My Family Lives Well on $2,775 a Month in Colombia. Here’s How, And Where Every Cent Goes

An image to accompany a story about saving money by living abroad. Courtesy of Brian Killian
Brian Killian, his wife Maria, and their children, who are one and three years old. The family lives in Colombia, which has a lower cost of living, freeing up money to save and invest.
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When Brian Killian got his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) at 21 years old, he never imagined it would lead to him relocating across the world.

“After graduating high school, I decided to work for a few years to earn some money and build up my savings should I decide to go to college,” he says. “I worked on promotional events, and somewhere along the way I fell in love with the logistics side of the events business.” Having a CDL accelerated Killian’s career, because it allowed him to function as an onsite manager for events. Eventually, he started his own company, Turnkey, a logistics service provider that has helped organizations like Verizon, Starbucks, and the U.S. Army put on events around the country.

But at almost any given time, Killian is thousands of miles away from the action. Due to the high cost of living in America, and the desire to give his children a multicultural lifestyle, he and his wife decided to settle in Medellin, Colombia. The family of four live on $2,775 a month, which includes paying for a live-in nanny, a maid, and a gardener. Brian says it took a lot of hard work over the last seven years to get to this point, but it’s all worth it to give his family the lifestyle they currently live.

If you’re curious about moving abroad, but want to stay on track with your financial independence goals, here’s how one entrepreneur’s career unfolded.

Follow the Demand

Once he was licensed, Killian transitioned to driving trucks for event organizers because he loved the job’s operational and hands-on nature.

“After I got my CDL, I got a ton of opportunities from different agencies to work as a tour manager,” he says. “I would drive the truck from city to city, help set up equipment, and supervise other service providers.”

After four years, he received the opportunity of a lifetime. A client who was dissatisfied with their tour manager approached Killian and asked him if he would be interested in helping them operate and manage a mobile tour for Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. The contract was worth $500,000, and Killian would have to use a substantial amount of the revenue for equipment, licenses, insurance, and other costs. Though he was making $130,000 a year at the time, he took a leap of faith and decided to use the contract as a springboard to start his own company

“I couldn’t afford a decent salary, so I paid myself $20,000 a year for the first two years of the business,” says Killian, who would sleep in his truck to save money on rent and housing. “My friends and family thought I was crazy to quit a job with benefits.” As the business grew, Killian took on business partners Brian Moore and Paul Barash to help him manage sales and run operations, respectively. The leadership team determined that hiring drivers and teaching them the soft skills of polished MBAs was key to making their business successful.

By pouring most of the company’s profits back into the business, Killian was eventually able to incrementally raise his pay.

YearIncome
2016$20,000
2017$20,000
2018$60,000
2019$100,000
2020$100,000
2021$100,000
2022$130,000 (projected)
Killian’s self-employment salary, from the year the business was established up until today.

The company was “a few weeks from bankruptcy” in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but survived by pivoting to toilet paper and personal protective equipment (PPE) deliveries. Turnkey then roared back to $5.4 million in revenue in 2021, according to financial documents reviewed by NextAdvisor.

Pro Tip

If you’re curious about self-employment, do your personal finance due diligence first. Unforeseen events can force your business or side hustle to pivot at any time.

Moving to Colombia for Love and Money

Killian and his wife, Maria. The couple met in Colombia.

After a few years of running his business — and with his job now mainly involving strategy, which could be done remotely — Killian started traveling the world, a work lifestyle known as digital nomadism that has increased in popularity in the wake of the remote work revolution. Killian’s trips took him to Europe and South America.

“I met a Colombian girl, fell in love, and got married,” he says. “After that, my wife and I talked about where we wanted to live permanently and ultimately decided on Colombia because of the cost of living, rich culture, and gorgeous weather.” The cost of living in Colombia is 74% less than the United States, according to LivingCost.org, a crowdsourced cost of living database.

A Breakdown of Their $2,775 Monthly Budget

A principle of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement is to maximize the gap between income and expenses, then invest the difference in appreciating assets, such as stocks, bonds, or real estate. Brian earned $105,000 in 2021 from Turnkey and some investment properties, per his tax filing. By living in an area with a much lower cost of living, the family is able to save over 50% of the income.

Here is a breakdown of The Killian family’s expenses each month for two adults and two children:

  • Groceries: $500
  • Maid: $400
  • Nanny: $400
  • Private school for son: $300
  • Private health insurance: $250
  • Car and motorcycle insurance: $250
  • Utilities: $200
  • Restaurants and entertainment: $200
  • Gas: $100
  • WiFi: $80
  • Dog daycare: $50
  • Gardener: $25
  • Cell phone: $20

The family’s house, car, and a motorcycle are all paid off.

Total monthly expenses: $2,775

Budget ItemMonthly Cost
Groceries$500
Maid$400
Nanny$400
Private school for son$300
Private health insurance$250
Car and motorcycle insurance$250
Utilities$200
Restaurants and entertainment$200
Gas$100
WiFi$80
Dog daycare$50
Gardener$25
Cell phone$20
TOTAL$2,775
The Killian family’s monthly budget in U.S. dollars, line by line.

“Here in Colombia, it’s easier for my kids to become bilingual and adopt a global worldview, because they are exposed to multiple perspectives both at home and at school,” says Killian. Though he’s thought of selling his stake in the business and retiring early, Brian says he loves what he does, and doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon. His ability to work remotely has helped him save more money while also having a nice quality of life.

For many people, the prospect of remote work has inspired them to explore the idea of digital nomadism. If working abroad to save money has been on your mind, know that it’s possible to live comfortably while also working your way toward financial independence.