Finding a country or area where things are inexpensive isn't necessarily about saving money. It's about going somewhere your money will go further. Somewhere the cost of living is less than the United States but offers similar services and amenities. A place offering the type of life you dreamed about but never thought you could afford.
Based on our research at Live and Invest Overseas, the following four places offer a quality of life similar to, or even higher, than in the U.S. for a fraction of the price.
One of Lisbon's many claims to fame is having arguably the best climate in Europe. It has more hours of sunshine than most of Europe's other major cities. And when things get too hot, you can rely on the cooling properties of the Atlantic sea breeze. Temperatures fall during the winter but still remain mild.
Lisbon has yellow-sand beaches close to its city center, enabling you to take full advantage of the warm weather. Unlike the beaches you sometimes find near other big cities, these are clean and the water isn't polluted.
The Portuguese capital has become more expensive, but you can still find bargain living if you know where to look. Real estate prices in Lisbon are forecast to continue rising.
Living in Lisbon means you will never run out of things to do. There are restaurants to discover down every quiet street. And it isn't just Portuguese food; Lisbon has a range of cuisines. As you would expect from a coastal town, it has delicious, fresh seafood. The country's historic ties with India have led to some excellent curry houses, too. For those with a sweet tooth, pasteis de nata custard-filled pastries are legendary.
This city has a thriving cultural scene with opera houses, theaters, and small live-music venues across the city. Lisbon's other attractions include a fine aquarium, shopping, and a range of quirky bars.
One of Italy's most undervalued regions, two hours east of Rome, Abruzzo is also one of its most scenic. The countryside is wilder and more rugged than other parts of Italy, which has kept people away in the past. But with the expat lifestyle becoming more mainstream every year, growing numbers of people are starting to take notice of underpopulated Abruzzo, especially those looking for authentic and unspoiled Italy.
Abruzzo has the twin attractions of towering mountains and yellow-sand beaches. It's possible to ski in the morning and go for a swim in the afternoon. Much of the region is designated as a national park, perfect for outdoorsy types and hikers.
Abruzzo will suit expats looking to live a relaxed life at a slower pace. For food, you can easily become self-sufficient or at least grow enough seasonal produce to considerably lower your food bill.
The region has a wide range of excellent produce, including fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, pastas and breads. The local wines make a perfect accompaniment.
Abruzzo has an international airport close to Pescara, and Rome boasts even more options for flying. Public transport is reliable and punctual; you can easily and comfortably take bus trips across the region and even farther afield.
Placencia, a beach resort on the Caribbean coast, is a relatively undiscovered part of the small Central American country — hence the inexpensive real estate. But things are changing fast. Five-star accommodations are springing up, along with restaurants, bars and all other amenities. In short, it has everything you would expect from a top Caribbean resort.
Seeing its potential, investors are starting to buy property across Placencia. Infrastructure has been improved and the roads to and from the village are now as manageable as you will find in other parts of Belize. That doesn't mean you won't find potholes and bumps, but you can safely get to your destination.
Construction is underway on an international airport close to this eco-destination, which will provide likely attract tourists and raise property prices.
With the barrier reef a short distance out to sea, Placencia is popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. There is a dazzling array of fish species swimming in the crystal-clear waters, many unique to Belize.
Inland, you have the tropical jungles that are home to a diverse range of rare and endangered species. Maya ruins and temples lie hidden in the deep vegetation, making for spectacular hiking and day trips. If you are thinking of renting out your property for part of the year, these are strong selling points.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
There are any number of towns where you can live cheaply in Thailand. Chiang Mai is a favorite, due to its relaxed pace of life and excellent infrastructure.
While not as inexpensive as the internet may have you believe, Chiang Mai is one of the more upscale places to live in Thailand. But you can live well on a Social Security check. The city has a more relaxed feel than other big cities in the country — even the traffic seems less manic. The city is also safer, pickpockets are rare and lots of the drunken crime you see in other Thai cities is absent.
This is a modern, international city with top-quality hospitals, international schools, restaurants and shopping. You can find almost anything in Chiang Mai; even imported goods are inexpensive here.
There is a strong expat community made up of people from all over the world. Many are digital nomads who take advantage of the cheap, high-speed internet. The many hospitals and schools provide the city with a young, educated workforce and give the impression of a city on the way up.
Kat Kalashian is managing editor of Live and Invest Overseas. This story originally appeared on NextAvenue.org.