The relatively low Medellín cost of living is one of the 27 reasons why I started living in the city of Medellín after I discovered it many years ago. I have now been living in Medellín for over eight years. And I share our 2019 cost of living for a family of three with my Colombian wife and our baby.
In my opinion, the nearly perfect weather and the quality of life in Medellín, for the cost, are challenging to beat.
Since I am an expat and have lived over eight years in Medellín and own the popular Medellin Guru blog, I am often asked frequently by foreigners what the Medellín cost of living is.
So, with the help of my Colombian wife, we track our expenses every month and we share our cost of living for a family of three over the past few months in Medellín plus our historical cost of living as a couple a few years ago.
In addition, Stephanie previously provided her cost of living in Medellín as a single woman living in a shared place. Also, we have a separate article with 15 tips for living cheaper in Medellín that helped us to reduce our cost of living.
Our Standard of Living
When looking at the Medellín cost of living, it is important to consider the standard of living, which more than anything will affect a person’s or couple’s or family’s cost of living.
I’m an expat from the United States living with my Colombian wife and our baby in Sabaneta, which is a separate municipality in the Medellín metro area. Sabaneta is located directly south of Envigado. And we live in a nice 85-square-meter, three-bedroom casa located in an estrato three neighborhood that is very well-located.
We don’t have a car and travel using the metro, buses and cheap taxies. We also live within easy walking distance to two malls, several grocery stores, Parque Sabaneta and many restaurants and small tiendas (shops).
Our Medellín Cost of Living for a Family
The above table shows our actual Medellín monthly cost of living for a couple from January 2015 to July 2017, which was a total of 31 months. The average exchange rate I experienced was used in the table to calculate the average monthly total Medellín cost of living in U.S. dollars we experienced as a couple for nearly three years.
In addition, the table includes a column with our recent 2019 cost of living for a family of three over the past three months. Also, the green in the table indicates costs that have dropped due to moving to a new place in Sabaneta.
Each of the categories in the table above is discussed below with more details along with our 2019 average monthly cost per category:
1. Rent = 1,050,000 Pesos ($305) Per Month
Apartment (casa) rent is our biggest expense but the cost to rent an apartment in Medellín is surprisingly cheap by Western standards. Apartment rent was included in our list of 14 surprising cheap things in Medellín for expats.
I have been renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín for over eight years. Furthermore, we currently live in a three-bedroom casa in Sabaneta, which we moved into earlier this year. If we hadn’t moved our apartment rent would have been about 1,500,000 pesos per month.
While looking for apartments in Sabaneta, one real estate agent showed us a casa (house) that was in great location, near Parque Sabaneta and near the Sabaneta metro station, which we rented.
Also, there are well over 50 restaurants within about a 10-minute walk from this house. And here are the house specifications:
- Two story house with a small balcony and vaulted ceilings
- Three bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, 85 square meters (915 square feet)
- Kitchen with gas cook-top, plus a gas water heater (tankless)
- Estrato 3 neighborhood
- Rent: 1,050,000 pesos per month
2. Groceries = 798,921 Pesos ($232) Per Month
Groceries are our second biggest expense. We cook at home frequently. Weekly we shop at Exito and two other grocery stores that are walking distance from our casa.
We also shop at PriceSmart, which has good prices for many items as well as some hard to find imported items. In addition, we shop at Tiendas D1 and Justo y Bueno which both have good prices for many items. Four Tiendas D1 stores and two Justo y Bueno stores are within walking distance from our apartment.
This groceries category also includes our expenses for cleaners and drugstore items like toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. In addition, it includes diapers for our baby.
In 2014, we were averaging about 1,200,000 pesos per month shopping at Exito and Jumbo. So, our grocery costs have dropped substantially.
We started shopping at PriceSmart in 2015 and Tiendas D1 in 2016 as well as local butcher shops and local fruit and vegetable shops plus Justo y Bueno, our average monthly groceries cost has dropped each year.
3. Dining = 521,745 Pesos ($152) Per Month
Dining is currently our third biggest expense. We typically eat at nice restaurants a couple times each month. In addition, we order domicillio (takout) a few times each week when we are too tired to cook or go out to eat.
We also eat at small local restaurants in Sabaneta several times each month for lunch and dinner. Sabaneta has several good restaurant choices and we previously looked at the best restaurants in Sabaneta.
There are several “menú del día” lunch specials at small restaurants in Sabaneta that range in price from 8,000 to 10,000 pesos. The menú del día normally includes a soup or salad, a main course of meat, chicken or fish plus sides of rice and/or potatoes and a drink.
4. Medical = 390,050 Pesos ($113) Per Month
The medical costs we experience during the year includes SURA EPS medical insurance for our family. This category also includes a few trips to dentists and doctors, as well as drugs purchased at drugstores.
5. Miscellaneous = 321,043 Pesos ($93) Per Month
This is a general category of miscellaneous items not included in other categories. This category includes furnishings for our apartment, books and laundry expenses.
6. Ground Transportation = 75,250 ($22) Per Month
This category includes our costs for using the metro, buses as well as taxis. We don’t have a car. And I haven’t found a need to rent a car in over seven years living in the city. Reportedly over 80 percent of the expats living in Medellín don’t have a car.
We can catch a bus one block from our casa in Sabaneta that takes about five minutes to go to the Sabaneta metro station. Or the Sabaneta metro station is about a 10-minute walk from our casa. So, we walk to the metro station and use the metro frequently.
In addition, we can catch buses one block from our casa that have a route that goes to the Santafé mall in El Poblado. This trip takes about 30 minutes during normal hours or up to about an hour during rush hour. The cost is only 2,200 pesos.
7. Clothing = 229,357 Pesos ($67) Per Month
This category is now about 100 percent for my wife and our baby. My wife goes shopping for clothes usually once a month for something new. While I may buy some new clothing items only a couple times each year.
8. Vacation Travel = 0 Pesos ($0) Per Month
Each year in the past we typically took a couple of vacation trips. But since we now have a small baby, we no longer travel on vacations.
Before we had a baby over the past couple of years, we traveled to Cartagena, Pereira and Bogotá for about a week each. We also traveled to Curaçao for 10 days, which is an island nation off the coast of Venezuela.
9. Triple-Play Internet/TV/Phone = 119,586 pesos ($35) Per Month
Triple Play Internet/TV/Phone services in Medellín are lower in cost than what you will find in the U.S. There are three major Internet and TV providers in Medellín that offer triple play Internet, TV and phone services: Claro, Tigo-UNE and Moviestar.
We currently have Claro’s Triple-Play service with 30 Mbps Internet, HD TV service with over 160 channels (over 30 in English) for two TVs and phone service.
And I am very happy with the service as it is very reliable. The average monthly cost is only 119,586 pesos per month in an estrato three neighborhood.
In my experience, the Internet service with Claro has been more reliable than my Verizon FiOS service was in the United States and is much less expensive.
10. Utilities (Electric, Gas, Water) = 128,258 Pesos ($37) Per Month
Utility services in Medellín are provided by EPM, the local utility provider in the city. Fortunately, there is really no need for heating or cooling with the climate in Medellín. So, the result is relatively low utility bills.
We also live in an estrato three neighborhood, which has lower utility rates than are found in estrato five or six neighborhoods like El Poblado or Laureles.
We have found that our utility services have been cheaper in Sabaneta than when we lived in a smaller apartment in Belén a few years ago.
11. Pets = 82,167 Pesos ($24) Per Month
We have two dogs. In 2013, we bought a Pomeranian dog. And in 2016, we bought a Shih Tzu dog.
So, we have ongoing expenses for our two pets including dog food and vet services.
12. Cell Phone Services = 85,000 Pesos ($25) Per Month
This is the cost for Claro cellular services for two cellphones. I have a postpaid plan and my wife has a pre-paid plan.
I no longer have a cell phone in the U.S. as my Colombian cell phone with international roaming works fine in the U.S.
13. Mail Services = 68,421 Pesos ($20) Per Month
The expense is for mailing services from the U.S. to Medellín. Usually every other month I mail something from the U.S. to Medellín.
Also, in the United States, I use the US Global Mail mailbox service in Houston as my primary mailing address. The cost is only $12.50 per month, if paid for a year in advance.
This US Global Mail service permits me to go online and see scans of any mail received. And I can discard any junk mail online. In addition, they can open mail and scan it for a small fee, so you can see the contents online. And they can also deposit checks.
14. Entertainment = 63,021 Pesos ($18) Per Month
This category of expenses includes our expenses for going to bars, concerts, discotecas and movie theaters.
Since we now have a baby we don’t go out very often and this this varies from month to month. Also, we take advantage of some of the free things to do found in the city.
Inflation and Exchange Rate Impacts
Two of the biggest things impacting the Medellín cost of living over time for expats are inflation and the exchange rate.
Colombia experienced inflation of 3.79 percent in 2018, 4.09 percent in 2017 and 5.75 percent in 2016. The biggest inflation in Colombia during these three years was in food, which increased at an even higher rate.
But as seen in our Medellín cost of living details above, our grocery costs have dropped. This was because we starting to shop at some lower cost places. So, it’s possible to substitute to avoid some impacts of inflation.
A bigger impact than inflation for expats with an income from another country is the exchange rate. The improved exchange rate in Colombia over the past few years has made the country cheaper to live in for expats compared to five years ago.
As the above graph from http://www.xe.com/ shows, over the past four years, the Colombian peso has been trading in a range from about 2,711 to 3,482 pesos, which is a much higher range than the prior eight years.
The exchange rate typically has a much greater impact on the cost of living in USD for expats than inflation does. It is very difficult to predict exchange rates, so it’s difficult to know how much longer the Colombia peso will stay in the range experienced over the past four years.
Colombian Income Taxes
Not included in the living expenses above are Colombian income taxes. Since I have been filing Colombian income taxes, my Colombian income taxes have averaged less than $100 USD per month.
Everyone’s tax situation is different. Some foreigners file taxes in Colombia but don’t have to pay income taxes in Colombia. While others have to pay some Colombian income taxes. In addition, the low cost of living in Colombia can likely more than offset any income taxes in Colombia.
Also, keep in mind that Colombia permits to you deduct some income taxes paid in another country from income taxes due in Colombia.
The Bottom Line: Medellín Cost of Living for a Family
Our cost of living for a family in Medellín has dropped substantially from before we had a baby and were a couple living together in Medellín.
This is due to moving to a lower cost casa (house) that is more conveniently located where we can walk to many places. In addition, we no longer travel on vacation since we now have a small baby. Also, the exchange rate has improved, which helps make our cost of living for a family cheaper.
I have met several couples living in Medellín with a budget of less than $1,400 per month and some couples with budgets of about $2,000 per month. I also have met some couples with budgets of over $3,000 and a few with budgets of over $4,000 per month. It’s possible to live a wide range of lifestyles in the city that will impact your Medellín cost of living.
In addition, Medellín has a wide range of prices for apartment rentals. I have seen prices for apartment rentals ranging from less than $200 per month to well over $2,500 per month for unfurnished places. We previously looked at unfurnished apartment rental costs in Medellín.
Furthermore, if looking at cost of living budgets you see touted for popular foreign retirement locations like Medellín, be careful. In my experience, some budgets tend to leave out several categories such as medical, vacation travel, travel back home, taxes and mail services.
Also, “What is the cost of living in Medellín?” is a common question by expats considering moving to Medellín. So, we included this question in our list of Medellín frequently asked questions (FAQ).
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