Retired in Mexico: A Detailed Look at Our Expenses

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 We Settled

We bought a condo in a gated community in the Riviera Maya on the east coast of Mexico. The Riviera Maya runs from the area of Puerto Morelos down to an area south of Tulum (shown below).

Our 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. We use Telmex and the plan includes unlimited international calls to a long list of countries. Click HERE to see a list of the countries that are NOT included in that plan. 

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 USD deductible. Since routine healthcare is not very expensive in Mexico, we generally pay for things out-of-pocket. 

Our Annual Expenses

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 easily control by modifying our behavior.  We lump those all into the category of disposable monthly income.

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.).

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About the Author

Qroo 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. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences, as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

71 Comments on "Retired in Mexico: A Detailed Look at Our Expenses"

  1. julianneray@gmail.com | May 29, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Reply

    What sort of health insurance do you have for that price? Do you have household help? And, if so, that is missing from your budget.

    • We have WEA, that info is in the itemized details. We consider household help part of the daily disposable income. We don’t itemize that as a necessary reoccurring expense. I can always clean my own shower, if necessary…lol.

  2. We retired to PV, La Cruz actually. Your expenses and ours are about the same. We pay more in CFE, less in phone, HOA about the same, etc. Basically, you nailed it for us, anyway.

  3. Thank you for writing and posting this! You are so right about the usual articles that one sees just dealing in generalities. I appreciate the specific breakdown that you did. Our US expenses are similar to what yours were, which is really making me want to move to MX today, right this very second. 🙂 I’ll keep following your blog and saving $ for a bit longer yet, though.

    • I’m happy to hear that you found it useful. The first time we did something like this, our neighbors said we were nuts for posting such detailed information…lol.

  4. Patrick Durkin | May 29, 2019 at 2:08 pm | Reply

    Howdy! With your health plan, is the $2500 deductible pesos or dollars? I didn’t want to assume one or the other. As always, very appreciative of your willingness to show us the numbers.

  5. Grant Allen | May 29, 2019 at 2:12 pm | Reply

    Excellent article. Love the transparency and detail. Curious about WEA and coverage if you are in the US (vacation, etc) and something happens.

    • They do have an option that works in the States, but we didn’t choose it because it costs quite a bit more. Instead, we get travel insurance when we visit the U.S. it is very affordable.

  6. Susan K Sasek | May 29, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Reply

    What is CFE? We are toying with Cabo area or Costa Rica and this is so helpful! Thank you

  7. Randi Tonoff | May 29, 2019 at 2:20 pm | Reply

    Are you holding onto a US address for Medicare? Or did you just give up that possibility completely?

    • A US address for Medicare/SSA is just that – an address. Check out USABox.com – $10/mo. for a street address and suite, box, apt number – call it what you want. Everything happens online just read thru the website. It is the only presence we have in the US – credit cards, SSA, Medicare, bank account. It works.

  8. What do you use at restaurants to get a locale discount?
    I have a Permanent Resident visa and also an Inapam card ( old folks discount card).

    • We tell them we live locally and show our Mexican drivers licenses. Some of them will have us fill out an application and then issue us a discount card. We get a discount at almost every restaurant that we visit.

  9. Utilities are cheaper here in Mazatlán, and it’s just me in a 60m2 apartment so my costs are much less. The tenants own their apartments but we don’t have an hoa or dues – I think we just argue until we figure out how common areas are going to get fixed/maintained when we need to! My fideicomiso fees are significantly more – I’ll be going for citizenship after 5 years and then I’ll pay the fees to get out of the fideicomiso. I was also able to sign up for Seguro Popular. Will pay doctors for little things, but will definitely use Seguro Popular if I have something big come up. No car, but I have public transportation expenses when I can’t get someplace by walking. My typical month of expenses falls somewhere between $350 and $400 usd.

    • We know people that obtained citizenship to get out of a fideicomiso. Since in essence you’re changing the deed holder, they had to pay all the closing costs again. One woman who wrote us last month paid over $10,000 USD to do it.

  10. Just FYI (single and renting): I lived in and out of Mexico for over 20 years and always rented in a fairly nice gated area outside of American/Canadian areas. Most recently I rented a 3 BR/2BA modern home in a gated area. I kept an accurate expense record on a monthly bases and it included maid service, food (in and out), auto insurance for both the US and MX and even a travel reserve of $200 a month (I traveled Business Class every six months to visit my VA and civilian doctors). The average cost of living was $949 USD in Mexico compared to just under $1,900 here in Alabama (includes a small VA Home Loan and Home Insurance).

    • Thanks for sharing. What was your rent? How could you fly business class from MX to the US twice a year and still only spend 949. a month. This is a great price. I am budgeting for 1600. A month and that includes 4000. A year for travel.

  11. Dave Rattray | May 29, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Reply

    I had stayed in CD Carmen during a Lay-off period from work. I had a costing of $ 3000 USD per month for a family of four (2 teenagers). I tried to be frugal where possible but electricity in Ciudad Del Carmen is set by a sliding scale…. the area you live in…….poor pay less for electricity and the better the neighborhood the more you pay. The rent was about what I paid in the States so that was also (not cheap). I guess this all comes down to which city you decide to reside in as each is different. NOTE; CD Carmen is an “oilfield town” which brings higher cost due to higher waged people in town (more Americans passing through to go offshore)

  12. James Bettle | May 29, 2019 at 2:46 pm | Reply

    Very nice picture of you and your beautiful wife.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as you grow within the Mexican culture.

    I do believe your website is making the transition for many that take the leap to move to Mexico so much easier.

    Keep up the great work, If only I could convince my wife to make the move, but the (6) grandchildren at home will make this very hard.

    James

  13. Thanks so much. We really appreciate all the hard work you do.

  14. Thank you for this info, Paul. It is most helpful. I am wondering if you might dedicate one of your future blogs to the differences between the U.S. and Mexico regarding the home purchasing process. Thanks, again, for all you do.

  15. Plenty of sun year round south of the Tropic of cancer for solar panels to reduce your CFE and propane bills to less than 50p a month. You accumulate a credit with CFE for your unused monthly kilowatts with a bi-directional meter but then once a year you revert back to a zero balance. Payback on a hot water system pending your area is about 2 to 3 years. Solar electric a couple of years more depending on your consumption. Pool, fountain, pressure pumps and mini-split units suck up lots of kilowatts.

  16. Could you give those of us who would be renting at least initially an idea of how much it would cost to rent one of the condos in your community? Thanks

  17. We have got our cell phone bills down to only 300 pesos a month for 2 (actually every 28 days) by buying time every 28 days with Telcel, we just recharge 150 pesos each every 28 days (hint set up a calendar reminder) and have unlimited calls,texts and WhatsApp within Mexico and to USA and Canada as well as 1000MB of data (which we never use up) – social media is pretty much unlimited as well and is not used to eat up your data. Love your article because it is very clear on what the real cost of living is like here .. great job, thank you.

  18. Where did you get your Fedeicomiso for that price? Almost all are at least double that price.Is the amount shown for 1/2 year?

    • Scotiabank and that’s for the whole year. The best time to make those choices is at the time of purchase.

  19. Does your condo have a really good water filtration system or how are you dealing with the water quality in Mexico?

    • We do have a water treatment facility but the water still has a lot of minerals in it, so we still use bottled water for cooking and for making coffee.

  20. Hi, thanks for this info. I just have a question about the health insurance..What is WEA? also, I have Medicare -it starts in 09/19- can I stop the medicare expense and instead pay the WEA (what is that?) insurance? I am Mexican born but have been away for over 40 years but I will be retiring in Mexico in 09/20. Thanks
    pd: I am signing to Patreon! thanks

  21. Paul, you look like relatively young retirees, do you know if private health insurance is available/affordable for those of us over 65?

    • That can be the challenge. I haven’t done enough research to know yet; however, many of the plans had a cutoff around 61 for new members.

  22. Hello Paul, thank you for the post! Could you share where you get your travel insurance for your visits to the US?

  23. Can anyone suggest an honest, hard working immigration attorney in Cancun or Playa or Tulum? Would Merida be any different?

    • The immigration specialist needs to be near the INM office you plan to use. Here is our recommendation for the Playa del Carmen area:

      Adriana Vela, Immigration Specialist
      Business site: migrationtomexico.com
      Contact email: contact@migrationtomexico.com

  24. Thank you Paul for your recap of expenses. I have two questions: what size is your condo since most HOA fees are based on square meters. Also, your detail of what expenditures are paid through your HOA fees was excellent information. You mentioned HOA “manager”; is this a condo administrator or an onsite manager hired by the Association?
    Again, thank you for your detailed list of expenses, living in the Riviera Maya.

  25. I live in Bucerias near Puerto Vallarta. I built a house. 2000 sq ft plus a roof with a bar. barbeque sink fridge and dumb. waiter to the kitchen for about $220 US. My annual bank trust fee is $470 electricity is my biggest cost about $100 per month when using air conditioning and $40 per month without. We eat out a lot at less than half the price of US. Petrol costs about $4 per gallon. We have a maid + her daughter 2 mornings per week for $160 per month. Ron Minter

  26. Christy Ellington | May 30, 2019 at 8:48 am | Reply

    Paul I have been following you for years. Thank you and Linda for your time and energy that you put into your research and answering our questions. Do you think that the prices in TAO are increasing or did ya’ll luck up by renting first and then the owner deciding to sell? We will be part timers in the beginning, hoping within the next 5 years, are you aware of people in TAO renting for 5-8 months per year? By the way, tell Linda that I love her hair in this picture, Mexico life is looking great on you two!
    Christy Ellington

    • The prices at Tao have been holding pretty firm for the last couple of years. That are a lot of new developments popping up all over the place, so the supply is keeping up well with the demand.

      In our case, we agreed to rent our condo from the previous owner for a year but ended up buying it only three months into the lease. We love it. You can find some folks who will rent for 5-8 months, especially if you decide to rent during the slow season. June -late November.

      Linda says thanks for hair compliment.

  27. Leigh Eastty | May 30, 2019 at 9:37 am | Reply

    What a great idea to get travel insurance when going to the US. We are paying for private insurance (VUMI) for Mexico and US coverage, but we are not in the US that much. The insurance has a $2,500 deductible for Mexico and a separate $2,500 deductible for the states. Next year we will drop our US coverage and just use travel insurance when we visit the Homeland. Thanks! You just saved us a bundle!

  28. Great information! We are looking into Moving to that area as well. I am wondering how long does it take to get to the big city, like Cancun. I will still have to work a 8-5 until we get our company up and running. We have lots of ideas.

  29. Steve Granger | May 30, 2019 at 12:14 pm | Reply

    Thanks Paul for sharing! Great to see the difference in fixed utility expenses between the US and Mexico. For what it’s worth, it seems like expensive cell phone service really is just a US thing. I am preparing to travel to Europe for work, and can get a prepaid SIM for around $25 USD that includes up to 20 GB of data plus unlimited voice / messages – so similar to Mexico it appears. Crazy!

    It would be helpful to get a range from people on the discretionary expenses for the area, in addition to the fixed / non-discretionary items you listed. I get it, the word “reasonable” means different things to different people – but getting the range of total costs for typical expats would be helpful to us as we consider whether a move to that area would even be realistic given our budget. Maybe this would be a good poll for the FB group – ie anonymously get people’s total expenses, and also identify the fraction that are non-discretionary vs discretionary? Just a thought.

    • We tell people who move to this area that for an active couple, $2,500 USD is a good target. That will allow them to eat out, throw in some travel days each month etc.

  30. Is there a online listing of available condos to lease/rent? Buying will be a later option.

  31. Gas and Water sounds for me very high. I have a small restaurant here in Mérida and that would more or less my expense for the restaurant and my house. Do you have a stationary gas tank or do you use the bottles? In addition, may take in consideration to buy a good solar water heater. It was one of our best investments here in Mexico. Overall, very informative!

    • We have a stationary gas tank. The water bill used to be less but everyone’s went up this year. We’re not sure why exactly.

  32. Good article, thanks. Who are you using for home insurance? We just bought in Loreto and I would like to get some info on that.

  33. Shelly Millane | June 1, 2019 at 11:12 am | Reply

    I would disagree about not carrying HO6 insurance or an individual policy to cover your condo. It is not just about replacing the contents. The policy provides other coverages, for example such as in a loss situation where you can not occupy the condo-fire,hurricane etc. It will pay for alternate housing until repairs are completed . But most importantly it covers liability. Someone working for us in our condo caused damage to my neighbor’s unit. The policy wound up paying $4000 USD. Well worth the money spent to avoid the demanda and all the legal Mexican hassle. Just some things to consider when making the decision.

  34. Paul, I posted a link to your blog on several of my Facebook pages related to Mexico. That would be the post on Living Expenses.The results were great. On my most viewed page, “We Promote Mexico” we had 470 views starting May 31 until today. I have several other FB pages and they all did pretty good. I also posted a link on a number of Facebook Groups where I am a member. The total number of views was just short of 1200. Additionally, there were a number of shares. I just wanted to inform you in case you saw an unexplained spike in activity. I have been reading your blog for at least 6 months. This is my first time for commenting.

  35. I just discovered your blog, and it’s amazing! By far, it is the best one-stop source for info on moving to Mexico. Thank you so much!

  36. Can you comment on property ownership in Mexico? I thought that foreigners cannot buy property in Mexico, but instead “lease” it for 99 years. Is this true, or just misinformation? Thanks.

  37. Paul great information thanks very much!. Is the ocean water near you blue green or grayish brackish ? Is there wildlife / green semi tropical places around or just outside your city ? Lastly I read Mexican article about recent waves of blackouts/ brownouts almost every month for hours in Yucatan peninsula – they say due to insufficient electric lines to accommodate super fast housing growth by expats I presume moving there. If own house the solution was buying 2-3 solar panels at about 1k each ? with lithium battery backup I guess ? …..I live in DFW Tx now, a friend is trying to get me to move to Merida but your city sounds like water is nicer etc ? I dont know any feelings about that ? thanks again – Dave

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