Living Better With Less

Before we left the States to begin our new life, one of my minor concerns was how I would handle living long-term in third-world countries.  I’ve visited them before, even spent 3 months in Ecuador, but there’s a big difference between spending a couple of weeks or months somewhere and living there for possibly years.  I wasn’t worried about Tigger as much because children seem to adapt well to their environment and don’t seem to notice a lack of luxuries as readily.

Our first apartment in Mexico was a bit spartan, but we had hot water in the shower. Something I’ve come to miss quite a bit since we’ve been in Honduras for the last four months. Running hot water is a rarity in the homes around here.  During the summer you don’t really feel it because the water is warm enough to not shock your system. Actually, it’s a bit refreshing.  During cooler rainy season. . . not so much.

So how has it been? Six-plus months later I can say I prefer it. Yes, you read that right. Well, maybe not the cold showers, but everything else. It’s been nice to confirm that one can indeed live better with less. We currently spend under $1000 USD a month. We could spend less by eating out less often, but that’s one luxury we enjoy and it works with our budget.  Also electricity on Utila is quite expensive which adds to our costs. Of course we don’t use a ton of electricity. The only thing that is plugged in all the time is the refrigerator.  We unplug everything else when not in use.

We pay $325 a month for our 2-bedroom “house,” which includes trash, water, and cable TV.  It’s more like a stand-alone apartment on stilts.  When we need more gas for the stove, it costs $15. We also pay $15/month for extremely fast WiFi access.  Electricity tends to cost about $50/month. We eat out for about 1 meal a day, and that usually runs about $12 at a restaurant, much less if we do a tipico (kind of like the special of the day, usually beans & rice, a small serving of meat, and some cooked plantains) or baleada (a thick tortilla with beans and other items you may like). Haircuts cost about $5.  The island is small enough to walk pretty much everywhere, but the occasional tuk-tuk (taxi) ride is $2 if we go to the other side of the island. Laundry costs about $3 about 3-4 times a month.

So where’s the living with less part? We don’t have a car. No central air. No Starbucks. No mall. We each have 3 shirts & 3 pairs of shorts if you don’t count the dive shop shirts I wear when I’m working. Tigger wears only shorts, and most of the time I’m in swim trunks so we don’t have a lot of laundry. We eat fairly simply. We can pack up our entire possessions in about 10 minutes. I only say that long because I’ll do several checks throughout the house to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything. And you know what? It’s WONDERFUL. My life feels so much richer than it ever did back in the States with all the “things.”

Sure I occasionally miss things, like running hot water, good chocolate, my well-stocked kitchen, but those moments are fleeting. I absolutely love that we have so little. We enjoy our time together more. Memories aren’t formed by what we bought but by what we’ve done and seen together. Seeing my son laughing and playing as he swings off a rope into the ocean and comes up beaming with joy is priceless.  Stopping in my tracks to admire an amazing Caribbean sunset and seeing others doing the same brings me joy. Almost every day I get to enjoy at least a solid 90 minutes in another world as I scuba dive.  I get to be on a boat with the wind rushing by as I get to know people from all over the world.  Tigger has the run of the island and rarely ever wears a shirt or shoes and has friends everywhere he goes.

A cold shower is a small price to pay for such a rich life.

Some other families have written about this same topic.  Please check out what they have to say as well.

Less stuff, more life

Living Outside of the Box

 

Living Without the Stuff

After 10 Months of Living With Less

Living With Less, What Can You Ditch?

Living with Less and Spoiling Ourselves

Living Without the Norm

What We’ve Learnt to Live Without

 

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37 Comments

  1. I love the idea of the kids running around without shoes! We have decided to settle in South France, but still trying to live without the extra things. No TV, no Starbucks, No designer clothes No extras, just living on under 1000 Euros for a family of 4, and that included their 300Euros for their education fund. It is tight, but for now this is our choice so they can experience the adventure of travelling with us around Europe. 
    When we sold off all our worldly possessions to get here, it was actually the fun part! 2 suitcases each is all we have…
    It reality is freedom
    Eva 

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    • Southern France is gorgeous! Pretty impressive that you can do it on 1000 euros for 4. Yes, it is VERY liberating.

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  2. Once you start living in a new environment, I think it’s easier to see how easy it can be. Glad things are going well for you!

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    • Staying put for a while challenges it as well. Easy to start acquiring again, but then since I know eventually we’ll be back on the road I can keep it nice and minimal like how I like it. J

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  3. Your little boy seems so happy, and I think that this is the most important, above all, if you feel happy, nothing else matters! Moving

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    • Couldn’t agree more!

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  4. I’ve just come across your blog and I’m about to run out the door, so if this has already been answered i apologize in advance.  How did you get the job at the dive shop? How much do you make? How had is it for and american to find work in central america?

    Marc

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    • I found the job by walking in and dropping off my CV and making myself available when they needed people. As for working in Central America, I can only comment about Utila, and here I’d say it’s fairly easy.

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  5. I am also jealous about the extremely fast WiFi for only $15. This has been a big issue for us in Europe (wouldn’t have thought). We are on three 3G dongles while here in Turkey (better). And I totally agree with your comments about getting along with less. It actually feels liberating to have less stuff. Less weight to carry around. More power to you.

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    • So much more liberating! Isn’t it amazing how some places you’d think would have great WiFi or Internet has awful service, and then other places are surprisingly excellent?

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  6. Thank you! We definitely are both enjoying all that this adventure has provided so far.

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  7. Wow…$15 high speed internet…I’m jealous!  I love the fridge rigging…and I’m seriously impressed you guys have only 3 shirts and 3 shorts, each!!  Way to go…and hopefully some day you can give us a scuba lesson when we come your way!!

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    • The $15 is only because it’s through our landlord, so we’re basically sharing the cost. Although I have a feeling I’m paying more of the share, but I really can’t argue with that price either way. LOL Wasn’t that fridge great? That was in Cozumel. The one we have now has a handle and everything. We’re spoiled! LOL
      Would love to take you under. J

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  8. And there’s oh so much less stress and hurry to living without all those “luxuries”.

    I’ve traveled all over the globe with a backpack, but I too am now living permanently in Vietnam in little more than a single room with a “wet bath” (i.e. shower simply sprays the entire bathroom) and an electric kettle for a “kitchen”.  I eat out (at one of many delightful kiosks with plastic chairs and tables 3 ft. high built for kindergartners) in the alley just 3 ft. from my front door. Dinner is less than 2 bucks, and there’s always plenty of time to chat with the neighbors.

    And when I look around me at all the local Vietnamese scurrying about on their bicycles and scooters (yup, a gazillion of the latter to be sure!), they don’t seem the least bit oppressed with their simple lives.  Laughter and smiles flow freely, and one has to wonder if the “third world” doesn’t know a secret that the “first world” has somehow forgotten in their persistent quest for ever “more”.

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    • That was one thing that really struck me about the Philippines. When we first got there, a group of us walked around. Finally a friend said it succinctly: Is it that there is so much poverty, or are they just happy with what they have? These were people with few possessions but their faces had so much character. Their smiles showed joy that came from deep within. They are some of the nicest and most joyful people I’ve ever met. I would love to see more of the world adapt such attributes.

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  9. So refreshing to tread a post like this.

    I definitely enjoy the comforts of high speed internet, 3G coverage, and the like – but I’m very much looking forward to a time where my money stretches beyond a fortnight. I’ll just have to adjust to those cold showers :-p

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    • Yeah, cold showers really are a small price to pay. And then when you go somewhere with hot water you feel even more rich. J

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  10. We are at the stage now of starting to sell/give away our “stuff” so we can downsize and get ready to set off on the road. It’s amazing there’s just this huge stack of things that really we never use and I just don’t know what to do with it all. I can feel a whole lot of donations to those who need things, and selling anything we can to help fund our trip. We’ve talked about what we will keep and store and I wonder if even the things we chose to store are things we will ever come home looking to reconnect with….. only time will tell I guess, but I can tell you I am so looking forward to living with less!

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    • That is so wonderful! When I went through things the only things we decided to store were things that were essentially irreplaceable: important documents, my beloved Pepe’s paw print, etc. We pared down our 3-bedroom, 4-closet home into 2 boxes, besides what we carry in our backpacks. I was AMAZED at the stuff I had kept over the years. It feels so much freer now.

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  11. That’s the nice bit about living in a tropical climate–needing less clothing.  And we find the same–when at a beach for a while, we use less clothing, which means also less laundry!  Ditto about the cold showers–it’s the one thing that our youngest absolutely HATES!  But it definitely falls into the ‘we can live without’ category if we must (but again, only if in a warm climate!).

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    • Yeah not a big fan at all. Luckily I’m in the ocean enough usually that a quick rinse off is all that is required normally.

      http://1dad1kid.com

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    • Thank you! We’re definitely enjoying it.

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  12. I grew up in a small fishing village in the Philippines where showers were a luxury.  As a child, we had to go to the well to have our baths with bucket and cup…I was 12 when we finally had electricity but only for 2 hrs every night. At 25, the municipal hall had a land line where people could make phone calls.  When someone called, a messenger would get on his bike and summon that person…All these were inconveniences that didn’t matter then…Boy how times have changed.

    Great blog.

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    • WOW! Sounds pretty incredible.

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  13. Three shirts… I really have a lot to learn…

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    • Sure makes life easier!

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  14. 3 shirts and 3 shorts! I knew we still had too much stuff! Great post. 

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    • Thanks! Yes, it’s amazing how little you can get by with. We had a friend stay on the island for a month. He packed probably twice as much as we did. When we went together to a nearby island for 5 days, we had 2 daypacks, 1 for each of us. I think it really opened his eyes as well. J

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  15. Amazing how much we can learn to live without!! I love how little you spend on internet, your home, your electricity, your food, your hair cuts….gosh much cheaper then where we live!!

    Sounds like the perfect lifestyle – living without stuff, but living (creating) with memories.

    Cheers
    Lisa

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    • It is definitely nice! And by living on less that means I can work less which means I get more living into my life. That’s my favorite part. J

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  16. This is great. Good chocolate… I’ll eat a square for you while I still can!

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    • Luckily I got some on our last trip. But please enjoy anyway. Good chocolate should never be wasted. J

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  17. I think that having less also makes you WAY less stressed because you have to worry about less things. We’ve already talked about ditching more when we get home. If we have lasted this long without those items, there is no need to have them.

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    • I totally agree. I was amazed at the volume of things we had to get rid of before we left the States. Things that had never seen the light of day in years.

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