What Does It Cost For Us To Live In Mexico?
The answer to the question you’ve all been waiting for: How much does it cost for us to live in Mexico?
Before you get the idea that we had plenty of money to start with let’s talk about how we lived before. In the U.S. we lived paycheck to paycheck, frequently running our bank account into the red between pay days. Everything we had was second hand (which I love anyway, reduce, reuse!) and money was a constant worry. I would call us lower middle class, able to get by, but struggling.
When we sold everything we walked away with a profit that we then put into reducing our debt until it is almost non-existent. We have a few credit cards and our student loans will follow us forever but the getting rid of the rest freed up a lot of money.
My husband Jason was able to keep his job and work from remote so although we have only one income it is in dollars rather than pesos and that makes a huge difference here. In a place where the minimum wage is around $4 USD per day and people ride with their family of 4 on a moped because they can’t afford a car we are considered “rich.” It took me a while to adjust to this idea, but I feel that it is true. While there is not a lot of crime here there is frequent theft and like it or not expats are regular targets because we are “rich” and can manage the loss. I don’t like knowing that I am viewed this way at times, but I accept the truth in it. We have a lot of opportunities here in Mexico that we just couldn’t afford back in the states and while I am grateful for that every day I try not to take it for granted.
The daily cost of living in Mexico is much less than the U.S. It can easily be half if you watch what you spend. The trade off for us is that Cozumel is a tourist destination and the prices of some of the more unique attractions are high. We found we couldn’t afford to do as many vacation activities as we did when we were just visiting. We haven’t done any diving or gone out on boats like we planned to, but snorkeling from the shore is free and abundant.
How much it costs to live here is also a matter of what you’re willing to pay; we know people who pay $1200 USD per month for their home and are happy with it, but that’s too much for us. We lived cheaper than that before we came to Mexico, although I do enjoy having it be a choice rather than a necessity.
We were lucky that we found just the right house with everything we wanted and a unusually low price. We have 2 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, fully furnished with a shared pool and garden area in a quiet neighborhood that’s 3 blocks from the ocean. I love our little house. Sadly, the property has recently changed owners and will become a higher priced vacation rental rather than a long term, so our little community is set to disband.
A quick disclaimer before we get to the numbers: Our cost of living in Mexico is only one example, and I’m sure others will have stories that are different that ours. This is just our personal experience.
Here’s a breakdown of costs:
Rent: 8500 pesos/month
Paying in pesos makes a big difference-when we got here the exchange rate was 16:1, making rent around $531 USD, but now it’s running just above 18:1 so it’s more like $472 USD. From here on out I’m going to use the exchange rate of 18 pesos to each dollar to show how much we are spending.
Cell phones: Jason and I both have Mexican SIM cards in our unlocked phones. To recharge them each month is 400 pesos for a plan that has unlimited minutes and texts and 3 GB of data. $22 USD each per month. We also have Skype set up so Jason can be reached anywhere for work, which costs $20 USD per month. (I’m trying to get Jason to write a post explaining our phone system.)
Internet: our home internet is just as fast as what we had in Iowa and costs 350 pesos per month; $19.45 USD. We also have a backup USB through the Mexican cellular service that we fill each month along with the phones for 400 pesos/$22 USD.
Gas: For the car: We drive an 1994 S10 Blazer, admittedly not the most fuel efficient of vehicles, but everything is pretty close by. It takes 20 minutes to go from one end of town to another with traffic. Each week we put in 500 pesos of gas to fill the tank; $27.75 USD a week, $111 per month. For the house: We have a gas tank for the water heater, our gas clothes dryer and the stove. It needs a refill about once a month for 335 pesos, $18.61 USD.
Electricity can be expensive, especially if you want to run the A/C a lot. The bill comes every two months, and in April we were pretty proud that it was only 3500 pesos, so for each month it was just under $100 USD. As summer came and things heated up we weren’t careful enough and our most recent bill was closer to 7500 pesos, more than twice that. Say the average bill is 5000 pesos every two months, making the monthly cost $139 USD.
Water: The house water is included in our rent but it isn’t drinkable. Even the locals have to buy drinking water, the cheapest way being large garafons, 20 liter bottles (think office water cooler.) A truck comes around that will exchange your empty bottles for full ones for 24 pesos, or you can take your empties to a filling station and fill them yourself for 10 pesos (5 on Wednesdays!) We have 3 bottles that we fill each week and if we miss the bargain day it’s 30 pesos ($1.67 USD.)
For ALL of the above living expenses we spend around $847. 73 USD each month. I think you can see why we’re pretty happy with that.
Groceries vary, but to give you an idea we buy whatever we want at a large store just like the ones in the states and generally walk out with a cart full for around 1000 pesos, $50-60 USD. We do try to purchase Mexican brands rather than imported items to keep costs down.
We also eat out regularly. At a local taco stand dinner for our family of 4 is around $15 total, or we sometimes enjoy the nice tourist spots on the water and spend around $60 for steaks and pasta. Alcohol adds up fast; Mexican beer runs 35 pesos each ($2 USD) but I don’t like beer so I splurge for a margarita, which can be anywhere from 70 pesos to 160 ($3.80-8.88 USD.) It varies according to what you chose but it still cost less most of the time than meals did in the U.S.
Shopping in the states
When we visited the states recently I admit I had a shopping list ready and was excited to go Target (shine down heavenly light here, cue the angles, AAAHHHH!) When I actually got there and started looking at how much things cost I quickly cut down the list as most of it was just convenience more than need. We did most of our shopping in Goodwill where the clothes are just as good but a shirt costs $2.50 instead of $20 and came back to Mexico with everything we could possibly want. There really isn’t much that we need that we can’t find here, but some things like clothes and sheets are higher quality in the U.S.
The question that I can’t quite answer is: How did we ever afford to live in the U.S. in the first place? I don’t think I could go back to being broke all the time and I like that we have more time to spend together now. It’s definitely worth it.