Friday, December 3, 2010

It's expensive here!

When we were considering moving here, Matt's employer told us that it was 20% less expensive to live here that in the states. Having been here for 9 months, I totally disagree. Things are just plain expensive in Brazil. And not the greatest of quality. Sorry, I've been wanting to avoid saying that, but last night I had to sharpen Sebastian's pencil TEN TIMES during the course of doing 30 minutes of homework, and the pencil sharpener kept falling open, dropping shavings all over the floor. So, I will admit, things are sometimes of a somewhat inferior quality (tape, pencils, soap, maxi-pads...don't get me started...). So here's a website that helps break down prices, and give you and idea:

The only thing I would say is that what it reports as rent for a 3 bedroom is very low. Maybe this is the average, but we are paying more than what they say.


  1. Dear Shelley,

    I totally hear your frustration, I agree with you that some products are lower in quality in Brazil, however, it is important to remember that the better quality products are always available at a premium price.
    I went to school in Brazil and remember the plastic pencil sharpeners that came apart were in fact very cheap but worthless, try to find a stainless steel one, it shouldn't be that much more, it's probably less than R$10,00 (Ten Reais) but you will buy only one for the rest of your life, and it is made in Brazil, not China.
    But many things depends BIG time, shoes:good Tennis shoes are expensive, other dress shoes are cheaper and much better than the ones in other countries. I always buy MADE IN BRAZIL Cole Hans at a great factory outlet store in Sao Paulo.
    Cars are HORRIBLE in Brazil and much more expensive, GREAT and cheaper in the US.
    Food in Brazil is of much HIGHER quality, about the same price, thing are sweetened with real SUGAR for example, not CORN SYRUP.
    Much better availability of fruits and vegetables of higher quality, much fresher, better taste and cheaper.
    Rent, it is a big "DEPENDS", Sao Paulo is really high, but still lower than San Francisco and New York, so it depends what kind of reference you are using to compare, it also depend where you live in Brazil and even within a city.
    I know electronics have historically been more expensive in Brazil, but the prices are coming down slowly, they are the same electronics found everywhere else.
    Clothes in Brazil, there is no way around it, you have to pay high prices for high quality with very few exceptions. But I found this to be truth in the US as well.
    The only exception is Europe where clothes are a fortune but they are of higher quality in general.
    If you buy a Polo-shirt at Walmart for U$10,00, it will fade and come a part much quicker than if you buy a Tommy Hilfiger at the Mall for U$50,00, the second one will last many years, won't fade and won't come a part.
    It all depends a lot and it changes over the years.
    In the 80's and early 90's all clothes in Brazil were of much higher quality and much cheaper, but with the invasion of imported Chinese material, Brazilian factories went out of business and the market was flooded with cheap material and poor quality clothes.
    Oh, we could go on and on and write a book on the subject.
    At the end of the day it sounds like you guys are enjoying a good life in Belo Horizonte.
    Please let me know if you need tips on finding anything at better quality or prices, I know many people in the area and could ask my friends to share such information with you.
    Sorry about the pencil sharpener coming a part.

    Take care


  2. We are so happy we shipped all our kitchen stuff when we moved. Simple things like a coffee maker can be 6 or 7 times more expensive (and still of lesser quality).

    Ray, I somewhat agree that better quality stuff is out there for more, but not always. We brought a Serta Matress and box springs and I have never seen anything close to it in quality at any price.

    We have one of those fancy French brand enamel cooking pots, you know the kind, in different colors (I forget the name, it was a gift). It cost about US$200 in San Francisco. At the fancy wedding gift store down the street here it costs R$850. Ouch.

    We just grin and bear it (and consume much less). There's nothing to be done (except get your visiting friends to bring stuff for you...)

    It's expensive here!

  3. I agree with pretty much everything said. In general we have to pay more to get something of more quality. While you drop more money, in the long run you save money. It's kinda hard with the economics here. Brazil makes things that are under quality. But by having Brazilian made, it keeps the economy strong for better jobs and opportunities. I think though that if people started making more official complaints on a regular basis or protest a product low on quality we could raise the standard in Brazil. But that would require education on consumer awareness and informing people they don't have to settle anymore in Brazil with the current market. There's a lot of tradition here too. Like the tradition of shipment by truck. Because Brazil makes tires there has been a long history of shipping by truck. Which with gas and other prices is not the best way of shipping. Brazil needs more ports. With it being a country which such a large coast, they need to construct more ports for national shipping.

  4. Jim,

    I hear you, my experience is somewhat limited and not too updated. I have not made large purchases in Brazil lately and a lot has changed since we left in 1998.
    I agree, things are in general much more expensive down there, that reminds me that when and if we move back we are filling an entire container with good quality stuff.
    Really, this is subject for a book!
    Keep in mind you can have a whole 14ft container shipped door-to-door between most US cities and Sao Paulo or Rio for about u$2500,00 which has to be shipped as a move, as you are moving down there, so all your stuff is duty free.
    There has been a lot of changes in the Mattress market in Brazil recently, did you get yours in the US or in Brazil?


  5. Thanks for the comments! And regarding the pencil sharpener, I think I had just reached my limit! But I will look for the metal one. I would agree on the food here--I feel much healthier here, eating less processed food, and my husband is always talking about how good the produce tastes. I think it's helpful to remember that we do value consuming less (in theory), and so the prices help us to really consider what we are purchasing. And to realize that it might be good to view some purchases as long term investments. And Nina, I have said on many occasions that I can't believe that consumers are not complaining more, or expecting more! I've met so many middle class Brazilians who just seem to resign themselves to the fact that so many things are of inferior quality.
    I'd forgotten about our mattress situation! We bought 3 Orthobon twin mattresses for our children, with guarantees, and within 9 months we are on our third mattress, and we need to get another one! We even had a Brazilian friend with us helping us to make the purchase, and she vouched that they were of good of the mattresses has had no problems, but my oldest daughter just keeps getting bad ones, and she's sleeping in a valley :-(

  6. Another dynamic that keeps consumption down is that you can get nearly everything REPAIRED. Remember that? We have a small fan that is nearly 50 years old and works like a charm. We recently got some pots and pans repaired. Don't buy new... renew!

    Ray - we bought the matress in the US. Even the finest matresses here are silly in comparrison to those sold in the US. We did our homework. Remember, I'm a BIG guy. Sleeping on foam or simple springs just doesn't cut it. I thank my stars every nioght I crawl into bed!

    Overall I am quite satisfied with the Brazilian reality -- no complaints. I'm just adding my 2 cents to the thread.

  7. Jim,

    Thanks, Gil and I will be sure to bring our own matress from the US, I really lost touch with reality on the matress situation.
    On another note, I am bringing you a darn pressure cooker as a gift when I come and I don't wanna hear another word still gives me the chills to think you had yours repaired... :) stay clear of the darned repaired pan when you are cooking or use a helmet or something, please :)


  8. Ray - I think of your warning every time we use the repaired pressure cooker. So far so good!

  9. It is very true, the prices on consumer goods are absolutely astronomical in some cases. Having grown up in the US with my mom always complaining about the "crap made in China", I never imagined encountering goods of inferior quality to those made in China...LOL. Although I think some things are made better in Brazil, like some clothes and furniture...i guess it depends. It's really true here that you get what you pay for. Not necessarily the case in the US.

    As for the cost of the rent...I think it totally depends on the neighborhood. In BH, the further away from the Centro the price of the rent could be half of the average listed there, and no not in a favela either LOL. Like in Barreiro or Regina.

  10. I was also surprised at how expensive it is here! I had been traveling to Rio with my Brazilian husband the past 10 years and always found it cheap for dining, pousadas and other travel expenses. But when we finally moved here (six months ago) I see that things have gotten out of control for certain items. Products that are produced in Brazil, as well as household staff are still reasonably cheap. However, anything that is produced outside of Brazil, or anything considered a luxury like dining, is equivalent to what we paid in New York City, or higher, without the same quality!