Before moving to Mexico in 2015, I spent hours searching for information online about the specific costs associated with living south of the border — but I never found anything. The sites I stumbled across would only say that the cost of living was cheaper. Cheaper than what?
Words like cheap and expensive are very subjective and are worthless without hard numbers to back them up. In an effort to help others who are thinking of making the move down, I publish a detailed list of our expenses at least once a year.
Where is the Riviera Maya?
The Riviera Maya is a popular tourist destination on the eastern side of Mexico that borders the Caribbean Sea. It runs from the area of Puerto Morelos down to an area south of Tulum.
Reoccurring Monthly Expenses
1. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used part of the money to buy a condo in a gated community. Condo prices start around $175,000 USD.
2. The maintenance fees pay for a full time staff of around 25 employees made up of security guards, gardeners, maintenance workers, cleaning staff (for common areas) and an HOA manager to oversee it all.
3. The phone plan includes unlimited calls to the U.S.
4. Electricity can be expensive in Mexico, so we always monitor our usage closely. The amount shown in the chart was our monthly average from May-July. The most expensive electric bill that we have ever received was around $105 USD.
5. The cell phone plan is AT&T’s con Todo Damos Más Plan. It allows you to pay for 12 months and received 12 months free. Although we already paid for two years of service, we divided the amount over the term to show the impact on the monthly budget. The service includes unlimited calls and texts (Mexico, United States and Canada) + 3 GB of data per phone (Facebook, Whatsapp, and Twitter do not count toward data usage). The phone service also works great when we travel back to the States.
6. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used part of the money to buy a car.
7. We have medical insurance through WEA. We chose a plan that does not include the United States (it’s much cheaper that way) with a $2,500 deductible. Since routine healthcare is not very expensive in Mexico, we generally pay for things out-of-pocket.
8. This is for a shared policy that covers the entire complex that we live in (e.g. the structures and grounds). We elected not to get an additional policy that covers the contents. We don’t have anything that isn’t replaceable.
9. This is an annual fee to maintain a bank trust for the property.
What About Food, Gas Etc?
People often ask us about the cost of groceries, eating out, entertainment and even gasoline. I didn’t list those in the chart because they are all variable expenses that we can control by modifying our behavior.
For example, we can choose to splurge and stay at an all-inclusive resort for a few days and then get back on budget by eating at inexpensive restaurants in the pueblo for a few days. Since many restaurants give us a locals discount, we have found that it’s often cheaper for us to eat out than cook at home.
Let’s Wrap This Up
People often ask me how much money they’ll need a month to live in Mexico. That magic number depends on three important factors: 1) where you want to live, 2) the amount of debt you have, and 3) the type of lifestyle you’re looking for.
In our case , we kept our monthly costs low by buying a modest car and condo when we moved. Since our reoccurring expenses are generally less than $600 USD a month, we have enough disposable income left over each month to live a very active retirement lifestyle (e.g. travel, eat out, visit local attractions etc.).
Just to be clear, housing costs are generally higher in the Riviera Maya than they are in many other areas in Mexico. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been here and looked out at the crystal-clear blue Caribbean water. The good news is that it makes buying property here a good investment.