I’ve never believed in living a life of restriction and deferred enjoyment, of saving up your money for a luxurious retirement that may never come. It’s just not me, nor is it what this blog is about. I’m ok without designer purses, new cars, and brand name clothes. I don’t stay or eat at the poshest places (although it can be a treat that do I appreciate on a special occasion). I give up things that don’t mean much to me while choosing what does. This is my LIFE; not a vacation, where all bets are off.
And for life, I have non-negotiables. One, I travel with my dog, insomuch as I can. That is an expense and a consideration, but one that I’ll never trade. My life is fuller with her than without. And that, in its essence, is my point:
If your choices and purchases make your life fuller? Keep them. That is a worthy reason. But if they only serve your ego and your self-worth? You’ll eventually find that unsatisfactory, if you don’t already. Life isn’t a contest on who can make the most or spend the most or save the most or restrict the most. If anything, it’s a contest with yourself on how fully you live, what you make of your time on this earth, and the imprint you leave on the people around you.
This is a LIFESTYLE. And lifestyles, by definition, are sustainable.
January 2022 spending… at a glance, in USD
|Auto & Transport||$534.02|
|Food & Dining||$450.43|
|Health & Fitness||$157.00|
|Bills & Utilities||$81.22|
|Gifts & Donations||$74.00|
|Fees & Charges||$4.08|
January 2022 spending… in detail
As usual for a full-time traveler, “Travel” — which includes hotels and general travel expenses — was my biggest expense for the month of January 2022 at $534.79. But it could’ve been even more costly! I decided to cash in a Chase Sapphire travel reward — trading 56,000 points for $700 cash back — for my Airbnb rental in Austin in December. This credit helped balance the costs of crossing the border: it cost $472 for the temporary import permit (TIP) to bring my SUV into Mexico ($400 of which will be refunded to me when I leave Mexico) and $31 for my tourist permit (FMM). I also spent $738 on hotels in January for 13 nights ($112 of that was pet fees… yikes!! Had I known about this fee in advance, I definitely would’ve chosen another establishment).
After I checked out of my hotel, for the remainder of January, I stayed with a retired couple I met early on in my trip. Waylon and Renee were very kind to open up their guest suite for Penny and I. Not only did this help make a dent in my spending, I benefited so much from the family atmosphere, the home-cooked meals, the insider information on San Miguel de Allende, and the exchange of ideas and experiences. Waylon and Renee brought me and Penny into their circle… and we are so grateful! It’s been a lovely place to stay for half the month and a lifelong friendship has been forged.
“Auto & Transport” was my second biggest expense in January 2022, at $534.02. This was because I had to buy a policy for 6 months for Mexican car insurance, which was $412. This is a required expense if bringing an American-plated car into Mexico. Plus, it is in addition to my U.S. policy, which renews next month… sigh, another big bill to look forward to! I also spent about $30 on tolls and $80 on gas during my drive down from the border, and $13 on four Uber rides in and around San Miguel (very cheap!!). While having a car does add extra expenses, it gives me the freedom to move around at-will, and plus, is great storage for all my belongings and transport for my dog. You’ll see, I don’t have a car payment — one of the worst money-sucks of all!
“Food & Dining” includes restaurants, groceries, and alcohol & bars, at $450.43. This ends up being about $15 a day. Coming from the U.S., food in Mexico can be very affordable. In San Miguel, I’d say a good sit-down meal costs about half as much as it would in the U.S., unless you want to pay for extra-fancy or trendy ambiance.
During my first night out in San Miguel de Allende, I stumbled onto a bright, airy patio with Penny. Not fully confident in the exchange rate, unsure of typical prices, and even how much to tip… three tacos and two glasses of wine plus tip = $30usd. Now that I’ve been in Mexico and San Miguel for a month… I cringe at that, and I never would’ve cringed before. (That’s a nice happy hour for one in the states!) Because, since then, I’ve been able to eat and drink for half that if not much less. In fact, some of the best meals I’ve had in SMA have been dollars and cents. $10 can get you a latte, a sizable lunch meal, and includes tip (a good tip is 15%, 20% is sensational). You can also get a good bottle of red wine for $8 at the grocery store or Oxxo, or a fat taco for $1.50 (I’ve been known to try them all!).
“Uncategorized” is cash from the ATM that I haven’t spent yet or tagged with a category. And the good news is, I still have about $100 cash ($2,000mx) from my January trip to the ATM to spend in February. (Anyway, most of this spending is small miscellaneous purchases, probably food-related.)
“Health & Fitness” is my international health insurance that covers me both in the U.S. and abroad, provided that I remain outside of the U.S. for at least 6 months out of the year. While I paid the policy in full, I “split” the transactions into 12 payments of $157 per month in my budget tracker Mint so it doesn’t hit me all at once. And obviously, health coverage is an expense I’m not able to opt out of. If you’re interested in trying Mint, it’s free; sign up with my referral code here.
“Entertainment” includes expenses like tours (a new category, with $97 spent in January), park entrance fees, and things like music streaming. While I spend a lot of time doing “free” activities, I will spring for a worthy must-see attraction.
Since you’ll remember “Bills & Utilities” include my AT&T cellular plan and mobile hotspot (which works in Mexico), and “Gifts & Donations” are just that — gifts and donations! — from my 2021 budget breakdown in the U.S. blog… let’s skip to “Personal Care.” In January, this category included a pedicure for $15 including tip, $18 for a bikini wax including tip (I mean seriously, both of these are majorly affordable in Mexico!) and the remainder, a cosmetics purchase I made prior to arriving in Mexico.
Well, there you have it! I spent $2,367 my first month in Mexico, semi-retired. That’s $2,000 less than my average monthly spending in the states (when I had a job!). At this rate, I’ll stay within my budget for the year. Hooray!
Navigating the money mind-shift
Still, one of the biggest surprises about mini-retirement is that I do have to think about my money now that I’m not working. My bank account is not a renewable resource, there’s no paycheck being deposited bi-weekly, and if I don’t make smart financial choices, it will get down to $0 sooner than later. And the dream stops.
So I acknowledge: yes, I’m on a loose budget; most financially responsible people are, working or not. But I am not limiting myself or living with any regrets. Sure, I may choose the house wine over the expensive varietal, but I’ll sooner forget about it than regret it. But the $95 horseback gallop tour through Coyote Canyon? While I did bat an eye booking it, given that I’m unemployed… it was a thrilling experience, and I’m so glad I went.
Everybody has a different opinion on what’s a lot of money or a little. Some people might think $30,000 a year top-to-bottom is barely enough to live on, while others might think it a fortune. There’s no contest here. I’m here to say THIS IS MY LIFE. I am living comfortably, I still have my indulgences, and something like this could be possible for YOU! Use it as a starting point and scale either way, if you wish (or DARE!). 😘