Tuesday, December 28, 2021

OUR MONTHLY BUDGET LIVING FULL-TIME IN PUERTO VALLARTA—More Expensive Than Sayulita?

 A Luxurious Life for Less

Living in Mexico
     Now that we’ve lived in Puerto Vallarta for five months, we have enough history to update our budget. The last time I worked over our budget, we lived in Sayulita—a slightly different lifestyle. Comparing the differences is interesting. The bottom line is surprising.
     In 2016, I wrote the article, “INEXPENSIVE TO LIVE IN SAYULITA, MEXICO? TAKE A LOOK AT OUR BUDGET...”. Life sure changed for us this year! 
Upstairs in Our Simple Sayulita Casita
     Six years ago, we purchased a relatively inexpensive, rustic casita in Sayulita (no dishwasher, garbage disposal, oven, clothes washer, or dryer). We lived there about nine months per year and traveled in an RV during the rainy summer. Living this simple life was much less expensive than our life in the United States, but what about comparing it to this fancier life in Puerto Vallarta? 
     Five months ago, we sold the casita and made 100% on our investment, which helped allow us to upgrade to a 1200 square foot two-bedroom, two-bath condo unit in the Romantic Zone. The rooftop infinity pool was one of the selling points for us.
Upstairs at Our Condo's Rooftop Infinity Pool
     Our monthly budget below is for two people living in a condo unit, one that we own. This home was a big upgrade for us, not much in size but much more in amenities. It’s a few blocks from the beach, though we kept the cost down by purchasing a unit without an ocean view. The HOA (Homeowners Association) dues added a big chunk to our budget but covers quite a few of our previous expenses as well as many services. 
     Paying cash for a home in México is an important factor in making it affordable to live here. We have no monthly mortgage or rent to pay—following the example that our parents set for living comfortably during retirement. 
     We save by not owning a vehicle. We sold our motorhome over 2 years ago which eliminated that expense. We sold the golf cart when we moved from Sayulita (setting aside the funds to upgrade our condo air conditioners to energy-efficient Dual Inverter mini-splits and to install a Waterdrop inline water filter when we moved in). We walk a lot, take the bus whenever possible now that we are vaccinated against COVID, and use Uber and taxis when needed, keeping our transportation costs down.
Our Golf Cart Days in Sayulita were Fun, Even for Bella
Some Expenses are Less

     We have a washer and dryer now so we’ve eliminated the laundry service line item. Without a messy yard that brought in leaves, dust, insects, and geckos we can now keep up with our housekeeping, eliminating the weekly housecleaner expense. 

     The Home repairs/Maintenance line item is much less because our condo is newer and has fewer interior systems to malfunction. Jon won’t be nearly as busy as a handyman here.

Some Expenses are More

     Since we moved here during the hot, humid month of July and live here year-round, air conditioning our home during the warm months, we expected our electricity bill to be significantly higher. Surprisingly, with the efficient Dual Inverter mini-splits, a well-insulated condo unit, and all lightbulbs changed to LED’s, our electricity bill hasn’t been much higher than our average in Sayulita and may drop after more winter month history.

     We splurge by dining out more often in Puerto Vallarta, about twenty times per month, sometimes breakfast or lunch, but usually nice dinners. Quality restaurant food and wine are more expensive here than in Sayulita, but still significantly less than in the United States.

     Veterinarian costs have increased for us here because we go to a clinic that is well-liked by Canadians and Americans for the quality of service and English-speaking staff, so their rates are higher. Wolf’s Veterinary Clinic is well worth the 30-minute bus ride to get there.

     We no longer go back to the U.S. for doctor appointments or to load up on vitamins, nutritional supplements, or OTC and prescription medications. Health care is very good and relatively inexpensive here. Medicare doesn’t cover medical care abroad and we’ve chosen to live here without supplemental health insurance. Now that we pay out of pocket for medical treatment and supplies, these Health Care line items are higher. In the past two years, Amazon, Costco, and Farmacia Guadalajara have become great suppliers for most of these items.

     Now that we’re older, we have additional medical and dental issues, all paid out of pocket, so I’ve significantly increased the budgeted amount for these line items. Jon’s Parkinson’s disease treatments have increased these line items in the last two years. We keep enough IRA investments to draw from if we have a major medical event.

     We no longer travel by motorhome but allocate funds for travel by other means. Usually, we hire a driver to take us on adventures in México which is convenient for travel with our small dog. We hope to fly somewhere in the Yucatan this year so have budgeted for that.

     We pay for everything in pesos, but I’ve converted the expenses below to U.S. dollars for ease of comparison. I’ve used 20.5 pesos per dollar as the exchange rate, though it’s sometimes over 21, making our dollars stretch even farther.

     I didn’t include Medicare insurance premiums because they are deducted from our Social Security income. Our net monthly income (pretax) from Social Security will be $3436 in 2022, providing a luxurious lifestyle in Puerto Vallarta. It would be impossible to live this well in the U.S. on our income. When our IRA investments do well, we splurge on a special purchase such as home improvements or a nicer vacation. Since we live in paradise, we’re happy to “vacation” here at home most of the time, taking day-trip adventures near PV about once a month.

Budget Line-Item (2 people)                          Expenses in US Dollars

Groceries & Wine                                                            $ 350

Restaurants (Yes, we splurge here)                             $1000

Waterdrop Filters                                                           $    7

(Rather than Purified Water--More about this later)

Condo HOA Dues                                                            $ 520

            (This is one of our highest monthly expenses, but includes a lot of services, replacing several expense line items from our Sayulita budget. Included are gas, internet, water, sewer, landscape maintenance, common area cleaning and maintenance, swimming pool, rooftop bar and café, gym, security, and building maintenance.)

Electricity                                                                          $  70

Fitness (Zumba Gold & yoga classes)                              $  20

            (We save by using our condo’s gym and free YouTube classes)

Health Care—Medical                                                   $ 120

            (Physical Therapy $30, Doctors $30, Procedures, Lab tests, etc. $60)

Health Care—Dental                                                      $  40

Health Care (Prescription Meds—OTC in Mexico)   $ 250

Health Care (OTC Meds, CBD, Vitamins, Suppl.)     $ 320

Personal Care                                                                   $ 245

(This is where we splurge more than we did in Sayulita for much less than in the U.S. Weekly Massage $155/mo., Hair Color & Cut $90)

Pet Food, Supplies, Vet                                              $  40

Home Repair/Maintenance                                     $  30

Phone and Skype                                                          $  30

            (2 Telcel Amigo sin Limite Plans + 2 Skype Numbers)

Property Taxes                                                              $  10

Property Bank Trust Fee:                                         $  44

Transportation (Local--Bus, Taxi, Uber)            $  60

Kindle eBooks                                                               $  50

Entertainment and Netflix                                       $  50

Clothing                                                                           $  30

Charity and Donations                                              $  30

Travel and Vacations                                                 $ 120

Total Monthly Budget for Two People               $3436

     Some people rent out their condo units for much of the year to increase their income. We were landlords for over twenty years during our “rat race” time in the U.S. and don’t plan to ever do that again. This is our home, not a rental. We may not earn rental income from this condo unit, but it will be a good investment in the long term if we ever sell it, or if our children sell it.

     Anyone who boasts of living for under $600 per month in Mexico is probably not enjoying many of the inexpensive perks of living here. I’ve tried to give a more accurate impression of expat life in México. Of course, many people live on less than we do by sacrificing some of the benefits we splurge on. Monthly tours or days trips provide the adventures we crave, expenses that are well worth it. Enjoying being pampered is part of the fun of retiring here. A weekly massage—why not, as the Mexicans say. A weekly trip to the salon for a hair wash and style—I love it and can afford it here but not in the U.S. Dining out because I don’t feel like cooking—we’re helping the economy. Budgeting for a vacation or two each year is important to us.

     Yes, I like to justify being spoiled. Why not? Life is good as a foreigner retired in México.

     I invite you to SIGN UP for my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter, published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books. If you’d like to take a look at my recent newsletter, you can read it at Feliz Navidad, a Puppy, and a New Book.
     Have you read my book, Retirement Before the Age of 59:Healthy Living in Mexico #2? I love it when readers leave a brief review on Amazon. Check out this 5-Star Review:

     “Being a writer, living in the Pacific Northwest, roughly the same age as the author, and having long a goal of retiring and living at least part-time in Sayulita, MX, THIS was exactly what I was after. And it did not disappoint. Her frustrations as a career pharmacist, getting hit hard in the real estate market of 2008 (boy, I can relate there,) the decision to downsize, to travel, to retire to Mexico, Terry writes about it all in a style that's very readable and very helpful. Her pros/cons list of various Mexico locations is golden. We have another exploratory trip to Sayulita coming in a few months, and I'm now much more prepared to see it with "new" eyes than I was before.”

     Thank you for reading my books and blog articles. Happy travels.

Terry L Turrell, Author, with Sophie

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

MY DECEMBER NEWSLETTER HAS BEEN PUBLISHED: Feliz Navidad from Puerto Vallarta, a Puppy, and a New Book

Feliz Navidad from Puerto Vallarta

     Last week, Jon and I attended a fund-raiser/Christmas photoshoot for The Sula Society, a dog rescue center in this area. What a fun event! It was for people to have Christmas photos taken with their dogs, but we attended knowing there were puppies available. When we held these two 8-week-old Chihuahua-mix pups, we were hooked!

     To continue reading, click HERE.

Terry L Turrell, Author

Sunday, December 12, 2021

OUR 12 FAVORITE PUERTO VALLARTA RESTAURANTS--So Far! (Part 3)

 Mexican Food Tonight or Something Else?

Searching for the Best Baja-Style Fish Tacos in PV

     Before we branch out to the Puerto Vallarta Marina area, we’re still evaluating restaurants in Old Town, also called the Romantic Zone. We love that we can safely walk to and from our home to any place in this tourist area. The Mexican name for this neighborhood is Colonia Emiliano Zapata, a central area of early Puerto Vallarta. Spanish-style family homes and local businesses are interspersed with new condominiums, art galleries, and restaurants.

     With a large number of restaurants serving Mexican food here, the competition is stiff. There are so many good ones, it’s difficult to choose the best, so our choices will change as we try others. But, for now, these are our favorites.

     Once a week, we choose a Mexican restaurant. On our next evening out, Jon usually wants an Italian or a good steak place. For our third choice of the week, I often select an Asian or seafood restaurant. By then we have enough leftovers in the freezer for a delicious meal at home while watching the sunset and the world go by from our balcony.

Pleasant Decor in Archie's Wok

7. Archie's Wok

     Archie’s Wok has long been a favorite of ours when we’re craving Asian food. During high season, by the time we arrive at our usual dinner hour of 6:00, the restaurant is packed and there’s a waiting list. They don’t take reservations, so this week we decided to go at 5:00 to get a table and I’m glad we did.

     We discovered they have a Light Lunch Menu available from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. For 169 pesos (about $8.00US), you can choose one item from each of the three sections. Jon and I each selected the same items, a Lumpia Filipino Eggroll, Pancit Filipino Pasta Stir-Fried with Vegetables and Mushrooms, and Grilled Beef Skewer Korean Sesame Marinade. 

Our Archie's Wok Light Lunch Selections

     Delicious and a great value! We’ll be going back again soon to try the other options on that “early-bird” menu, especially the Singapore Chicken and Calamari Fried in Light Beer Batter.

8. Joe Jack's Fish Shack

     When we’re hungry for fresh seafood served in a fun atmosphere in the heart of Old Town, Joe Jack's Fish Shack is one of our favorites. The service, food, and prices are excellent, so be prepared for this restaurant to be packed during high season. Joe Jack’s serves one of the best fish and chips we’ve had in México. Occasionally we share an iceberg wedge salad when we’re craving the mingled flavors of bacon and blue cheese.

     Fried chicken is one of Joe Jack’s specialties when it’s not too busy here in Puerto Vallarta, usually on Thursday and Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, we were lucky enough to arrive on one of their last fried chicken Sundays of this year's low season. We asked for one order with an extra piece of chicken, a total of four pieces split between us. It was more than enough food—each of us had a side of mashed potatoes with gravy, corn on the cob, and coleslaw. We order fried food here in Mexico extra frito, so the chicken came well-fried and crispy. Everything was delicious and satisfied our need for some American food!

Split Order of Fried Chicken--Extra Crispy

     We’ve learned that during high season (mid-November through April), we need to make a reservation for Joe Jack’s, especially if we want to sit upstairs at a table next to the railing overlooking the street. It’s always entertaining to watch the action on Basilio Badillo street and across the street at Margarita Grill. People watching while sipping a glass of cold wine or beer is half the fun.

Fried Chicken Will Return... Mas Tarde

9. Canto del Mar

      We’ve dined at several of the beachfront palapa restaurants along the Malecón. After two visits, we decided that Canto del Mar (Song of the Sea) is our favorite, so far. The seafood is fresh and a good value. The Baja-style fish tacos are the best we’ve found on the beach along the south end of the Malecón. (El Barracuda in colonia 5 the de Diciembre also has wonderful fish tacos).

Sorting and Slicing Fresh Fish in the Clean Kitchen

     The Gourmet Habafuego habanero ranch salsa our waiter suggested makes the tacos extra tasty. We raved about the delicious spicy flavor and asked where we could buy it. He told us it was a special order from Guadalajara, not sold in stores here, and offered to sell us a bottle. We’re glad we had him add it to our check—it’s delicious on quesadillas, Mexican eggs, salads, and sandwiches.

     Canto del Mar is a great place to watch the amazing Bahia de Banderas sunsets. I look forward to another relaxing evening watching the sky change colors while sipping a Cielo Rojo—a clamato-beer mixture that I’ve recently discovered is a refreshing alternative to wine on a warm afternoon.

View Part 1 and Part 2 of Our 12 Favorite Puerto Vallarta Restaurants--(So Far)

     Check out this New Release!

     The pre-order for the Kindle ebook THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF MEXICAN HOLIDAYS is live, available wordwide! The release date is 17 December. Order your copy on Amazon.com HERE.

Celebrate life, death, and everything in between!

     I’m honored to have two of my stories in this anthology, including the first in the Introduction. I hope you enjoy this book about Christmas in México, Mexican Independence Day, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe (Celebrations of the Virgin), Día de Muertos, and much more. Thank you to author Carmen Amato for putting this collection together.

     I invite you to SIGN UP for my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter, published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books. If you’d like to take a look at my recent newsletter, you can read it HERE.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

3 UNEXPECTED REASONS TO HAVE LUNCH AT SEÑOR FROG’S IN PUERTO VALLARTA--Even As An Expat!

Yes, It's a Bit Touristy, But...


There are Some Good Reasons to Sit Here for Lunch

     While taking our weekly walk along the Malecón, we passed through the outdoor seating area along the sidewalk at Señor Frog’s restaurant and I noticed someone eating a hamburger with french fries that looked yummy. I was hungry, we'd already walked half a mile from the Witchery Hair Salon, and it was lunchtime, so I suggested we try their burgers. Jon knows that when I say I’m hungry, we have five to ten minutes to sit down somewhere with a menu in front of us, so he reluctantly agreed.

     Señor Frog’s seems rather touristy—we haven’t gone to one for a meal since our younger days in Mazatlán when Jon would watch Monday night football there. One of my favorite photos of him is with the grumpy, scowling Señor Frog statue there. I love Jon’s matching scowl. Señor Frog seems to be happy in Puerto Vallarta—or maybe that’s the current impression he wants people to have of the experience they’ll have at the chain locations.

Jon Scowls Just As Well As Señor Frog

3 UNEXPECTED REASONS to Have LUNCH AT SEÑOR FROG’S in PV

     1.    A Front-row Seat to Watch the Flying Papantla Bird-Men

     Seated at an outdoor table, we placed our order and settled back with a soda to wait for our hamburgers. Suddenly I realized we had a front-row seat to watch the Flying Papantla Bird-Men. I enjoyed them this week as much as I did the first time I watched them years ago. I wrote about them in 2014, long before we decided to move here, in my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico blog article PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO: ARomantic City with So Much to Offer!

A Short Video of the Flying Bird-men

     As the bird-men twirled and descended to the beach, one man playing traditional flute music, I was mesmerized by the show. I walked up to the seawall to wait for them to touch down and then dropped a 40-peso ($2US) tip into their cap. When I returned to our table, I realized another good reason to sit at Señor Frog’s.

Flying Papantla Bird-Men Touching Down

     2.    The Whales are Here and We Could Watch their Show During Lunch!

     I was gazing at the beautiful blue sky reflected in the tranquil cerulean ocean when I suddenly saw a whale breach the surface and spout. It was likely a humpback whale, the most common one here during the winter. It could have been a blue whale or a sperm whale, but we were too far away to see them clearly.

     I was so excited to see that the whales had arrived after their migration south to Banderas Bay off the coast of Puerto Vallarta to breed and raise their calves. For a couple of years recently, very few whales were seen here because the water temperature had altered their food source in the area.

     Soon, we realized there was a second whale alongside the first. A sailboat slowly motored over so the passengers could watch the whales who were clearly putting on a show. The two whales swam around the boat, breaching and spouting repeatedly. They were in no hurry to swim away from the boat.

     Suddenly, Jon pointed and said, “Look! Two more over by that other sailboat to the left!” It was so fun to watch the whales show off—I think they are friendly creatures and enjoy the interaction with humans as much as we enjoy them. Señor Frog’s was a great spot for whale-watching! 

3. We Added Two More Sculptures to Our “Landmark Game”

     Jon devised a clever way for us to learn our way around Puerto Vallarta on foot—the “Landmark Game”. We learn street names and routes to our favorite restaurants or other places by the sculptures that sit on the Malecón. We nickname the landmarks so we can remember them, then I research the actual name and artist information.

     The turn to No Se Nada restaurant is at the “Ladder” sculpture, named “In Search of Reason” (En Busca de la Razón) by the famous Mexican artist, Sergio Bustamante, a very distinctive 30-foot-high statue “with three strange pillow-headed figures and a ladder that two of them are climbing, like looking for an answer farther and above the normal limits of humanity, maybe up in the sky or beyond”. This one sits at the ocean end of Corona Street.
     We added and nicknamed the “Lovers” sculpture to our landmarks that day, situated at the end of Pipila street. We turn there to go to Aura Spa, where we get massages, and Señor Frog’s is located at that corner, too. The “Lovers” sculpture is named “Nostalgia” (1984) by Jose Ramiz Barquet.

Silly Jon Posing at the "Ear" Sculpture

     While walking along the Malecón from Señor Frog’s toward home, we discovered another sculpture we’d never noticed—the “Ears” sculpture, which is actually a bronze bench facing the ocean. It’s in a circle of eight whimsical sculptures called “The Roundabout of the Sea” (1996) Alejandro Colunga. Each sculpture is uniquely unusual and is molded into a chair or bench, the tall ones dominating the circle, so we’d previously missed seeing the “Ears”.

     According to this article on puertovallarta.net, “These strange seats invite you to enjoy them, take a seat, touch them and get your photo taken for posterity. Alejandro (the artist) loves this and makes it clear he actually created the works with this in mind, he is convinced that human touch and the interaction gives the statues a patina and color that they wouldn’t have if they were protected, a 3D coloring.”

     That day, surprisingly, Jon agreed to pose for a photo with the “Ears”. We hadn’t even ordered beer or margaritas at Señor Frog’s! Located where Aldama street ends and intersects with the Malecón, it's located across from the Tierra Huichol store. It is now our landmark for the one-mile point to our home, a good place to rest while gazing at the Pacific Ocean and watching people stroll along the boardwalk.

     Time for the rest of our healthy walk along the ocean and into Old Town. A stop for a hamburger at Señor Frog’s had turned into a fun, healthy afternoon. Next time we'll have to order a margarita or beer—maybe we’ll be more inclined to laugh at the silly décor inside the restaurant.

Some of the Silly Decor inside Senor Frog's

Two Lessons Learned:

     1. Hamburgers at Señor Frog’s are a nice change from fish tacos.

     2. The sculptures sometimes get moved so check Google Maps for their current location.

     Have you read Living in Mexico Lessons Learned: Healthy Living in Mexico #3? This is my most popular book this year, thanks to many readers downloading it and leaving great reviews. Available worldwide, it’s FREE with kindleunlimited.


     Thank you for reading my blog articles and books. As a self-published author on Amazon, I love it when readers leave a brief review of my books to help others find them. I invite you to SIGN UP for my Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter, published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books. If you’d like to take a look at my recent newsletter, you can read it HERE.

Terry L Turrell, Author