CATANIA, Sicily – In last September’s issue of The Bill Bonner Letter (subscribers can catch up here) we reported on an interesting real estate deal in Sicily.

It was in a hill town in the interior of the island. But Sicily is a small place; it was not too far from the coast or from big cities.

We dispatched one of our researchers. He reported that the deal was real.

A village, called Gangi, in the Madonie Mountains in the province of Palermo, was desperate to stop the depopulation trend that was emptying central Sicily of people.

Rather than renovate them, owners turned their houses – many of them derelict – over to the local council.

What was the council to do with them?

Give them away for a euro each. That’s $1.12 at today’s exchange rate.

Our researcher got back to us with an opinion: The houses were probably not the best investment… even at a buck and change. They required too much renovation.

But the village – in fact, almost all of Sicily’s towns and villages – had plenty of houses that were in decent shape and could be bought for very little money.

Better Than an RV?

We had a chance to visit one of those small towns on our drive from Agrigento to Syracuse yesterday.

Piazza Armerina is in the hills, not too far from Enna, which is said to be one of the prettiest towns in Italy and about two hours from the coast.

In the town center, on top of a hill, is a large church built of brown stone, with a piazza in front.

From there, narrow streets spiral down the hill, revealing small squares, restaurants, and balconies festooned with drying laundry and all the paraphernalia of small-town Sicilian life.

Our subject for the last few days has been how to live better for less money. In fact, we have taken it as a challenge to find ways to live on $500 a month.

So far, the consensus among readers is that living in a used RV in a Walmart parking lot is not better, and maybe not even possible. (More on this below in today’s mailbag…)

We don’t disagree. But what about living in Piazza Armerina?

It would not be for everyone. But it might work for some…

We must sign off. We are rushing to catch a ship.

More tomorrow




Further Reading: If the idea of living better for less abroad has piqued your interest… be sure to check out the list of inexpensive places where you can live the good life on nothing more than your Social Security check.

Our friends at International Living magazine – which Bill founded more than 35 years ago – have put out a new report, “7 Great Retirement Towns You’ve Never Heard Of.” You can access it here.


Today’s chart is of the top five best performing ETFs so far in 2015 versus the S&P 500.


Top of the list is the Market Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (NYSE:CNXT). It invests in 100 small- and medium-size companies traded on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

In second place is the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Health Care ETF (NYSE:DXJH). It tracks an index of Japanese health care stocks. It also hedges for movements in the yen versus the dollar.

In third and fourth places respectively are the iShares MSCI Denmark Capped ETF (BATS:EDEN) and the iShares MSCI Ireland Capped ETF (BATS:EIRL).

And fifth place is the ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (NYSE:SBIO). It invests in biotech companies that have one or more drugs in Phase II and Phase III FDA clinical trials.

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Desperate for yield, Japan’s $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest, is creating mandates for risky junk bonds. This comes as junk bonds hand investors the worst losses in four years.


Today, readers take issue with Bill’s suggestion that it’s possible to live on $500 a month by parking an RV in a Walmart lot.

Often I miss the fact that you are spoofing something when I read your newsletters. However, in this case it’s a serious problem. And I hope you are not dismissing the question so lightly.

Fact: You cannot do the things you mention in an RV. I live in an RV, and I guarantee you cannot live in the Walmart parking lot. The RVs you see are overnight only. You aren’t even supposed to put out a BBQ or put down your levelers.

You can live more cheaply in an RV DEPENDING on where you are trying to do it. There are some good ideas in the comments section, but please do not dismiss the original question of how to live cheaply on SSI or some other income of limited means.

Better option: Share housing. There are a lot of older people living in homes far too big for them, and by renting out the empty bedrooms everyone wins.

And just in case it was all spoofery, you missed the better option: Rent a climate-controlled storage unit. AC and heat supplied, security, and if you are discreet, you are probably not going to get caught.

It’s so much less than an RV space and you can get the health club membership, bus pass, and so forth. You could probably afford to eat most of your meals from an all-you-can-eat buffet and take a little extra back for later.

– Cynthia N.

The $500 concept is flawed. Can’t finance an RV that old. Can’t stay indefinitely at Walmart. RV park is $400, not $200/month.

Don’t know if the rest of it is as off base as this, but the model already does not work.

– Larry O.

If you are over 55, you can live in mobile home parks for less than $500 in Florida. You can also rent a 40-foot spot in a marina with Internet included for $400 per month. An older 30-to-36-foot less-ocean-worthy boat can be had for $5-15k.

– Allan H.

Look out for more ideas from fellow readers about how to live for $500 a month or less in tomorrow’s mailbag.

Do you have personal experience living on this kind of budget?

Bill and the team would love to hear your story. Write to [email protected].