What Does It Cost To Live In Panama?”
It is one of our most frequently asked questions.
The short answer:
$1200/mo. for a couple to live comfortably.
But it is not a one-size-fits-all answer.
Your actual cost of living in Panama depends on your lifestyle & other choices.
2 Questions To Ask Yourself
What Lifestyle Do I Want?
Where in Panama will I live?
Will I Use My Capital to Buy My Panama Home and Car?
Answer those questions. Read my posts on cost of living. Look at costs. Read relevant posts on forums.
Only then you can get a good sense of what your real cost of living in Panama will be.
So, what lifestyle do you want in Panama?
Do You Want To
- Travel frequently?
- Continue to eat all your favorite brands of foods?
- Have the luxurious lifestyle you have always wanted?
- Rent instead of buy your home?
- Have a full time maid and gardener?
If the answers to all or most of the questions above is yes, your cost of living will be higher.
Budgeting For Travel
Travel is fun, but it isn’t cheap. Well, if you just travel in Panama it can be very reasonable. But any international travel, even if it just to go visit the grandkids, has a high price tag. The more frequent you travel, the higher that line item will be.
Buying Imported Food
If you decide you must have hagen daaz ice cream and —–, on a regular basis your grocery bill is going to be much higher. If you choose domestic brands and buy Panama’s many fruit and vegtable stalls you will save hundreds of dollars a month.
The Lifestyle To Which You’d Like To Be Accustomed
Have you always wanted to live in a grand house filled with expensive furniture, paintings, and the latest in appliances and electronic gadgets? While it will cost you less to do that in Panama than “back home”, it is still going to set you back.
If it is a one-time capital outlay, and you have the capital, that is fine. It won’t impact your monthly budget excessively. But if this ideal lifestyle requires frequent cash outlays, it will still increase your budget. Actually, things like appliances are more expensive in Panama than in North America.
Yes, in Panama hiring someone to clean your house and do your gardening is pretty inexpensive. Depending upon where you live it can cost as little as $8 a day.
We have both a maid and a gardener. The lifestyle we get by hiring help is worth it to us. Of course, wages are lower where we live than in Panama City.
Rent vs. Buying
If you rent, the biggest line item in your budget will most likely be your rent.
So if you have the capital, it is better to buy your home. Your monthly budget will thank you. THen you will also have a home you can sell if you need money in the future.
Although, renting when you first come to Panama is a good idea. Renting will help you decide if you like Panama and gives you the flexibility to move to different towns or neighborhoods.
But once you decide where you want to live, your cost of living will be much less if you buy your home.
Where You Live
Like anywhere else in the world, some places in Panama cost more to live than other places.
In many places in Panama, locals can live easily on $300 a month. I have no idea how.
Of course, many local spend significantly more. Everyone’s budget depends significantly on his or her lifestyle choices and ,of course, income.
Regardless of where in Panama you settle, most people who come here from another country have a standard of living that they want to maintain to some extent.
Some places in Panama it will be cheaper to maintain that standard of living than in other places.
To get an sense of how cost of living varies in Panama, click on the links below:
For a glimpse in what costs are like in our town, Puerto Armuelles, watch the video below.
Cost of Living In Puerto Armuelles, Panama
Our friends Cove and Bethany Cook kindly offered to give their perpective on the cost of living in Panama in the video below. The Cooks and their 4 children have lived in Panama for about 8 years.
You need to determine what life style you desire and what it will cost to maintain it in Panama.
Don’t forget to include medical expenses and health insurance costs.
Actual Expenses of People Living In Panama
Don Winner of Panama Guide asked people to submit their real Panama budgets.
If you want to read those, I collected them all and put all here.
Capital Investment & Outlay
If you can afford to buy your home and car, up front & in cash, your monthly budget will be lower.
For a little more detail on how your capital investments will impact your monthly expenditures, visit this post.
Some things are definitely cheaper in Panama, but some things cost more.
For instance, no matter how little water we use or don’t use here, our bill is $7.10 a month. It would be less than $4, if we were pensionados.
I am still astounded by that.
Electricity is also cheaper.
We pay between $30 to $40 a month. More in the dry season since we use more fans. But we don’t use air-conditioning. We find that if you use air conditioning it makes it difficult to go outside. It seems so hot outside, if you live in air conditioning.
If you need to buy all the same food and brand names as you did in the States, then your cost of living will be higher.
How To Reduce Monthly Expenses
Your monthly cost of living in Panama will be less, if you
- Pay for your home and car up front so you don’t have monthly payments
- Buy your produce at fruit and vegetable stands
- Don’t buy alot of imported goods
- Cook at home
- Don’t frequently go out to eat – especially at expensive restaurants
- Don’t fully air condition your home 24/7
- Live in less expensive areas of Panama
- Limit international travel to once a year