May 3, 2005 — As I totaled up what we had spent last month while living in Mexico, I realized our food and lodging costs would make an interesting blog entry. I hope this might encourage some people to consider living in Mexico themselves, who might have thought it was beyond their reach. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Before I get to the numbers themselves, I want to say that April 2005 was a month in which we mostly stayed in our village in Bernal. We did drive our little motorhome to a nearby town a few times for shopping, but mostly it just sat. We needed no health care last month. Also, I might mention that we have long had the habit of writing down our expenses. We get all the big expenses, but don’t always remember the odd small grocery or miscellany purchase. Still, I doubt that the food numbers are more than 5% off, if that. I’m using 11 pesos to the dollar as the exchange rate, and everything below is in US dollars.
Okay… food first. We spent $92 on meals out, there are 12 different entries, and each event was for both of us. That’s a lot of gorditas at the local gordita stand, a bunch of economical meals, and one fancier meal, the Italian one I blogged about recently.
Our groceries for meals prepared at home in April came to $141. That’s a LOT of mangos, avacados, papayas, and other fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as eggs, beef, chicken, yoghurt, cheese, and canned tuna. Bread and tortillas add practically nothing to the bill. Because we haven’t yet remodeled the kitchen of the house we are renting, our refrigerator is up the street a ways in our motorhome, and this has tended to keep our meals simple. We didn’t buy any vitamins or other nutritional supplements in April, though they are available in Mexico. The nearby city of Queretaro has a GNC in one of the malls, we noticed. For comparison, in the US, this figure is rarely under $400 for us, including some supplements. TOTAL FOOD= $233 for a month for two people. Once we have a refrigerator, this will go up some and we will eat a little higher off the hog.
Lodging: we are renting a house (including parking in a lot up the street) for $108 a month. This is a very good deal, suitable for us only because Kelly has many fix-it skills. Most Americans would probably want something fancier. We went to Queretaro overnight one night and spent $24 for a room with a good bed and private bath in a well-located hotel. Our electricity is a two-month bill; the April part would have been about $1.80 and our monthly water bill was $2.40. Trash collection is free, to encourage people to use it. Propane, mostly for hot water heating, was about $24. TOTAL LODGING= $160.00 for the month for two people.
We had other expenses: paint and other supplies for fixing up the house, some nice clothing made in our village, a few art and craft purchases, gasoline and bus fares for travel, and the inevitable miscellany. I’m not totaling those up because they don’t seem that pertinent to other people and no doubt they vary quite a lot for us from month to month. They totaled more than our food and lodging.
A bit more about lodging: don’t plan to arrive in Mexico and come upon a rental in our price range. Three or four times that (and up and up) is probably more common. But if you stay in an area and get to know people, opportunities can arise. House-sitting for other foreigners or Mexicans who have second homes they aren’t using is a possibility. We did house-sit our first two weeks in Bernal, back in February, and we have had two other house-sitting offers come our way since: one for a month while someone was away, and the other for a beautiful and very new house that is for sale and the Mexican owner has moved away. We didn’t take either one, as we are happy where we are. This kind of thing happens when people know you.
Mexicans often ask what we are paying for rent, and their reactions vary. Some local people who were installing glass in some windows for us sniffed and said they knew a much nicer house across town for about $20 US less a month. On the other hand, a friend of ours from Queretaro gasped and exclaimed “A gift!” when she heard our price. She hadn’t seen the house since we’ve been fixing it up, though!