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They left the U.S. to live by the beach — on $159 a day. Here’s how they spend their money


My family and I packed our suitcases in 2016 and moved from Chicago to Mazatlán, Mexico. We realized, after my mom’s unexpected death, that we had too little time to wait for the lives we wanted.

We had about $20,000 in our savings, which was more than enough to get by due to the lower cost of living in Mazatlán.

After two wonderful years spent in Mexico, Vernon and I were offered the incredible chance to teach medicine at Antigua’s medical university. This island is located in the east Caribbean Sea, which is known for its gorgeous weather and 365 beautiful beaches.

Again, we took our stuff and booked an all-inclusive flight.

Save more and spend less

Vernon’s initial paychecks, particularly in the first months, were very difficult. I still had a very limited income — less than $1,000 a month — from my freelance gig as a copywriter.

Also, we had to pay a large amount of moving expenses such as plane tickets, rent for the first month ($1,250), security deposit ($1,250) or rental car for $400 per month. Even though our costs of living are still lower than those in the U.S.A, they have risen significantly.

Downtown Antigua

Lawson Lewis, photo credit

But we stuck it out because we love Antigua — and I’m glad we did. My business has increased and we have found more ways to reduce our expenses. Our meals are planned and we eat home often. We ask ourselves if we need the item or want it before making any purchase.

With the help of my family’s interest-free loan and some saving, we were able purchase a used car at a cost of about $10,000. We are now completely debt-free.

How to earn your income

In addition to my copywriting and coaching business, I have a side business that focuses on mindset and business development. My monthly income is approximately $5,000 From his university job, my husband earns about $5700 per month.

I find the ideal working spot on our back deck.

Photo: Gabriella Lindsay

With our monthly combined income, we can afford to pay all of our bills, live on the island, and save for the long-term. Our joint retirement savings account has been receiving $500 every month since the beginning of last year. 

Antigua’s Redcliffe Quay in St. John’s is an historic shopping center.

Photo credit: Gabriella Lindsay

In addition, we paid more than 24,000 dollars in credit card debt. While we continue to pay our $80,000 student loans on a regular basis, the consumer debt that we have officially eliminated is no longer owed.

Below is a breakdown on our major expenses

Antigua costs us $4,762 per month. This is $2,238 lower than what we spent per month in Chicago.

Rent is the largest expense. We moved in to a 3-bedroom house for just $2,200 per monthly last April.

Chart credit: Gene Woo Kim

The extra space is a great way to invite friends, despite the fact that it comes at a higher price. And coming from the inner city of Chicago, having a backyard and swimming pool is a big bonus for our kids — ages 8,9 and 10. 

A private school tuition fee for all three children, $622 per month is the second most expensive expense.

Our family shops locally to help save on groceries and we prefer Caribbean brands over imported U.S. products. The grocery bill for our family of five is anywhere between $150 and $200 each week.

We are always supplied with fresh produce and vegetables by Mr. Mervin Lake.

Photo: Gabriella Lindsay

This is an overview of what our monthly average spending looks like:

  • Food Groceries, dining out, and drinks: $969
  • Rent: $2,200
  • Utilities (internet and water; cooking propane; electricity).: $317
  • Insurance for health: $590
  • Netflix Subscription: $15
  • Phone: $49
  • Tuition: $622

Monthly Average: $4,762
Daily average:

Antigua is a great place to live and do things you love.

Our monthly entertainment and dining out expenses are $120 to $120. 

Antigua has a beautiful climate all year, so many activities can be done outdoors. 

Walking and beach play are our passions. We often visit a small, quiet beach one block away. Sometimes we head down to the beachfront path, where $5 is enough for a refreshing drink.

Antigua is an island located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It’s famous for its stunning weather and 365 beautiful beaches.

Lawson Lewis, photo credit

We look out for discounted days when we choose paid activities like scuba diving or going to the cinema. My daughter learned scuba diving on a girls-only day that was completely free.

As long as it is possible, we plan on living and working abroad. Our children are already thinking about the universities they want to attend — all in far-flung places like Dubai and the U.K. This is exactly what we wanted for them; they have well-rounded cultural values and are open to new cultures, places and ideas.

Gabriella Lindsay and her husband, along with their three children.

Lawson Lewis, photo credit

We have made a great life by being intentional with our finances and sharing our priorities. There are no regrets in the decisions we made. We also appreciate all the lessons learned along our trip abroad.

Gabriella M. LindsayChicagoan, She is a writer, teacher, and copywriter. She lives on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean West Indies with her husbandAnd their three young children. “Living F.I.T.: A 40-Day Guide to Living Faithfully, Intentionally, and Tenaciously” is her first book. Follow Gabriella on Instagram and YouTube.

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