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Cost Of Living In Puerto Rico – 6 Month Review

 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:

Rent: $800

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.

Utilities: $0

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.

cost of living

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.

Groceries: $400

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.

Miscellaneous: $100

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.

Total: $2,075

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.

Joanna-

 

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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15 comments

  1. Hello, Joanna! I found your blog to be very informative and am continuing to read to the most current post. I really love how you both have broken down all the good/bad and costs of all the countries you visited. We are wanting to make PR our retirement location, as well. We are retired now at 51 & 55 but still have two daughters that aren’t quite as independent yet. But we want to start coming for longer and longer periods of time. We really love the west side of the island and are coming back next Feb. for 4 weeks.

    Thanks, again for having this blog for those of us who are hungry for information. Take care!

    • Hi Barbara,
      Glad you like the blog. Yep, we like the west side as well, but Luquillo now has a special place in our hearts 🙂
      Great that you do long term visits, that’s a lot better than short vacations. Just be sure to alternate your visit times, so you can see both low and high seasons, they are very different here. And they are location dependent. For example, in Luquillo, our high season is in the summer with lots of visitors from other areas in Puerto Rico, but winter is very quiet. In Rincon though, it’s the opposite, quiet in the summer and very busy in the winter. If you can, try to get to experience both, in whichever area you choose, because some people don’t like one or the other.
      For example, we met some people in Panama that were moving back to the States because they could not handle the rainy season. When they visited, they only came during the dry months, so they didn’t know what they were getting into.
      Joanna-

      • Yes, I totally agree about visiting different times of the year. Certainly it must be different during the different seasons. We are anxious to try the summer season but at this point, we have to wait until things change here at home. All the best to you both!

  2. Hi Joanna, I’m curious as to which cable company you use for your internet access? We have a house in the mountains above Ponce, but at this time, no cable. We usually just use our cell phones as we are not living there full time at the moment, but we are moving there permanently this year!

    • Hi Nancy,
      We have used Liberty cable in the past but I don’t know if they cover Ponce. We liked them. Right now we have All Wireless which is a WiFi company out of Fajardo. Others here use Claro and are happy with them as far as we’ve heard.
      How do you like Ponce? We are planning on going again next month and really want to explore it some more. It seems like a lovely city.
      Joanna

      • William Hudson

        I’m using Cricket (AT&T) When I drove around the island on trips the past 10 years, coverage was good and getting better. I hope to be accepted into a Medical residency there and move later this year.

      • Thanks for the information! I’ll have to see who has service in the mountains. (We actually live closer to Adjuntas than Ponce). Ponce is a great city. It has everything we need and then some. There is so much to see and do!

        Your blog is very informative and I appreciate your writing of the trials and tribulations of PR life. I agree with you though that it’s all worth it!

  3. William Hudson

    Hi, we are planning on moving to Puerto Rico soon. I hope to accept a Medical Residency in Ponce, our family have homes in Luquillo and Maunabo, more than likely my wife will live in Maunabo, we are planning on living on about 1500 a month if possible. Did you pay for the easy pass?
    We are shipping one car, a 2004 Saturn Vue, current max value is 4200 USD I expect taxes to be between the lowest 850? and 1000 usd. Any thoughts? Bill.

    • Hi Bill,
      Glad to hear that you’re planning on making PR your home. We surely did pay for the AutoExpresso pass, you pretty much have to if you want to travel around the island. Wow, so you are planning on commuting from Maunabo to Ponce? That is quite a distance. Your gas and toll costs are going to add significantly to your budget, as well as wear and tear on your car. We have a 2007 Saturn Ion and I can tell you that, in the last 6 months it has really taken a beating here in PR. From the salt air and sand that corrodes breaks, to the steep mountains that add even more to it, to the huge potholes that destroy the shocks and suspension. It really adds up.
      As far as shipping a car, we’ve written 3 posts on our experience, so feel free to browse the site. You can estimate the tax here: https://siscon.hacienda.gobierno.pr/Siscon/Portal/ARBAW951Form.aspx Ours came in a little less than the estimate.
      So, if you don’t have a rent payment, can you live on $1,500? – Absolutely. But it all sort of depends on your lifestyle and needs. I would guess that your car costs are going to be your biggest spend, outside of the normal grocery and utilities.
      Anyway, good luck, and stay in touch. We love to see new people come to the island 🙂
      Joanna

  4. Thank you for sharing this estimate – it is great information. Very encouraging, too. I can imagine saving on eating out (which I do not like) and cable TV (I can’t stand more than 15 minutes of TV per week). Health insurance, on the other hand, would probably add a lot to our costs…

  5. I just hope you know what the basic liability covers, about 4 or 5 K and that’s it. You could be on the hook for anything more than that if your in an accident. Lots of cars on the road are worth more than $30K and if you injure someone you may be sued for a lot more than that. Caico/Universal 300K liability insurance is cheap and the $100 you pay for the $5K of insurance through the marbette also goes toward paying for the private insurance. If you have something to loose you should have insurance.

  6. Don’t forget to add in insurance costs for health, car and renters.

    • Hi Jeff,
      Yeah, that’s on the list but at the moment we are “self-insuring”. We have a beat up old car, so only got the basic liability included in the registration on it. We pay out of pocket for doctors (although we’ve not needed to see one yet) and we’re staying at a friend’s house, so it’s covered under their home-owners policy 🙂
      Joanna-