How Affordable Is Naples?

By - March 1, 2013

When I started this series last year I had only discovered a few of the many ways to affordably enjoy and live in Naples, Florida. In the first installment (both previous posts are linked to in the side bar to the right) I explained that although houses are expensive here, condos are still selling for less than half of what they sold for a few short years ago. I also related how some dentists offered an exam, x-rays and cleaning altogether for as little as $29 during the slow season. We had just finally found places to buy furniture and clothing at reasonable prices (and these can get really expensive here if you don't know where to look).

In the second installment I covered how to get free money and meals at a local casino. Free samples at various stores, as mentioned, are still available as well. Free outdoor movies run weekly through all of the slow season (roughly May through November). I even laid out an example of a cheap evening out, with all the specifics. Finally, I told readers where we would soon be going on a six-hour ocean cruise at nearby Fort Myers Beach for $21.61 each, with a gourmet lunch included.

We did the cruise shortly after posting that piece. But we did it for $10 each. In the slow season the casino cruise company offers free coupons online for the lunch buffet, leaving only the boarding cost. The food was better than I ever would have expected. We happened to go while a hurricane was passing nearby, so it was an uncomfortable adventure at times, but we had a great time in any case, losing no more than a few dollars in slot machines and eating our fill at the buffet. Where else can you get an ocean cruise with a great meal for $10?

The key to making the life affordable in the land of wealthy retirees is to just go with the flow. What I mean is go when and where you can get a deal. Keep your ears and eyes open and be a bit of an opportunist. For example, Outback Steakhouse, if you sign up for their emails, will give you a free "Bloomin Onion" for various events. Twice recently, we have received one when Ryan Newman finished in the top ten in Nascar races (they sponsor him). We just had to say some key word to get it. If you haven't had one, these giant battered, deep-fried, flower-shaped onions are delicious. A purchase was required, but the dollar-off happy-hour beer I would normally have bought anyhow qualified, making the meal truly free. And it is a meal; though it is called an appetizer, one is enough to fill my wife and I every time.

We just recently discovered that the Publix grocery stores which have a cafe and full deli offer free sample meals and other free food samples. When we were last there we had, at no cost, a fruit drink in the cafe, a tiny plate of spaghetti, bread and chicken parmigiana, fried potatoes, sauerkraut, and tiramasu for desert. We did buy some groceries while we were there, but they had buy-one-get-one-free deals going, making soup and other items cheaper than even Walmart.

Just prior to that visit we had free samples from five restaurants in the Coastland Mall. Sometimes we will try all the samples offered, and then, being half full, split a meal at whichever place had the tastiest food.

If you are a resident you have to be sure to get your parking sticker from the county. It can cost up to $8 to park at some of the public beaches, but with the sticker, which is free to residents, it costs nothing. If you also want a free ride through a mangrove swamp (very pretty) go to the parking lot at the end of Seagate Drive and take the free shuttle along the half-mile-long boardwalk that goes through the trees to the beach.

One of the great things about living in a town that has money is that the local governments get all the revenue they need from relatively low property tax millage rates. After all, a low rate still produces a lot of money when there are so many homes worth millions of dollars (dozens sell in that range every week lately). That leaves those of us in more modest homes paying less than we would have to in most parts of the country (on a condo worth $90,000 you pay around $700 annually as a full-time resident).

But that money that is here also means the parks and other public spaces are well maintained, and various places can afford to offer free events and admission to residents. For example, the first Saturday of every month the Naples Zoo allows county residents in for free. The usual admission price at the moment is $19.95, so this is quite a savings.

The Naples Museum of Art has one night each month when they are open to the public for free, and they usually have live music there on these nights. This may be just during the slow season, so check with museum for the next opportunity.

Did I mention that I got a great haircut today for $7 today? That's the regular price, by the way. You can find that deal at Tropical Hair.

Yes, Naples can be expensive (be careful walking into a restaurant or furniture store if you know nothing about it). But it doesn't have to be. There are many affordable options for everything from housing to food and entertainment.

Other Pages

1. Cheap Naples

2. Living Cheap

Affordable Naples