Last year I covered my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia. The exchange rate has changed recently making it now cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of U.S. dollars.
This post provides an update with my cost of living for a couple living in Medellín, Colombia, over the past two months.
The relatively low-cost of living in Medellín is one of the reasons I started living in the city after I discovered it several years ago. The perfect weather and the quality of life, for the cost, are very challenging to beat.
I am often asked how much money it costs to live in Medellín, so over the past two months I tracked my expenses.
Dave also previously shared his costs of living as a single guy living in a shared apartment in Medellín.
Improved Exchange Rate
The recently improved exchange rate for the Colombian peso makes it much cheaper to live in Medellín in terms of U.S. dollars.
The Colombian peso exchange rate has been in a range from 2,126.50 to 2,453 pesos to the U.S. dollar over the past two months, which is the highest range it has been in over five years.
A Word About My Standard of Living
First I would like to share some insight into my standard of living, because more than anything, this is what will affect a person’s cost of living in Medellín.
I have a job in the United States with location flexibility, which means I can do my job from anywhere in the world with a fast Internet connection and telephone. I have now been living in Medellín for nearly four years.
I live with my Colombian girlfriend in Medellín in a three-bedroom apartment. This cost of living post details our costs in December and January for a couple living together in Medellín.
While living in Colombia, I am also taking Spanish classes at Universidad EAFIT, which was covered in a post last year. I typically travel eight to ten times each year for my job with my company paying all my travel expenses.
* The exchange rate fluctuates each day; my average exchange rate over the past two months was 2,382 pesos to the USD, which is the exchange rate used in this post – except for apartment rental which was prepaid for a year in August at an exchange rate of 2,054 pesos to the USD.
Our Monthly Cost of Living
Apartment rent = 1,080,000 pesos ($526)
Apartment rent is now our biggest monthly cost. I have been renting unfurnished apartments while living Medellín for over three years.
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, about 78 square meters (840 square feet)
- Kitchen with oven and gas cooktop
- Gas water heater (tankless)
- 14th floor in a high-rise building, with two balconies
- Pool and small gym in building
- 24×7 security
- Estrato 4 neighborhood (but across the street is Estrato 5)
I prepaid for a year of rent last year that is good until the end of August this year. The exchange rate for the funds I used to prepay last year was 2,054 pesos to the USD, which makes my monthly cost $526 per month.
At my average exchange rate over the past two months, my apartment rent would be only $453 per month.
Groceries = 926,094 pesos ($389)
Groceries are now our second biggest cost in Medellín as a couple living together. We cook at home often and normally shop at an Exito grocery store, which is conveniently located two blocks from our apartment in the Los Molinos mall.
Our monthly costs for groceries have dropped recently as we have also started shopping at the new PriceSmart in Medellín.
We sometimes shop at a Jumbo for a few things that can’t be found at Exito and for the sales there. A Metroplus station is located only one block from our apartment so it is an easy and inexpensive ride to the Jumbo at Premium Plaza mall.
Occasionally we shop at Plaza Minorista for inexpensive fruits and vegetables, and we occasionally travel to El Poblado to shop at a Carulla, which can have a few imported items not found at Exito or Jumbo.
This category also includes our expenses for drugstore items.
Dining = 503,100 pesos ($211)
We eat out at nice restaurants in Medellín typically a few times each month. Several times each month when we are too tired to go out or cook, we order takeout (domicillio) from nearby restaurants or fast food places.
Each month we 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 cost just $3 to $5 per person.
Entertainment = 378,940 pesos ($159)
This includes expenses for going to movie theaters, bars, discotecas and concerts. We typically incur entertainment expenses a couple of times each month.
This category is higher than normal as it included a party for New Year’s Eve we had at our apartment for my girlfriend’s family, when we ordered a lechona (stuffed pig).
Medical = 328,900 pesos ($138)
Our medical costs include medical insurance for my girlfriend and me, glasses and contacts I buy during the year plus a few trips to the dentist over the year. I have medical insurance from IMG Global and my girlfriend has medical insurance from Sura.
My medical insurance covers me while I am in Colombia and my company offers medical insurance in the states and when I travel for business.
Ground transportation = 211,250 pesos ($89)
This includes costs for using the Metro and taxis. We almost never use buses in Medellín.
We also live one block from a Metroplus station providing access to the inexpensive Metro to get around the city. I use the Metro to go to/from Universidad EAFIT when I am taking Spanish classes.
Triple-play Internet/TV/phone services = 141,151 pesos ($59)
We have triple-play services provided by Claro with 10-MB Internet, several hundred TV channels including some in English and free local landline telephone calls. We recently added a few movie channels to our package, which makes it more expensive in terms of pesos than before.
We pay a lower rate for triple-play services in an Estrato 4 neighborhood than would be found in Estrato 5 or 6 neighborhoods.
Vacation travel = 130,000 ($55)
In the past two months, the only vacation travel we incurred was my girlfriend traveling by bus to Bogotá to visit some of her family.
I expect spending in this category will be higher later in the year.
Utilities (electric, gas and water) = 126,063 pesos ($53)
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, but higher than those in the lower estratos.
Miscellaneous = 104,936 pesos ($55)
The general category is miscellaneous stuff, which includes some small things purchased for the apartment, 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.
Gifts = 88,950 pesos ($37)
This category includes a few gifts purchased for Christmas. However, the bulk of our Christmas gifts this year were purchased before December so are not included.
Mail services = 78,500 ($33)
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 U.S. 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.
I recently changed from a UPS mailbox in the United States to a US Global Mail mailbox as my primary mailing address. I changed as the U.S. Global Mail mailbox is cheaper at $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 states to my address in Miami that is forwarded and shows up in Medellin less than two weeks later.
Clothing = 69,900 pesos ($29)
I rarely buy clothes as I brought quite a few from the states when I moved to Colombia. This category over the past two months has been for a few clothing items my girlfriend purchased.
Pet = 65,550 pesos ($28)
In December 2013, we bought a Pomeranian puppy so we have ongoing pet expenses of dog food and vet services.
Cell phone services = 52,881 pesos ($22)
This is the cost of cellular services from Claro for two cell phones. I have a pay-as-you-go phone that I recharge each month with 10,000 or 20,000 pesos. My girlfriend has a cellular plan with a bill that averages about 42,000 pesos per month.
Hair care = 5,000 pesos ($2)
It only costs me 5,000 pesos ($2) to get my haircut when they have a promotion near my apartment. My girlfriend hasn’t had her hair done recently.
When I looked at costs of living last year, I included three more categories, which we did not incurred in the last two months. I prepaid for six Spanish classes at EAFIT late last year and I have four more classes to take this year, which are already paid for.
I previously included the computer and electronics category but we didn’t buy any computer or electronics items in December or January. I also previously had Visa and cédula expenses that are once-a-year costs that I won’t incur again until September.
The Bottom Line
With the greatly improved exchange rate and our lower spending in some categories, over the past two months we averaged spending less than $2,000 per month for our cost of living in Medellín for a couple. This is down from around $3,000 per month when I looked at spending last year.
I don’t know how much longer the exchange rate will stay at its current improved rate. However, I believe our spending will likely average less than $2,500 per month the rest of this year.
Keep in mind it is certainly possible to live in Medellín for cheaper than we do. Apartments are available in Medellín for lower costs but these aren’t necessarily located as conveniently as my apartment nor do they have all the features.
The bottom line is that Medellín has a range of options for apartments available in a big range of prices (from less than $200 to well over $2,000 per month) that can meet the needs of a lot of renters.
For a couple living on a shoestring budget, I believe this can easily be done in Medellín at the improved exchange rate for less than $1,500 per month.
Or for a couple living in a luxury level penthouse apartment in El Poblado, the most expensive neighborhood, this would likely result in a cost of living exceeding $5,000 per month.