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Thursday, April 24 2014 @ 10:25 PM EDT

Cost of Living in Panama - Based On Reader Survey - Third Report

Money MattersBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - I've received enough input from readers to write the third installment of my series of reports on the cost of living in Panama. The goal of this series of reporting is to present the true and accurate monthly living expenses of families who are living here, right now, based on their inputs and reports. There are many variables in play - depending on the daily choices people make in the way they choose to live their lives. In some cases monthly expenses are greatly decreased, thanks to a higher up front cash investment to buy big ticket items like houses and cars. This is the fourth article of the series - here are links to the earlier articles:

Getting By On Even Less: After the first two sets of data, the average cost per person, per month was about $1,025 more or less. However this group must be extraordinarily thrifty - because they report an average cost of living per person, per month of only $565.50 in this data set. That seems way too low to be real, Take a look and see for yourself. (more)

Here's The Third Set of Data and Reports:

  • A New Low In The Mountains of Los Santos: A retired couple lives in the province of Los Santos in Panama. He's 71, she's 61 - he's retired from the US Navy and also has income from US Social Security. They live in a small mountain community and have a good sized garden. They don't like to go into town very often, and they've been living in Panama for eleven years. They rarely travel back to the US to visit relatives - and when they do the relatives pay for the plane ticket. They own their own home and have no mortgage, spending $62,000 in labor and materials to have the house built. They budget about $30 per month for upkeep, maintenance, and materials. They spend $325 per month at the grocery store for food and "consumables," and they only eat out at restaurants about once a month, for $20. For utilities they spend $40 per month for electricity, 25 cents per month for water (no typo), Internet is $60 per month (for the "Mobilnet ripoff" as they describe it), and two cell phones for $40 per month. They bought a used SUV for $5,000 cash when they arrived, so no car payments. They spend about $40 per month on diesel for the car. They spend $200 per year (or $16.66 per month) on car insurance. Last year they spent a total of $350 (or $29.16) per month on maintenance, tires, and car repairs. For healthcare and medical, they spend about $50 per month for medicines. They spend about $25 per month on dental. So, I see the following - an initial cash investment made eleven years ago of $67,000 to build a house and buy a car. Their total monthly cost of living is $676.07 for two people. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple live in the mountains in Los Santos for $338.03 per person, per month.

  • Loving Life On The Beach in Las Tablas: A retired couple lives in Las Tablas, specifically Playa Las Comadres in the Azuero peninsula. They have been in Panama since 2003, but consider themselves to be "part timers." They spent $30,000 to have a two bedroom, to bath home built which they own with no mortgage. For utilities they spend $4 per month on water, $25 per month on electricity, and $80 per month on cell phones and Internet access. There is a $5 monthly HOA cost in their neighborhood. They shipped a car down from the states. Insurance cost is $12 per month and they spend about $200 per month on gas. They report spending only $100 per month on food - which I doubt is accurate. No other family has reported spending only $50 per person, per month on food. But anyway, here's what I see. An initial investment of $30,000 to build a house. They report a total of $730 per month in living expenses - although they only included $426 in specifics - and because of the suspected lack of accurate reporting I'm going with the higher number. So, the bottom line is - A retired couple live on the beach in Las Tablas for $365 per person, per month.

  • Getting By Quite Nicely in Boquerón: A 70 year old man lives alone in Boquerón, located to the West of David in the province of Chiriqui, in a Panamanian neighborhood. He's been living in Panama for two years and his only income is the $1,200 per month he receives from the US Social Security system. He rents a fully furnished and renovated house with a/c for $175 per month. He does not use his air conditioning, so his monthly electrical bill averages $19.64 per month. He spends $44.40 per month for Internet access. He uses a pre-paid cell phone, but hardly spends any money on it at all. He recently bought a motorcycle, but didn't report how much he paid, or what he spends for fuel. He spends $250 per month for food and another $150 per month on tobacco. He does not eat out often, reporting about $20 per month. Other expenses are $3 per month for garbage collection, $5 for cooking gas, and about $5 per month for water. So, the bottom line is - A retired man lives alone on his Social Security check in Boquerón for $672.04 per person, per month.

  • Hallelujah in Cabuya: A couple, ages 58 and 56, live in Cabuya, located just outside of Coronado, near Panama's Pacific coast. They are part timers who have been coming to Panama for four years. They only spend about four months per year in Panama. They paid $235,000 for their home and have no mortgage. Maintenance is $75 per month for their house. They also have a $100 per month HOA fee, as well as $276 per year (or $23 per month) home insurance policy. For food they report $130 per month in groceries, and another $50 per month on restaurants or fast food. For utilities they report $50 per month for electricity, $4.50 per month for water, $18 per month for cable television, $50 per month for Internet access, and $10 per month for cell phones. In the transportation category they only report $80 per month for fuel. So after an initial cash investment of $235,000 to buy their house, their monthly living expenses are very low, a total of about $590 per month. So, the bottom line is - A part time couple lives part-time near the Pacific beaches for $295 per person, per month.

  • Family in Panama City - With Kids in Private Schools: A family of four lives in downtown Panama City - two adults, and two kids under age 12. They made an initial cash investment of $120,000 to buy an apartment. They spent another $15,000 on improvements and renovations before moving in. They also bought a used car for $8,000 in cash. They have a $185 per month condo maintenance fee for the apartment. They also have an insurance policy for $200 per year ($16 per month) on the home. They report an expense of $800 per year (or $66 per month) for "anonymous SA fees for the condo title." Property taxes are $100 per month. They spend $125 per month on electricity, $18 per month on water, $20 per month on cell phones. They report $80 per month on fuel for the car. They also spend $180 per month for bus fare - transportation for the kids to get to school. Car insurance is $500 per year (or $41 per month). Health insurance for the family of four is $800 per month. Private school tuition and fees: $1,500 per month. They didn't report any cost for groceries so I'm going to add $400 for that. I see an initial cash investment of $143,000 to buy the apartment, fix it up, and to buy a car. Their monthly expenses come to a total of $3,531. So, the bottom line is - A family of four lives in an apartment in Panama city for $882 per person, per month.

  • A Family Of Four In A House in Panama City: A family of four lives in a house in Panama City. They put $7,000 down in cash to buy the house and have a mortgage. They pay $615 per month on the mortgage and an additional $85 per month for required insurance. For transportation, they spent $15,000 cash total to buy two cars, and have a loan on one of them. The monthly payment is $235 plus $40 per month on insurance, $120 per month on gas, and $40 per month for maintenance. For food they spend $800 per month on groceries and another $150 per month at restaurants and dining out. For utilities they report $200 per month for electricity, $80 per month for Internet, cable TV, and a telephone line. They spend $160 per month for two cell phones on contracts. And, another $30 per month for water and garbage collection. They have two kids in school, and pay $400 per month for tuition. They spend $200 per month for health insurance. They spend $250 per month for a maid, and another $50 per month for a part time gardener. In summary, they made a total cash investment of $22,000 to buy the house and the car. Their total monthly expenses are $3,295. So, the bottom line is - A family of four lives in a house in Panama City for $823 per person, per month.

Adding It All Up: This report covers a total of six families, and fifteen people. Of those, eleven are adults and four are children. There are three sets of couples, two families of four, and one man living alone. The average cost per person, per month for this group was $562 - way below the previously reported averages of about $1,025 per person, per month.

Keep Those Reports Coming: By now you should be getting a feel for the kinds of information I'm looking for. Here's some feedback based on the reports I've already received. Please don't "try" to skew the numbers one way or the other. I could tell some people are trying really hard to make it look like they are getting by on next to nothing, while others are probably over reporting somewhat to make their monthly living expenses seem higher. It all works out in the end once the numbers are averaged, but please just report the facts as accurately as possible, to make this series of reports more accurate - and therefore useful to others - in the end. Please base your numbers on "monthly" expenses, not weekly or annual. Please make sure to report the obvious things - like food and groceries. And please, if you have not participated so far - send it in. I think the running average of about $1,025 per person per month is much more accurate or representative than this set of data. And, I need more reporting to balance the whole thing out even more. Thanks for taking the time.

Copyright 2012 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Cost of Living in Panama - Based On Reader Survey - Third Report | 2 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Cost of Living in Panama - Based On Reader Survey - Third Report
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, July 29 2012 @ 09:42 AM EDT

What I've noticed, not much has been reported as incidentals, such as clothing but I guess that can be included
in the discretionary income after all basic living expenses.

Cost of Living in Panama - Based On Reader Survey - Third Report
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, July 30 2012 @ 06:46 AM EDT

Really a nice job on this. But why is the cost in Euros? I think we need more costs of taxi's and food...

Thanks,