Living the simple life in Belize can help you stretch your hard-earned money. This is good news for anyone seeking a place to live that offers a high quality of life on a fixed income, but this may mean planning for a different future. Tourists may not experience these cost savings, but full- and part-time residents living in Belize quickly begin to see the benefits. First, many costs are less than what you will be used to back home. Second, your lifestyle is likely to be different. It is less about keeping up with the Joneses and more about living a comfortable lifestyle.
iStock/Kacie Crisp photo
The key to maintaining a low cost of living in Belize is getting to know the local vendors, farmers, and suppliers. I have several Belizean friends with higher standards of living than many “First World” residents. They purchase locally grown foods, which are far superior to the more expensive processed foods imported from abroad. They have more quality time with their family and friends because they can afford maids, cooks, and gardeners. They build their houses using readily available local materials and talent. If they need something that isn’t on hand, they go to the Mennonites in Spanish Lookout who can fabricate just about anything for far less the cost of importing it.
In Cayo, Belize, you can enjoy a very fulfilling life for US$1,000 per month, if you buy locally and use the local resources.
Placencia’s cost of living is very similar to that of Ambergris Caye. It is also a popular tourist area, with fantastic beaches. However you’ll need a car if you live there, or on most other areas on the mainland. You could live in Corozal or San Ignacio for less than US$2,000/month for a couple.
As mentioned in the retirement category, to become a Qualified Retirement Person, you are required to demonstrate that you can move US$24,000 per year into Belize. This amount covers you, your spouse, and any dependents that move with you. Reading between the lines you can see that $24,000 a year is what the Belizean government believes to be a comfortable amount for U.S. citizens to live on here.
Personal spending habits can vary drastically, but the following sample is based on a two-person household living a comfortable expatriate lifestyle (not lavish, but not too meager). It is assuming that your own your home and car outright.
|Cost of Living in Belize||Monthly Budget in US$|
|Food (Groceries)||$150 to $300|
|Electricity (750kwh avg.)||$200|
|Entertainment (Dining, Movies, Bars, Etc.)||$150|
|Miscellaneous Expenses (Home Goods, Etc.)||$100|
|Household Help (Maid, Gardener, Etc.)||$200|
|Property Taxes (Home Ownership)||$10|
|Homeowner’s Insurance (Home Ownership)||$150|
|Car Registration (Car Ownership)||$8|
|Car Insurance (Car Ownership)||$30|
|Maintenance (Car Ownership)||$25|
|Fuel (Car Ownership)||$150|
|Monthly total||$1,398 to $1,548|
Renting an unfurnished home is likely to cost around US$450.00 to $600.00 per month, based on location.
Charged at a top rate of 25% for residents. Amounts under $14,500 are not taxable. Pensions are also exempt. You are not taxed on earnings made outside of Belize.
Property tax in Belize is very affordable. Rates vary between 1 and 12% the value of the land and the house combined. Property tax in the countryside is based only on the value of the land. This is a measure which has been implemented by the Belizean government to encourage investment outside of the cities.
VAT is 12.5%. If your earnings come from outside of Belize such as though work or a U.S. pension then these will be tax free in Belize.
A tax affecting expatriate residents is the national 12.5% Goods and Services (GST) tax on nearly everything, with exclusions only made for some food and medical items. Import taxes are a primary source of government revenue. They vary but can range up to 80% of the value of imported goods. Official residents in Belize under the Retired Persons Incentive Act do not have to pay import duties on a car, boat, plane and up to US$15,000 in household goods imported into the country.
For those working for pay, the country has a progressive personal income tax with a top personal rate of 25%. There is no estate or capital gains tax. On real estate purchases, buyers currently must pay a 5% transfer fee, rolled back in mid-2006 from 15% formerly paid by non-citizens. The 12.5% GST applies to purchases of new condos, new homes and lots in a subdivision.