One Month's Living Expenses: Leon, Nicaragua

When Elisha and I decided to move to Nicaragua we knew that we would need to be on a budget – and believe it or not it was something we had never done before.

Elisha’s budget was always based on spending any extra cash that she had, while I saved whatever extra money I felt I didn’t need.  That being said we have always lived below our means and have never been extravagant people.

Although we’ve been told by a few people that a budget of $1,200 USD per month in Nicaragua is quite high this is the amount we agreed upon.  

We figured it would take some time to find out which restaurants, markets, shops and grocery stores would have the best deals and accepted the fact that December and January would be “learning months”.  We weren’t surprised to find out that were were over budget for the month of January.  

Total expenditures for the month came in at $1,201 USD.  

We learned a few things things this month and have decided to make a number of changes.

First and foremost, we are going to prepare more of our own meals and have fruit on hand for breakfast.  When we reviewed our detailed spreadsheet of the month’s expenses we realized we ate out 3 meals per day, more often than not.  Although the nearly 50 meals we had out were cheap ($280 USD), they weren’t necessarily healthy for the waistline or the budget.

Another change will be our drinking.  Apparently we’ve been celebrating because not a day went by in January where we didn’t have a cerveza or two.  Even though our total expenditure for alcohol was just shy of $160 USD, we will make a couple of changes here as well.  We plan to cut back some and be smarter about where we buy our liquor.  Instead of paying 100 cordobas for a 375 ml bottle of rum, we will buy the 2 litre combo pack at Pali for 189 cords. And instead of paying 18 cords at the grocery store for a 355 ml can of beer we will buy a case of 12 litres at a cost of only 36 cordobas per bottle.

We spent $205 USD on groceries.  With a commitment to eat in more often we expect this amount to go up slightly for the month, but since we’ve figured out the best places to shop we aren’t expecting a huge increase.

$32 USD was the amount we paid to purchase a cell phone and talking minutes for the month. For February we have purchased a package that cost $7 USD that should last through to the end of the month.  $60 USD went to Amazon and iTunes for books, music and iPAD apps.  $30 USD went to transportation (bus and taxi fares). We spent $52 USD on a nice dinner out to celebrate our 5th year anniversary.  We enjoyed a delicious meal with 2 appetizers, a main course of filet mignon, a nice bottle of Italian wine AND pecan pie for dessert.  A great night out and worth every penny we spent!

Monthly recurring fixed expenses include $300 for rent and $80 for Spanish lessons. Besides a few random incidentals, this is what we spent our money on for the month of January. 

Although our friend Glyn lives on $300 a month (and thinks we are living the life of rock stars and drinking champagne every night) we happen to think we did a fine job with our first attempt at following a budget!

Posted on February 7, 2012, in Cost of Living and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Great job guys! Smart spenders!!

  2. Awesome. Can’t wait to hear more of your adventures. I am planning the same in next 5 years or so. How did you decide on Nicaragua vs other CA country?

    • Hi Joan,

      Thanks for your interest in In Nica Now.

      One factor that helped us make our decision on where to move to was the incredibly low cost of living in Nicaragua. We are also fans of the warm weather, endless sunshine, oceans with beautiful beaches, mountains and volcanoes that Nicaragua has to offer. Most people here smile and laugh easily. Nicaragua is known for it’s has great rum and also has good beer. And last, but certainly not least, we are close enough to home that when friends and family want to visit they can hop on a flight and be here in a few hours (and vice versa).


      • Hello,

        I enjoy receiving your posts.

        A question I have is about the crime rate? I am a single woman in my 60’s and I would love to move away from Canada, but am worried about living alone in Nicaragua. Can you shed some light on this for me?

        Also, who can I contact about living there on my Canada pension?

        Thank you,

        • Hi Lilyana,

          Nicaragua is rated the second safest country in the Americas next to Canada. There is plenty of petty theft, but very little violent crime. There are some rough areas in Managua and even some dodgy areas in Granada, but you would have no reason to go there anyway.

          A taxi anywhere in Granada costs less than 50 cents – so it is easy to get around. There are plenty of single expat women your age living in Granada.

          I don’t have any experience with Canada Pension, so I can’t comment on that question.


  3. Can you break down costs? Rent for a house with a pool, etc? Do you have WIFI Broadband Internet? What speeds are available? I am a writer and need the net to work.


    • Hi Westin,

      Monthly rent for a house with a pool will likely cost between $1200 – $1500 USD, plus utilities but it may be difficult to find one in Leon.

      Internet speeds are good. You can get up to 5 mbps depending on where you live and what package you are on.


  4. Nice site! I think that, for comparison purposes, it would be really interesting to see Glyn’s monthly expenditures too… not so as to make you look bad, but just for contrast. I am thinking of staying in Nicaragua for a year and for the first few months at least, I’d not want to spend more than he does.

  5. Thanks for the blog. My wife and I are considering Nicaragua, likely Leon as a retirement center for our future. We will likely rent there for a few months and then buy if we are pleased. What can you tell me about the real estate market? Do you know what the cost/meter to construct might be? Can you recommend a reputable realtor and attorney? Now a silly question for most, but important to this old geek, do you know if there is a duplicate bridge club active in Leon.

    • Hi Ward,

      Thank you for your interest in In Nica Now.

      It’s been almost 3 years since we’ve lived in Leon. In that period of time we’ve only been back once. We really don’t have answers to any of your questions. You might want to try reaching out to the members of the Expats in Leon Facebook group.

      Cheers & Good Luck!
      Elisha & Gordon

  6. Hi guys. My wife, myself, and 2 young children as looking for a place for a month or two in Nicaragua. What size/type of house for $300?

  7. Hi In Nica Now,

    I’ve been doing a lot of research on retiring abroad. Wondering if $600 a month for a couple would be feasible? Do you know how much a 1 bedroom furnished house would be?

    Thank you in advance,

    • Hi Susan,

      $600 per month for a couple can definitely be done, but it would mean a very simple life with bare bones accommodations. You would have to eat like a local on a diet consisting of primarily beans, rice, corn tortillas, bread and cujuada (Nica cheese) and very little fruit, vegetables or meat.

      Think of it this way…

      If you were able to find a house that rented for $300 USD per month you would be left with $300 — or $5 per day per person — to cover everything else (food, clothing, entertainment, health care, etc.)

      What about other expenses like tourist visa renewal? Trips back to your home country to visit family and friends? A medical emergency? Trips to the dentist? And extra expenses you might incur because a friend comes to visit?

      If you were really frugal $600 per month could probably cover day to day living expenses, but I really don’t think it would be sufficient to cover an overall yearly budget for two people.


  8. Nice site, but I’m a little confused. You no longer live in Leon? Where are you now, if I may ask.

    Also, what is the situation with hospitals, doctors, dentists and the like? And what’s the ex-pat community like. I’m a Yank who happens to also speak Canadian, eh. 😉

  9. Thank you very much for the info. It’s so difficult to get unbiased info from sites. Your experience sounds wonderful.
    I’m recently retired and listless -not what my wife would call it. We need an adventure and Nicaragua sounds very interesting. I’ve also read about Panama but your site is convincing me more in your direction.

    I’ll do some more reading and will probably have definite questions for you at some point.

    Thanks again,

  10. Elaine DeLany

    We are considering moving to Leon…I’ve been warned (by you) about the excessive heat! But can you tell us the year of this post? Feb 7 _____?


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