Photo Credit: Ian Vedette Kafuna
How I Lived My Dream In Paradise With Less Than $600 A Month
Written by: Kiersten Brown
I felt like I was wasting my life away. Although I loved my job working as a preschool teacher, the commute and the routine felt like I’d trapped myself in this life that was only half fulfilling. Amongst these mixed emotions, I had a strong desire to escape the norm and put myself in beautiful and unfamiliar places. It took a year of solo traveling and getting laid off for me to completely step outside of my comfort zone and create a brand new life.
In 2018, I accepted a teaching position in Playa Venao, Panama, a magical beach town filled with sunny skies, a lush background of tropical trees, and a low cost of living. There, I was able to fulfill my dream of living in paradise on a minimal budget of just $600 a month. Here is the breakdown of how I did it.
Rent was my highest expense but I was able to rent a room in a small house that was literally a 2-minute walk from the beach for only $280 a month. The house had the basics, nothing fancy — a room, bed, full kitchen, WiFi, and hammock were the main necessities. Other places in the area with more amenities were offered for around $300-$400 a month for long term rentals.
Groceries were the second biggest expense. To make sure I wasn’t overspending, I bought produce locally at about $10-$12 a week, or about $60 a month. If I wanted to do some bigger grocery shopping at one of the supermarkets, I would go once a month and spend $80.
Next was transportation. I didn’t have a car, so when I needed to travel I relied on the local bus which could range from $10-$20 round trip, or approximately $40 a month if I chose to travel.
Lastly, was my phone. When I first moved, my phone bill was about $100 a month, which included international service and paying off the price of my phone. After realizing WiFi was available in most places, I was able to suspend my service for part of the time and lower my phone bill cost to around $60 a month.
On average, my expenses would more or less come to $520, depending on the month and what I chose to do. As a yoga instructor and part-time online English teacher, I made extra money to travel to exotic islands or treat myself to dinner.
You may be reading this and say that I got lucky. In a way I did, but I am not the only one living a dream life for less. Here is how you can live in paradise on a budget.
- Look for remote places and small towns. Yes, there are some challenges living in remote areas, especially when it comes to not having access to modern conveniences, but the cost of living is usually dramatically lower than many other places. If you don’t want to live far from the city, you can look for countries and cities where the U.S. dollars will go far.
- Bargain: Many hostels are looking for steady clientele, so if you travel during low season or stay for a long term, you can often negotiate for a lower cost.
- Barter. Another option is to exchange work for a place to stay. The most popular websites for these exchanges are World Packers, Work Away and Yoga Trade.
- Buy local from the produce and the businesses. I’ve gotten entire meals filled with rice, chicken, fried plantains and a salad for $5.
- Use the wifi instead of your international phone plan. More and more places are offering free wifi, which will save you tremendously on your phone bill. Just check before you suspend your service.
If you haven’t traveled or lived abroad because you are worried about money, this is your official you can do it message. Traveling is accessible and inexpensive, so go out and live your best life for less!