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Expenses, Colombo versus New York

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We were recently looking up the costs of staying over in New York, and we came across this article on the Brokeandthebeutifullife.com. We ran the numbers past a distinctly Sri Lankan internal checklist and couldn’t help thinking that that’s a little bit too much.

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Not that we’re comparing any part of Sri Lanka to the Big Apple as a whole, of course. But still, for a country with great beaches, broadband, good hotels and an impressive variety of cuisine, we’re actually surprisingly cheap.

Let’s have a look at this stuff.

Cellphone: $75 a month. Whoa. In Sri Lanka, you’d rack that up only if you made an hour-long IDD call every other day. Because of market saturation, our rates are dirt cheap: we’ve got five cell network operators jostling for competition, and on an island just 400 kilometers across, that means we get some of the cheapest rates on the planet. Even better: almost total cell coverage, including 3G. It’s actually almost impossible to find a place without at least a 2G signal.

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Groceries: $300 a month, for organic stuff. Again, we’re not entirely sure what kind of organic produce this is, given that our vegetables are quite fresh – over eighty varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown barely a few hour’s drive apart. More importantly, it’s cheap: In fact, $300 could feed a family for a month, and we’re talking three balanced meals a day here.

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Utilities and Internet: $50 and $30 a month, respectively. That’s spot on. We actually have data caps, usually at 30 and 60 GB per month, so our Internet isn’t that cheap.

Rent: $900 a month. $900 a month in Sri Lanka would rent you a mansion, or one of the pricier apartments in one of the priciest areas of the city. If you want to save on this, it’s easy: prices drop drastically just a few kilometers away from the city centre, and since Colombo is such a small city (37km squared), being a few kilometers away is nothing.

And then someone came along and idly commented that you could get an education in Sri Lanka for barely a tenth of what you would spend anywhere in the US. While somewhat unrelated, it made us think.

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Thoughts: Most businesses rely on you being physically present somewhere (meetings, anyone?) but increasingly, there are businesses where it doesn’t really matter where you work from. Graphic design? Technically, all you need is a good computer, Photoshop and Internet. Programming? Again, the same. And if you’re earning in dollars, conversion to a local currency just leaves you better off.

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