Is it really less expensive to live in Mexico than it is to live in the U.S. or Canada? The answer is clearly yes, although that’s not to say there aren’t expensive aspects of the country for those who seek them out.
While my wife and I were planning our six-month long trip to Mexico, the value of the U.S. Dollar against the Mexican Peso started steadily climbing. As I write this, the exchange rate is hovering near 15-to-1 (15 Mexican Pesos to 1 U.S. Dollar). This has made living down here very inexpensive for Americans at the moment.
Just how cheap is it to live here? How cheap it seems to you depends on where you’re used to living. We normally live in San Francisco, which is one of the most expensive cities in North America. The cost of living in Mexico is dramatically cheaper than home for us. If you live in a less expensive place, Mexico may not seem like such a bargain.
Another major factor which will affect how cheap it is for you to live here is the specific location in Mexico you choose. There are major cost-of-living differences between, say, Puerto Vallarta and Colima. The major resort towns and other popular expat destinations tend to be more expensive due to all the gringos competing over places to live.
The least expensive places are those which are “off the map” so to speak. Some states such as Guerrero and Oaxaca also tend to be less expensive in general than other states.
The costs I’ll be describing here apply to desirable, but not super touristy locations. These are typical of the costs that our friends and we have been paying to live. Prices are listed in USD.
Since we’re only here temporarily, we’ve been staying in fully-furnished places. We have found that the vacation rentals listed on the major websites tend to be the most expensive options. You can find much more reasonable prices by talking to people locally. Also, the cost of housing is always cheaper when renting by the month, as opposed to by the week. Monthly rates tend to be about 2.5x the weekly rates we’ve been quoted.
On the cheaper end of things, there are nice, clean 1-bedroom apartments within walking distance of the beach and town for as little as $300 per month. We didn’t opt to stay in one of these low-cost options, but felt that it would have been an acceptable choice.
Larger apartments and two-bedroom houses tend to rent for between $600 and $1200 per month. Some of these are quite nice, with full kitchen amenities, two-car parking, a swimming pool and ample outdoor space.
The most expensive places we’ve found are those that are beachfront and recently built or remodeled. These places cost upwards of $2500 per month, although renting them by the month may not be possible due to advance bookings. The nicest options are rented out by the week for up to $1000 per week.
Hotels are similarly priced, with the cheapest (but still clean and livable) options costing as little as $15 per night when staying for a week or longer. The average price for mid-range hotels is between $40 and $80. Some boutique places or bed and breakfasts may run a little more. For honeymooners or people with deep pockets, the big full-service resorts tend to cost $200 or more.
Food and Entertainment
Comparing the cost of buying groceries to those in the U.S. or Canada really depends on what types of things you buy. Anything that is grown locally and commonly purchased by locals is quite reasonable. Things that are imported or less common are likely at least as expensive as in the States. We spend about $100 every two to three weeks on groceries, and we cook at home about half of our meals.
An interesting thing about living down here is that it may actually be cheaper to eat out most meals than it is to cook at home. A standard lunch or dinner of Mexican cuisine at a family-run restaurant including a beer each or other beverage for two costs between $10 and $15. There are even less expensive and still delicious options that tend to be located in the Mexican neighborhoods. Dinner out at the nicest restaurants in the towns we’ve been staying will run around $40 to $50 including wine.
Night life is plentiful in Mexico, and especially in the more tourist-focused towns. We’ve found live music to be common, and most places have either a very small cover charge or no cover at all. Beers are around $1 USD, and cocktails typically cost between $2 and $4.
Services and Other Expenses
Housekeeping is a service we tend to use regularly down here, but not as often back in the States. It costs us about $12 per visit for our two-bedroom house. Any service that is primarily human-capital intensive is similarly inexpensive. There’s a fantastic car detailing shop in town who charges about $6 for a complete in-and-out detail. My wife has become fond of getting the occasional massage, which costs her around $22 US.
The total cost of living
In total, we’re living a fantastic life in Mexico for about 1/3 to 1/2 of our cost to live in the U.S. Do you have a different experience with the cost of living in Mexico? Please, tell us in the comments!
This is part three in a series of posts called living in Mexico.
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