Live and Retire in Mexico: Cost of Living

Live and Retire in Mexico: Cost of Living

Many people want to retire in Mexico because they have heard that the cost of living here is lower than in the U.S. or Canada. Mexico became famous for being cheap in the 60s and 70s and I have no doubt that it was. My experience from 2001 to 2007 (at the writing of this page) has been that cheapness is relative because buying power is relative. When you are spending dollars in Mexico your buying power is stronger than when you are spending pesos in Mexico, so in that sense the cost of living in Mexico is lower than up north.

Mexico is Not a Sunnier Version of the U.S.

A less than obvious factor that makes the cost of living in Mexico higher than we dream is that many things that we take for granted up north are not automatically in place in Mexico. For example:

  • -Unsafe drinking water means that we must have a water filtration system or purchase bottled water.
  • -Occasional contact with unsanitary water or food causes loss of productivity and incurs medical costs for treatment.
  • -The monopolized telephone system charges outrageous prices causing people to avoid using the phone and thus generating the hidden costs of lost potential. People sometimes have to contract a variety of other services to meet their needs and thus expend extra time and money.
  • -The relatively poor transportation system makes travel more time consuming and tiring. Though the excellent bus system probably more than offsets this cost.
  • -The unreliable electrical system may create a need for alternatives.
  • -The rampant class-ism creates a lack of customer service in industries nationwide.
  • -Corrupt police and the Napoleonic Code of Law mean that in the case of an accident greater amounts of time and money may be required to deal with the legal effects.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Mexico is not a sunnier version of the U.S. It’s a developing country. The only way to truly calculate these “costs” in your life is to experience them and see for yourself before you decide to live or retire in Mexico. In my book Mexico: The Trick is Living Here I tackle the complex topic of cost of living in Mexico by giving descriptions of different lifestyle “levels” with estimated costs so that people can see where they might fall on the broad range between “living like a local” and “living in luxury.”

image of cover of e-book: Mexico The Trick is Living Here
Here’s what one reader had to say about this humorous, practical e-book.


“[I was impressed with] your ability to get right to the heart of what’s important in life, and especially to truly “see” the Mexican people. I don’t know if that’s because [your husband is Mexican], because you have been forced to immerse yourself, or just because you have extraordinary insight, but I think it’s the most important thing you have to contribute. I will tell you this: by far more important to me than the information re: how to register your car or get a FM3 visa, were things like:

* real life information on lifestyles,cost of living, and the average Mexican home

* the story of your personal healthcare experiences

* building your “posse” of people around you who make your tacos, do your laundry, etc.

* the importance of close relationships with your neighbors

* social graces like how to greet and say goodbye to everyone

* the section on the varieties of fruit and neat stuff like ice cream

* all the little glimpses of simple day-to-day life

“Nobody else provides that kind of information, and that’s what you are really good at.”

–Dave Brown, Colorado

If I Retire in Mexico Will it Lower My Cost of Living?

The most obvious factor that makes Mexico less cheap than we dream is that there are many places where prices are quite high. Ajijic, near Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, near Mexico City, and Cancun in the “Riviera Maya” are all examples of places in Mexico that have a high cost of living and they are certainly not the only ones. Obviously, the presence of a high percentage of Americans, Canadians, and other foreigners drives prices up (as well as the presence of lots of Mexico’s richest, too).

“Your book is unique, most useful and a smart idea.”

Hi Julia,

I am enjoying the book. Thank you so much.

…You are doing a great, useful, down to earth service and all the anecdotal info and style of your writing is great. I feel like I am talking to a friend. Not being adventurist, but so tempted to make the change….

thanks again, Dan Serbin

For example, renting a tiny house in Cuernavaca costs between $400 and $800 U.S. dollars a month. If $400 sounds cheap to you, then you need to understand what I mean by tiny. Tiny in Cuernavaca can be the size of a camping trailer, with no parking, an unreliable water supply, and usafe stairs. Would you pay $400 a month to live in a camping trailer in someone else’s back yard? That’s the way many of the least expensive places to rent are set up.

Of course, the best way to get a good sense for the true cost of living — for you as an individual with your own personal priorities and activities — is to rent in the area you’d like to move to for 6 months or so. That’s why I chose to present the different lifestyle “levels” in the cost of living section of my book. I try to give my readers an idea of whether or not they would find their new life in Mexico comfortable enough based on their financial resources. e-book

You wouldn’t buy a car without first researching its safety, comfort, reliability, and gas mileage.


There’s NO NEED to make planning to retire in Mexico like reading the newspaper through a glass of water when you can have REAL ANSWERS. Treat yourself to a book which will clear up your doubts. Click here to learn how.

The prices I give in my book are estimates that will give you ballpark ideas of how much it costs to live a certain way.

Mexico: The Trick is Living HereDear Ms. Taylor;

Thanks for writing such an informative, enjoyable and readable e-book! The information you have provided is helping me with my planning for an extended stay, 2-3 months, in Mexico.

I don’t have a printer at home and I’m requesting permission to store an electronic copy of your book on my iPod until….

–Peter A Cassidy
British Columbia, Canada

Mexico is Expensive if You Aren’t Spending “Dolars”

Another factor that can make the cost of living in Mexico extremely high is to have to earn money in Mexico. High paying jobs in Mexico are rare and hard to find. Most jobs don’t pay enough to live on and often the hours are long and split shifts are common. To top it off, if you retire in Mexico, then you are probably over 50. Mexico is “ageist” and it’s increasingly hard to get a job once you pass about 40 years old. I suggest that you do not live or retire in Mexico unless you have some U.S. or Canadian dollars to spend — or are just on a one or two year lark and have a way to move back north.

What do YOU Need
to Learn About?

By reading this book, you will learn about the things you wouldn’t have known you needed to learn about.

See also The Cost of Living in Mexico Depends on Your Lifestyle for a useful way to figure out what your personal buying power will actually be once you live or retire in Mexico.

Cut The Negativity and Give Me the Facts, Please.

To help you figure out the cost of living in Mexico, click here to see a detailed grocery list.

Budgeting in Mexico

Click here to read some tips on budgeting when you retire in Mexico.

Click here to read about how much and how rapidly prices have been increasing (2007).

Click here to read a real-life case study of costs for an expatriate in Ajijic.


Retired folks in Cuernavaca Mexico

There are a number of retired expats from the U.S. and Canada living in and around Cuernavaca. Some of them have an open table at a restaurant near the zocalo where they meet every day at 11:00 a.m. over coffee, beer, fruit juice, or whatever you may desire. The conversation is lively, honest, and all in English (though most of them do speak Spanish).

I finally went down there and said hello to them. They were very warm and enthusiastic. They made me and one of my family members welcome and instantly opened up more space around the table for us to sit with them. Many of them have been in Cuernavaca for 20 years or more and most of them even like Mexico. (hee hee).

Some of them kindly gave me their contact information. I hope to interview them to learn more about what went into their decisions to retire in Mexico and what they like and don’t like about it.

Meanwhile, if you get to Cuernavaca before I can do the interviews, you can find them daily at 11:00 seated in the restaurant on the north side of the zocalo. They always sit at a table near the green iron railing and they’re always interested in meeting new people.

Home Again in Mexico

We are back in Mexico again and it feels good to be here. I’m enjoying the peace of my home and it feels great to say hello to my neighbors. It was nice to go to a store today and greet and be greeted by people by name.

My neighbors just came by and called out to my son from the gate. They had been to the store and had sugary treats for him that are dangerous for someone as little as he is. They would have just passed all of them right to him if I hadn’t come out to intercept the chocolate that gives him an upset tummy and the tiny jello with the aluminum top that would make a nice choking hazard. You know what? I loved it. Sugar high here we come. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who want to see us smile.