I did quite a bit of reading before I came down in regard to just how inexpensive it is to live down here. It is an important factor for anyone looking to locate in Panama. There is no real simple answer because everything varies so much, but I want to write a bit about it anyway, just to give you all a current idea.
I know for me, when searching the net, much of the information was old and outdated. I have been driving my wife's car when I need to get around because I didn't have one (until now, I will update my car buying blog too), but one day she asked me to get a slow leaking tire fixed. I was a little nervous in the big city here because I don't speak great spanish, I would say I'm on a level of a 3 year old...haha. But I took a breath and headed for LLantera. It's a tire sales and repair place near our condo.
Anyway, to make what could be a long story short, when the tire was finished, about 45 minutes after I arrived and the man started to work on it, a lovely woman waved me over and said quatro y tres. I smiled and asked forty three? I said it in English, which she did not understand, I knew this because I had to tell her what was wrong with the tire when I arrived, and it was challenging. She answered "yes, forty three". So I handed the cashier my credit card. I almost bursed out laughing, literally, I was smiling ear to ear when I got the printed copy of the bill, and was signing my credit card copy. $4.03!! With 7% tax added. It cost less than four dollars to fix the leak, and I watched the poor hombre work on it for at least 30 minutes.
So here is what I know: A Balboa (beer) will run you about 50 cents, or, if you prefer 24, you will probably get over a dollar back from your 10 dollar bill. Hard alcohol is about 1/3 the price of that in Canada and wine varies but a common price is around 7 dollars for a bottle. I bought a nice Robert Mondavi Cab Sauv for 10 bucks, but I think Central and South American wines are quite a bit less, and good.
Last month our power bill in the city was 4 dollars, water was 7, and garbage was 10. A cell phone plan that in Canada would run over 100 dollars, here is 40. Gasoline is about the same, maybe a bit more, bacon is really expensive. I don't know why. I like bacon but it's 8.00 at the grocery store. I need to find an angle on the bacon.
The grocery store isn't always the best place to buy ALL of your groceries. There are always markets, road side vendors etc. selling fruits, melons, and vegetables. Usually way fresher and tastier for often only 10% or less of the price in the grocery store. In smaller communities you can buy milk, eggs, and even cheese, freshly made that day, not unlike Canada but it's organic without the organic price...
Clothes are nuts. You can buy nice jeans, t-shirts, shorts for 1.99 each. Walmart type stuff but still... $1.99! Everything is available here, Hilfiger, Cole, all the designers, but you are still going to have to pay designer prices, at least if you are going to the designer stores and want to be assured that you are getting the real thing.
So there you have it. Panama is still a great place to retire on a budget or to escape the fast paced life Canada has become. Your money goes at least twice as far here, the people are fantastic, the weather is perfect, and property values are only increasing!!