Retired in a Mexican Paradise: A Detailed Look at Our Expenses

Source: Q-Roo Paul

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.

Monthly Expenses

1. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used the part of the money to buy a condo.  

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. *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.

5. Before moving to Mexico, we sold everything and used the part of the money to buy a car.  

6. Medical insurance is much cheaper if you don’t include coverage in the U.S. or Canada. Paul’s insurance does not include U.S. coverage (around $800 USD a year); however, Linda’s does include U.S. Coverage (around $1,760 a year).

Annual Expenses

7. 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. 

8. This is an annual fee to maintain a bank trust for the property. To read more about this topic, click HERE

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. That gives us extra money each month to lead a very active lifestyle (e.g. travel often, 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.

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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.

85 Comments on "Retired in a Mexican Paradise: A Detailed Look at Our Expenses"

  1. So useful! thanks for all the great posts you share, Paul!

  2. Tracy and Glenn McDougall | January 10, 2018 at 10:54 am |

    Thank you very much, Paul, for these very helpful numbers! It’s encouraging!

  3. You are a such a star for running this blog.

  4. Joe B. from Kent Island MD | January 10, 2018 at 11:03 am |

    Thanks for the info. As I’m sure you are aware, many (all?) places in the states exclude flood insurance from their homeowners policy. I was just wondering if your homeowners excludes damage done by named storms (i.e., is Hurricane insurance separate)?

    • Hurricanes are included in the policy. Of course, everything is made of block and tile here (including our roofs), so we can withstand most hurricanes and tropical storms.

  5. Thanks for this very specific, and thus useful, information on expenses.

  6. I love your posts, and this one is excellent. Thank you for sharing about your expenses. My question is about mosquitoes. My husband and I live in the Lake Chapala area and mosquitoes are a problem here. Are they a concern for you there?

    • They can get pretty bad here. We are in the habit of putting on repellent, so we rarely get bitten.

  7. Hola Paul, I have a question you might address in one of your posts. Which is ….How hard is it to Buy Realestate though all your $$$ Money is in a Bank back in the USA & How difficult do the Fed’s make it to Wire or Electronic Transfer the necessary Funds so you may Close/Settlement on the Property ???

    Thanks Paul for sharing all your knowledge & personal experiences in your Posts which are sooooo Helpful to us considering the move as well ! I look forward to each one.

    • Hi George. Wiring the money for a real estate purchase isn’t usually a problem. Developers that cater to American buyers often have U.S. bank accounts just for that purpose.

  8. Thanks for sharing this information, way above and beyond, it’s very helpful for those looking at making the move. I believe this is the third version of this article since I’ve been following the blog. Once again it leaves me wonder how it compares to the earlier versions? Trending things like rate of inflation over a period of time could prove to be some valuable data.

    The wife and I loved our trip to Akumal and the surrounding area in Oct/Nov and have already booked the next scouting trip in April. Tequilaville and Pizzeria Manglar were both great calls, thanks.

    -James

  9. Been here 15 years , and you got it down fast , you’re the man. Md

  10. Paul, do you have hurricane insurance?

  11. Thank you for sharing Paul. The hard numbers really help put things in perspective.

  12. I agree with you, things overall are less expensive than in the US or maybe Canada. But what I have discovered is cheaper shouldn’t be the only motivation to move here, and if that is the primary reason to come to Mexico, people are going to be a disappointment quickly. After we moving here, I starting to to notice three groups of people that have made their way to this amazing country –those who are looking for a low cost of living, adventurers and tax evaders (of course I am kind of joking here)… but those who just wanted a lower cost of living seem to be disillusioned quickly. We just purchased our house from one of those people and we are the beneficiaries, because they built an incredible house and they wanted to sell it so bad they lost money on their investment, and gave us their car as part of the deal. They had a vision of what Mexico “should be” and wanted to make it over in their vision of a mini-America. In the end, a less expensive lifestyle wasn’t enough for them. Its pretty clear we have lower our monthly expenses now, our property taxes are $505 Pecos, compared to $14K in the states, and like the other expenses we’re seeing things are about 1/3 of what we’d pay in the US. But the real advantage is getting to experience all that Mexico has to offer. The lower cost is just another benefit of this great country to which I give thanks to each day.

    • You are absolutely right, Mark. So many want a little America and never try to integrate, learn the language, or enjoy anything but Walmart and Costco. Its a shame and they never seem to make it!!

    • Thank you for your well-written response — you should think about starting a blog.

      I have met people who are looking for the vision of “U.S.-like but cheaper” and they always end up disappointed in the end.

      In our case, we came looking for most of the things you mentioned: adventure, relief from Obamacare fines, and a low cost of living. Oh, I should add that we wanted to live a Jimmy Buffet inspired Caribbean lifestyle. So far, it is working out fabulously and my arm is bruised from me pinching myself so much.

  13. Arlene Thomas | January 10, 2018 at 12:13 pm |

    Hi Paul, thanks for your continued output of valuable information! Your comment about expenses being tied to where you live in Mexico, is so true. For example, our property taxes, which we just paid, are 3 times your tax amount and we have a modest, 2 bedroom home. Also, our health insurance is more expensive because of our age and most insurance companies do not cover pre existing conditions. As a result, we have kept our US insurance and are considering a Med evac policy. Can I ask which health insurance company you use? Thanks, Paul
    Arlene

    • We use WEA Insurance because we found that the majority of the Mexico based companies were way too expensive and restrictive.

  14. Paul Rouquie | January 10, 2018 at 12:29 pm |

    Thanks, Paul. Good to see real numbers from an actual family. Much better than the anonymous contributors to sites like numbeo.com. Keep the good stuff coming!

  15. Arlene Thomas | January 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm |

    Hi Paul,
    I forgot to mention, we live in San Miguel De Allende:)
    Arlene Thomas

  16. Karen Walpole | January 10, 2018 at 12:45 pm |

    Every time you post this information I have to stop myself from quitting my job on the spot.
    Every. Single. Time.
    Am at my desk right now talking myself down from the window ledge (figure of speech of course)

  17. Can you give me any insight into golfing? Course fees and/or memberships? I hope to continue golfing in my retirement.

    • We have debated writing a post on that but the fees vary so much that we didn’t think it would be useful. However, in our area the green fees range from affordable ($25 USD) to a bit extreme ($100+). The second option is for a world class course though.

  18. Excellent. as always, Paul. So these figures are an average of the last 6 months then? I know that you did a fair bit of sightseeing lately and I’m sure that would bump things up but and I wonder if there’s an “entertaining” category for spirits, bars, and other activities with friends, etc? If it’s all averaged in, then this is very useful to be sure!!

    • Our “entertainment budget” would throw off the numbers because that is really the “whatever is left” category. If we have a lot, we party like we just got signed by the NBA. If we don’t, we eat $1 tacos.

      If it helps, once you’re considered a local, many establishments will give you discounts up to 20%.

  19. Michael Cadue | January 10, 2018 at 1:15 pm |

    We also included a monthly entertainment expense like eating out once in a while.. Ours came to 1500 monthly and that is Canadian dollars. So pretty close to yours.

    • We save a little and use the rest for disposable income. if we have a few hundred dollars left over, we head on an adventure or book an all-inclusive.

  20. Donna Norstadt | January 10, 2018 at 1:20 pm |

    RE: Your ATT phone plan. Obviously you have a Mexican number. Is that a problem for family and friends in the US who do not have a call to Mexico for free plan and want to call you?

    • We use Whatsapp for those folks who can’t call Mexico for free. We either talk via Whatsapp or they send a text on Whatsapp and I call them. Both options are free for them.

  21. Charles Benfante | January 10, 2018 at 1:34 pm |

    May I ask who you use for you health insurance? Thank You !

  22. Thanks, Paul! This gives me a good comparison to our 2 bed / 2 bath studio condo in Cancun (near Nizuc).

  23. Tom in California | January 10, 2018 at 1:52 pm |

    Awesome Paul. Can you clarify if health insurance cost vary for age or pre-existing conditions? Even in the US, private insurance is more affordable for a 33 year old vs a 63 year old (especially now-a-days)

    • Yes, preexisting conditions are normally not covered by private insurance companies. I will be discussing the options (i.s. public vs private) in future articles. Insurance is also less expensive for younger, healthier people.

  24. Thanks for all your insights. I, too, would love to know more about who you use for health insurance and whether you added the imss coverage from the government.

  25. George & Gail Moffatt | January 10, 2018 at 3:18 pm |

    Hello Paul

    We are one of your follower’s that read your post religiously and live in Melaque in the state of Jalisco on the Pacific side of Mexico.
    My spouse and I were wondering if you could give us some information regarding your health insurance. We are both Canadian citizens and 64 year’s of age that reside in Melaque permanently all year round.
    I have very few pre-existing conditions, but my spouse was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple scleroses 10 years ago, who has been stable and on no medication’s since her diagnoses. In other words you would never know that she had m/s unless she told you.
    Any help in pointing us in the right direction to enable us to purchase health care insurance in Mexico would be much appreciated.

    Sincerely.

    George and Gail

    • Send me an email at feedback@qroo.us and I can send you the information about the agent we use. Her clients are mostly expats and she can answer any questions that you have.

  26. As an expat living in Mexico I enjoy reading your postings. They’re honest, interesting and well written. I offer the two following expenses that I’ve just paid here on the other side of the Yucatan Peninsula, specifically in the beach-side community of Chuburna Puerto, 11 miles west of Progreso. I do so not to denigrate in anyway Paul’s accounting but simply to offer a different perspective from the wonderful but toni Riviera Maya area where Paul lives.

    Our 2017 water bill $1,194.28 pesos ($62 US). Property tax on our double lot, two bedroom, two bath house with a splash pool and guest house was $300.78 pesos ($15.83 US). Because I paid the bill in January I received a 15% discount, so I had to shell out $255.56 pesos ($13.45 US).

    As I stated earlier, I don’t mean to gloat, just offer a perspective. Each area of this wonderful country has MUCH, MUCH to be desired, regardless of what you sometimes hear north of the border.

    • Sounds nice over there. Mike. We debated going to that side — and we still might someday — but it’s hard to say goodbye to the Caribbean. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

  27. Not sure what to modify, except you guys are doing really good for such a short time , Isaí your food cost, we spend two times , and cook a lot , Iva. Might want to touch on that subject, property tax is very low , but Iva. Sales tax. Food , beer , gas, everything, is out of control, may want to let the folks now ,

    • We do eat out often with extra money from the month but it can actually help us stay on budget because there are so many local, inexpensive options to choose from.

  28. Let me tell you the cost of living, if you don’t want live on the beach (PS: I can get to the beach anytime I want by autobus).
    Rent- $400 for 3 bedroom house
    HOA- $20 (it’s a condo)
    Gas – $25
    Electricity – $10
    Phone- $10
    Food- $75 to $100, there 3 of us
    Car, gas, insurance- 0, big savings as the public transportstion here is excellent and you don’t want to drive in Morelia anyway.
    Health Insurance- 0. The Mexican Health Care is excellent and so inexpensive, I pay out of pocket. And, if it is really bad, I will have them patch me up and fly me to US, where we are already paying for Medicare. ( At 70 they were going to charge me over $300 a month for health insurance.) You can buy a lot of Mexican Health Care out of pocket for $300)
    I just mention these costs as an alternative to living by the beach. For me, it is worth the savings.
    For me, savings equals more travel and it’s just as charming.
    Worth your consideration.

  29. Thanks for all you info, Paul!

  30. Rick & Flower Plourde | January 10, 2018 at 7:26 pm |

    Paul, Your the man,
    Thanks for the expense update, it is so helpful to us since we will be moving to Akumal as well. Having precise numbers makes planning for are move to Mexico so much more predictable and helps eliminate many of those unexpected surprises along the way.

    Muchas Gracias !

  31. Kelly A Maher | January 10, 2018 at 7:31 pm |

    you are sitting at my favorite table at La Buena Vida! LOL! My figures are similar to yours BUT plenty of expenses not noted that the average person will also incur such as dining out, vacations, clothing, entertainment, etc. But, when you monthly expenses are as low as we experience, there are plenty of $ left for all of this! Like you, my condo is paid for as well as my car. Key to retiring comfortably!!!

    • The dining out and vacations are luxuries that are easily controlled. We use dining out as a way to get back on budget some weeks.

      The paid off condo is the way to go!!!! See you at La Buena Vida someday 🙂

  32. mounddweller | January 10, 2018 at 9:16 pm |

    Q-Roo Paul,

    I don’t comment often but read all of your blog posts. I’ve been a reader practically since day one. Like you, I searched all over the internet for budget information prior to making the move to Mexico. Since I retired young (age 55) and without the benefit of any pension I was vitally interested in just how much it was going to cost me to live in Mexico. I have tracked my monthly expenses to the penny since arriving in Mexico on September 30th of last year. I thought your readers might appreciate a second set of numbers to compare against yours.

    A couple of key differences should be noted, (1) since we are uncertain as to where we eventually want to put down roots, we decided to rent instead of buying, and (2) we chose to forego having a car at least until we obtain our permanent residency visas. Below are the monthly averages for our first 90 days of living in San Antonio Tlayacapan, Jalisco, Mexico. San Antonio is a small town near the gringo enclave of Ajijic on Lake Chapala.

    All expenses are quoted in USD using the actual exchange rate in place on the day the transaction occurred.

    Rent – $800
    HOA/Maintenance Fees – $0 (included in rent)
    Water/Sewer – $0 (included in rent)
    Gas (Water Heater/Stove) – $20.49
    Internet / Phone – $23.05
    Electricity – $5.27 (we live in a temperate climate and have no furnace or AC)
    Cell Service (2 smartphones) – $20.97
    Car Insurance – $0
    Car Payment – $0
    Groceries – $222.34
    Gasoline – $0
    Health Insurance – $206.21 (two adults, both age 55, actually prepaid entire 1-year premium at time of purchase)
    Total of Above – $1298.33

    I have a few other expense categories that you did not have so I am breaking them out separately below. Perhaps they are embedded elsewhere in your categories.

    Household (Non Food) – $74.33
    Medical / Dental – $8.38
    Personal Care – $32.15
    Restaurants – $232.25
    Charity – $38.31
    Travel – $65.28 (we haven’t done much except take one trip to Patzcuaro)
    Transportation (Bus / Taxi) – $1.11
    Entertainment – $13.31
    Misc. Gratuities – $2.58

    Grand Total – $1766.03

    If you back out the cost of our health insurance premium, our average operating expenses come to just over $1500 per month.

    Again, I just wanted to give your readers some perspective on what costs might be like in another area of Mexico.

    Best Regards,
    Troy

    • Thank you for taking the time to prepare all that and share it here. This is extremely helpful for people thinking of making the move.

  33. Paul……….Great article …as usual. Can you tell me who your agent is for car and health ins. I am paying so much more. Also, I didn’t know that 100mps of internet was available….Who might be your provider….
    Thanks again for your great informative articles.

    Steve

  34. Don Malcolm | January 11, 2018 at 2:49 am |

    Really like your articles. Everything is spot on!

    Still sorting out our routine vs non-routine expenses here. As info comes to light, I’ll pass on. Anything else we find I’ll also include (including references).

    Looks like a breezy day at LBV in the picture at the head of the article. For us, a favorite spot (I think they named a bar stool after me).

  35. Hi Paul,
    Let me add my voice to the chorus of appreciative readers! My husband and I just moved (last week) to Los Barriles on the Sea of Cortez side of Baja California Sur. We are renting a place for now while we get the lay of the land. We have a few friends here already and we’re all fans of your blog.
    Thank you so much for sharing not only your travels but such specific, helpful information for those of us exploring options in this beautiful country.
    ~Schelby & Tom

  36. Hola from cold and snowy Canada. I also am a retired LEO with 32 years service with the Ontario Provincial Police. Have been vacationing in Mexico since the 1980’s and love the country. I have a question for you regarding internet. On another chat group a gentleman from Puerto Aventuras is lamenting the slowness of his current internet service Telefonos de Mexico and is looking for a faster internet speed, so I’m asking the question on his behalf. Do you find that your Telmex service is quick? ie: in comparison to the US providers.
    Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Wayne,

      Our Telmex service is as fast and actually much more reliable than what we had in the States. We opted for the 100 Mbps but we could have gotten 200 Mbps.

      The problem that most people have is that Telmex is not always available, so they have to go with a slower alternative.

  37. My wife is from Mazatlan originally and me, Calif. She has been here 26yrs me, my whole life! As we are getting older, we both are now looking to retire in Mexico. I do have one concern, and I want an HONEST answer please, the question is, is Madita Mexico or chapala safe for gringos? The reason why I am asking is just in the last two days the state department has issued major warnings for most of mexico. I am starting to think it’s scare tactics used by the current administration to keep Americans looking to move their at bay. You seem to be a very honest person and would like your insight on the media hype! We do have property in Cabo but we are not moving their. It’s just an investment property. We are looking at medita Yucatan peninsula area for our move. Any information would be greatly appreciated..

    • Mexico is a large country and there are numerous safe areas to live. When you say “Madita”, are you referring to Mérida? I’m guessing you are since you mentioned the Yucatan Peninsula.

      Areas like Mérida and Lake Chapala are popular expat destinations because they are safe areas to live. That being said, you can be a victim of crime anywhere.

    • I live just outside of Merida (presuming that’s what you meant by stating Medita, Yucatan) and have for 10 years. Merida, a city of about 1 million and growing very rapidly, is the capital of the state of Yucatan. One of the main reasons for its rapid growth is the influx of people, mostly Mexican, who know that Yucatan is one of the safest states in the country. The number of housing developments, condos and apartment buildings that have gone up in just the last five years is astonishing. A week after the sales office opened a year ago in a huge development in North Merida I asked about the availability of apartments in the first building. Half the building had already been sold, mostly to people from Mexico City, some from South America and a few gringos, the sales manager said. Two of an eventual six buildings are nearing completion today. As for security, neither me nor my wife has felt anything but very safe here. Please come visit before making any life-altering decision.

  38. Norman Frank | January 13, 2018 at 6:38 pm |

    Well, just found this article .This is our 28th year to visit the area of Mayan Riviera . It used to be 2-4 weeks during Jan/Feb. but now it is 2-3 months . We love Mexico but B.C. in pretty hard to beat for the
    Summer . Playa del Carmen is our 2nd home now and even if it has grown from a little fishing village in the early 90’s to 150,000 + persons now ,we still love to walk around the Centro or grab a colectivo to different areas of this beautiful city. We have found grocery food prices here a bit lower than at home but not as low as they stated earlier in this article . Dining out in the local establishments is varied as you can easily spend as much or more that at home in Canada . We live much like we do in Northern B.C. while we live here but have our favourite restaurants for an evening out. Norm/Linda Frank

  39. alice hesselrode | January 14, 2018 at 11:35 am |

    Really great info. So glad I found you through mention of facebook on expat.com. I will be in Yucatan for 9 weeks., Cancun, Tulum and now also Akumal. Hope to bump into you there. Looking for place to go on regular basis to get away from Canadian winter

  40. Sheila Anderson | January 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm |

    I too have been following you for some time and enjoy reading all the helpful information you have. I am thinking of relocating to Puerto Vallarta this year. Would you be able to send me the info for your insurance agent you use for health insurance? That is the one item I don’t have nailed down yet. Thank you.

  41. Love your blog and starting a new life in Oaxaca soon. The. Host family I lived with when learning Spanish at age 16 will help me but I do not know whether I should research blogs, hire a lawyer, talk to a consulate or look for a book. I speak Spanish, have a Masters in TESOL, minor in Spanish, licensed as an architect in Texas. I would like to start on the permanent residency tasks if my high social security qualifiies me financially. I want to work, either for someone or my own business, but my retirement income should cover my costs with some fun money left over. I would like to earn one or two thousand a month extra for awhile so that I could buy some land, build a house, travel fares for family, etc. I do not have any savings or money to hire an expensive consultant, but I want to do this right.

  42. Martin Price | January 29, 2018 at 10:37 am |

    Love your blog. It’s so very helpful. I’m trying to convince my wife to retire early so we can move to the Riviera Maya area. We are coming down in March for a vacation. Hoping this will spur her along. All the best mate. I’m an English expat in the US looking to become an expat in Mexico.

  43. Where do you get your medical insurance?

    Thx. Kyle.

  44. I enjoy your articles! Thanks. I will be moving to Mexico at some point though I much prefer the west coast/Puerto Vallarta area. Sunsets, mountains and better weather…

  45. Good morning Paul first thank you for all the info it’s really helpful just got back from playa yesterday was there for only 5day which spend most of the time exploring but at the same time gathering info about homes rental property etc been there several times but about 8 years ago prior my dream was since the first time to purchased a property which I should”ve have done back then I’m was very surprised about the cost and the growth of playa it’s incredible I still looking for a dream place to move back since I’m Mexican leaving in cal. But sick and tired of my job can you tell me? If going down to Tulum or Akumal would be less expensive than playa and what would you recommend
    Greetings from cold Ca.

    • Q-Roo Paul | March 7, 2018 at 4:52 am |

      The property values in Akumal and Tulum are similar to those of Playa del Carmen — and in some cases, they may even be a little bit higher.

      If you’re looking for a rental of less than 6 months, those can get very pricey. One way around it is to contact owners and negotiate a lower rate or rent for a longer time.

  46. I too have really enjoyed readying your blog. I’m curious, and forgive me if I missed seeing it already discussed, but so you mind sharing what you paid for your condo?

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