In three prior years, in 2014, in 2015 and in 2016, I provided our Medellín cost of living for a couple in three popular articles on this site. The exchange rate is lower now compared to a few years ago. This makes it cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of US dollars.
This post provides an update with our Medellín cost of living for a couple from January to March this year.
The relatively low Medellín cost of living is one of the reasons I started living in the city after I discovered it many years ago. I have now been living in Medellín for nearly seven years. In my opinion, the nearly perfect weather and the quality of life in Medellín, for the cost, are very challenging to beat.
I am often asked what the Medellín cost of living is, so I track our expenses every month. Dave also previously shared his Medellín cost of living in 2013 as a single guy living in a shared apartment in Medellín. And Sonja recently shared her cost of living in 2017 as a single woman living in a shared apartment in the city.
Improved Exchange Rate
The improved exchange rate for the Colombian peso makes the Medellín cost of living lower in terms of U.S. dollars compared to prior to early-2015
The Colombian peso exchange rate has been in a range from 2,849 to 3,002 pesos to the US dollar, so far in 2017. This is much higher than the exchange rate was every year prior to early-2015.
The exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis. I track the exchange rate. And I tend to exchange more money when the rate is higher. So, my average exchange rate is typically higher than the actual average.
A Word About Our Standard of Living
First I would like to share some insight into our standard of living, because more than anything, this is what will affect a person’s Medellín cost of living.
I live with my Colombian wife in Sabaneta (a southern suburb of Medellín) in an estrato 4 neighborhood. We live in a nice 110-square-meter, three-bedroom apartment in a high-rise in Sabaneta.
This 2017 Medellín cost of living for a couple article details our costs for a couple living together in the city.
* The exchange rate fluctuates each day; my average exchange rate from January to March was 2,950 pesos to the USD. This is the exchange rate used in this post – except for apartment rental which was prepaid for a year in July last year using money exchanged an exchange rate of 3,300 pesos to the USD.
Our Monthly Medellín Cost of Living
Apartment rent = 1,340,000 pesos ($406)
Apartment rent is our biggest monthly expense. This is a net price as we rent out our parking space, as we don’t have a car.
I have been renting unfurnished apartments while living Medellín for over nearly seven years. My initial experience in renting apartments in Medellín was documented in a four part series: first part is here, second part is here, third part is here and fourth part is here.
- Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, about 110 square meters (1,184 square feet)
- Kitchen with granite countertops, oven, and gas cooktop
- Gas water heater (tankless)
- Upper floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
- Pool, sauna and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood
I prepaid for a year of rent last year that is good until the end of June this year. The exchange rate for the funds I used to prepay last year was 3,300 pesos to the USD, which makes our monthly cost $406 per month.
Groceries = 769,527 pesos ($261)
Groceries are our second biggest expense in Medellín as a couple living together. We cook at home frequently. And we shop at an Exito grocery store, which is conveniently located a 10-minute walk from our apartment.
About every six weeks we also shop at PriceSmart, which has good prices for several items purchased in bulk. We have shopped at PriceSmart since it opened in December 2014.
Our monthly costs for groceries in terms of pesos have dropped compared to 2014. This is due to shopping at a nearby D1 Tienda for some staples and also a local butcher shop, with both having lower prices than Exito.
This category also includes our expenses for drugstore items like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner.
Medical = 473,950 pesos ($161)
Our medical costs during the year include medical insurance for my wife. It also includes contacts I purchased plus a few trips to the dentist, as well as drugs purchased at drugstores.
I decided to “go naked” last year without medical insurance in Colombia. I am in good health and have medical insurance in the U.S. as a backup. Costs of medical care are also very low in Medellín in my experience.
But I am planning to get medical insurance in Colombia later this year and drop my coverage in the U.S. since I rarely go there anymore.
Dining = 455,961 pesos ($155)
We eat out at nice restaurants in Medellín typically a couple times each month. Several times each month when we are too tired to go out or cook, we also order takeout (domicillio) from nearby restaurants or fast food places.
We have found that the restaurants in Sabaneta in general are less expensive than in some other areas in Medellín like El Poblado or Laureles.
Each month we also sometimes eat lunch at small restaurants near our apartment, which typically have inexpensive Colombian food. Set lunches (menu del dia) in these small restaurants typically costs just $2 – $5 per person.
Ground transportation = 314,383 pesos ($107)
This includes costs for using the metro, buses and taxies. We don’t have a car.
We live within easy walking distance to Parque Sabaneta and Aves Maria mall with an Exito and Cinamas Procinal movie theater. There are many small shops, restaurants and bars within walking distance from our apartment.
In front of our apartment we can catch a bus that costs 1,900 pesos to go to the Sabaneta metro station in about 10 minutes.
We can also catch a bus in front of Exito that costs 2,000 or 2,100 pesos to go to the Santafé mall in El Poblado, taking about 30 minutes during non-rush hour; or a bus that costs 1,900 pesos to go Mayorca mall with a major expansion that opened in December 2015, that takes only 15 minutes.
Clothing = 291,467 pesos ($99)
This category over January to March this year has been for a few clothing items my wife purchased.
Miscellaneous = 287,767 pesos ($98)
This general category is miscellaneous things. This includes like some small items we purchased for our apartment in Sabaneta, laundry expenses plus an Amazon Prime membership.
Several times each year I buy some things on Amazon that are much cheaper or difficult to find in Colombia. Many items purchased on Amazon will ship for free to Miami where I have a mailing service that forwards to Medellín for a relatively low cost.
Triple-play Internet/TV/phone services = 173,249 pesos ($59)
We have triple-play services provided by Claro with 10-MB Internet, several hundred TV channels for two TVs, including many channels in HD and some in English. And this also includes free local landline telephone calls.
We pay a lower rate for triple-play services in an estrato 4 neighborhood than would be found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.
Our rate was lower than this during the first year living in our apartment in Sabaneta due to a promotion Claro was having for a new installation. Claro has now increased the price to the normal price for estrato 4.
Pets = 162,100 pesos ($55)
In December 2013, we bought a Pomeranian dog and in 2016 we bought a Shih Tzu dog. So, we have ongoing pet expenses of dog food and vet services for two dogs.
In general, we have found that vet services and prices in pet stores in Sabaneta are cheaper than in Belén where we used to live.
Mail services = 134,867 ($46)
I use the Mail Boxes Etc. Ebox service in Medellín. This Ebox service provides a mailbox in Medellin linked to a mailing service in Miami. This is the solution I use to reliably receive US mail (letters and packages) in Medellín.
With this service, I get a mailing address in Miami and any mail received at this address in Miami is forwarded to Medellín. This service costs $14 per month and includes a 1-kilogram package for free each month.
In the United States, I use a US Global Mail mailbox in Houston as my primary mailing address, which costs $12.50 per month and permits me to view items I have received online.
Every six weeks or so I typically send the mail received in my mailbox in the US to my address in Miami that is forwarded and shows up in Medellín about a week later.
Cell phone services = 124,164 pesos ($42)
This is the cost for cellular services from Claro for two cell phones. We both now have pre-paid plans as we upgraded from post-paid plans to have more Internet access. I also found that Claro’s pre-paid plan works better for international roaming.
Utilities (electric, gas and water) = 108,154 pesos ($37)
Utility services are provided by EPM, the local utility in Medellín. There is really no need for heating or cooling with the climate in Medellín, which results in relatively low utility bills.
We also live in an estrato 4 neighborhood, which has lower utility rates than are found in estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods. In general, our utility services have been cheaper in Sabaneta than when we lived in a smaller apartment in Belén.
Entertainment = 50,167 pesos ($17)
This includes expenses for going to movie theaters, bars, discotecas and concerts. We typically incur entertainment expenses a couple times each month.
Hair care = 32,000 pesos ($11)
It only costs me 11,000 pesos (<$4) including tip to get my haircut at a barbershop near our apartment. My wife gets her hair done every few months.
The three-month period from January to March this year didn’t include some categories we normally have.
For example, vacation trips are missing. But in December last year we went to Curaçao on vacation for 10 days. This vacation trip cost about $3,000, since it was during a peak travel time between Christmas and New Year’s. Each year we normally go on vacation once or twice.
Previously I included a computer and electronics category. But we didn’t buy any computer or electronics items from January to March. The only computer and electronics purchase we have planned this year is toner cartridges for a color laser printer.
Also, not included above are Colombian income taxes. Last year I had to pay some Colombian income taxes in July for 2015. And I expect I will need to pay less Colombian income taxes this year for 2016.
I also previously had visa and cedula expenses that before were once a year expenses. I now have a visa and cedula good for three years so I won’t incur this expense again until 2018.
Our monthly spending over the past two years including every category has averaged less than $2,000 per month.
This is down from around $3,000 per month when I looked at our spending in 2014. But our standard of living hasn’t really changed.
We are not really seeing much impact from the increased inflation in Colombia. Colombia experienced inflation of 5.75 percent in 2016, 6.77 percent in 2015 and 3.66 percent in 2014.
We have found that it is possible to change your behaviors and shopping locations to avoid many impacts of inflation. For example, our grocery costs are now substantially lower than in 2014 in terms of pesos, even though inflation in groceries over the past three years has been higher than the overall inflation rate in Colombia.
I don’t know how much longer the exchange rate will stay at its current high rate. However, I believe our spending will likely average between $1,700 to $2,000 USD per month for most of the year, if the exchange rate stays between 2,800 to 3,000 pesos to the USD.
The Bottom Line: Medellín Cost of Living
Keep in mind it is certainly possible to live in Medellín for cheaper than we do. Apartments are available in Medellín for much lower costs. But these aren’t necessarily located as conveniently as our apartment, nor have all the features.
The bottom line is that Medellín has a wide range of options for apartments available in a big range of prices (from less than $200 to well over $2,000 per month). These can meet the needs of a wide range of renters.
Our reader survey in December last year found that 66.2 percent of the 198 expats we surveyed living in Medellín have a monthly budget of less than $2,000 per month. But 17.7 percent had a budget of $3,000 per month or more.
For a couple living on a shoestring budget, I believe this can be done in Medellín with the current exchange rate for less than $1,400 per month.
Or for a couple living in a top of the line luxury penthouse apartment in El Poblado, the most expensive neighborhood, this would likely result in a Medellín cost of living exceeding $4,000 per month.
Reminder: Join our Medellín Living June Meetup on June 8 at 7pm at Sport Wings located at Mayorca mall in Sabaneta. This meetup is a good way to meet other expats like Jeff living in Medellín as well as newcomers visiting or considering moving to the city.