Letting Go of Materialism for a Simple Lifestyle in Mexico

Letting Go of Materialism for a Simple Lifestyle in Mexico

Picture your lifestyle as a big ol’ yellow Walla Walla Sweet onion. The roots are the part that is actually based on your survival needs. The juicy, semi-sweet bulb is all the stuff you CHOOSE to include—your preferences. The top part is… well, we don’t need that part.

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Materialism is so deeply ingrained in our first-world onion that it is hard to let go—while still in the north. Label your onion “materialistic.”

Now picture your onion in Mexico.

Click here for a description of 3 lifestyle levels in Mexico with general cost estimates.

This new onion has decided to live or retire in Mexico and it is wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. Does it have a beer in its hand? Or maybe a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice? This onion is thinner, but obviously has been relaxing more. This onion is forgetting about “the rat race.” This onion hasn’t been getting by on burgers purchased in a drive-through and double shot low fat lattes.

Materialism is coming away from your lifestyle one thin layer at a time; one experience at a time.

While still in the north, we talk a lot about having a less materialistic lifestyle, but find it very hard to get out from under its pervasive influence. Everywhere we turn there are cool gadgets to use in the kitchen, faster and better electronic devices to play with, fancy new low-fat foods to consume.

e-book Need to know more about your lifestyle as an expatriate in Mexico? Click here to see a description of an e-book prepared by the author of this website.

“You asked me to tell you how I liked the book and I do really like it. It should be required reading for anybody planning on going to Mexico.

“I am astounded at how little the general population of the US know about our southern neighbor. I am no exception. When I made my first trip to central Mexico It was so different from my preconceived idea of what it was, I began reading everything I could about the country. The more I visited it, and learned about it the more I loved it.

“And, by the way, you should write more. You are an excellent writer. You have a knack for using the correct word and I love your sense of humor.

Sincerely, Glen

In Mexico, your experiences will help you to let go of materialism in many ways. This is mostly because of the fact that life in Mexico is not normal life. IN NORMAL LIFE NOBODY EVER PEELS AN ONION! We chop, slice, and roast them, but we don’t peel them down to their hearts layer by layer. It takes some pretty unusual circumstances to make us actually PEEL our lifestyle onion. Mexico provides plenty of unusual experiences.

Once you retire in Mexico you end up having to get by with less stuff. Eventually you find you don’t miss or want that stuff you were getting by without. In other words, you have to peel your onion… then you end up liking it better that way.

SEE “THE COST OF LIVING IN MEXICO DEPENDS ON YOUR LIFESTYLE” FOR A DESCRIPTION OF 3 LIFESTYLE LEVELS WITH GENERAL COST ESTIMATES. Sometimes you can’t have something because it’s not sold here (low fat soy milk). Sometimes you can’t have something because it would require a major remodel or re-wiring of your house and it’s just not that important (a bath tub, a microwave). Sometimes the Mexican version doesn’t suit your idea of what you want (an open-topped barbeque with no grill; a wooden-armed, uncomfortable couch). Sometimes you decide your house is just too small anyway. Besides, if you got the couch or a carpet you’d have to buy a vacuum cleaner. …And in order to keep the vacuum cleaner you’d have to remodel the house to add closets…

At the same time, you can have anything you want if you are willing to put in enough time, perseverance, and money. If you have a fat enough budget, you won’t have to peel your onion very deeply. If you are earning in pesos, you’ll be peeling your onion right down to the heart.

No matter how fat your budget, the cool thing about retiring in Mexico is that it forces you to make conscious choices about the lifestyle you wish to maintain here. Because so many things aren’t readily available or cost more than they would back in the US, you have to decide if they are really worth it.

There will be a few things that you decide you definitely don’t want to remove from your lifestyle, but many others that you decide to peel off.

In addition to thinking ahead about the kind of lifestyle you would like to have in Mexico, it is also important to have some transition strategies in mind before you live or retire in Mexico.

One of the joys when you live or retire in Mexico is the amount of time that you can spend outside. See “Live or Retire in Mexico and Enjoy a More Outdoors Lifestyle.”

Mexico’s other joys include neighborliness and precious moments like this one.

Receiving Social Security Payments When you Retire in Mexico (U.S. citizens)

Can you receive social security benefits when retiring in Mexico?

What Do Other Expats Have to Say About Retiring in Mexico?

Learn from real people’s retirement experiences as told to home-sweet-mexico’s author in exclusive interviews. Here is the first of a series of articles on inspiring expats.

Two U.S. expats moved from Ecuador to Mexico:

“Deb and I are approaching retirement age but not ready yet to give up the stimulation we’ve grown accustomed to in the U.S. We both hope to stay active, either through work or volunteering, as part of our future life-style in Mexico. That will require a certain amount of integration into the culture that we’ll find ourselves.” Click Here to read more…

An expatriate lifestyle is enriching, but not easy. You’ll enjoy this semi-retired couple’s viewpoint on picking up and hauling off to a new country.

Off-Site Resources

As I browse the net for information on living in Mexico, Mexico Connect always interests me the most. They have real articles written by real people about real experiences in Mexico. You can enjoy their site at www.mexconnect.com. If you are really serious about moving to Mexico, their forums is unequaled for contact with real people who share their personal knowledge and experiences about Mexico.

Oaxaca may be the place for you if you are thinking about retiring or spending part of the year in Mexico. This is a web site created by Shawn Haley who is trained as an Anthropologist and an Archaeologist and has conducted field research in many parts of the United States and Canada as well as in Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico. He has recently retired as Head of Anthropology at Red Deer College in central Alberta, Canada.

An inspirational online magazine for men and women over 50, packed with great ideas and information.

To read interviews of expatriates living and working in Mexico go to Expat Interviews.

The transition from working person to retired person is a large one. The transition from residence in the U.S. or Canada to residence in Mexico is even larger! If you want to live or retire in Mexico, you are not only planning to move, but planning to experience a whole new lifestyle. This change takes action and commitment. You might enjoy SecondActLiving.com a web site that helps people turn “happily ever after” into “right now.”

An American-Irish expatriate couple share their Greek island experience by offering lodging and information including maps and photos. They provide content and links for Paros, the Cyclades, Greece and> the world of living abroad. Learn more at: www.ParosParadise.com

Expats Reunite is a useful site for all expats. It includes an international job section, a free name search to find lost friends and you can play the UK lottery from anywhere in the world.



  1. Tosha Sanchez Apr 10

    A big concern of mine is that i have Pros and Cons about moving to mexico. But the more and more i learn i just love it even more! I have honestly fell in love with Puerto Vallarta without EVER going to Mexico. Because of this my mom is afraid that i am candy coating the move. And niether her, nor i, want to be in a positon where … well everything sucks… My question is, can you tell me some Cons about moving to mexico? I read you section about some cons, but i really don’t mind them. Is Mexico really that great (in my perspective) for me? (i know its probably different for every person)
    Thank you

  2. Julia Taylor Apr 12


    There are plenty of cons, but mostly what it boils down to is that culture shock just makes things hard — no matter where you are going from and to.

    You feel confused and stressed and you can’t tell why. People do things that you don’t expect. Things happen and you don’t understand why. Part of this is because you miss a portion of what is communicated around you mostly because you don’t know all the little “inside” references nor do you know how things are usually done. The usual is unusual to you.

    It can get very tiring being the “weird” one all the time. You say things and people give you confused looks or your spouse tells you later that what you said was rude. It can be a little embarrassing and it can make you defensive. It’s important not to get defensive because it is useful when people do tell you so you can properly adjust your behavior.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with your mom that you are sugar coating everything, but that’s a good thing. It’s good to be excited to be moving to Mexico. When you do find you are stressed you’ll know that it’s normal. Just “lay low” for a while. Read a book in English. Listen to your favorite tunes on your ipod. In no time you’ll be ready for another “dose” of your new culture.

    Kindest Regards, Julia C Taylor

  3. Tosha Sanchez Apr 12

    Thank you for your response, I will definitley make sure that i bring my favorite books. You have so many amazing points, and i will make sure follow them as i am sure i will need them! thank you so much again julia!

  4. Bruce McGovern Mar 5

    I first came to this village in 1983, and hated it with a passion. We made a 50% down payment on a 4,000 square foot house in Mexico City in 1989 and I expected to live their in retirement. But, my wife realized she could not share a house with her sister. So, we looked at several places and ended up in the small village where she was born.

    Now, I do not want to leave it for even a day to visit family in the USA. I call it my personal paradise.

    But, I have been reading on the Web for over 20 years since I retired and started coming to Mexico for extended stays. I have learned from people who live in “colonies” that most couples who come, go back within two years. Single men who find mates in Mexico, and become part of her extended family, not so much.

    I have corresponded with both single men and couples who planned to live in Mexico. After disposing of US property, at least two couples gave up in less than TWO WEEKS. A real disaster.

    What to do? As best as I can figure it out, take several annual vacations, not all in winter which means coming from the frozen north to the tropical paradise (on the surface.) Then, when you retire, take extended trips while somehow maintaining your home in the north.

    Rent in Mexico, and go back and forth for a while until you are sure. In my case, a daughter lived near the border in the US, and we got a very economical mobile home there. We still have it, even on modest income, because in our retirement park, we own the lot and annual costs in the McAllen area are very low if you own your own lot.

    My wife goes back and forth, while I seldom do. She gets an overnight sleeper bus from Mexico City, and next day is in the mobile home.

  5. Julia Taylor Mar 16

    Hi Bruce, I agree that it’s useful to start by renting. Thanks for sharing the ways in which your family has navigated this topic.

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