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It just depends………

March 8, 2009

A lot of people curious about just how much less expensive it is to live here. Well, it really just depends…..

Our rent here is a good bit more expensive than our mortgage in the states. We lived in a fairly expensive area in the States. Not in a fancy pants, outrageously expensive area – but a fairly expensive area.

Cable, internet, and mobile phones are much cheaper than in the U.S. My mobile phone bill last month was $8. Cable and internet are about $14 per month – that’s combined, not each.

Domestic Help
We do not pay our driver and cook directly so I am not exactly sure what their salaries are. But I know it is a lot cheaper to have help in Indian than in the U.S. Our cook works from 11am – 8:30p – that’s Monday thru Saturday. He also does the laundry and some of the grocery shopping. Our house cleaner works 4 hours a day – that’s also Monday thru Saturday. They both also get money for transportation. Sometimes domestic help will live in quarters near the family they are working for. Ours do not do that.

As long as you are buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and are not imported, produce is very inexpensive. Very inexpensive.

Recognizable snacks
Not such a great deal. A bag of goldfish crackers is about $4. But worth every penny. You cannot get Pizza Goldfish here and that is a bummer. You can find many brand names for prepackaged foods that you would recognize. They are about double what you would pay in the U.S. You cannot find everything you want, but there is certainly enough to get by on – especially when friends and family will send you a box of surprises every now and then. (Thank you friends and family!)

Soda is about  the same price as in the U.S.

Chocolate chips and canned frosting are two things that we have not been able to find. It’s interesting because you can get cake mixes – but no icing. We also cannot find tortilla chips. Enter very sad face here. We love tortilla chips.

Activities for the kids
There are simply not as many options for the kids here to do sports – so yes, we are saving money there.

The middle school offers free activities like ultimate frisbee and rock climbing and ping pong after school. Something is available every day for Bear.

The elementary school offers activities like knitting, fun with aquatics, jump rope, recycled art, and many others. Each class is once a week and they are $30 for an 8-week session.

Flower and Bear are running track thru the school. So far, that has been free. We did have to agree to host visiting athletes for the track meet in April. We are looking forward to that.

There are lots of markets where you can buy inexpensive clothing but clothes for preteens seem to be hard to find. We have had an impossible time finding shorts for our daughters.

There are very nice malls – they are equivalent to the prices in the U.S. We had to buy our daughter a pair of shoes for track – they were $70. No that is not a great deal. But I have gotten some lovely light weight kurtas (Indian style shirts) for $4. Yes, that is a great deal.

I will say the quality of the less expensive items is – well, you get what you pay for. Those items are not going to last a lifetime. But they will be very fun to wear while they last.

When we went to the dermatologist for our son, our visit was $16. That is about what you would pay for an insurance co-pay in the U.S. However, that was the entire cost without any insurance.

His follow-up visit was $10.

We got Bear antibiotics for 5 days, antibiotic ointment, an antihistamine, and soaps for $24. Again, that was the total cost. No insurance co-pays. All of it was only $24.

Cat food/litter
Outrageous. But what are you going to do?

Eating Out
That is just like anywhere. It can be expensive or not so bad.

Two large pan pizzas at Pizza Hut are $16. Our whole family can eat at McDonalds for $12 – and, have I mentioned that McDonalds delivers? But the nicer the restaurant, the more expensive it is. We went to lunch at a restaurant at the mall and the bill was $80 for lunch. Yes, we are going to Pizza Hut next time.

I fortunately do not have to drive – so I do not fill up the car with gas. But I will not be complaining about the prices of gas in the U.S. anymore.

Fresh Flowers
Lillies are expensive here too –  probably not as much as in the U.S., but relatively speaking they are more expensive than the other flowers – carnations and a lot of other flowers are very inexpensive. There are a lot of flower stands rich with beautiful blooms.

Yoga Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it costs 3000 rupees a month for 2 lessons a week. That’s about $60 for the month.

Hindi Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it is 500 rupees per lesson – about $10 per hour. I have a friend who joins me sometimes – when she comes, it is 800 rupees.

I am sure they are things I have forgotten – if you are curious about something – just let me know!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2009 12:02 am

    God, i would love to have a staff of people working for me. I stayed with a friend in haiti for 3 weeks once. She had a housekeeper / cook and what not. Every foreigner did. It was great! When i was young my mother had gotten sick for a spell so her health care paid for a domestic worker to help her out for a few months. She did more than help, she did everything!!! It was best few months of my youth (-; Guess I’m just lazy

  2. Dev permalink
    March 9, 2009 4:49 pm


    my favorite store is “Anokhi” – beautiful, good quality shirts/kurtas. Stores are better than the site.

    Your friend might want to take a look.

  3. CanIRemainUnknownPl permalink
    March 9, 2009 3:04 pm

    Have you tried this ?

    I have heard rave reviews from people who have actually eaten in Tijuana, Mexico!

  4. Sharmishtha permalink
    March 9, 2009 2:33 pm

    I second Settlers on the housing issue. After Mumbai, Delhi is the most expensive real estate in India (and Mumbai is as expensive as Manhattan in some parts). So unless you’re on an expat salary, housing is a huge expense. Most middle class Indians could not afford to live in areas of South Delhi like Vasant Vihar, etc., unless it was inherited property. Middle Class Delhi is to be found in the DDA and other co-op-type apartment complexes. But, here’s your opportunity to save, AR2W, take advantage of the lower prices on everything else like food and medicine to stash away a little nest egg before you move back to the US.

  5. March 9, 2009 10:04 am

    Lola – are you vamping again? You are up so late – and yes a cleaning lady in the U.S. would be heavenly – here you really and truly need it everyday – water can’t be left in puddles because of mosquitoes and dust is a real issue. It seems luxurious but it is really important for things to be cleaned often.

    Settlers – you are very right – somethings that I find inexpensive would seem very expensive to someone living on a lesser salary. I will try Janpath – I have heard of it too. But there are some things that are surprisingly more expensive than in the U.S. I was not expecting that!

  6. March 9, 2009 9:25 am

    @ke, I respectfully disagree with your comments on India importing most of its stuff like other “third world” countires. India produces most of its stuff for Indian style consumption, itself. The problem comes when we look for “recognizable snacks” in India. That is when things begin to get expensive.

    @areason2write: This was a very good summary of your costs. Yes, housing in a good area in and around Delhi is montrously expensive. I am not sure where you live, but South of Delhi is the most expensive area in terms of real estate.
    For shopping, you should try Janpath also. It is a great place to shop for cool stuff, after a lot of haggling though.
    One thought on putting things in perspective though. The things that are cheaper in India, are so only and only if you are being paid what you get in the USA (in dollars). If you ar ebeing paid an Indian salary, it may not seem too cheap any more. What say?

  7. Priya permalink
    March 9, 2009 9:08 am

    Have you tried Modern Bazaar in Vasant Vihar. They carry a lot of imported food.

  8. March 9, 2009 8:33 am

    Can you imagine what it would cost to have a staff like that in the US? My cleaning lady gets $130 for four hours every other week. I wish I could have her once a week.

  9. March 9, 2009 2:25 am

    m2thes – I will look for Senior Pepito – which market are you near? For staff – try They also offer courses for expats – you might find Hindi lessons there – also you can check out the American Embassy School Adult Continuing Education site Welcome to areason2write and thanks for the info on the food!

  10. March 9, 2009 2:10 am

    Ke: I do not know Mumbai at all but maybe Jurate can help with that – As for Delhi – a true Indian Market shopping experience can be found in Sarojini Nagar – haggling and the whole 9 yards. I don’t think there is much food shopping there though. Delhi Haat is a Mela near INA market and they bring in crafters from all over India – the vendors change periodically – but I am sure my readers can help more than I can – we have not bought any art yet – but the scarfs and kurtas are gorgeous here! Four Seasons (ask for Rohit) in Jor Bagh has beautiful hand made papers and gift items that are easy to take home – beautiful wine bags and pouches and some handmade stationery items.

  11. m2thes permalink
    March 9, 2009 12:12 am

    Hmmm for tortilla chips you can try this brand called Senior Pepito… I think thats how its spelled…theres a shop near my house where we get it..but most smaller shops dont have it..those grocery stores almost always have it..its a little more then those lays and kurkure but worht every rupee..

    how did you get the domestic help? was it through an agency? i’ve hired two full time that sleep at the house through an paying 3500 for 1 and 4000 for the other..happy with one and not too much with the other..i’m thinking mayB i’ll hire one that only comes in the day and the other will remain at full time..

    Hindi classes!! how did you get a tutor? i tried to go to the neighborhood tutor who teaches the kids in the neighborhood and he wanted an extravagant fee…so i didn’t even bother going back…and for chocolate chips and icing…i know we got it at someplace… I THINK it was the INA market but not sure..i will have to revert to you that….chocolate chips for sure..icing im not too sure about

  12. March 8, 2009 11:18 pm

    A lot of Americans have a tendency to think that living in third world countries will be substantially cheaper, but it’s actually not. I know this from my time in Kenya. However, in Kenya and I presume this is the same situation in other third world countries, so many things are imported and there’s such a high tax on imported goods, that the costs are then transferred to the customer (i.e. you).

    I am not surprised to see how cheap medical care in India is because I know many Kenyans and Africans have been going to India for important surgeries, which they cannot afford in their home countries or in Europe and America. In this respect, I think what India is doing with its medical care has actually been a good thing for many middle-income Africans and for the poor as well. I’m beginning to see a lot more Indian doctors doing charity work across Africa and providing cheaper, alternative, generic drugs for African clinics, especially where western based pharmaceutical companies have refused to do so. This growing collaboration between Indian phamarceutical companies and African countries is something that western pharma’s have failed to appreciate: i.e. they have failed to appreciate the importance of developing cheap drugs that poor people can afford. The indians realized it and started making their own drugs and now, they are selling many of those cheaper drugs to African countries.

    Anyway, onto more lighter issues. my sister will be leaving for india in about one week and I’d like to send her there with a shopping list, but of course, I want high quality, Indian goods, especially scarfs, pashmina’s and maybe some art. Where can one buy such things? she’ll be in mumbai and delhi.

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