Tuesday, December 28, 2021


 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


  1. Thanks for sharing Terry. It is helpful to see a real life budget for the PV area.

    1. Hi Ken,
      Thank you for reading and commenting on my article. Feliz Año Nuevo!

  2. Terry, I am guessing you don't still have a library card for a US library? We have kept our library cards (number & PIN) as we've traveled and lived nomadically in Belize, Mexico, and all over the US. With these, we can check out free e-books and audiobooks and only rarely have to resort to spending money on Kindle or "real" books. from a bookstore. Just a thought in case you still have an account hanging around.

    Thanks for sharing your budget. I am sure this post will be very helpful for folks thinking about living in Mexico. When we lived there, we lived on less, but we ate out infrequently, didn't have the medical expenses, and didn't do massages or haircuts other than a trim for me every few months (and I cut my husband's hair). No cleaning lady and very little A/C usage. But since we didn't own our own house or condo, rent was a big expense every month. Since you do, you can definitely afford to splurge on a lot of things we couldn't. Sounds like a wonderful life!

    1. Hi Emily,
      Thanks for your comments. We did use our library card at one time, until we were listening to an audiobook while driving the RV and it expired and disappeared from my device. That was frustrating enough that we started subscribing to Audible and buying Kindle books. We now have almost 1500 books in our Kindle library and are starting to reread some of them. For us, two book addicts, it's money well spent.

      Yes, I agree than many can live more frugally than we do, here or anywhere in the world. We were much more careful when we RVed. These days, our motto is "Life is short--we never know when our last day on this earth will be", so we treat ourselves often. I'm glad we do. We're planning a vacation in Mexico and hoping the new variant doesn't cause cancellations. But with Jon's Parkinson's, travel is already becoming a challenge. At some point, he won't may not be able to travel, may not be able to walk. We are grateful that the walking and exercise we do every day is keeping us relatively healthy.

      We have a wonderful life. I hope you are enjoying yours, too.
      Best Wishes,

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