How to save money in Ecuador

Hello everyone,

Did you plan your budget before your move to Ecuador? If so, how did you go about it?

How do you save money in your day to day life? Do you find there are any areas where you can't cut costs?

Do you have any tips about saving money in Ecuador? For example, getting the best deals on accommodation, grocery shopping and dining out, the best value transportation, etc..

Are there any apps or websites that have helped you to save money?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Learn the local names for your food!

Here on the coast a banana is a guineo (g- ee- nay - oh)

The difference in the price between asking for a banana and a guineo at a local tienda (not a "bodega" by the way) is between 5 and 10 cents.

That adds up!

Oh and choclo!

Find the tiendas you like, use them daily. Buy only what you need. Produce spoils so get into the habit of 1 tomato, 2 onions, a portion of a head of broccoli, 6 dented (teeth) of garlic. Talk, listen, laugh... Participate. Bring change! Ask for a yapa (freebie) after a few visits -- stalk of albahaca (basil). Show photos of the grandchildren! Soon what cost you $5 will cost you $4 ...

Be human. You have a few things and time, someone has a lot, kids, runs an almuerzo, yield the way.

Not all benefits are financial either. But I promise you will reap rewards.

Did you plan your budget before your move to Ecuador? If so, how did you go about it?
Yes, but the budget was flexible, and adjusted accordingly within the first year to reflect actual costs and desired lifestyle.

How do you save money in your day to day life? Do you find there are any areas where you can't cut costs?

Grocery shopping at supermarkets, one can save on average 5-6% on a grocery bill by simply having a membership card. At times there are 3x2 deals and money can be saved there as well.

Gym membership is greatly discounted when it’s paid on an annual basis. This is only recommended if a person is committed or it’s a waste, but savings of 50%+ is possible. 

Cinema prices are usually reduced on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and on other days you can receive a 10% discount by displaying a Mi Comisariato card at supercines.

Do you have any tips about saving money in Ecuador? For example, getting the best deals on accommodation, grocery shopping and dining out, the best value transportation, etc..

The best tip is to balance your budget with free and cheaper alternatives.  Cycling, picnicking is relatively free, and at times there are organized events, this month for instance the Astronomical Observatory is offering telescopic viewing of Saturn and its rings.

As for clothing, the best deals are the mid and year-end sales, especially at places like Zara which sell nice clothes.   

Are there any apps or websites that have helped you to save money? is a cool app for food delivery, and at times they have deals that are exclusive to them whether it Pizza or Sushi.

Mercado Libre is also good but for certain things. I use it quite a bit especially for items that are hard to find or items that are far away.  And some items sold are simply cheaper like coffee machines and other small appliances.

Hello Priscilla,

I find that the best way to save money is by being frugal.  Limit your spending as much as possible.  Examples are:

- Buy what you need instead of what you want (example: Pack your lunch for work)
- Learn to love saving more than spending
- Write down your goals and imagine yourself living the dream

Follow these and you will soon be living your dream!

Good luck!


My only question would be  if spending on what you need vs what you want really increases your quality of life?  That's based on individual expectations/ quality of life expectations.  There are times when I spend $7 in megamaxi on Chinese dumplings In the freezer section of mega maxi that are US based.  It's for 12 dumplings , and they are so good.  In the US, at Chinese restaurants the dumplings give me major digestion issues.  Here when I make them they are so good and cause me no problems.  The problem is I can't afford them very often.  My dream is based on past life reality and I never had to worry about monthly exoenses.  Here I find ways to minimize my expenses but I have a hard time when it comes to eating. And when it comes to my animal care expense I have a hard time justifying the short cuts as my dogs have suffered from the lack of decent vet care. Not to mention they are spoiled and their expectations are vocalized daily.   But learning what is really important in life, that Ecuador has taught me is indeed priceless.  So sometimes the benefits outweigh the normal thinking that we are accustomed to.  I attribute it life lessons that I am supposed to learn on this life journey.  My whole life I have wished to obtain peace and happiness.  Ecuador has taught me that there's no such thing.  It's a daily choice that we as an individual make and live by.  I think this journey in my life has been Gods plan for me.  If you don't believe in God, then this is the spiritual path that has benefited me the most.  Anyone want to purchase my $5-10k of shoe collection is welcome.  What I would do to have that money back, plus the money for designer clothes, purses and other things.  In this country, God and family come first, then work expenses and luxuries.  What a totally different way of life than I grew up with.  Imagine the reduction of stress that these principles can teach us as human beings.

With my last post being life lessons, here are wAys I have learned to be frugal.  When I cook a whole chicken, I throw the insides in regular bread bags I save in the freezer.  Wth veggies that I would normally throw away, I also put in a disposable bread bag and freeze.  When I have enough leftover chicken carkasses, I cook my own chicken broth and freeze in glass jars, that I now always save and never throw away.  I freeze my chicken broth, which is better than any boillion that I can buy here and way more healthy.  When I cook soups, rice and quinoa, I substitute the water for chicken broth that I have frozen.  Trust me the diff is incridible and free.

Also, when I buy any cheese, cubed or shredded, I wash the bags and save.  They are better than any ziplock bags and you can store onions or any produce that will fit in the bag for longer than normal with guaranteed freshness and no smell in the fridge.  And those are free also.  I also re wash any ziplock bags w/o any grease and reuse.  Since I bring my aluminum foil heavy duty from the US,  I wash and reuse lightly soiled foil for roasting veggies since the foil here is expensive and not heAvy duty.

I make my cleaning liquid by using vinegar, used lemon peels, cinnamon and cloves.  Let it set and once completed, start the next batch.  I now dust with vinegar water and lemon essential oils. It's all natural and works great, the lemon essential oil adds the extra shine to all wood.

I make my own stewed tomatoes, for half the cost of canned ones in the grocery store  and freeze the excess in glass jars I save from all my grocery purchases.  If you need a very inexpensive recipe, pm me.
I also make my own laundry detergent, which doesn't mess up my US HE washer and is cheap and last longer than the detergent here.  Diluted vinegar is a great laundry softner.  Unfortunately it's not As cheap as in the US. Aluminum foil balls in the dryer work well for a replacement dryer sheets and can be reused. 

Just a few things/ideas I have lived by that help in being frugal.  My next project will be to grow my own veggies.


In answer to your question: If spending on what you need vs. what you want really increases your quality of life? 
Of course it is based on an individual's quality of life expectations.  My point is, if you save early on in life, you won’t live life regretting bad choices like you said, “What I would do to have that money back, plus the money for designer clothes, purses and other things”.  It is a good thing to learn to be frugal in your younger years because you can enjoy more in life later on.  You can also have a better chance of financial stability which in turn gives you peace and happiness.


Your very useful method to live frugally are of great value . I look forward to additional postings on this subject.
Thank you,

I just made my first batch of half sour Brooklyn  NY recipe pickles.  They have to sit in the fridge for 4 days, which tomorrow will be the 4th day.  I love pickles so of course I have been sampling everyday.  Today the taste is a 360 from yesterday.  A little too much garlic to my preference so next time I will adjust.  Since cannning jars are hard to find here, and I bought all 11 that todo hogar had a few months ago at $3.24 a jar, that's the biggest expense.  I looked into having them brought in a commercial container with Manabi marine, but once you add duty and tax (not including their fee), the $3.24 was a bargain.  Since they are not a quart, liter or half gallon, it took me a few hours of research and measurement adjustment calculations to get everything right.  My friend orders my dill from a French guy in Quito, so that's the next biggest expense.  With my dill (& I froze the leftovers), and 2 packs of small cucumbers I got 3 29 ounce jars with one cucumber left over.  I didn't use fresh seeds as I didn't have time for my friend to show me where I may possibly find them, so I had mathematically convert my powder spices into the correct amounts.  Not including the jar cost, I would estimate I have between $4-$5 for 3 big jars, which is way less than pickles here and no comparison to taste.  My next endeavor is bread making.  I made a Georgian cheese recipe tonight, but my dough was a catastrophe that I spent hours on, but it finally worked.  I'm now doing a free multi course on bread making.  With flour and yeast cheap here it's worth my while.  Plus I have a San Francisco sour dough starter culture in my freezer that I've been dying to try but way too scared.  I will keep you posted on this trial process as I'm sure it's way cheaper than store bought bread.  My kimchee is also fermenting as we speak.  I've decided to look at cooking as stress relief instead of a chore.  In my single long hour working weeks, I used to do my grocery shopping at the tiny gas station above my house in the US and mostly ate out.  Cooking has never been my thing but I've come a long way here and made my fair share of mistakes and had to throw away chicken, meat and other things.  But I've got it down pretty good these days.  I also make my Emeril Lagassee Louisiana hot sauce from scratch for very little money.  I always  give a bottle to my friend who always returns my bottle before I'm even one fourth of the way done with mine.  Eventually, I fill his bottle and return.  If you have patience and like to cook you can save money.  If you don't like to cook things here can get expensive.  I've now found a new meat in our new mega maxi that is fairly cheap that I sear with mushrooms and mozzarella cheese to make philly cheese steak subs.  But my spice cabinet (and yes it's 3 shelves and a whole cabinet ) along with the microwave built in space full of spices I bring back from the US.  I even buy vanilla beans (from the US) and the cheapest vodka here to make my own vanilla extract.  I've gotten very very creative.

I also make my own lotion with oils, bees wax and essential oils.  Very healthy and lasts a long time.  Initial cost are expensive but overall cheaper and better than what u can get here.  If/when I move back to the US, I will continue to do these things.  Much healthier and great benefits without preservatives and added bad things.

Thanks for the great information. I hope you and others will send out more on adapting to life in Ecuador. I enjoyed this post and will put this information to use.

I would like to know if fresh fish is easily, cheaply and abundantly available in and around Manta?  You are always talking about meat.......North of Argentina, its always difficult to get meat like you are used to in the States.......But as I gave it up many years ago, its not really an issue with me........Im much more interested in fresh tuna, corvina, robalo, dorado, mero, etc, etc...........If all these are readily available there in Manta, then whats the problem? There is a huge relatively new atunero there in Manta........there should be no end to the fish available on the local market........I remember eating fresh fish lunches and dinners all up and down the coast when I was there 4 yrs ago......No doubt prices have skyrocketed since then.........But as far as all the hard to get stuff, dont you have services there like we have here in Panama for expediting items from the States?  Buy em on ebay or amazon and ship em down on airboxexpress or servitechnics or a host of others.......Do these type of services not exist in Ecuador?  That would be a real bummer.........

One of our favorite days of the week is Sunday because it’s ciclopaseo, or a day when a long stretch of city streets are closed from the north to the south. This particular day saves us money because it doesn’t cost much to enjoy the city and is in every way a workout.

But an initial investment in bikes might be necessary unless you decide to rent private bikes, and forget about the publicly free bikes that are available as I haven’t seen a single person on them yet on ciclopaseo. Yeah, so get a bike that you’ll be comfortable with and invest in some biking shorts with pads as well, especially if your bum is not used to prolonged riding.

Total cost so far: $0

Take along a backpack with a picnic blanket inside, some snacks and food, some games like “uno”, or chess, a nerf football, frisbee, or whatever you like and can fit.

It gets tiring biking after a while, and with what’s inside your backpack you can rest at
a park (Carolina or Ejido for instance) and simply picnic and enjoy some park activities.

Total cost so far: whatever snacks/food you bought.

Stop at a nice café and enjoy a nice cappuccino/coffee/espresso afterwards to spoil yourself a bit and it will be a fulfilling day that was well spent for hardly any money.

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