I’ve been diligently tracking my spending over the last month as part of my effort to understand how much I am spending per month–a key piece of information in my goal to cover 100% of my expenses in Medellin, Colombia.
I guestimated my expense needs to be about $600 per month for my housing and utilities and about $20 per day (or $600 per month) for my food and other day to day needs, for a total of $1,200 needed per month.
Turns out I was pretty much spot on.
A few notes about my lifestyle because you could certainly live for cheaper here, and you could easily spend lots more.
I eat out fairly regularly–usually twice per day–and almost only cook breakfast. I don’t feel like I splurge excessively here, but I don’t certainly don’t want for anything. If I want to eat out, I do it, if I want to take a cab, I do.
That being said, I’m used to a minimalist, backpacker sort of lifestyle (heck, I lived in my truck last year–everything feels like splurging). I eat at the typical Colombian restaurants and am not going out to fancy places unless there is a reason to do so.
I’m not going out to party, rumbear, and drink all the time. Not all that often lately, in fact.
I go out with my girlfriend to do things. It isn’t a “the gringo pays for everything” type of relationship at all, as costs are readily shared–hey, she makes more than me! She’ll buy dinner sometimes, I’ll buy dinner sometimes.
We also are perfectly happy staying in and watching Breaking Bad (dubbed in Spanish) on Netflix, while trying to travel and get out of town on the weekends.
TOTAL random aside: they are remaking Breaking Bad in Colombia with Walter Blanco, set in Bogota, cooking meth in an old bus instead of RV. I’m so excited to watch that version as well…
All those things are just to say that your cost of living here is probably going to be quite different depending on your lifestyle.
My splurges compared to my lifestyle of last year would obviously be having the big three-bedroom apartment (which I rent out on Airbnb to reduce my costs), having a cleaning lady come in once per week, as well as eating out much more frequently.
On to the results.
Overall in a 31 day period from mid-July to mid-August I spent 2.251.708 pesos, which was about $1,173.31 at the time.
Just under my predicted amount.
Cost of Living Medellin, Colombia
Food – $372.79
$12.03 per day
Dining out, groceries, coffee and drinks, snacks.
House Stuff – $626.64
$20.21 per day
Rent, utilities, cleaner, washing machine rental, misc. supplies.
* Important to note that this cost is drastically less in reality due to my Airbnb rentals. See how I live rent free with Airbnb and my most recent income report here.
Transportation – $61.64
$1.99 per day
Buses, metro, taxi, parking
Travel – $106.51
$53.25 average for two long weekend trips
Includes cost of gas, tolls, camping, activities and all purchases except for the food we brought with us.
Just living in a hostel you would be paying $12.50 per night for a dorm room bunk-bed. I have a place that I can rent out and subsidize my costs for just $8 more per day. But of course, I had to pay for furnishings up front.
In reality, food is my biggest expense since I am subsidizing my housing. I’m not fully convinced that I would dramatically reduce my food prices by eating out less. An average meal costs around $4 for a soup, salad, entree, drink, and various sides. I couldn’t be bothered to make something equivalent.
For a comparison of eating out at breakfast: I can go out for $3 and get eggs, an arepa with cheese, small piece of meat, and coffee–I can make the same thing at home (minus the meat, which I don’t regularly buy) for about the same price but for four or five days.
Breakfast is easy though, I prefer making breakfast and having coffee at home usually. Lunch and dinner are just more work.
I could (and for health/fitness reasons, should) cut down on the postres (desserts), soda, and things like that though.
I will continue to track my spending and see if this month was an aberration or the norm.
Details of Spending
* Sometimes the dates are messed up, since it is listed as the date I entered it, not when I spend it. I tried to ensure accuracy of dates, but there may be some errors, otherwise there is a full 31 days captured. Also, dates with no activity are travel gaps, most likely, with just a single entry.
|7/20||Dinner At Frisby||Food||10200||$5.31|
|7/21||Sandwich And Drink||Food||10400||$5.42|
|7/21||Dinner With Andrea Family||Food||20000||$10.42|
|7/21||Nuts and bolts to fix bed||House||2200||$1.15|
|7/23||Coffee At Pergamino||Food||5800||$3.02|
|7/23||Taxi To Parque Lleras for job interview||Transportation||11000||$5.73|
|7/24||Dinner At El Corral||Food||19100||$9.95|
|7/25||Two Empanadas for dinner||Food||1400||$0.73|
|7/26||Beer And Snacks||Food||5000||$2.61|
|7/26||Snacks And Drinks||Food||3400||$1.77|
|7/26||Taxi to Los Molinos||Transportation||5000||$2.61|
|7/30||Pizza For Two||Food||38569||$20.10|
|8/3||Bunuelos Y Cafe||Food||1900||$0.99|
|8/3||Pastel De Pollo||Food||2000||$1.04|
|8/3||Bus To Alpujarra||Transportation||1700||$0.89|
|8/4||Torta At Astor||Food||7650||$3.99|
|8/4||Beers And Snack||Food||7500||$3.91|
|8/5||Exito Camping Food Supplies for Rio Claro||Food||126650||$65.99|
|8/5||Coke And Brownie||Food||4500||$2.34|
|8/6||Lunch New Restaurant||Food||5500||$2.87|
|8/6||Cleaning Lady And New Curtain||House||50000||$26.05|
|8/7||Split Washing Machine||House||5000||$2.61|
|8/11||Trip To Rio Claro||Travel||108400||$56.48|
|8/11||Lunch For 2||Food||25000||$13.03|
|8/11||Breakfast At Blasu||Food||6000||$3.13|
|8/11||Bunuelo Y Tinto||Food||1200||$0.63|
|8/13||Breakfast At Blasu||Food||6500||$3.39|
|8/13||Sandwich and Cafes||Food||13000||$6.77|
|8/15||Dinner Pastries For Two||Food||5000||$2.61|
|8/15||Dinner For Two Empanadas Y Bebidas||Food||4400||$2.29|
|8/15||Jardin Trip Food||Food||48000||$25.01|
|8/15||Wifi UNE Bill||House||71828||$37.43|
|8/15||EPM Utility Bill||House||110001||$57.32|
|8/16||Coffee And Croissant||Food||1600||$0.83|
|8/19||Taxi To Laureles||Transportation||17000||$8.86|
Colombia Travel Tips
Important tips and resources for planning an amazing trip to Colombia, based on my years of traveling and living in Colombia.
Colombia Trip Planning
- Book a cheap flight to Colombia with Momondo, or better yet, start travel hacking so you can fly for free. Traveling between major cities is much better by flying, trust me.
- Plan a rough itinerary and how long you will spend in each destination. Use an itinerary planning service for custom recommendations and pick up Lonely Planet Colombia.
- Work a little every day to teach yourself Spanish, you'll want to know as much as possible before you arrive.
- Book cheap accommodation in advance, at least for the first destinations -- For hostels use: Booking, for cheap hotels use: Hotels.com, for apartments use: Airbnb.
- Reserve your on the ground tours and activities through Get Your Guide.
- Purchase travel insurance for Colombia with World Nomads or SafetyWing to protect yourself from illness, injury, and theft while in Colombia. VERY important. And be sure to read my article: "Is Colombia Safe?" for my honest opinion and safety tips.
- Sign up for my free emails about planning a better trip to Colombia, and be sure to check out my comprehensive guide about traveling to Colombia.
- Learn more money-saving tricks with my top budget travel tips.
- Put together your Colombia packing list.
- Enjoy this incredible country!
I hope this helped you plan your travels in Colombia! I know it can be a struggle to find accurate and on the ground information when traveling to a new place like Colombia, which is why I started writing so extensively about it!
If you have any questions about Colombia, budget travel, or anything else shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(I love getting questions! That is how I get ideas for my blog posts and what to write about!)
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Thank you so much for this post! Have not been yet to Colombia, I’m planning my trip and stay there and this was, and I’m being deadly honest here, one of the most useful travelling articles that I have ever read! You provided so much information that is so useful for the ones like me!! Thank you so much! Now, I have a much clearer vision of how much money I need to be able to live in Medellin and what the prizes are!
That is the most useful information I have found on the Internet in a while 🙂
Thanks Ewa, I should put together an updated post… Things are even cheaper here now thanks to the exchange rate savings compared to 2014… Let me know if you have any questions!
Honestly, 1.200 dollars per month is not dirtbag for me. Is a lot of money for a Colombian. I spend less than 500 us dollars living in Salento: out of the city, Close to the mountains style, riding my MTB everyday, paying 100 dollars of rent in the middle of the paradise!
Yeah, it is certainly quite a bit for a Colombian. But I was actually spending less than that per month by renting out the apartment on Airbnb. Thus the reason for renting a three-bedroom apartment. The difficulty for gringos in Colombia is finding an affordable short term apartment that is available without the fiador requirement… That is really hard. Then you have to deal with furnishing the apartment, getting internet without a cedula… Not easy there, and thus more expensive for gringos than Colombians. Plus, of course, I was eating a lot, traveling, etc.