Retired in Mexico: A Breakdown of Our Monthly 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. That’s why I post my expenses down to the peso every six months online. My goal is to help other people who are thinking of making the move better plan financially.

It’s important to point out that Mexico is a large country and the cost of living varies significantly from one area to the next. We live in a popular tourist destination along the coast of the Riviera Maya, so the cost of living is significantly higher here than in many other parts of Mexico. Nevertheless, we think it’s worth it in order to be spend our days on a beautiful Caribbean beach.

For more about where we live, check out Moving to Mexico: Expectations vs. Reality (Housing) and Why We Live Where We Do in Mexico.

Monthly Household Expenses

* The phone plan is through AT&T. We took advantage of buying 12 months of service and getting 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.  You can learn more about that specific plan HERE

Entertainment Budget

We didn’t move to Mexico to just sit inside and watch the ceiling fan spin around — we came to enjoy every moment of it.  As a result, we spend an average of $18,000 pesos ($995 USD) a month on traveling, eating out, staying at hotels and doing a wide range of other activities that we find “entertaining”.

Annual Expenses People Ask Me About

After the last budget that I posted, a few readers asked me about property taxes, property insurance and vehicle registration. I figured that I would beat them to it this time:

Note: The bank trust, known as a fideicomiso in Spanish, allows foreigners to legally purchase property within 50 km of a coast or 100 km of a border. This is a reoccurring annual fee to the bank for providing the service.

What About Your Mortgage/Rent and Car Payment?

These are normally the two largest reoccurring expenses in a anyone’s budget. Prior to moving to Mexico, I knew that we would be more successful if we could find a way to eliminate them altogether.

Although we had a mortgage and a car payment in Florida, after selling everything and eliminating our debt, we were able to afford a small condo and a car here in Mexico. We now live 100% debt free for the first time in our adult lives.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Readers often ask me how much money they’ll need a month to live in Mexico. That magic number depends on three important factors: 1) location, 2) the amount of debt you have, and 3) the type of lifestyle you want. As you can see, the amount can vary quite a bit.

In this article, I showed you how a couple could live on less than $2,100 a month in paradise while still enjoying a very active lifestyle.

We could easily live on less each month by simply cutting money from the entertainment budget and staying home more — but where’s the fun in that?

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul

Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget.

In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Living in Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times and Paul’s articles appear in periodicals across Mexico.

66 Comments on "Retired in Mexico: A Breakdown of Our Monthly Expenses"

  1. My experience: staying winters in Latin America a half dozen times, is that I spend less per month going south, even though I still have my recurring expenses associated with keeping a home in the north. I usually rent a condo or house, travel by bus or rental car for sightseeing and still spend about a grand less than any given month living at home in Ohio.

  2. Thanks Paul, definitely an interesting read…as always 🙂

  3. Thanks for the breakdown.

  4. I am retired from working 28 years in the entertainment industry as a teamster location manager. I have a house in Puerto Escondido,Oaxaca, Mexico and my monthly expenses are at least 1/3 what was stated. It does depend where you chose and if the environment is catering to a tourist and gringo crowd or the town is Mexican and all the prices fit what the locals can afford and you just fit in. If you are on a fixed income do some traveling and check out many areas…My 3 years of now living here’s 2 cents. Terry

  5. Ms Suzanne Nye | June 15, 2017 at 8:26 am | Reply

    I live in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico and my expenses are much lower than yours. I am able to have a beautiful home in Mexico, and maintain a home In the US. Merida is a big city with a symphony orchestra, opera company, museums, great music and art scene and even a baseball team. Twenty minutes from the Gulf for swimming! The Yucatecans are incredibly friendly and welcoming.

  6. Great information as always. Thank you and continue to enjoy your life in beautiful Mexico

  7. do you mind naming our health insurance? have you actually had to use it yet?

    • WEA is the provider and no, not yet. Medical care is so inexpensive here that we generally pay out of pocket and the insurance is just in case something major happens.

  8. Thank you for this information Paul. Did you buy your car in Mexico or did you bring yours from Florida? Thank you.

  9. Thanks Paul. My husband just recently had a mild stroke due to stress from work, but can’t afford to retire or switch jobs. We have thought of moving to Mexico for years. Isla Mujeres is our go to spot for the last 13 years. I wouldn’t want to live on the island full time but within a reasonable proximity on the mainland, and you helped me realize that it could be a viable alternative. It is very helpful to get first-hand costs, as you say, you always hear its “cheaper” but never really get real costs.

    • Sorry to hear about your husband’s stroke. Mexico is definitely a great alternative and it’s pretty stress-free.

  10. Thank you for this detailed information. Great information.

  11. We live in Ajijic and our budget here is similar. We rent a 2/2 home at $600 a month. Have one cell phone and no homeowner dues. We do shop locally and eat out at least three times a week…usually splitting a lunch. I feed seven fixed feral cats….that’s a monthly expense! Agree that you can live here under $2500 a month and love your life! Back in Seattle…that amount would only cover our mortgage payment and electrical bill! Cheers! Pat

  12. LINDA FLETCHER | June 15, 2017 at 10:16 am | Reply

    I live south of Playa. Good stuff Paul. Where did you get health insurance for that amt? Been looking for full coverage not travelers.

    • WEA. Email me at feedback@qroo.us and I’ll send you the contact information for our rep. We chose full coverage for down here but it doesn’t cover us in the U.S. They do have the option but obviously that costs more.

  13. Hi Paul… Great summary, my husband and I have never been able to keep such a clear concise summary of what we spend and how we spend it. it takes a lot of discipline so thanks for taking the trouble.
    One thing that I think everyone should be aware of is that most medical insurance plans increase their premiums as you age. When we purchased our insurance, it was for catastrophic events so we kept the deductible high in order to keep premiums low. When my husband hit 60, the cost jumped quite a bit and continues to rise as he is now 70. Since he has developed a heart condition it is still a bargain at about 55,000 pesos ( $3,000.) USD) with a 35,000 peso deductible. This allows us to access the best hospitals in Mexico and there are cheaper plans for lesser hospitals..
    If we we were Americans it would sound like a gift, but Canadians pay for health care through their taxes; it is not free, but you don’t seem to notice it. I am simply mentioning this because the rising cost as we aged was not something we originally considered.
    On the topic of medical insurance it is worth reminding folks that that as you get older it is harder to get. For this reason I encourage your readers to make their move sooner rather than later if they can. .

  14. Awesome!! Thanks again Paul!

  15. Ethel aka Fran | June 15, 2017 at 10:57 am | Reply

    Hi Paul, sounds good, but you are paying more each month for electric, water, gasoline, groceries and homeowners fees than I pay and since I don’t go out to dinner, movies, etc., I don’t have those expenses. BTW, my husband figured we average $30.00 a week on groceries. When we travel, our hotel expenses are free because we are HIE Spire Members, doing surveys to have free hotel rooms and we rarely eat out even when traveling because we pack a cooler with food. Bob is very frugal or as one friend said, “He squeaks!” However, you and Linda are living in a paradise and I’m here!! Enjoy!!

  16. Great post, as usual Paul! And welcome back from Ireland!
    I am printing this one to use as my template for planning for my first year. Assuming all the household expenses would be the same for one person as they are for the two of you (except for maybe a little less for groceries), the only thing that may be different would be the Expat medical insurance for one person. How much less do you think that might be for just me?

    • It depends on your age and the amount of coverage. Mine was about $10 USD more than my wife’s, so you can probably just half that number. Our plan doesn’t cover us in the U.S. That was an option, but that doubled the amount so we didn’t get it.

  17. Thanks for this info Paul. Maybe I can convince my Paul that we need to move to Mexico. We’ve been looking at Playa with it’s proximity to the beach and grocery shopping. Are there good grocery stores in Akumal. We would rent for the first 6 months to a year and won’t be able to buy a car. So transportation is an issue. Any advice? Thanks.

    • Akumal is not the ideal location if you don’t have transportation. We’re about 15 minutes by car from the closest decent grocery store south of here in Tulum and about 25 minutes from the shopping areas in Playa del Carmen. If you don’t have transportation, I would suggest focusing on either Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos or even Tulum.

  18. Patrick Haffey | June 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Reply

    Paul I want to thank you for all your adventures,info and related cost of living expenses.We will be retiring within the year,love Mexico…We are planing to start out at Playa(because of all the info you have put out there)and go from there…By the way is there any surf spots by you?

    • I haven’t seen too many people surf here except at a beach called Xcacel. There were some people surfing there the other day.

    • Surfing is not that great here in Cancun, nor the Riviera Maya. On occasion you will get a decent day, but those days are rare. However, paddle boarding, any of the wind sports, scuba diving, or snorkeling are excellent water sports here.

  19. Michele Loper | June 15, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Reply

    Hi. Can you send me your health ins reps info? Thx

  20. Do you still collect social security if you live in Mexico?

  21. Marilyn Feres | June 15, 2017 at 11:58 pm | Reply

    2 questions: do you have a bank trust for your property and is the cost included in your monthly expenses? What is the full name on your health insurance provider?
    Thanks for the info

    • Health insurance is through WEA (Worldwide Expatriate Association). And the bank trust is a one time yearly payment of $500 (I just added it to the article).

  22. Thanks again for your thorough and honest blog. We’ve been planning our move for 20 years and with the youngest a year and a half away from graduating college we’ve hit intentense planning mode. It’s exciting, but starting to feel like waiting for water to boil! Can’t.Come.Fast.Enough. We’ve felt the pain you describe trying to figure out what “cheap” means. We end up spending a few days of our vacations going around to stores, repair shops, etc and generally grilling any full-timer who will sit still long enough. Your blog has been the most informative resource we’ve found. I’m sure it’s not the most comfortable thing to put it all out there, but it’s greatly appreciated. We’re still deciding between the Akumul area and Cozumel, so maybe we’ll buy you a beer next time we’re down ‘doing research’. 🙂 Thanks again and welcome home!

  23. shannon collier | June 16, 2017 at 8:33 am | Reply

    I’ m new to this site/blog, it was forwarded to me by a friend. I’m retired and looking to spend this winter in Mexico. He suggested Melaque, and barra de Navida. what are your thoughts. I will need a two bedroom. I’m Canadian so I would like to find something in Canadian dollars, vs US dollars if that is possible.
    Thank you for any tips you might have Shannon

    • I’m not familiar with that particular area and I don’t have any contacts there who could give their input. Sorry. Maybe one of the readers will be reply to your post. They are a helpful bunch 🙂

  24. Bob Risheill | June 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Reply

    Paul, my wife and I love Mexico, especially Cozumel, PCS and Akumal. About to retire and would love to join the expat community there. However, my wife has had several strokes and therefore feel the need to be close to good medical care
    How is it in the PCS area.

    • PCS? Do you mean PDC, Playa del Carmen? If so, they have several very good facilities there. Cancun is the largest city in the area and has the most medical resources.

  25. No housekeeper?

  26. Paul,

    We always enjoy your posts but something others should keep in mind and I did not see in your list is life insurance. We are preparing to move to Mexico and as we plan/budget, that is something that we want to keep paying. I will be relying heavily on my husband’s retirement and if something were to happen I would loose that income, in addition, if something happened to me, I wouldn’t want him to worry about funeral expenses. Although we will be reducing my life insurance significantly once we move. Luckily that cost is offset by the fact that we have health insurance through my husband’s retirement that we do not have to pay for and covers us down there. Since we are preparing to leave, I have been asking my doctors what they think about the medical care there. Every one of them has insisted they have great health care there and my family practice doctor is considering moving there and opening up a corner store practice. I am happy you outline your groceries costs as well as your travel expenses as we have been curious about that certainly don’t want to sit still and your post has confirmed we will be just fine!!! Thanks for sharing! We are excited to get this thing moving….the wait is killing us!

    • That’s a great tip. My wife would continue to receive my pension if I passed away. That’s why we didn’t feel the need to continue it once we moved.

      I think you’ll like the health care down here. 🙂

  27. Very nice blog Paul!!!
    Could you please share with us your thoughts about crime or if you have been a victim of crime in the riviera maya (Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, Tulum). Do you feel safe in the area? Or is it true that it is scary living in paradise?

    • Mexico is a large country and much of the extreme violence that you see online in the news is far from the Riviera Maya. Of course we have some incidents from time to time but I feel safer here than many parts of Florida where I worked as a deputy sheriff. We can drive for several hours in any direction without any issues whatsoever. I’ll be writing some more blogs on this in the future.

      We’ve never been the victim of a crime and we’ve never even met an expat who has personally been the victim, apart from being short-changed at a gas station 🙂

  28. Sounds so good! The idea of living in Mexico is so apeLing to me. Does anyone know how living in Mazalan Mx. would compare with the above costs?

  29. Paul, can you give me an details about the cost of the home/condo you bought? Price? Sq feet? Are real estate prices currently the same or higher? Thanks in advance. Great info.

  30. Good info. Still evaluating and crunching #’s! Thanks!

  31. patricia conner | June 17, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Reply

    some of the post refer to health plan. we use Segure popular because it is free if over 60. the hospitals have now merged with Imms. IMMS will be exiting from health but it is still in process. you need a tempory or permanent visa. we then have travelers medivac for $50 for two a month. . we spend out of pocket for small stuff. i broke my neck so SP took care of me for free and travelers medivac flew me to and back from the USA for the operation paid by medicaire. so SP is a good back up plan if living here for long periods.

  32. That’s all good and wonderful when the exchange rate is 18.08. But for years it was 11.00 to 12.00 which would change that budget by 40%. Something that MUST be considered, unless your retirement income is not based upon an exchange rate, not likely as most would be using Social Security among other US based income sources.

  33. Mitzi Storey | June 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Reply

    Thank you for the information. I have never considered this move but you make it sound enticing. We have vacationed numerous times in Playa Del Carmen. I am a Texas State Trooper. I am 5 years or less from retiring. I work the border occasionally but my duty station is in East Texas. My concern is the cartel activity and the crime rates in Mexico. It seems that the drug violence that was once primarily occurring in the border states is shifting to other areas including Cancun and Playa. Any input on that? This could possibly be a retirement plan for me.

    • We occasionally see an incident where there is a shooting involving rival drug dealers but it’s really not any different than where I worked as a deputy sheriff in Central Florida. We certainly aren’t seeing the type of violence that exists along the border and in Mexican states like Guerrero.

      Playa del Carmen and Cancun keep growing and, like any metropolitan area, crime can grow with it. I feel very safe traveling all through the Yucatan, but I still use common sense and my cop instinct to avoid placing myself i dangerous situations.

      I think you’ll like it down here. It’s a great place to live on a pension.

  34. Loretta Schwartz | June 24, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Reply

    Quick question: Did you purchase your cell phone in Mexico when you signed up for the AT&T plan or did you already own one.

  35. Is your monthly CFE number for the higher rate you discussed several posts ago?

  36. Good estimate of costs Paul, my monthly expenses are almost exactly the same as yours. I live in San Carlos, Sonora just an easy 4 hour drive south from the Arizona border. I have never felt safer anywhere that I have lived and I love that I can easily drive back and forth.

    I have the same AT&T plan and at the peso exchange rate when I signed up, it came out to about $15 US per month for cell phone and data. I drive to the States every 5-6 weeks and my Mexican cell phone works great on either side of the border. Our little town has just had 4 episodes of Mexico Life filmed here that were just aired on HGTV so I expect we will no longer be the best kept secret of Mexico!

    For medical, I choose to self insure because care is so affordable here. In comparison, I had a hip placement in California with Blue Cross insurance in 2002 and it cost me $11,800 US in co-pay plus my monthly premiums. I had my other hip replaced here in Mexico thirteen years later in 2015 with far superior care and it only cost me $11,200 US for everything out the door with NO insurance!

    I have lived full time in Mexico for 10 years now and have no plans of leaving!

    • Thank you so much for sharing that! I love to hear from people who have been hear much longer than us and still love it. That reinforces that we made the right choice 🙂

  37. jesus badillo | July 28, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Reply

    What a great article. I really enjoy your blog.Keep up the great work.I really appreciate it.I look forward to my retirement in mexico.

  38. Can you use your US driver’s license in Mexico? If so, is there a time limit?
    I would like to rent a condo or an apartment for one year before deciding where to move to permanently in Mexico.. Any recommendations that’s really close to you? I trust the reason why you chose the area where you live was because it’s the best of the lot and at the cost you can afford. I believe it would be a great place to start our search for our “little piece of heaven on earth.”
    Thanks 🙂
    Joe

  39. Thank you Paul. Great article with useful information. I’m binge reading your blog, and thinking about retirement. I still have a few years to go but never too early to start planning.

  40. Thank you for such valuable info. When I retire, husband and I would love to winter in Mexico. We live in Central FL too where I am teacher. In meantime, we travel to Mexico. Do you feel it would b safe to travel to Oaxaca in Dec.? Nervous about earthquakes. Can u pl recommend travel insurance provider or maybe one of your readers can. Love and envying your lifestyle in paradise! May Our good Lord always travel with u

    • We’ve never been to Oaxaca so we can’t say. Maybe one of the readers can help you. As far as traveler’s insurance, we always flew in and then purchased the optional traveler’s insurance through Expedia.

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