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I am now a millionnaire

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fecherklyn
8/13/2019 19:45 EST

Many newcomers to this forum ask about the cost of living in Colombia and I try to provide some input to this matter by stating what I pay as an example. Whether or not I am a representative example is another matter as the following utility costs are for our 3 bedroom house in Poblado, Medellin and three occupents, plus occasional pets , garden, etc.

The following costs were billed by EPM Medellin and TIGO (Une) for the 32 day period 21/06/2019 to 23/07/2019:

COP 93,162 for Acueducto – Including Contribucion rate @ 60%
COP 78,956 for Alcantarillado – Contribucion rate 60%
COP 526,109 for Energia (Electricity) – Contribucion rate 20%
COP 16,778 for Gas – Contribucion rate 20%
COP 58,886 for Emvarias – Contribucion rate 99%
COP 773,891 Total EPM Invoice

COP 52,937 for Telefonia
COP 125,878 for Television
COP 66,527 for Internet
COP 245,342 Total TIGO Invoice

COP 1,019,233 for combined utilities.

This is the first time our combined bill has exceeded a million, but it has been coming rapidly recently. In particular, our bill has been hit hard by the extra fans/AC we put in over the last couple of months to cope with the present heat wave. We also have perhaps more than the average electronic equipment.

A few more statistics:

Our combined utility costs when we arrived in Jan 2003 was COP 411,000 (Now COP 1,019,233)
The cost sector that has increased the most is Energia which cost COP 103,000 in Jan 2003 and now costs COP 543,000.

Of course, this is Colombia, not the US, or Europe – but newcomers need to know their living costs are probably going to increase faster here, than where they came from.

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Electricista
8/13/2019 19:54 EST

You have the A/C on everyday? For three people you seem to use a lot of electricity or you are in Estrato 6.

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fecherklyn
8/13/2019 20:30 EST

@Electricista

No, we do not have AC all over the house, only in the main bedroom and then only used when we feel the need to cool down. Elsewhere we use electic fans, again only when we feel the need.

Yes, we are in estrat0 6 and you can see the rate of "contribucion" for each sector and you can imagine how it racks up.

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ParadiseLost
8/13/2019 20:31 EST

@fech interesting. On the EPM billing I wonder, at least for newcomers, if describing what those services are might be helpful.

Your energy bill is high. We have propane gas for the hob and the water heater but everything else, including a pretty beefy GE oven is electric. We pay just over half what you do but that’s for our house and our major domos. We’re higher and in the countryside don’t have any air con or fans but we do have a couple of oil filled electric radiators (excellent) which we use on cold nights.

I have a feeling that your electric bill might be something of an outlier.

The television/internet billing is much more difficult to make comparisons on as its driven by the services you have. Extra internet speed here is expensive and if you subscribe to Directv as many expats do that can be a good sized bill.

Some services like internet aren’t that different to the US or Europe.

For any newcomers, in particular those coming from places where the winters are cold the lack of seasonal fuel bills is a big saving. At least in Medellin and it’s environs your bills (excluding any tariff increases) should be pretty consistent month to month.

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fecherklyn
8/13/2019 20:44 EST

Hi PL,

Yes, our electricity bill is the killer, but we have had the EPM in to review the readings but they say all is in order.

Of course, I may have another solution as over the years our household has adopted a very "international" appetite which means the kitchen is usually very busy. There are some things that are more important than their cost.

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morganstern
8/13/2019 21:24 EST

About those expenses of fecherklyn.........

Those numbers are useless....actually misleading. They don't have any relationship to the way people normally cohabitate. The numbers may intimidate a few people....for no reason. I realize they were divided between a group.....so what?- useless.

There have been previous references to specific expenses if someone needs the information....or they could just ask. People will offer the info.

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BlueSeas
8/13/2019 21:59 EST

Fech,

We are also in the same billing category in Poblado. Our issue has been water usage. We had a couple months where the water alone was over 1 million pesos. However, after much investigation, but no identifiable cure, it's ceased to be a problem. Mysteriously. No floods. WTF.

Our August EPM invoice for all services, a mere 133,000 COP in total. Electricity was 84 kWh at $51,567 COP. No AC, no fans, get sufficient ventilation up the hill a bit with 3 sides for natural airflow. But we do have an electric hot water heater, unusual for Colombia.

Back home in St Pete, FL, the last bill for electricity for when we were home is for 924 kWh was $135.

In very round numbers, the cost per kWh is similar.

Based on your description, I can't see how you get to the kWh billed. In St. Pete, we A/C a whopping 720 sqft, but do so 24x7. Fans cost little, It's predominately AC. Or if you have lots of lights not yet switched to LED?

When we had the water problem, someone told me they had a Finca, that even empty and unused was recording high electric usage. I never heard the end of that story, may still remain. But getting a handle on your actual utilization may be worthwhile.

I'd be inclined to add something like this to your electric panel and verify your actual utilization?

https://www.amazon.com/Electric-Meter-100A-Volt-3-Wire/dp/B00GMZRXE8

$110 US, shipped to COL import duties included from Amazon.

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ParadiseLost
8/14/2019 08:01 EST

@morganstern

‘Those numbers are useless....actually misleading. They don't have any relationship to the way people normally cohabitate. ’

Really? Are you one of those Gringo realtors who try to convince would be purchasers that if they buy the $400k ‘penthouse’ they’ll be able to live for a few cents on the dollar in Colombia?

As we’ve discussed before there are lots of gringos here who manage to live on $1,000 or less a month here. It’s very impressive, but for many other retirees it’s maybe a lifestyle that they wouldn’t find attractive. Just because some of us spend more, in some cases a lot more it doesn’t make us stupid or spendthrift. Bottom line it’s our money we spend it how we choose.

What Fech’s post does point is that there’s pretty decent inflation in Colombia. Inflation is something people coming from the US and Europe may have forgotten about. It can be particularly pronounced for anything with linkages to other currencies in particular the dollar.
Inflation here adds up.

Of course the great remediation for expats is the offset with the increased value of the dollar. Fech not unreasonably shows his numbers in pesos, but I’d guess that in dollar terms, over time, his costs have actually gone down.

As to the numbers being ‘useless’ that’s incorrect. A lot of retirees or retiree/investors come here and buy what are by Colombian standards high priced large apartment units in Poblado, Envigado and Laureles. The numbers Fech quotes aren’t that unrepresentative for places like that. What would be useless is to suggest that if you live in an area like that $1,000 a month is going to be easy to live on.

As to ‘how people cohabitate’ when I met my wife she was a professional living in a very nice apartment in Poblado. Your move would have been to suggest to her that we would should move to Bello as we’d save money on the utilities?

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Electricista
8/14/2019 08:31 EST

I found fecherklyn's post quite interesting. Even though I can afford it, it is against my DNA to live in estrato 6. I am just too cheap. However thank you to fecherklyn for subsidizing poor Colombian households in the low estratos.

I have even encountered a barrio in Colombia that receives free electricity. I can't say where it is as I have learned a good saying long ago: "If you have a good thing going, keep your mouth shut"

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tammytravels
8/14/2019 09:10 EST

Thank you to Fecherklyn for verifying I made the right decision not to live in estrato 6.
I don't actually need his info, but find it enlightening as to how much I actually save in my estrato 4 apt. About 90 sqm with 2 people, Gas in the kitchen incl. hot water heater. I do quite a bit of cooking for the two of us, and do use quite a few elec. appliances, including an electric pressure cooker. At least one fan on all the time, 2 tvs, 2 computers and various other electric items of American comfort. My last elect bill was 65,000 cop. The highest I've ever had was 90,000 cop when my husband was home all the time watching sports every minute of the day, which was an anomaly for 6 weeks. I wish I had AC maybe 4 times a year, but other than that I use what I want without any particular concern for the energy bill.
I live in Armenia, though I don't really think it makes to much difference in utilities. I have no bills at present to compare KWH.
Just a comparison for newcomers curious about the differences.

Personally, I have lived in lower estratos, but find estrato 4 north here in Armenia, the perfect place to live with estrato 6 comfort, but not the cost.
Just my 2 cents

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ParadiseLost
8/14/2019 09:32 EST

On Estratos I always find it interesting that Gringo’s will make the argument that despite being able to afford higher estratos they are happy to live in cheaper areas. Nothing wrong in that.

Then there’s a well known blog that goes on and on about the benefits of living in Sabaneta. Again nothing wrong with Sabaneta.

But if you sit down and talk with middle class Colombians if they had the opportunity they’d take Poblado or Envigado and maybe Laureles. Sabaneta might be the choice if that’s all they could afford.

Now for renters that doesn’t really make much difference but for anyone buying it might, because it impacts resale opportunities.

There’s something in the thought that Gringo’s want the Colombian experience (let’s call it the Juan Valdez look) whereas Colombians, at least in the cities often aspire to have the Norte Americano lifestyle.

When we owned an apartment in Poblado it was in an older smaller building. Those buildings tend to have higher monthly fees (less units to split the admin charge across). Our admin fee was very high and hurt the resale value. In trying to argue against another increase the pushback I got was that having a high admin fee kept the riff-raff out.

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elpdiver
8/14/2019 10:07 EST

fetchkerlin,

How many KW's do you use.

ELp

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bigjailerman
8/14/2019 10:09 EST

I like the middle estiradas, we stick to them generally. The only time I dont like it is when electricity goes out or data /wifi gets sketchy. Higher strada (5-6) gets more "love" in that regard, but of course you pay for it.

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Elexpatriado
8/14/2019 10:55 EST

Obviously paying estrata 6 rates...

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fecherklyn
8/14/2019 10:57 EST

I will try to pick up on some of the queries.

Our TV bill (COP 125,878) has a basic cost of COP 69,526, supplemented by add-ons for Premium Fox and Premium HBO. This is the monthly cost I most resent because I rarely find much I want to see.

Our Internet is 5 megas.

Our Energia (Electricity) bill for this month (COP 526,109) was for 857 KWH over 32 days, thus an average daily usage of KWH 27.4. This month’s unit cost per KWH was COP 511.580. The 20% “contribucion” of COP 87,685 brought the total billing to COP 526,109. I do keep track of my usage and it is quite clear it has increased enormously over the last few years, although I am not quite sure why. Only as recently as 2016 we were averaging 11, or 12 KWH/day, whereas we are up to 27 KWH/day now. Further way back in 2009 our daily average was 8, or 9 KWH/day. There must be savings there if I can find out how. Thanks for the suggestion BlueSeas.

Sorry if I annoyed you Morganstern – it seems to have become a habit I cannot avoid. The data I supplied was NOT intended to intimidate anybody. I realized the figures I supplied were higher than average, but the main intent was to focus on the inflationary impact.

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elpdiver
8/14/2019 11:19 EST

Thanks for the electricity data. You are paying more per KWH than I am paying on my home in Texas (deregulated power and over 300 providers) and less than I am paying in Glendale CA.

There is a device called a kill a watt meter that you can plug independant devicces into to monitor their individual consumption. They make them in 120 and 240 volt applications. Might be cheaper to cook with gas if that is your culprit.

ElPd

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Electricista
8/14/2019 11:21 EST

It appears that your neighbors are stealing your electricity. “857 KWH over 32 days”.

857000WH /32 days = 26781.25
26781.25 / 24 hours = 1115.88 watts per hour
1115.88 watts / 120 volts = 9.29 amps everyhour everyday!.

You should walk around the house shutting everything off until you see your meter stop moving to find out where you are bleeding electricity.

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Electricista
8/14/2019 11:28 EST

That is equivalent to running a 10K BTU AC unit 24/7

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JustSomeGuy
8/14/2019 11:29 EST

I gather that in the small pueblos everyone gets a low estrato rate on utilities. Is that the case and if so what is the size cut off on "small". I've always stayed in hotels and with friends when I'm in Colombia. Never rented an apartment but that might change this upcoming trip, if I can find a 3 month rental.

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elpdiver
8/14/2019 11:32 EST

usage guide,

Here's what uses the most energy in your home:
Cooling and heating: 47% of energy use.
Water heater: 14% of energy use.
Washer and dryer: 13% of energy use.
Lighting: 12% of energy use.
Refrigerator: 4% of energy use.
Electric oven: 3-4% of energy use.
TV, DVD, cable box: 3% of energy use.
Dishwasher: 2% of energy use.

I never considered theft...

ELP

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bigjailerman
8/14/2019 11:34 EST

That's a lot of juice...

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DallasSteve
8/14/2019 12:22 EST

Some of the thread titles that people think up are either very uninformative or outright misleading or both.

"I am now a millionnaire"

No, you're not. Having utility bills over one million pesos per month does not make someone a "millionaire". And even if you have over one million pesos ($300) - BFD.

However, it does make AirBnB look a lot more attractive. My understanding is that with AirBnB I don't have to pay any utilities. No utilities, no furniture, no fiador, no long term commitment. Gotta love it.

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Andresen
8/14/2019 18:54 EST

I am in estrato 5 of Envigado and I just received our August epm bill. I'll discuss the gas component separately and last. The other components all increased almost 10% between June and July and dropped back to the June level this month (August).. Now, the gas component...it went up from 17,700 pesos in June to 81,600 in July and down to 20,000 pesos in August. I have no explanation for the large July gas bill.

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fecherklyn
8/14/2019 20:57 EST

@DallasSteve,

Of course you are right, but I was not trying to use the term in the most obvious manner, I was trying to brighten up what could otherwise appear as a rather boring subject with a focus on how even previously unlikely limits can be exceeded. A few years ago I would never have thought my monthly utility bills could attain these levels.

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EpaEpaEpa
8/14/2019 20:58 EST

I've never had an electric hot water heater in Colombia just the on demand gas type.

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elpdiver
8/15/2019 07:37 EST

Most of the people that I know do have electric hot water heaters. They are the small on demand "boilers" in the shower.

Personally they scare the bejeezus out of me. On my last stay the heater made a buzzing sound and it was low enough that I bumped it with my head from time to time.

Just something about electricity and water mixing in the shower over my head. One luxury I will have is either an on demand gas heater or a solar array.

ELP

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ParadiseLost
8/15/2019 07:52 EST

You can get on demand electric water heaters for the bathroom, not on the shower but plumbed into the water source. So they’ll heat water to the basin as well as the shower. Generally they are placed under the sink.

Bosch and other brands make them. Sometimes they are called ‘tankless’ water heaters. They are pretty good and efficient. You can have problems if the water gets cut off. Air bubbles or a non constant water supply is a good way to burn them out. They can run, for good brands $200 or more.

Solar would seem obvious for Colombia but it’s not as mainstream as you’d expect. One thing to watch out for, and this applies to many products in Colombia, is to watch out that you’re not sold cheap and poor quality Chinese products.

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mattinnorfolk
8/15/2019 08:04 EST

This sounds like great advice, does anybody have this already?

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Elexpatriado
8/15/2019 12:54 EST

Dallas Steve, did you knowColombia, along with Canada , has the highest property purchase to rent ratios in the world?

It is because of the high proportion of laundered money in the real estate market in both countries.

Lots of houses and especially condos and apartments sitting empty.

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Elexpatriado
8/15/2019 12:56 EST

Anderson..did you leave the stove burner on?

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tubes
8/15/2019 13:49 EST

If you live in a town and have piped gas, then you should use that for all water heating. Electricity costs 3 to 4 times more for the same energy.

I don't understand how anybody can consume that amount of electricity in a moderate climate like Medellin unless the air conditioning is set to freeze! Everybody that I know just uses a couple of fans in the heat of the afternoon.

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EpaEpaEpa
8/15/2019 14:01 EST

Matten as I said above I have the on demand gas hot water heater. It heats water for two bathrooms plus the kitchen sink. They need good water pressure to function. Also the last time I tried it was impossible to find one in Cali that is jetted for propane (i.e. una pipa). An installer re jetted one made for natural gas for me and it works. If you live in a city neither of the above issues will affect you.

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ParadiseLost
8/15/2019 14:16 EST

Look up

Calentador electrónico Tronic 4000 c 220v 9.5kw - termo
Bosch

At Homecenter. They generally have a choice of sizes and different prices.

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JustSomeGuy
8/15/2019 14:22 EST

"Just something about electricity and water mixing in the shower over my head."

It looks really dangerous but it isn't in the news all the time so I guess it's safe. I put one on a GFCI once because I was nervous and it tripped immediately, continuous ground fault.

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mattinnorfolk
8/15/2019 14:25 EST

Thanks everyone. I’ve only used the suicide showers at most air Bnb and at former girlfriends apartment.

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Andresen
8/15/2019 16:30 EST

Re: the suicide shower and mixing water with electricity. I'm 6' tall. Imagine taking a shower when the shower head is installed at a height of about 5 1/2 feet. Yikes!

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morganstern
8/15/2019 22:03 EST

Calentador electrónico Tronic 4000 c 220v 9.5kw - termo
Bosch

I am living in an Airbnb with a brand new Bosch unit. And I lived in another Airbnb in Bogota that had the same unit. These unit absolutely suck....the are xxxx. They give you two minutes of scalding hot water then NONE....stand there and freeze. In Bogota we had the tech guy out twice....the guy who installed it. He said the problem was "the water pressure". Bullxxxx. Seriously.....I can't understand how they can sell a product that works like this.....usually Bosch is a great name. Not this doohickey. The overhead electric head shower is the only answer I know of.

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BlueSeas
8/15/2019 23:13 EST

That Bosch is still a on demand heater, just uses electricity instead of gas.

Our 14 unit building had seen most units convert to on demand gas heaters in the utility closet. That until one sprung a leak, and we discovered the elevator control system was in the same tier, it got drenched and shorted out. So the building told everyone the heaters had to go.

We moved the heater to the laundry room and used a wall mount tank style heater. It's only about 12 gallons, far less than the 40-80 gallon ones in the US. It works really well, no more too hot then too cold in the shower. Good for 2 back to back showers on a low temp setting. On a higher setting, we've never run out. Would never go back to on demand.

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elpdiver
8/16/2019 07:41 EST

@ Andresen,

Exactly, I am also six foot tall and from time to time like to stretch my arm up. On my recent stay I made it a habit to crouch slightly, about two inches...but from time to time would bump my head or find my hand resting up in the plumbing or wires.

Lpd

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elpdiver
8/16/2019 07:44 EST

On a previous trip we stayed in an apartment that had the wall mounted gas on demand heater and had zero problems, I am not sure of the brand.

LPd

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peterv123
8/16/2019 07:58 EST

We have a wall mounted, Bosch, on demand water heater in our apartment. I'm tired of listening to the roar of it's exhaust fan everytime the hot water is used. I'll be happy to go back to a tank heater.

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peterv123
8/16/2019 08:13 EST

Back to the original subject of monthly utility costs here in Medellin.
We have a 3 bedroom, 1,900 sq ft apartment, 3 people, strata 5.
Our monthy costs converted to dollars at 3,200.
EPM (water, sewer, gas, electric, garbage)
April - $91 May-$88 June - $73 July - $74
Une triple play
consistent at $53 per month

We do a lot of cooking with gas.
The teenager takes long showers.
No air conditioning.

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