Beach living vs lake living


Before buying my lakefront house in Northern Guatemala, I lived for almost a year on the Southern Pacific Coast, right on the beach. I love having water around, although beach living is different from lake living, and there are several aspects to take into consideration when you choose one or the other.


I love seeing the water from bed

I love seeing the water from bed


Like seasons, tides mark a rhythm of things coming and going, and are pretty nice. Until you have a really big one, or a tsunami, and your house gets washed out. Sure, you can always claim damages to your insurance, but insurance companies are there to make money and it is very likely that they won’t cover it all.

Buying an old beach house is good as you know it has survived storms already, although you don’t know if the structure is still strong. And water levels are expected to rise 2-7ft by the end of the century. In Guatemala’s lake Atitlán, the historical villages were about 500 meters from the lakeshores. Then foreigners came and built right by the water. 30 years later the waters rose and they now have their feet in the water.

I’d say lake living wins because it is way less probable the lake will rise, although it happens sometimes.


Land erosion

I admire people living on cliffs and always wonder when they will have to abandon their house due to land erosion. The sea eats everything, and if you buy right on the beach, chances are you will be closer and closer from the water every year, until it reaches your house. Not today, not tomorrow. But it is a possibility within the term of your 30 year mortgage.

Lake wins this one.



After about six month of living on the beach, my laptop died. I took it back to the store as it was still under warranty, and was told it was because the sea salt had infiltrated the hard drive and the fan, so all the inside components were rusty. I never used it right on the beach, or poured salt water on it, it was just the regular sea breeze’s doing.

They were kind enough to change my hard drive for close to nothing, but it was not something the warranty would cover. Everything rusts in a beachfront house. Your fridge, your washing machine, dryer, any appliance. Even more if you don’t use them regularly. If the house sits empty for six months, expect to find some damage.

The same goes if you have a metal structure, roof or deck. Unless you cover it with very expensive anti corrosive paint and apply regular coats, you will find it eaten by the sea.

Around the lake, the house is a bit humid but there is no such thing as salt erosion. Lake wins.



I love the sea because I feel it is infinite. You can go around my lake in a couple of hours. So sailing, diving, water-skiing, fishing… everything is more exciting by the sea. And I feel like lake living is less social, with everyone spread around the lake, whereas the beach attracts lots of people every summer, and is globally more dense.

Beach wins, except if you are a true clear water fisherman or an hermit.


Seasonal town

Ever been by the sea in winter? That is a pretty depressing sight. You probably fell in love with the beach when it was sunny, warm outside, the shops and restaurants were filled with happy people, and forgot that six months of the year, when tourists are gone, the town hibernates and looks like a ghost town. Seasonal workers move to the mountains for the ski season and it’s just a bunch of old people and fishermen.

Some lakes are the same. I was in Tahoe the day the ski season closed and it was morose as well. And in Florida, the sea is nice all year long.

So that’s a tie.

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Do or don’t? Buy some land in Guatemala City


I have had my eyes on a sweet piece of land lately, and  as you may know, I have a bit of cash that I want to invest. About $100K already went into buying my share of the beach access on the 90 acres land development in the North, and doing some works on the roads and digging a well over there, so I have $100K left. And it just happens to be the price of this parcel:


In Guatemala City, the best neighborhoods are in private condominiums, and this is the case for this one. It is on a green hill with lots of nice houses, 6 miles away from the historical center, and about 2 miles from busier parts of town with malls, supermarkets, bars and restaurants. You never walk in Guatemala City, it is like the US, so 2 miles is a reasonable distance to be away from the supermarket, although when I lived in the epicentre before, I enjoyed having the supermarket one block away. As a European, I am not used to having to drive to buy bread and other necessities.

But now that I live in the jungle, I have a car, and the supermarket is 20 miles away, so it is not that much of a problem.

Anyway, the land is 18 meters by 45 deep, meaning you could do 5 parking spaces, then the maid and handyman quarters, then the house in the back, with a gorgeous view over the volcanoes and a nice garden.


At night, you also see the whole city at your feet, with little lights glittering, which is something I love. I know because BF’s house is one block away and enjoys the same gorgeous view.

My next door neighbor to the left, whose tile roof you can see built a 12,000 sqft house that he wants to sell for $1,500,000. I don’t think he will get it but the property could be worth $1M.


For being on top of a hill, the land is still pretty flat, meaning limited earth movements, that can be very expensive when you have to bring caterpillar to move big volumes on steep lands.


Another advantage is it is already built on three sides, so you won’t have a bad surprise that your neighbors in front block the view with a sky high building. And it also means free perimeter wall!



I really like it, and my plan would be to build a 300/400 sqm house (3,000/4,000 sqft), maybe to use myself as a city pied-a-terre, or rent, then sell for a profit. Construction costs are around $400/sqm so that’s $160,000 to build the house, say $200,000 because life is always more complicated than you think, and $100,000 for the land, total $300,000. If it is well done in a neutral taste (with a practical architect, not a crazy one), it can sell for $450-$500,000, a $150-200K profit. Older houses in the same residence with 350sqm but half the land size are selling for $400,000.

One year to get the permit, one year to build, that would be $75K profit per year.


The PROS are

- It is pretty cheap. Guatemala is a weird market where luxury means really high end with high prices, and in the nearby developments they ask for $125-150 per vara (roughly 70cmx70cm) and this one is at $90. In the town center two miles away, they ask for $350-500. Four times more! I was surprised because my mother is less than two miles from the Paris city limits and her property is maybe 20% cheaper than if it were in Paris. Here there is a fourfold gap, that I think is going to narrow in my favor.

- It is a safe neighborhood with a gate and security guards, so no one will invade the land if it sits empty for a couple of years.

- The view is impressive and you feel like you are in the countryside while being in the town center.

- The city is expanding and this is a very convenient location between three dynamic zones (zona viva, where all the nightlife, bars and hotels are, Vista Hermosa and Pradera Concepción, where you find supermarkets and malls).

- The space is limited and people have to go live further away from the center for lack of affordable housing options.

- This is known as an exclusive area and people want to live there.

- Lots of big new houses like the neighbor to the left’s have been built in the last couple of years. More than a dozen of them. The area is picking up.

- I could even do two units, or one unit on half the land, and keep the other half.


The CONS are:

- The road to get there has a lot of traffic at office time, where people living further away get down to the city to work. It is already a 2×2 but it is not enough and expanding it is complicated because of the hilly ground. I don’t care as I don’t have a 9-5 job but for people working it is pretty bad. Although the place it at km9 and some people live at km20 and still commute to the center.

- Since is it so high up, it is almost at the same level as the development’s water tank, meaning low water pressure. You need to install a cistern and a pump to get pressure in the shower.

- Real estate is weird in Guatemala and people prefer to buy new houses rather than fix an old one, so the house may not resell if I use it or rent it.

- Guatemala is a seismic zone. There hasn’t been a big earthquake since the late 70s so they are probably due for one. Construction is quake-proof now but the house could be swallowed by the earth if the quake happened right there. Pretty dramatic but it can happen! The answer is taking a very expensive insurance policy or taking the risk to see your savings disappear in the lava!

- No shops around, it is purely residential.

- You have to climb quite a bit, so your car takes a toll, and you use a lot of gas to get back home.

- I would lock up most of my available cash. Meaning having to pass on investing opportunities, and putting a lot of eggs into that Guatemalan basket. I would have to wait a few months before being able to build a house, if not a year, so in the meanwhile the cash is not producing anything. It is a long term deal that is not liquid.


What do you think? Should I buy it or go put my eggs elsewhere? Where?

Side hustle ideas, part 4

It is time for another installment of the awesome side hustle ideas series. Here is the link to part 2 and part 3 as well if you missed it. And today I have got some more for you!

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Don’t Blow Your Budget To Buy The New iPhone 6. Do This Instead.

Enjoy this guest post (and giveaway!) by Brent from VOSA. Brent’s a world record holder, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, world traveler & eternal optimist. You can read more of his writing about personal finance, entrepreneurship and travel at

Apple unveiled the new iPhone yesterday.

If you’re an iPhone user, or just a fan of the latest technology, there’s a chance that a part of you wants it. Even if you are still breaking in the iPhone 5S that you bought a few short months ago.

In my opinion, there isn’t a better company in the world when it comes to getting people to buy the new versions of the same product way before they actually need a new one.

I’m even guilt of this. Here are the Apple products I have owned over the years:

iPod Nano, iPod Nano 5th Generation, iPod Nano 6th Generation, iPod Shuffle 2nd Generation, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS (purchased used), iPhone 4 and iPhone 5S and a MacBook

Whoa… I don’t even want to add up how much money I’ve spent on these products over the years.

All four phones essentially do the same thing and the phones and iPods all do the same thing!

Talk about redundancy. Talk about redundancy.

There is a very real chance that you’re taking your inventory of Apple products in your head right now and you too might have a small store’s worth of Apple devices lying around your home collecting dust.

I’m not saying you can’t go out and buy the new iPhone when it comes out, especially if you’re been saving up for it over time like the popular budgeting software YNAB (You Need A Budget) recommends.

What I do suggest is that you sell your old iPhone before you buy the new one.

By selling your old phone first you’ll be able to raise some money to put towards the purchase of the new iPhone 6.

The price you’re ultimately able to sell your current phone phone depends it’ make, model and condition. You phone can be worth nothing but, if you have an unlocked 64GB iPhone 5S like me, it’s worth at least $310:

iPhone 5S 64 Price

With the new iPhone 6 selling for $199 to $499, on a contract, I would be able to almost cover the entire cost of the most expensive model and I could even make a profit if I picked up the least expensive option.

How & Where To Sell Your Old iPhone

If you haven’t saved up for the new iPhone but you’re dead set on still ordering one when they hit the shelves, then you should probably sell your old one to help cover the cost of the new iPhone.

I have bought and sold a lot of phones over the years and there are three main marketplaces to trade cellular phones. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, some are better to use when you’re the buyer and others are better to use when you’re the seller.

The three main markets are:

eBay: One of the world’s largest online marketplaces that connects buyers and sellers for cell phones and virtually anything else under the sun. The main advantages of eBay are that you’ll usually get top dollar for your cell phone and your item is almost always guaranteed to sell in a little as 24 hours if you want.

Craigstlist: An online classified section where you can buy and sell cell phones locally. An advantage of Craigslist over eBay is that CL doesn’t not charge you to list or sell your item. A downside is the potentially larger safety risk in both getting paid as well as meeting someone in person to exchange cash for your old cell phone. I have never had a problem with any of the items I’ve bought or sold from CL, but please careful as you just never know.

Gazelle: A website that will make you an offfer, and will buy your old iPhone on the spot. All you need to do is answer the questions about what kind of cell phone you have as well as what type of condition it’s in and Gazelle will make you an offer that you can either accept or reject. There isn’t any negotiations though, so if you’re not happy you’ll have to resort to eBay or CL to sell your phone. The advantage of Gazelle is that it’s extremely simple. The disavantage is that you’ll typically get the lowest amount for your phone as Gazelle is in the resale market as well.

If you’re interested in turning that old brick of a cell phone you’re using into some cold hard cash, pick with of the three marketplace you’re going to sell and follow along with this detailed guide on how to sell your old cell phone for cash.

The Bottom Line

Weather you’re going to keep your old cell phone or you’re going to sell it to raise some money to put towards buying the new cell phone I’d recommend checking out the YNAB iPhone app. YNAB stands for “You Need A Budget” and it’s more of a way of life than a budgeting software.

There are four main rules to follow which are:

1. Give every dollar a job.

2. Save for a rainy day.

3. Roll with the punches.

4. This this month on last month’s money.

This very popular budgeting software can be access on your iPhone making it ideal for keeping track of your budget and tracking your expenses right away before you forget.

Did you know that the median YNABer (as they call themselves) net worth increase $200.00 in the first month and $3,300.00 in the first nine months!?

If you would like to win a copy of YNAB so you can gain total control over your money, pay off your debt, save more money and break the paycheck to paycheck cycle then click here and enter to win a free copy of YNBA budgeting software (a $60.00 value).

P.s. YNAB will also help you budget and start saving up for when the next iPhone that is sure to come out way before you really need a new phone. Enjoy!