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.

DON’T MAKE THAT MISTAKE WITH MEXICO.

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.

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19 comments

  1. Chuck Burns Apr 17

    The biggest factor in deciding to live in Mexico is how comfortable you are with change. To live the same lifestyle in Mexico with the same food and amenities you will pay close to the same. Most successful retirees that I have talked to have adjusted the lifestyle to include true Mexican food and less electronics. They have also availed themselves of the state run healthcare coverage. You can still pay out of pocket for specific treatments by your choice of doctors if needed. The average visit is $25 – $35 US. I hope to join the list of retirees to Mexico and am looking at the Progresso and Chelem areas.

  2. Julia Taylor Apr 17

    Well said Chuck!
    Enjoy Mexico. It looks like you have what it takes to really love retiring in Mexico.
    Julia

  3. Bob Arias Jun 22

    Planning a move…from Oregon to either Mexico or Uruguay, looking at options for renting and living on a fixed income of $2,000 per month. Thanks, Bob

  4. Julia Taylor Jul 7

    Bob,

    Well, it can be done. I guess you would have to just try it out for a few months to be sure you like the lifestyle. Part of how we lived on a tight budget in Mexico was by not having some things we might have otherwise liked, such as insurance, trips home to visit family in the states, long distance phone conversations, high speed internet, buying food out instead of having to cook every day all the time, etc.

    The two of us were living on less than $2,000 combined so it seems possible to me. Prices are rising rapidly, though and that word “fixed” has me concerned. If you work in Mexico, you don’t earn much so what if you found you had to supplement your income…?

    I have found the lifestyle of Mexico on a budget a bit too limiting for me at times. It’s certainly not for everyone.

    My heartfelt advice is to see if you can try it out on a short term basis first.

    Enjoy your adventures. It’s always worth it to spend time in Mexico. You learn so much.

    Julia

  5. Catherine Sep 15

    After completing a TEFL program in Guadalajara next July (I will be finishing my Business degree in May, so no teaching experience!), I will be placed in some sort of teaching position in Cuernavaca. I’m hoping to find a roommate, but is it possible to live alone on a teacher’s salary if I just have myself to support?

  6. Julia Taylor Sep 15

    Catherine,

    Congratulations on completing your business degree and on your plans to get a TEFL certification. It’s hard for me to say what will be possible for you, since you still don’t know how much you will be earning. At this point my magic vision into the future says, “it’s doubtful.” If you get a room in someone’s house, it may be possible. It also may be possible if you are guaranteed a full time job at the higher end of the pay scale.

    If this will be your first experience living in Mexico and since you aren’t going to be an experienced teacher (and teaching in Mexico can sometimes throw in a surprise or two) I would recommend that you start out by playing it safe with a living arrangement that gives you flexibility and support. It won’t be like living on your own in the U.S. (or Canada).

    If you’re curious about typical rentals, you could read my book Mexico: The Trick is Living Here and learn all about what rental housing is like in Mexico and get all my hard-earned tips about living in Mexico (on your own) on a budget.

    Sincerely, Julia

  7. Martha Williams Mar 12

    I am thinking about retiring in Mexico, preferably somewhere around Progreso. or Veracruz.
    I am planning a trip in the next couple of months and I am looking for inexpensive lodging .
    Please advise.
    Thanks
    Martha Williams

  8. sandra Jan 5

    Thank you so much for being the first person to say that Mexico is expensive if you’re living on pesos! I have such a hard time explaining that to my friends back in Canada! currently my husband and i are living on 9000 pesos a month! and out of that 3500 is rent. it’s insanely expensive in Mexico on pesos, i wish people realized that.

    Martha Williams,

    I know this is late but Veracruz is like my heaven! I hope you chose to live there and i hope you are enjoying it fully!

  9. Julia Taylor Jan 7

    Sandra,

    Thank YOU. Making ends meet in Mexico is so hard, and one always feels just one step away from complete financial disaster. Oh, to be able to retire in Mexico with a pension….

    Kindest Regards,
    Julia C Taylor

  10. alyssa Nov 7

    Hey,
    I am thinking about moving down to mexico city where the love of my life lives with his family. I met him in alabama in the beginning of 2009(my home) and then he got deported over jealous enemies…I drove down there in september of 2009 and stayed with him and his wonderful family until the next year in january in colonia obrera d.f. then a couple of months later I came back to see him for a month…i been almost everywhere in mexico besides the yucatan and baja california peninsula…the reason of my story is that I am thinking about moving there and forgetting about this country the us…I will probably have around 8 or 9 thousand US dollars and thats it… I have looked for an apartment but I wont find one for at least 2000 pesos a month unless im already down there and I want to stay close to his mother…I dont know if that will be enough or what I should do…and by that time hopefully he will get this job he has been talking about…I am willing to give up my comfortable life to live in mexico city again to be at least happy with the one i love forever…and only driving down with my laptop and flat screen along with my clothes and what nots…I need advice because I am at a dead end and the world is against me up here..just wana be happy but I dont want to make the wrong choice…please reply and thank you for your info…alot of great help you are!!!

  11. Julia Taylor Nov 7

    Alyssa,

    If you really want to make it in Mexico, I strongly suggest that you save up more money — and do NOT tell anyone — not even your boyfriend how much you have. Plan ahead.

    What job do you plan to have? Do you want to teach English, work in tourism, or something else? If it’s going to be something else, it will be a bit harder to convince Mexican immigration that you should do something that would “take away” from a Mexican with similar qualifications to you. You can start your own business but you’d have to save more money. Businesses take a lot of work and planning and careful management. If you go this route, you can use your time in the US to learn more about running one.

    It can be quite hard to get a stable, well-paying job in Mexico. While you are saving and planning, some time will go by and you will see if your boyfriend does succeed in getting a job. Once he gets the job, wait even longer. You’ll see if he keeps the job — not because he’s a deadbeat, but because employers often make false promises — sometimes can’t even pay their employees and people end up having to quit.

    You will need your boyfriend’s guidance and suggestions to make it so make sure he knows how to do it for himself before you go down there and he has to assist you as well. Since you have traveled and lived in Mexico for a few months you probably have a good feel for what it’s like, but you don’t want to get yourself into a situation that you can’t make work and can’t get back out of. I also don’t recommend trying to be a stay at home wife. It’s not easy for women who have lived in the US to give up their independence and expression of their attributes that can’t be used in domestic work. If you go to Mexico, there has to be more in it for you than just a good love life otherwise it ends up being not fun at all.

    I don’t tout my book to very many people who put comments onto my web site, but you would be someone who would benefit from reading it. My husband and I had to start out in Mexico with no plan and not much money, so the tips and experiences I included in my book would help you to decide how you are going to do this.

    I wish you the best of luck. It is so heartbreaking when our loved ones are deported.

    Kindest Regards,

    Julia C Taylor

  12. Vivienne Apr 8

    I’m a community college library director (I have bachelor & master degrees) in my mid-40s and I’m thinking about moving to Mexico to teach English. Other posts on here are making me wonder if I’m really not seeing this realistically. I own a large home in a small southern town in the U.S. and was planning on going to Mexico with the proceeds of its sale + about $24,000. From reading on other sites, it’s come to seem that living in Mexico would be less stressful and just a more pleasant bohemian-ish life and that I could manage well enough on the $1000 to $1,400 pesos/month I should make. Am I dreaming?

  13. Julia Taylor Apr 9

    Vivienne,

    I hope that someone beside me also replies to you because more input would be interesting. You are asking a good question and one that only you can answer ultimately. I’d say, take a sabbatical, spend 6 months to a year in Mexico and see if you love it and want to stay or are satisfied and ready to return home. If you love it, you can leave Mexico for a year or so to get yourself set up for a longer term commitment to life in Mexico. Also, just a reminder $1000 pesos is only about $100 USD — not enough to buy toothpaste and food on.

    If you really can use your house to provide financial security in Mexico, then it might be a good idea. Much of my own stress was caused by lack of financial security. Be safe, though, keep your finances to yourself and try Mexico out on a shorter-term trip first. Also, you already work in a school so I think you are probably already in a position to tell if you’d like teaching or not. Be very flexible, though, teacher-student relationships and the expectations in schools in Mexico are very different from in the U.S. Not that one is better than the other, but just different, so you would do best to be very flexible and be ready to do as is done in the school you work in. When I was hiring teachers in Mexico, I usually preferred to hire Mexican English teachers rather than expats because the expats invariably got into conflicts based on their different expectations.

    So, the short answer is yes, you are dreaming and as long as you know that, it’s a good thing. You might be able to set yourself up for the experience of a life-time. Just take it one step at a time so you can really adjust to and enjoy Mexico.

    Long or short, enjoy your Mexico adventure.

    Kindest Regards,
    Julia C Taylor

  14. Mike S Jan 4

    When my Mexican wife and I took our British Marriage certificate (apostiled in the UK – at a cost!)to have our marriage legally recognised in Mexico, they kept our Marriage Certificate. When I asked the British Embassy in Mexico City to help me get it back – they refused and said “that’s the way it works in Mexico”. So much for the rights of British people living in Mexico. The British Embassy is a joke! But I ain’t laughing.
    The Mexican authorities have no lawful right to keep British legal paperwork that is the property of an Englishman and his wife, I don’t care what anyone might say to the contrary!

  15. Julia Taylor Jan 4

    Mike S,

    That is how it works in some situations. That’s why one should always have more than one of their important documents. Not that most of us know this ahead of time….

    Julia C Taylor

  16. Dilsha Sab Jan 7

    A prime university in Guadalajara has offered my scholarship for PhD(Information Technology) studies. I am wondering that would be enough(US $900/month). Soon I have a plane to get engaged.Is that money will be enough for both of us. r

    Best Regards!
    Dilsha Sabir

  17. Julia Taylor Jan 22

    Dilsha, Congratulations on your scholarship. $900 USD/month might be enough for one person to live on, but maybe not two. Also, is that living expenses or do you have to pay for school and books out of that? I wonder if you could get the school to help you contact a few students who are already at the University of Guadalajara. They will know the cost of living in Guadalajara and would be better able to offer you advice. It’s sure worth looking into further.

    Regards,

    Julia C Taylor

  18. Karen Devers Feb 10

    I appreciate your “eyes wide open” approach to moving to Mexico. I will be retiring with Social security of about $1200 a month. In addition, I have taught online courses at a major US university for 20 years and plan to continue. This is an additional $1800 a month US dollars. I would like to live in an area that is close to the pacific coast. Is it legal in Mexico to keep teaching my online US classes? What locale do you recommend for a reasonable access to the coast? I have a friend who retired in Oaxaca and she loves it.

  19. Julia Taylor Feb 18

    Karen, It sounds like you will be able to live comfortably in Mexico. Congratulations! I don’t know if it’s illegal or not to teach on line in Mexico, but I think it would be fine. You might want to look into it further before making any final decisions.

    I don’t have any special recommendations about where to live in the coast. There are so many different places, each with a unique combination of characteristics, but Oaxaca would be an excellent choice.

    Thank you for your compliment on my style. I put a lot of effort into my web site and ebook.

    Enjoy Mexico!
    Julia C Taylor

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