Low Cost Living – Smalltown USA

by | Mar 22, 2010 | Archives

Today’s message at our www.Ecuador Living.com site looks at low cost living in Ecuador.  This message looks at low cost living in Smalltown USA.

Predicting the future is impossible yet one social economic fact that is very likely is inflation.  Most of the Western world… and much of the emerging world as well… is swamped in debt that was created by spending, that did not develop sufficient productivity  to repay the loans, This creates increasingly larger amounts of money than goods and services… which is the description of inflation.

So prices are likely to rise and those most effected will be people on fixed incomes.

This means we all need a plan to live better during inflation.

On way to forestall this problem of rising costs is to reduce your baseline of spending and find ways to keep the cost of living down.

Here is a note sent by a long term reader showing how he is lowered his costs in Smalltown USA.

What to Do?

I’ve been reading your postings for a little over a year now, and enjoyed attending the export/import tour in Cotocachi in October, 2009, followed by a week in Cuenca.  I met vibrant folks who were rushing to embrace Ecuador for its beauty and bargain cost of living, and have heard from one who bought a house and then set about missing her former life in Canada and Florida.  Probably a common condition.

You recommend small town America and have bought an elegant estate for 10-cents/dollar which you immediately began turning a profit on by using it as your Florida conference center.  I am more than just impressed by this; your perception is a great example for those of us who can only sit and watch.  Why?  Maybe it’s limited funds.

Nothing pleases me more than creating small cottages in the vein of Thoreau where living is simplified and creature comforts are affordable because consumption is radically reduced.  I’ve designed and built quite a few houses using cutting edge materials and building technologies:  air-entrained concrete, structural insulated panels, metal skins on post-framed buildings, and combinations.  One such post-framed house last year in Asheville is 1400 s.f. and owned by a young couple with dogs, and their highest power bill over the year was $68.  They appreciate the efficiency. Now I’m building a retirement home for a family member using SIPs panels at a very special cape that runs N-S and from the upper porch you can see both the Gulf and the bay at the same time.  Striking views are the norm, especially on a stormy day when the wind sends waves crashing up from the Gulf and the narrow land creates a lee shore in the bay where all is calm.


I’m thinking your recommendations are the equivalent of living on the lee shore when the stormy days advance.

This area of Florida, “the Forgotten Coast”, is very much like a Twilight Zone.  There are dozens of fully finished developments with curbed streets, underground utilities, pools and clubhouses, lakes, and not a single house! There are large developments funded by the area’s dominant development company with millions upon millions of dollars evident in three-story tall main streets with complete streets and waterways and walkways through the pine woods leading to finished sand beaches—with fewer than a dozen houses, all designed by nationally prominent architects and constructed to the highest standards!


Is this the Twilight Zone? Windmark Beach near Port St. Joe, FL.

So my conundrum is this. With just $100,000 in the bank and a few gold coins and silver bullion, I am finding nice lots for 10-cents/dollar and I’m sorely tempted.  One is a lake-front in a gated development with no other houses, which sold for $232,000 four years ago and is now available for $25,000 or maybe less.  I don’t know that I’d want to live there permanently—maybe so—but it is a  tabla rasa and I would really enjoy building a cottage there.  Of course, that would take my available funds.

Or, I could buy the lot now and plan to hold it for a couple of years while trying to make my remaining funds grow, and just get used to living in rented quarters, a couple of months each year perhaps in Cuenca.  It sounds to me like I might be an ideal case study for your investment and publishing guidance.

The photo below shows the house site across the lake form the community pier, the only structure that is allowed on the lake.


I think a couple of  considerations here are precisely within the framework of your recommendations (not to mention Joseph Campbell’s [‘follow your bliss’]).

I’m at a young retirement age (67) and have a couple of major interests:  Design/building small cottages which in turn lead people of modest means into greater freedom and creativity through simplifying their living styles and costs.

Using the lessons of that experience to encourage more self-reliance and personal freedom.

Also….staying solvent.  I could make it on Social Security by crafting my lifestyle, but I could not stand to be “retired.”  Nothing worse than living as a consumer and not a creator. So I should plan to make a few bucks along the way.

The other thing is, as bad as things may get in this country, there is an excellent infra-structure of rural 2-lane highways and I can easily speak with anyone I meet, no matter how far back in the sticks.  North Florida’s Panhandle is lightly populated and has great fresh water reserves and excellent fisheries, and it’s a fine place to live about 9 months of the year.  And there’s always Cuenca for the hottest months here.

With this as a potential structure for my scenario I wouldn’t even have to be concerned with the new tourist visa requirements in Ecuador. I could be in-and-out within the 90 days allowed!

The hardest thing to consider (for me) is the practical reality of living as a tenant when I am accustomed to being the landlord.  Of course the tenant has a lot more freedom and the landlord more headaches, and I know that, but maybe I need to unwrap the bands just a little.  A camera helps.

So here’s an idea that I think could be workable.  Use $50,000 for investments per your design, $25,000 for a property purchase, and probably $20,000 for gold or mining stock.  That would leave $5,000 to start an internet service (blog) for new retirees centered on low-cost adventures and small houses, travel to South America, and encouragement to step over the threshold from a conventional to a radically new style of living…

Meanwhile, I’ll live and travel using other modest earned income.  Then if three years from now the investments prove as lucrative as I think they might, I can take profits to build my cottage on the lake and determine what to do with the original cash nugget which should be undiminished.  Of course I expect to work hard, build the internet business, and have Gary Scott to thank for the seminal ideas.

I wonder what you might think of that.

Shown below: a ~~500 s.f. guest house we built in Asheville, NC, and which we can rent for $500/month to a single person.  The current tenant is a woman writer and English professor at Montreat College in Black Mountain.  She lives here comfortably after a divorce and brings down chocolate cakes occasionally. She’s a great dinner guest!


Or here’s another: the radically small River Shack.  Built this one with my son using only hand tools.  It’s expandable and would make a good camp or a retreat cottage, but had no plumbing or electricity.


This reader has some good thinking and does need much help from me.  Staying active… living within your means are two of the most important attributes to success.   Profit potential is great in North Florida.  Prices are really low… good value because Florida has one great asset… no snow in the winter.   Though North Florida can be a lot colder in January than Ecuador… the temperatures are not anywhere near as cold as they are up north.

This is where Merri and I made our latest investment and well purchased real estate in Ecuador or Smalltown USA offers a great store of value.  Rents are low in Ecuador… so renting for a couple of months a year makes a lot of sense instead of  worrying about absentee ownership there.

The internet business can provide added income and freedom.

This is a nice plan for living in Ecuador and Smalltown USA. This may not be your plan. This is not my plan… but we can all learn from one another and the key is that we all have a plan to live better during inflation.


See details on how Join us in North Carolina June 24-28 to learn more about investing and business in Ecuador and Smalltown USA

Read about low cost living in Ecuador here.