a whole host of other incentives.
Incentives; Make Them Pay for your Business
On the topic of incentives, this is why it is really important to look around, do your research, and compare destinations. Depending on the assets you have tucked away, amount of income coming in, and other variables, there may be a number of countries willing to bend over backwards to get you to set up home there. That is another reason one country may be an incredibly cheap place to live for one person, but not nearly as affordable as another one for someone else. Moving abroad is a personal decision that is relative to your lifestyle and finances, be sure to keep it that way.
Paradise and Possibilities in Panama
While there are variables, the incentives and immigration programs offered by Panama continue to be the best in the world. Just some of the bonuses the government offers are 50% discounts on entertainment, domestic flights and hotels, 20% off medical expenses and property tax exception for 20 years. It is important to note that many people have already taken advantage of this and that the cost of living in Panama is on the rise. Your best bet is to steer clear of the hotspots and create your own unique lifestyle on the outskirts of town.
Ballin’ in Belize
Belize is another country that has an excellent program for expats. It is stunningly beautiful and provides that dream oasis that most people are looking to escape to. The problem is that while many articles and publications out there point to the current programs, they are rapidly changing and leaving that information out of date. While the government pushed hard to attract foreigners before, now they are rapidly starting to scale back as the expats have begun to take over. It seems that some people high up and in charge in the country are getting upset over just how many retirees and pensioners there are in comparison to locals. If you can get in, by all means look into it. Just a heads up that it isn’t going to be as easy as some people tell you.
What If I Haven’t Saved Thousands of Dollars?
While there are some brilliant properties abroad for sale it doesn’t mean that buying is your only option. If you haven’t stockpiled money for your change of scenery, don’t have thousands coming in from your pension, or just aren’t ready for a long commitment, consider renting. Renting seems to get the shaft when discussion of moving, real estate, and cost of living comes about, but it really should not be neglected as a viable option. Even if you have enough to invest in a property renting isn’t always a poor choice. Will you be left kicking yourself if you rent and in 5 years the market in your destination has gone up ten fold? Without a doubt. However if it really is that free, easy living lifestyle you are after then why not consider renting and jumping from place to place for awhile.
Aside from saving money, don’t most people look into moving abroad because they don’t want to be tied down anymore? It also lets you jump all over to destinations where currencies are supremely low such as in Hungary, Iceland and Mexico. In a way you could move to a different destination every time you see the local currency plummet. May not be safe or what you are after, but just a thought.
Cheap to Travel= Cheap to Live?
While this rule does not always apply it is often a good standard when looking for the cheapest places to live. The real problem is that these cheap destinations often put up a lot of bureaucratic borders to keep people from taking advantage of the low cost of living. Thankfully there are some exceptions, particularly the Philippines and Malaysia. If Malaysia peaks your interest, which it really would if you looked into it, you should definitely look into the My Second Home Program. The Philippines offers an excellent retiree visa that you can apply for at the ripe old age of 35. Gives you a little insight into how laid back the living is there, doesn’t it? However there are restrictions. If you want to get a retiree visa in the Philippines at the age of 35 you need to be able to deposit $50,000 into the bank, whereas at 50 you only need to bring $10,000.
A Quick Look at Other Options
What you should be looking for if you really want to live cheap is a country that offers good value, cheap travel, and allows foreigners to set up shop rather easily. Some of the best examples are located in the Americas, including Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua and Ecuador. Eastern Europe is also starting to become a viable option, or at least much more viable than it was a few years ago. If South Africa is a little more your flavor than it is far cheaper to plant your roots there right now than it has been in quite a long time. Brazil is touted as a cheap place to live but you will want to keep your eye on the Northern coastal regions if you are looking for big savings.
“I Really Want to Move Abroad, so What Now?”
While we haven’t gone too deep into the discussion on the cheapest places to live for 2009, the idea was to let you know about the options out there. Making the choice to move or live abroad should not be done without informing yourself about every possible aspect. This means taking a lot of things that you read with a grain of salt. There are thousands of websites out there with an agenda looking to make a quick dollar off of your intrigue, real estate agents looking to turn profit, and even shameless scam artists. Take the time to do solid research as it will ensure your decision is made properly in the long run. There is just too much suspect information online these days that is out-of-date, misinformed, or just written with pure bias.
I want this to be your starting point. By no means is there enough information in this article for you to start planning a move to Panama, Mexico, or Ecuador, but I hope it has made you start thinking. The truth is that while I am writing this, there may be a new cheapest place to live just starting to get noticed. By the time many of those “best places to live” or “cheapest places to live” lists hit the internet or television, the destinations are hardly a bargain anymore. Just take a look at the hill villages in Italy or Costa Rica. I see shows on TV, articles in the papers, and videos online still discussing how cheap it is to live there. Not true. Times change, currencies change, markets change, everything changes. If you are determined to move abroad and find a cheap place to live, then you might have to get one step ahead of the game and find the next big thing.
If you do find it, be sure to let me know would you?