The cost of living in the United States is OUT OF CONTROL! Many of the things we need to live have become unaffordable for the vast majority of people. Things like food, healthcare, transportation and elder care are being charged on credit cards and driving people further into debt. It’s INSANITY!
When speaking with a family member recently, I was shocked to hear about the massive increases in food and utility bills, which are particularly challenging for those on fixed incomes.
You might not realize that the cost of living is NOT sky-high everywhere. In many countries, you can still afford to buy the things you need without breaking the bank.
So today, let’s discuss 10 essential items that most people in the United States can’t afford, but can’t live without.
Insurance is a must-have, but it doesn’t come cheap in the US. This includes life, home, and auto insurance. To make matters worse, if you make a claim, your rates may increase or your coverage could be canceled altogether.
And let’s not forget about health insurance – many people feel trapped in jobs they hate or delay retirement just to maintain coverage.
We actually had to leave the US because we couldn’t afford health insurance. Even the marketplace plan was going to cost $1,200/month, which was WAY out of our budget!
Tipping has become the norm in the US, with a 20-30% tip expected for various services. It used to just apply to restaurants where you were served at the table, but now everyone is asking for tips! Even vendors at concerts!
In many other countries, tipping isn’t as widespread, and you aren’t guilted into it. For example, in Ecuador, tipping is not the custom and most Ecuadorians don’t tip at all.
If you decide to leave a tip, 10% or $1/person is acceptable and actually appreciated.
Student debt is a massive burden for countless Americans. In some cases, it’s actually cheaper to move to another country and attend a private university than to go to a public one in your hometown. Shockingly, most other countries offer tuition-free public universities!
When we left the US and moved to Ecuador, we had over $60,000 in total debt, including $43,000 in student loan debt.
Within 3 years of living in Ecuador and thanks to a much lower cost of living, we were able to pay off all that debt! Had we stayed in the US, we would probably be in MORE debt rather than OUT OF debt!
Unless you live in a major city like New York or Chicago, public transportation in the US is often lacking.
In comparison, public transportation in other countries is much more affordable due to widespread use and regulated pricing.
When we lived in Denver, it was cheaper and FASTER to drive downtown from the suburbs and pay for parking than it was to take the RTD Light Rail system.
And Uber rides are 3 to 4 times higher than we pay for similar distances in Ecuador and the other Latin American countries we visit.
Elder care is exorbitantly expensive in the US, often draining the finances of not only the elderly but also their children and grandchildren.
In other countries, such as Ecuador, Mexico, and Colombia, assisted living facilities are significantly more affordable, and in-home care is a viable option as well.
We spoke to a former in-home nurse who said the going rate in Ecuador for full-time in-home care with a registered nurse is around $500/month. You can hire 24/7 in-home care for less than $2,000/month and they’ll also help with cleaning, shopping and cooking.
There are also elder care facilities available for a fraction of the cost that you’ll pay in the US, and they’re super nice, especially in Mexico.
If you don’t want to be forced into destitution in retirement so Medicaid will cover your long-term elder care, or you don’t want to be a financial burden on your kids or grandkids, consider moving abroad BEFORE you need the care so you can find the right place and the best options that fit your budget.
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In many countries, affordable internet, mobile plans, and utilities are available. Living closer to the equator or in the mountains can also help you save on heating and cooling costs, since you may not need as much temperature regulation.
We’ve lived in the mountains of Ecuador for nearly 4 years without air conditioning, and only use small space heaters on occasion. Our eclectic bill runs around $20/month, which has saved us thousands of dollars in utilities since we moved here.
Even when we lived on the coast and used air conditioning at night, our electric bill only ran about $60/month.
We pay $45/month for high-speed Internet (fiber to the router) and get 150Mb upload and download speeds with Netlife.
Our water bill is a few dollars per month. It’s not even a factor in our budget.
The US housing market is still largely unaffordable for many, with skyrocketing rents, property taxes, and home insurance costs.
In countries like Ecuador, rent is about a third of the cost of similar places in the US, and the overall cost of living for two people can be as low as $2,000 per month.
We spent $1,500/month during our first year in Ecuador. Since then, it has ranged between $1,800 to $3,000/month mostly due to higher rents in nicer places.
On average, rents in Ecuador are about ⅓ compared to similar places in the US.
Let’s face it – the cost of gas and diesel is a significant factor contributing to inflation in the US (even though it’s excluded from the official Consumer Price Index). The cost of fuel drives the cost of product creation and delivery, which drive the price charged to consumers.
Plus, high fuel prices make it challenging for people to fill up their tanks, making everyday life more expensive. And the US was built around personal rather than public transportation so many people don’t have the option to avoid fuel costs.
In countries like Ecuador, the cost of fuel is regulated, with unleaded gas at $2.4/gallon and diesel at $1.75/gallon (that’s not per liter – per GALLON).
When the government tried to raise fuel prices, protestors shut down the country until the prices were lowered. The Ecuadorians don’t take any sh*t off their government. If they don’t like something, they protest enmasse and the government listens.
Car ownership is also less common and less necessary in other parts of the world, as public transportation is more affordable and accessible.
We were spending $1,200/month on car loans, maintenance, insurance, tags, taxes and fuel when we lived in Denver.
Now, we spend about $25/month on transportation because we walk most places. That means we’ve saved nearly $80,000 in 5 and a half years of living in Ecuador on cars!
Food is essential for survival, so why is it so freaking expensive in the US?
When we lived in Denver, we spent $800/month on groceries and that was 6 years ago so it would probably be closer to $1,200/month now with inflation.
Our average food budget in Ecuador is $350/month, and that’s for mostly organic produce that we get from local farmers.
Fresh food is available year-round in many countries outside the US, meaning it’s not picked green, sprayed with chemicals, and shipped halfway around the world. Our food is picked within a couple days of us eating it, and it tastes fantastic for a fraction of the cost!
Lower food costs allow us to enjoy a higher quality of life and put our hard-earned money towards other things, like saving for retirement and travel.
The main reason we left the US was because we couldn’t afford the exorbitant cost of health care.
Following my two spinal surgeries to fix a genetic condition, we couldn’t afford health insurance or healthcare anymore.
We had two choices: 1) Stay in the US and hope I never need healthcare again so we don’t go bankrupt, or 2) Leave and move to a country with affordable, high quality health care.
We chose option two and left. It was the best decision we could have made for reasons far beyond health care.
The United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but the quality of care is just average. This is a fact the US hides quiet well and goes to great lengths to maintain the myth that it has the best healthcare in the world.
In contrast, nearly every other country offers more affordable private healthcare options and free public healthcare services.
Private medical procedures in other countries can cost 40-90% less than in the US. For example, in Ecuador, the cost is 70-90% lower, and the quality is rated higher by CEO World Magazine.
Medications are also more affordable and can often be purchased without the hassle of dealing with insurance bureaucracy.
Many retirees from the US living in Ecuador have found that buying prescriptions with cash and without insurance is less expensive than the cost of Medicare prescription plans, copays, and non-covered expenses in the US.
The affordability of healthcare outside the US has led to the growing popularity of medical and dental tourism among US citizens, and for good reason. There’s absolutely no good reason to go bankrupt to pay for health care like hundreds of thousands of Americans do each year.
Check out this detailed post about our healthcare experience in Ecuador, including quality and costs.
No one should have to go into debt to afford food, healthcare, and the other basic necessities of life.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet in the United States, consider following in the footsteps of millions of others who have chosen to leave and explore a more affordable life elsewhere.
There are many countries around the world where you can enjoy a higher quality of life without breaking the bank.
If you’re thinking about moving to Ecuador, check out our Ecuador Relocation eCourse. It covers every step of the process so you don’t miss anything important along the way.
Watch Our Video About the Outrageous Costs in the United States
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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!