We all love to save money, and Ecuador is a wonderful place to find superb deals and keep some moolah in your wallet! So is Ecuador really cheap like everyone says it is? As we’ve already shown in other posts: not necessarily; however you can live well on less here if you know some of the ins and outs of working with the Ecuadorian folks and staying away from those things which are geared for tourists and unsuspecting gringos.
So let’s get started saving money in Ecuador. Oh, and by the way, you will have to participate in the money-saving process or it just won’t work. If you apply all of these solutions into your daily living in Ecuador you’ll save hundreds of dollars every month.
1. Shop Around
Did you know you can find the best deals for appliances in El Centro? Be careful though because prices are all over the map down there. Here’s what you do. Enter into an appliance store, act real interested in what you are thinking of buying and then ask price. When the clerk states the price, grimace and begin to turn away, smile and say thank you as you actually walk out of the store. Nine times out of ten they will give you a lower price.
The clerk may have actually given you an okay price but you want the best price. Shop around. Take note of (jotting down on paper) the name of the clerk who gave you the price and the address and name of store. You might be going back if you can’t find a better price for the same item.
Continue to shop around and negotiate, using other appliance stores as leverage. You do not have to say the names of the less expensive appliance stores but let the clerk know you can get a better price elsewhere. Let them see it in your face you are serious about walking off.
2. Pay Cash
We’re still shopping in El Centro: When buying an expensive item like washer, refrigerator, or TV you will see two prices on the item,. The lower amount is the cash price. But, you can still negotiate the cash price too and actually get a really good deal. Remember, shop around and use other stores as a negotiating tactic. Enter into the same store, look at the item again and walk out again. Do this about three or four times. The clerk sees interest, he wants to make a sale, and he’ll lower the price. If not, go to another store.
3. Department Stores Will Negotiate
This is Ecuador after all, and negotiating is the name of the game. Food prices are fixed at the grocery stores but more expensive items like appliances and furniture you can ask the store manager for a discount. Let him know you will buy it today. Remember, to smile and say “Buenes Dias”.
4. Buy Items in Bulk
One of the ways we get discounts for items is buying in bulk. Bulk buying is actually a great negotiating tactic in Ecuador, no matter what the vendor is selling.
EXAMPLE: The grape vendor is asking $1.50 lb. you offer $1. When she counters with $1.25 you offer to buy three pounds for a total of $3.00, which is still the one dollar per pound you initially offered, but now she has to think about declining a larger sale, which in most cases she’ll be loath to do.
5. Extended Stays for Lodging
A great way to save on lodging in hotels and hostels is to stay more than three days. When making reservations ask for rate quote; if it seems like an ok price, ask to see the room. If you like what you see in the amenities ask if you can receive a discount for staying three days or longer. We have always gotten discounts for staying three days or longer, with pretty hefty discounts.
EXAMPLE: Fixed rate $50 night
Three day stay or longer: $45 night
SAVINGS for three days: $15 dollars
6. Never Pay Three Rents Upfront
They only ask this from the gringos. You don’t think Ecuadorians are paying three rents upfront do you? Real estate agents love to ask for the first month’s rent, a deposit and then a last month’s rent and they do this because it is a bigger onetime payment in their pocket. The problem is, it is dishonest and unethical.
They only ask this from the gringos because gullible gringos pay it. It is a sham. There is no Ecuadorian law that says the renter owes more than the first month’s rent and maybe the deposit, which is something between you and owner written up in the contract. But a third months upfront rent is bogus! Besides that, nine times out of ten most folks will not ever see any of this upfront monies, including the deposit ever again. If you have a pet, go ahead and pay the deposit, but never pay three rents, that is ridiculous!
If for some reason you have to get out of the lease, as we know people do have emergencies and such and need to leave Ecuador, pay all of the rent you agreed to, and do as you said you would. Treat others as you would like to be treated, and give them no reason to want to ask for more deposits to the next guy.
7. Don’t Buy Imported Food Items at the Grocery Stores
This will actually bring down your grocery bill by hundreds of dollars every month. Food imports cost two to three times more than what you’d expect to pay in the US. If you can’t stop using favorite brands then expect a high grocery bill. We’ve had expats tell us they think groceries are expensive here. However, most fruits and vegetables in the grocery stores are reasonably priced but everything else cost the same as in the US or more.
Don’t be afraid to try the locally prepared and manufactured food items of Ecuador. You might be pleasantly surprised to find out that some of these items are healthier and much more cost effective.
8. Bring a Resident Attitude rather than Tourist Attitude
This is where you REAL savings come in. It’s all in how you perceive a good deal. Newcomers seem to gloat in comparing rent prices and everything else prices to the US prices. This is a no-no because you will overpay on everything if you come with a tourist approach. This is Ecuador!
If you’re moving to Cuenca and want to save money it is best to end the vacation attitude right away and go local. You will need to let everybody know you don’t want to pay tourist prices. Behave as if you know what prices are for things, or know what the prices should be and don’t be afraid to walk away if you have to.
9. Enjoy the Free LIVE Entertainment that (Cuenca) Ecuador Offers
If you like concerts and symphonies Cuenca boasts many free musicals of some sort showing in Cuenca a couple of times a month! If you enjoy going to the movies, on Tuesdays the movie theaters have 2for1 showings. Buy one ticket get the second ticket free. Start asking around with some of the North American restaurant owners about doing 2 for 1 dinners as well. We think that would definitely be a big draw for the expats who live here; and the restaurants would get more business during the weekdays.
10. Build Your Home
The real estate markup has always been high in Cuenca, even before all the foreigners made camp here. It’s a funny thing but land prices in Ecuador are out of this world; way higher than most cities in the US. Property prices have risen a bit in the last three years, but mostly because of the returning Ecuadorians. Most of the homes here will not have all the finishing touches we so much love in the US. We recommend building if you are going to settle down in Ecuador.
However, if you can rent for $400 or less, it is better for your pocket book to just keep renting. Rents have risen tremendously in Cuenca just in the last couple of years.
BOTTOM LINE: to live well on less in Ecuador you must take a proactive approach. The north American way of not having time to be bothered with anything will cost you more than just a few extra dollars. Yes, it takes some effort but the rewards are more than meets the eye.
For more information see the DIY Cuenca/Quito Landing Guide.