Cost Of Living In Puerto Rico – 6 months in:
We’re coming up on six months on this beautiful island and so I thought I’d do a cost of living review because that is a very common question we get asked. Please keep in mind that we have had some extenuating circumstances, like getting a rent-free place about 5 months into our stay here.
So, the below are averages do not include those savings. We hope to save some money by staying here until October and then move on and we expect our rent costs to change, as well as utility costs.
Nonetheless, this is a review of the months we were paying regular rent.
Here is the breakdown of our cost of living in Puerto Rico:
This was for a small, fully furnished, and fully equipped condo on the beach. You can, most certainly, find a place to live for far cheaper than that here but it would be a place in town, living in local neighborhoods, and sort of away from some of the amenities. Anything gated or on the beach will cost more because that’s where the North Americans tend to congregate. I don’t have anything against living in town, except now that I’ve lived on the beach, I can’t wait to go back – I am a beach person! I have looked at nice houses in the local areas for rent for $500/mo but they were unfurnished. In Puerto Rico, unfurnished often means no furniture and no appliances. We are not ready to start investing in those types of things here yet, so we rented furnished and paid more.
We have been lucky because our utilities were included in rent but normally utilities are pretty expensive in Puerto Rico, especially electricity. Average cost of electric is about three (3) times that of most states and, of course, AC is the biggest offender of high utility bills. However, I will say that folks here have learned how to live around that. For example, we have friends that do not use AC, instead they installed ceiling fans all over their house, they also don’t use the clothes drier except for the last 10 minutes (We actually do this too. I love hanging my clothes on the line and just getting rid of the final wrinkles at the end.) They also bought a little gas stove (gas is cheap) and use that for all of their cooking. Their average electric bill, all year round, is less than $90. Water is cheap, most our landlord ever paid when we were there was $24. All that said, we also know people that run AC all day long and their average electric bill is almost $300/mo.
Cable and Internet: $108
Cable is something we have to have for Internet access but not necessarily for television. We were getting 20 Mbps service for this cost along with cable television with English channels, and internet phone service. Now, we only pay for the Internet and use Netflix, so it’s only $65/mo.
Cell phones: $117
We chose to keep our AT&T plans, at least for now, and they are our main phones and form of communication. We could go to Claro and get a cheaper “pay as you go” plans but we’re happy with the coverage we’re getting with AT&T (did I mention that I tend to be brand-loyal?), so for now, this is a fixed cost for us.
This can go up or down depending how much and what we purchase. Groceries here are funny, it depends on where you shop and what you buy. We average $100/week but some weeks are more and some weeks are less. For example, if one store has a good meat sale, we may stock up and buy extra that week but not at all the next. Most people shop where the sales are but, to be honest, I hate grocery shopping, so we tend to go with whatever is in the nearest store.
Entertainment and eating out: $300
This is, of course, our “spending money”. We don’t have to spend it but we also don’t want to just be cooped up at home, so we do. Going to the movie theater is cheap, only $4 for matinees, restaurant food can be expensive unless you go to Kiosks or local joints. RedBox is everywhere here but we chose to buy a Netflix streaming subscription and Amazon Prime for our movie watching. So, this is a “personal choice” type of cost.
Something always seems to come up. For us that seems to be around $100\mo worth of stuff. This can be anything from needing an extra fan for the bedroom to a curtain rod to a new T-shirt. Yesterday, we forgot about the “blue law” here and tried to go grocery shopping right after church, around 10:00AM. Well, all the grocery stores open at 11:00, so we had about an hour to kill and, conveniently, Kmart was already open. So we went browsing at spent about $13 on miscellaneous stuff. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about in this section.
Haircuts and personal care: $50
Yes, I color my hair. So, that is where the majority of the cost comes from. I like to have it done professionally and I do it every other month. An average men’s haircut is about $15 and color\cut\highlight is around $70 for me. Not cheap but cheaper than in Michigan.
Car (gas, tolls, etc.): $200
This one is totally depended on how much we explore and how many visitors we have. We have spent as little as $50 on the car for a month but $200 was the most, so I’m sticking with that for these purposes.
As I said, these were our averages but I should note that we have had LOTS of visitors from the States and with them come associated costs, like extra eating out, extra gas, extra tolls, and excursions. I am not including those costs here because they would not apply to you and are not part of our regular cost of living in Puerto Rico. We’re sort of in the honeymoon phase here, when everyone wants to come visit us and see where we live. We don’t expect this to continue beyond the first year, although who knows… and it sure is nice to see family.
All in all, our cost of living has gone down by more than half since moving to Puerto Rico. It could be even lower, if we were willing to sacrifice some things but we are here to enjoy ourselves, not just save every penny – otherwise, it wouldn’t be worth it.
So, are there cheaper places to live than Puerto Rico? Sure.
Could we live on even less here? – Sure.
Is it worth it to us? – No.
Is it worth it to you? – that’s totally up to you.
For us, although the monthly living costs were a bit more than we predicted, the travel (air fare costs) were far less, so we are looking at about the same amount as we budgeted for the first year.