Retired in Mexico: The Two Days a Month I Avoid Stores, Banks and ATM’s

One of the advantages to being retired (and there are many) is that my schedule is flexible, and with the exception of happy hour and an occasional visit to the doctor, it’s rare when I have to be at any particular place at a specific time.

I take advantage of my situation to avoid dealing with crowds and long lines. I prefer to go to the store or the bank at times when I can quickly pop in and out. In the States, this is easy to do because there are certain days of the week that are busier than others (e.g. Fridays) but it is not as simple as that here in Mexico.

In Mexico, a large percentage of the population gets paid on the 15th and 30th of the month. In February, payday is the 15th and the 28th (or the 29th on a leap year).

On those dates (and for a few days after), the stores are more crowded than usual and there are often long lines at banks and ATM’s.

The main photo for the post shows an ATM on April 30th. I got into line just to snap the picture and more people quickly lined up behind me. The majority of the month, the line to use this ATM (if there even is one) is only a couple of people long.

During these peak times, it’s not uncommon for ATM’s to run out of money (see below).

An ATM that ran out of cash in Mexico (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

After people get their money, they head to the stores to stock up. The lines at those locations can get ridiculously long, and as you stand there, you can’t help but look at the items in your cart and evaluate if you really need them that day or if it’s better to come back another time.

A grocery store in Mexico on the 30th (Source: Q-Roo Paul)

Working Through the Learning Curve

When we first moved to Mexico, I was unaware of this pay schedule and I remember thinking that Tuesday was a great day to go to the grocery store because no one was there. The following Tuesday (which was the 15th), the grocery store was packed and I had to wait over 20 minutes in line to checkout. I spent that time vowing never to make that mistake again.

I decided that Tuesdays must be a bad day to do our weekly grocery shopping, so two weeks later, I went on Wednesday instead. Unfortunately, it was the 30th and the place was packed again.

This cycle repeated itself the next month, except the bad days to go were Thursday and Friday. That’s when I decided to investigate the matter further and discovered the cause.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I decided to share this little tidbit of knowledge for all those readers who are like me and have an aversion to wasting precious beach time standing in long lines. Life is too short to waste it staring at the back of a stranger’s head.

UPDATE 5/8/18.: I returned to the same ATM shown in the main photo on May 8th at around the same time of day. Here is what it looked like:

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. In 2016, they started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) sharing their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border. The blog has been viewed over two million times and the articles have been republished in numerous periodicals across Mexico.

37 Comments on "Retired in Mexico: The Two Days a Month I Avoid Stores, Banks and ATM’s"

  1. Good to know. I saw those lines on a Friday and thought it was because of payday for that day of the week also.

  2. Hey Paul,

    I really enjoy your posts. They are very easy to read and helpful!

    I am wondering on your recommendation for best internet tv/phone and accessing English tv programs.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 1, 2018 at 1:48 pm |

      Most people we know use an Amazon Fire Stick or similar device like Streamsmart for TV.

      As far as Internet is concerned, Telmex has high speed packages that include a phone with unlimited calls to the U.S. and many other countries. The problem is that Telmex isn’t available everywhere.

    • You can use a VPN service to mask your IP address. You will appear to be in the US. Check out Strong VPN and then subscribe to an online service such as PlayStation VUE by Sony. VPN $80/YR. VUE $39.99/MO. and you are set.

  3. Mark in Merida | May 1, 2018 at 2:08 pm |

    Yep.. This was my pet peeve in the states as well with all of those retired folks who are at the store on the weekend. I worked all week and I only had the weekend to run errand on the weekend — and then run into gaggle of us writing a check at the checkout! Thought to myself, this gaggle of old people have all week to do this and your at the store now? I would also recommend not going to the bank on any Friday…

  4. Linda M Manzon | May 1, 2018 at 2:19 pm |

    I sense that Sunday is a day when many local people shop…anyone else notice that? Unfortunately i seem to need things on Sunday

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 1, 2018 at 2:24 pm |

      Yes, many people work a six day work week with Sunday being the most common day off. Around here, that means the beaches and cenotes are more crowded that day.

  5. Martha Narvaez | May 1, 2018 at 2:20 pm |

    Hi Paul – do you know any where that there might be a clone of you who I could hang out with? I just love your analytical mind and how you figure things out. It is fun and very interesting. Thank you for all the great posts.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 1, 2018 at 2:22 pm |

      Hahaha, I might have a doppelganger or two out there. Start checking the beach bars 🙂

  6. Rick Langlois | May 1, 2018 at 2:21 pm |

    This is a good tip for when I am down there full-time. There is another way too Paul. Send your driver or domestic helper to the store! That’s what my Mexican mother-in-law does. She has a “driver” who carts her around to places she wants to go. He is on the clock five days a week but she only needs him to driver her to Liverpool every once-in-awhile. So Carlos keeps the car clean, keeps the pool chemicals balanced and he does a lot of the shopping. He doesn’t mind waiting in line because he’s on the clock.

  7. Deborah S. | May 1, 2018 at 2:37 pm |

    ATMs can also run out of money during a three-day weekend. If the holiday falls on Monday, we visit the ATM on Thursday: shorter lines, lots of pesos.

  8. Pamela Bruno | May 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm |

    Paul, I also avoid (ie absolutely do NOT use unless it is a dire emergency) ATMs in retail locations, use only ATMs in bank lobbies, preferably during bank hours when there is a staff member monitoring. My primary US ATM card was skimmed last year, most likely in the Chedraui in Tulum or outside the Soriana in PdC (your photo!). Thankfully I had a back-up card from another bank and mucho pesos in my safe; it took 3 weeks to receive my new card. Okay, I am a little paranoid and possibly over-cautious.

  9. Janice Hoelting | May 1, 2018 at 3:16 pm |

    I just love reading your blog and all the information you share, and I save it. I don’t live there yet, but one day……..

  10. Penny grist | May 1, 2018 at 3:45 pm |

    Thanks for the heads up! We spend much of winter in Mexico, and had no idea what caused the ATM to run out of cash. Now we know!

  11. Ethel aka Fran | May 1, 2018 at 4:13 pm |

    Very interesting!!

  12. Lynn Krohn | May 1, 2018 at 4:18 pm |

    Hola Paul,
    Su blog es al punto, con información corriente y bien hecho! Muchísimas gracias!!

  13. Diane McNair | May 1, 2018 at 5:54 pm |

    Hahaha, thanks Paul for your research and insight ! We were in Merida for a few days and yestetday noticed that the lines at the banks were insane! We justt thought it was a typical Monday…now we know! Thanks again for your very informational blog!

  14. Gerald Andres | May 1, 2018 at 6:20 pm |

    For the person who asked about english tv, We have Axtel in Guadalajara and we got a package deal of a phone with U.S. calls, internet and tv. We also got the english package which has CNN & Fox news channels plus a series of channels with english tv shows etc. We pay about 1000 pesos a month. The 15th and 30th paydays remind me of my time in the military.

  15. Hi Paul,

    Would love a follow up post on why In Mexico cc or debit is not more prevalent.

  16. Well, that explains why the mall in Playa del Carmen was chaos yesterday and the snack line at the movie theater went all the way to the entrance! Thanks for that so we don’t take months to learn like you did!

  17. Thanks for the heads up on mexican pay days. We hate queing also and are moving to Mexico later this year, so valuable information.

  18. As a NYC Teacher the 15th and 30th are my most favorite days of the month…:)

  19. Thanks for again for sparing us pain by taking the hit for us and figuring stuff out.

  20. So basically this post and like many others from expats gives the advice to avoid locals…just like all the expats who complain about semana santa being to crazy for them because of all the people. Mexico is a busy place!

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm |

      I’m not sure what post you just read but it wasn’t this one. Nothing in the post tells anyone to avoid locals. The purpose of the post is to let people know that banks, stores and ATM’s will be much busier than normal on certain days of the month. For those folks who enjoy spending longer than normal to go shopping, it isn’t an issue; however, for people like me who have much better things to do, this information comes in handy.

      By the way, even when we go shopping in the U.S., we try to do it when there is less traffic and fewer people.

  21. I’m impatient now. I can’t imagine how bad I’ll be when I retire next year. Funny how that works. Lol? Cheers Paul.

  22. Monique I | May 2, 2018 at 1:55 pm |

    Just subscribed to your blog. Always love the info. I’m a young retiree with a home in Playa too. We have one 12 year old son who studies in the US so we are part-timers for now. Love all the info you share!

  23. Jesse L Duke | May 4, 2018 at 11:41 am |

    I have noticed that HSBC ATM’s are not used so much by the locals in around Maya Riviera, so we often have no wait, while there are long lines at other ATMs. That certainly appears the case in one of your pictures you posted Paul as well. We use HSBC, so get lucky, even when it seems busy. Just an observation, not sure why this is.

  24. You’ll know you’ve started to assimilate when you take it in stride and use the time to chat with the people around you in the line up, and maybe learn something new about Mexico in the process.

    • Q-Roo Paul | May 8, 2018 at 9:00 am |

      I have done that. Normally we talk about how long the line is or how slow the employees are moving…lol.

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