How cheap is living in Mexico, really?
While some are scared away by horror stories and negative stereotypes, a growing number of retirees, digital nomads, and professionals are choosing Mexico as their home for its culture, weather, and of course, low cost of living. But is it really possible to achieve a comfortable lifestyle on a budget?
I'am Mexican and I live in the beautiful, colonial city of Queretaro. Working online as a vlogger and Spanish teacher, I feel that my lifestyle is very comfortable, and all for a fraction of what things would cost in a more developed country.
Let me describe what my husband and I spend in a typical month, to give you an idea of how much you might want to budget if you decide to make the move yourself.
For me, and I’m sure most people who start a new life in Mexico, my biggest expense each month is rent.
For a small two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment in an upmarket neighborhood, within walking distance of Queretaro’s famous aqueduct, Los Arcos, I was paying MX$7000/month, or around US$350.
If you don’t want to tie yourself down with a long-term rental, you will also be able to find excellent opportunities outside of the city center, such as this amazing, modern 3-bedroom house, which I was able to get for just US$580 for a whole month — bills included!
If they aren’t included in your rent, you’ll have to pay bills here the same as anywhere else. Fortunately, these are often very reasonable.
Electricity is subsidized by the government in Mexico and is charged on a sliding scale. If you use more, the price per watt rises steeply, but if your usage isn’t extreme, this cost is almost negligible.
Due to the warm yet mild climate of Queretaro, neither heating nor air conditioning is necessary for most of the year. My bi-monthly electricity bill was never higher than MX$200 (US$10) and often came in at less than MX$100. That’s just US$5!
On top of this, I pay around MX$200 a month in gas for cooking and for hot water. There’s also about MX$200 a month for water, depending on your neighborhood.
Cell phone data is much more affordable in Mexico compared to the US or Canada. I often read about people paying over US$100 a month for their plans. I don’t have a contract and I will make a top-up of around MX$100 a month for 3GB of data.
I can’t get enough of fresh fruit and vegetables so the markets are heaven for me. Not just this, but they’re incredibly reasonably priced, too. With a kilo of fresh tortillas for around MX$12 and a kilo of chicken breast for around MX$100, my husband and I were able to feed ourselves very well for just MX$750 a week, or US$130 a month.
Not everyone has time for shopping in the markets and sometimes the convenience of the supermarket is too much to refuse. Often, I will get my groceries delivered to my apartment to save time. Obviously, this comes at a premium. The same shop at a supermarket will cost me around MX$1000/week.
You can’t live in a country with such amazing culinary traditions and eat at home every day, much less in a vibrant city such as Queretaro, which boasts an impressive selection of local and international restaurants.
I eat out at least twice a week. Often I will visit one of our traditional Mexican fondas where you can get a 3-course lunch with a drink for between MX$50–70 each. Other times I’ll treat myself to a more upmarket dinner.
If you want to spend a lot of money on food in Queretaro, there are plenty of options available. My budget doesn’t quite stretch to the fanciest restaurants but for less than US$50 (including drinks) my husband and I can enjoy a fancy meal almost anywhere in the city.
The grand total
When my husband and I tracked all of our expenses for an entire month, we worked out that we spent a grand total of around MX$25,000 between us — or US$625 each.
Perhaps our lifestyle will seem frugal to some people and extravagant to others. For us, this is all we need. We feel very privileged to be able to live the way we do, and we’re even able to save a decent amount each month.
Please feel free to check out the video I made, detailing our finances for a month in Queretaro below. There are additional details which I haven’t included in this blog.