Many will tell you it can’t be done, but I’m here to tell you it can. It is very possible to live in Mexico for $1,000 US a month. Let me share with you my number one secret to success when it comes to living here: Stay out of the tourist areas!
Mexico is a hodgepodge of currencies that buys and sells in both Mexican peso and the US dollar which is completely messed up in my opinion and is something that causes great confusion and unfair business practices. Enough on that topic.
So this is how I live a very comfortable life on less than the equivalent of $1,000 USD per month.
Deal only in Pesos
I live, work and breath Mexico which means I deal ONLY in Mexican pesos. No exception! I earn pesos therefore, I spend pesos. I extend that rule to every aspect of my life. If I cannot buy it in peso, I don’t buy it at all. This rule saves me a fortune!
Be Local (not loco)
I live in a local suburb of Playa del Carmen and pay rent in pesos. I have a lovely spacious home in a quiet secure neighborhood for an incredible rate. If my current house was in centro it would cost about 23,000 peso or about $1,300 USD per month (according to current rental rates and stats).
However, for living like a local in a local a neighborhood I pay a lot less. My house is a spacious 2 bedroom and 1 bath home with a full kitchen, fenced and treed yard, private parking in front of house all on a large 250 square meter treed lot. I am within walking distance to convenience stores, forested walking trails (for the dogs) and the beach.
There are many great neighborhoods in Playa del Carmen that offer similar rents, but places like centro and Playacar are not them, so if you want to get a local deal (and not pay loco rates), you need to look in local places. Stay away from the expat / tourist zones.
For monthly utilities I have water, electricity and Internet. I don’t have cable television because honestly, I didn’t move here to watch tv and I don’t miss it. I enjoy the 7 free digital channels offered by the state (one of which is in English by the way). So my expenses are pretty basic.
You can see that my bills are extremely consistent each month, every month. I prepay my water bill every year, so the “actual” figure you see is my credit balance, not amount owing. For amount owing, look at the top right. I average 98 peso per month.
Water: 98 peso (this includes showers, laundry, garden watering, dishwasher, pool and hot tub water)
Electricity: 360 peso (this includes ceiling and floor fans, refrigerator, chest deep freezer, large screen television, microwave, kitchen appliances, computers, dishwasher, hot tub)
Internet: 349 peso (high speed fiber optic)
Utilities Total: 807 peso per month
Transportation: 500 peso per month (taxis and public transport as needed)
House Gas: 1,000 peso per year (yes, per YEAR for cooking, hot water)
Medical: In my years here, I’ve spent a total of 1,620 peso on medical doctors. The first time was 1,000 peso for everything (doctor consult, injections and drugs) and the second time (just last year) was 500 for the consult and 120 peso for the 4 prescriptions. It truly pays to be healthy.
Buying clothes and food in local places as opposed to Fifth Avenue specialty shops or American chains that are now plentiful in Playa will save you a fortune! Buy groceries in places like Mega, Chedraui or one of the clubs (City or Sams) for larger families. Can’t get to the suburbs for a club purchase, no problem. Aki grocery stores throughout Playa offer the same warehouse-style discount shopping but without a membership card / fee.
Buying food items in places like Dac (next to Mega) is generally overpriced and considered fad-shopping, however, I understand that sometimes they have something highly specific, unusual or hard to find that you have to have.
For hardware and general home maintenance supplies, visit your local ferretería (hardware) store. Not only will you pay less, you’ll be supporting a local business. For specific items (affordable hot water tanks, water tank floaters, water lines, etc.), a personal favorite is Surprisa. For super-nice and good quality fixtures, sinks, etc, Boxito.
Other places like Cerramat have been around for years and years because they have great products (bathroom fixtures, nice tiles, etc.) and good prices. Places like Home Depot carry items that have been imported and are very expensive due to the heavy taxes. Example, a flexible replacement water line (for the kitchen sink) costs more than 60 peso at Home Depot. They’re 21.90 peso at local places.
I’m not a big shopper any more and don’t really enjoy restaurant food so my entertainment bill is not huge. However, if you are big on entertainment, there are dozens of small restaurants and eateries that offer spectacular food at incredible prices. Eating out along Fifth Avenue will easily set you back 600 or more peso each time. That’s an entire week’s worth of groceries for my house.
Get off Fifth and head north to the more local, authentic eateries where you can buy items for 30 or 50 peso and enjoy the local Mexican culture at the same time. These places are often packed, so be patient.
For entertainment, I hang out with friends, dog walk, watch movies, read books, walk the beaches, ride a bike, head to a local tianguis (open-air market), enjoy Ceiba Parque or volunteer. There are so many things to do that don’t require spending a fortune, and there are many forms of entertainment that don’t require spending anything at all.
My total living expense per month:
Rent: 7,500 peso
Utilities: 807.00 peso
Food: 2,500 peso
Transportation: 500 peso
TOTAL: 11,307 peso per month or $665 USD per month!
With a budget like that, you’ll have enough money left over for incidentals, shopping or entertainment.
My secret to living in Mexico for less than $1,000 USD a month is to spend smart. I have a lot of respect for money and even more respect for the time (and effort) it takes to earn it. I treat my money well by spending well and saving well. In turn, I also live well.
I’m not the type to care whether I’m seen in expat places like Dac or if my address is in the overpriced community of Playacar. I don’t care about those things. What I care about is being happy, living well and remaining stress free, all things that Living in Meixco should be about!