Is Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck Really 'Living'?
Jul 15, 2013
You’re likely familiar with the realization that, ‘the more money you make, the more you spend’, right? Or perhaps you’re not only familiar with it; you’re actually living it… how does that happen? Somehow when you were in your 20’s you were able to make ends meet and still find extra money for nights on the town… and likely on minimum wage, or close to it!
During a recent trip to Ecuador’s coast, a couple of us from Where International were enjoying an afternoon beverage and snacks at a local watering hole, just north of Salinas (which, by the way only set us back $15USD for a couple of beers each and sharing portions of calamari and fresh civiche), when we met Gary and Lisa. They’ve been living down here for 2 years and ‘haven’t looked back’. They were very open to chatting with us about their reasons for moving to Ecuador and how their lives have changed…
Up until 2 years ago, Gary and Lisa were living a modest life in upstate New York. They had purchased a ‘fixer upper’ on the water 5 years prior, and planned to settle there for as long as they possibly could. They were both working – Gary as a custom cabinet-maker and Lisa as a preschool teacher and part-time librarian. Life was good! And although they weren’t ‘raking in the dough’, as Lisa put it, they were happy.
As work progressed on their house, and life continued to happen around them, they found themselves falling behind. “As much as we loved where we lived, our community and jobs, the house renovations started to take a toll on us”, explains Lisa. “Gary wasn’t as busy as he had been prior to the US economic crash, and although this meant he could put more time into our house, that didn’t produce a paycheck!”
A turning point in their lives was when their daughter, living in Canada, had their first grandchild. “Trying to scrounge up enough funds to fly to Canada for a visit proved to be much harder then we thought it would be”, says Gary. “With our car needing some emergency work and an unexpected plumbing issue in the house, we were tapped.”
They managed to make the flight to visit their first grandson, but their finances weighed heavy on their minds. “We didn’t want to feel that kind of stress every time we wanted to visit our grandson!”
Shortly after their return home, Gary sustained a shoulder injury during a job, setting them back even further… “Between the injury and lack of disposable income, we started to seriously think about our options”, explained Lisa. “My friend’s sister had moved to Ecuador a couple of years ago, and at the time Gary and I thought it was such a bizarre choice! After all, her family was still up here in the US and Canada, and Ecuador seemed so far away. But after getting together and picking her brain about her sister’s situation, we started to think maybe it wasn’t so bizarre. We just felt so trapped living in the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, and being in our 50’s, this was not what we had envisioned.”
They started to communicate with Bev, the sister living in Ecuador (more specifically Cotacachi), and almost a year later, during spring break; they made their first trip to Ecuador.
Lisa described their initial experience upon arriving in Ecuador, “our first impression when we landed in Quito (the capital) was that it’s a big, busy city. Definitely not our ‘thing’, but we kept an open mind, knowing that our time here would be short-lived.” Their plan was to visit with Bev for a couple of days, tour out towards the coast, and end their 2 weeks back in Cotacachi.
“As much as we thought Cotacachi was beautiful, we wanted to get to the coast,” Gary explained, “we have a huge affinity for water, and knew that if we were going to even consider this wondrous country as a future home, we would need to be near the water.”
They ended up driving down the coast, scrutinizing everything from the perspective of future residents… were the locals friendly? What were prices like in the grocery stores? Was there garbage in the ditches?
Gary continues, “in the end, we were incredibly impressed with everything we saw… and we were being very tough!”
They knew they didn’t want to go as far as Salinas, it was too big of a city for them to actually ‘live’ in, but the thought of it being somewhat close was a comfort. They ended up chatting with a home developer up the coast and got some ideas of pricing for property and a home.
“You probably could have knocked us over with a toothpick when we found out that we could buy a piece of land and have a home built for under $150,000!” Exclaims Lisa. “We had heard and read that it was affordable, but to actually be here, talking to the developer and see what he was doing, all for such an incredible price, was a serious reality check for us.”
Gary and Lisa didn’t buy property during that initial trip to Ecuador’s coast, but within the year they had purchased the land, and shortly after started building their new dream home.
We’re always happy to run into expats that are living an unexpected dream abroad. And seeing how happy these two were, we knew we had to share their story! Because they made a healthy profit on their renovated home in New York, they live here mortgage free, and had enough left over to sustain them while they settled in. Now, Gary works with the developer they purchased from installing cabinetry in the new homes being built. He’s even been commissioned to do some custom work for clients looking for something more unique. Lisa does some teaching at the local school, and is very involved in their new community.
“You know what the best part is though?” Lisa pipes up, “The cost for a flight from here to visit our grandson in Canada is almost the same as what it used to be from New York! And with our new lifestyle and budget, we don’t even think twice about making the trip a few times a year. We’ve gone from living paycheck-to-paycheck, to simply ‘living’. Not a reality we would have been able to see had we kept residing in the US.”
Lisa and Gary are not trailblazers by any means… there are many folks just like them who have made Ecuador’s cities and coastal communities home. And although the cheap cost of living is a big draw for many people, what keeps them here and happy is the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, combined with friendly and welcoming locals.
Want to see if Ecuador’s coast is a good fit for you? Visit on a Discovery Weekend! You’ll be completely taken care of by our developer partner – picked up at the airport, accommodated at the guesthouse, fed and of course, receive personal tours of available properties, including spectacular sunset ocean views.