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Expats in Mexico Are Living Well on Less

Calculating budget
Credit: Anaken2012 | Shutterstock

As a follow-up to our cost-of-living article in July, we asked our readers last month to tell us how much you budget each month for living expenses in Mexico. We found that many expats in Mexico are living well on less.

Specifically, 86 of you contributed to our Monthly Expat Poll, which presented six monthly budgets ranging from US$1,000 or less up to US$5,000 or more.

Just under one-out-of-ten expats said they are living on less than US$1,000 a month, an astounding number no matter where you live. The largest number – nearly four-out-of-10 expats who responded to the survey – said they live on US$1,000 to $2,000 a month. Since the average social security check is just a bit over US$1,500, it appears that many are living well on less, especially those who live in well-known retirement areas like Lake Chapala or other cities in Mexico’s interior, which typically have a much lower cost-of-living than coastal cities or large urban areas.

And, if you add the nearly 30 percent who said their monthly budget was between US$2,000 and $3,000, about three-out-of-four expats in Mexico are living on US$36,000 a year or less.

Now, if you come from a small town in rural America or Canada, that might not be such a big deal. But if you are moving to Mexico from a city or its suburbs almost anywhere, it is a big deal, especially from California and other high cost-of-living states.

About 13 percent said they are living on between US$3,000 and $4,000 a month, which includes many from coastal resort areas as well as major metropolitan cities. Another 6 percent are budgeting US$4,000 to $5,000 a month and 6 percent can be classified as living a very upscale life in Mexico with monthly spending over US$5,000.

As a general rule, if you want to live less expensively in Mexico, stay away from coastal resort cities, large cities like Mexico City and wildly popular colonial cities like San Miguel de Allende that attract not only foreign tourists, but also a large number of visitors from Mexico City and areas within the country. But even in those places, expats have carved out quality lifestyles on limited budgets.

For example, an expat in Mexico City lives on a monthly budget of 5,415 pesos a month, or about US$242. She owns a two-bedroom apartment not far from the center of the city and has no house payment. A single American woman retiree in Mazatlán lives near the beach. Her monthly budget is 17,180 pesos, or about US$798. Her one-bedroom apartment with an ocean view is only 4,000 pesos a month, or about US$175.

Now, is this a classic statistically significant poll? No, it’s a self-directed reader poll, but anecdotally you get the picture: Expats in Mexico are living well on less.