When I started my mini-retirement and began geo-arbitraging at the end of 2021, I started publishing spending breakdowns, detailing my spending… in brutal detail. (If you’re new here, I’m an American blogger turned Mexican “resident,” who quit her remote job in 2021 and has been detailing her adventures solo traveling in semi-retirement.)
And while some people absolutely loved how transparent I was with my money… other people were just plain rude. People criticized my spending choices (really? My money, my choice), and people tried to tell me I spent too much (again, MY CHOICE… but also, there’s no such objective thing as “too much”). And I kinda wanted to tell those jerks… have you missed the point of my blog entirely? CHOICE — ACTIVE, CONSCIOUS, INTENTIONAL CHOICE in all life decisions — is something I literally talk about ALL THE TIME.
I’m intentionally homeless and jobless, and I work only on my own terms. I’m intentionally single and child-free, and while I am open to love, I’m not seeking it out. Choices are pretty much my jam — so when I talk about what I spent, I meant to.
I last wrote a spending breakdown at the end of 2022, when I shared with everyone that I lived on $74 a day as a global nomad (mostly in Mexico and Eastern Europe, with two months in the U.S). The lifestyle I lead would cost probably twice as much in the states — and while I wouldn’t call my post-employment, full-time travel choices luxurious, I am comfortable and I am able to frequently “indulge” in things like tours, a nice hotel once in a while, a cocktail at dinner, and a cappuccino in the morning.
At the beginning of 2023, I went back to Mexico, but I lagged in writing these. Did I get bored of writing them, or did you get bored of reading them? You tell me. (If I get at least five comments on this blog, I’ll keep writing spending breakdowns!)
Here are some quick hits that you’ll glean from the numbers below:
- I spent a little more in the first quarter of 2023 than I spent last year: inflation is real. (And some other stuff happened.)
- I also had to pay an unexpected tax bill, despite my income being in the lowest bracket (or under the lowest bracket?) last year. This, however, was my own fault. Word to the wise: you can only contribute to your Roth IRA if you have the income to match… oops.
- The USD to MXN currency exchange is a LOT worse (for Americans) than it was this time last year.
- I’m still sticking to a budget, but I’m maybe not as strict with it these days — I’m a little more loose because I have additional income coming in from the sales of my eBook: “Money and Mindset: How to Take a Sabbatical,” from my travel coaching business, and another collaboration that hasn’t gone live yet (it’s gonna be an exciting year!). Oh yeah, and I did get paid a little $$ to sing for four nights in Holbox — that was fun!
So drumroll please… I spent $8,143 in 90 days, or $90 per day. ($15 a day over last year!!)
How much it costs to travel Mexico: My spending, days 1-90… in detail (in USD)
Transactions reflected below were posted between January 23, 2023 (when I left the U.S.) to April 22, 2023 (90 days later)
In my first three months in Mexico, I spent $3,305 on travel. Which is a lot, but also, I was traveling a lot!! After I crossed the border, I drove to Saltillo, Querétaro, Mexico City, Puebla, Catemaco, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Palenque, Bacalar, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Holbox, Puerto Morelos, Valladolid, Chelem, and Mérida) — that’s 6,000 kilometers by SUV. So, a lot of frequent moving around (and a lot of money in gas and tolls, as you’ll see soon).
Of that $3,305, I spent $845 a month on sleeping accommodations (hotels and rentals) and $746 on my Mexican residency visa and vehicle import permit. (There was also $24 for the ferry to and from Holbox.)
As you might imagine for a full-time nomad, “Travel” is my biggest spending category.
- I haven’t redeemed any Chase Sapphire points in this time period.
- I haven’t stayed anywhere too long-term, except for Tulum for a month, and my lodging was more than I expected.
- I’ve spent less time staying with friends.
- I spent most of those three months in more touristy parts of Mexico, and I moved around to a lot of cities fairly quickly, which is obviously more expensive than if I had long-term discounts.
- More and more hotels are charging pet fees (or higher pet fees). The struggle is real…
Speaking of the Chase Sapphire, if you have a U.S. address and you’re looking for a new travel credit card, I love it. If you’re someone who uses their credit card for most purchases and spends at least $2K per month, the points add up fast. I am excited to redeem my points in the coming months!
»If you want to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, use my referral link to make my day — I get bonus points!
Food & Dining: $1,541
Food & Dining was my next biggest expense and includes restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, and alcohol & bars, at $514 a month, or about $17 a day. This amount has been pretty standard during my mini-retirement. While it varies depending on where I am (and whether my living accommodation has a kitchen), I typically eat out once a day.
In total, I spent:
- Restaurants & Coffee shops: $944.70
- Groceries: $335.26
- Alcohol & Bars: $261.11
Auto & Transport: $1,463
This category includes auto insurance, tolls, gas, taxis, ride share, and parking. It ain’t cheap to be a nomad with wheels, but I do appreciate the freedom and flexibility!
- $652 on auto insurance (when taking your U.S.-plated car into Mexico, you need to get Mexican car insurance because your U.S. policy will not apply)
- $446 on Gas & Fuel. For my American readers, regular gas in Mexico averages a little less than $5 a gallon currently
- $175 on Ride Share and taxis (taxis were crazy expensive in Tulum)
- $157 on Tolls (it costs a pretty pretty to drive across the country using toll roads!)
- And $33 on Parking
This was my boo-boo: I had to pay a penalty for contributing to my Roth IRA in 2022 — while I didn’t have income to match. Lesson learned.
Personal Care: $316
It’s my choice to color my hair, wax my skin, and get massages. Luckily, it’s largely more affordable to do in Mexico! I spent $199 on hair, $86 on waxes, $27 on a massage, and $4 to do a load of laundry at a laundromat (lavanderia).
Business Services: $280
Business Services include the cost of my domain, website hosting, business tools, “office supplies,” and some advertising. (If you enjoy my content, want to support the lifestyle, or just want to treat me to a cerveza, consider sending a Venmo or Paypal donation to @juliebrose.) As my business grows, I’ll be able to write off some of these business expenses next year!
The Entertainment category includes expenses like excursions and tours (including tips for free walking tours: I recommend GuruWalk), entrance fees to places like archaeological sites, cenotes, or museums, tickets to the movie theater (yes, you can watch English language movies in Mexico!), and my Sirius XM music streaming membership.
Gifts & Donations: $218
This is cash from the ATM that I haven’t spent yet or tagged with a category. These are typically small or miscellaneous purchases or tips that I just don’t have time or energy to keep track of.
For a reformed shopaholic, spending less than $40 a month on clothing and cosmetics is… no small feat! I bought a new pair of polarized sunglasses for $55 (my first new pair of sunglasses in 5 years!), I spent about $31 to replenish toiletries, I spent $19 on an Apple Watch (I traded in an old one and had a gift card), and I bought one tank top from H&M for $14.
Bills & Utilities: $94
My portion of a T-Mobile international cellular plan (I share with my mom, who gets the senior discount).
This category includes what I spend to care for Penny, but since I stocked up on pet food before I left the United States, it cost $52 for a 3-month supply of edible flea & tick purchased over the counter from Petco.
Health & Fitness: $32
$32 for health care… what a bargain! Last year, this category included my global expat health insurance plan, but this year, I’m on a combination of an Affordable Care Act plan ($4/month, because I’m low-income/underemployed and it’s government subsidized), plus nomad travel medical health insurance for my travel outside the U.S. (SafetyWing, approximately $11/week). I just signed up for SafetyWing, and it’s got a great reputation — if I need to file a claim, I’ll definitely share the experience here on the blog!
Fees & Charges: -$46.87
These are ATM fees refunded by my bank, Fidelity. It’s awesome withdrawing cash for free all over the world!!
So there you have it, folks. I’m curious to see what the next few months will bring!
And… where am I now? Make sure you follow my adventures and discoveries on social media to see what I’m up to. Gracias, amigos!
10 thoughts on “What I Spent in 90 Days Traveling Mexico: My Quarterly Spending Breakdown”
Enjoy your candid post – whole I am not a fan of Mexico, I still appreciate hearing about your experiences – knowing what you spend is interesting as is what you spend your money on – to travel for the amount you do should be inspiring – keep the $ posts coming!
Thank you!! Glad to hear it.
It’s interesting to me to see the spending report. Thanks for sharing.
Do you leave your dog in your lodging when he’s not allowed on tours or in restaurants? Impressed you can travel with him.
If she’s not allowed in a restaurant, I don’t eat there 😉 I’ve sometimes been able to take her on tours, but if not, then yes — she’s happy as a clam just chillin’ in the room!
Always appreciate the spending reports! Thank you!
Please don’t stop posting these—I really enjoy seeing what you’ve spent. Your hair looks gorgeous, by the way, so that’s definitely money well-spent. 🙂
Regarding your business expenses: you might be able to deduct some losses right now (and definitely going forward). Shoot me an email if you want to discuss, as I’m a CPA!
Awwww, thank you!! Well, I’ve learned after having my hair colored yellow and chunks lopped off that I’ll pay a little more for quality and expertise… there’s just some things you don’t skimp on or you’ll live to regret it!
And I didn’t know you were a CPA! I just might email you 😊 Last year, I made under the taxable income threshold (I believe around $13K) so I didn’t have any due tax to offset. But when I do my taxes next year, I think I will have earned enough to be liable for federal tax and will be able to deduct business expenses against earnings… haha, does any of that sound like I’m on the right track? Sometimes I wonder if I’ve gotten it wrong!! It’s soooo complicated!!
I really enjoy these reports! It’s super helpful to see a breakdown. I traveled for a year and ended up spending WAY more than I thought I would. I read so many blogs who were able to do it for so little, so I thought $2,500 a month would cover it, but I ended up spending closer to $4,000 a month.
Still about $1,00 a month less than my lifestyle in NYC had cost, and I spent a lot of time in expensive Western Europe. I’m sure a lot of hardcore budget travelers would say I spent too much but like you said, it’s MY money and overall I was happy with what I spent.
One area I’d be curious to hear more about from you is accommodation. How are you able to keep the costs so low? Do you always do private accommodations or are some shared?
Thanks, Alicia! I totally agree. I’m not doing this to restrict and skimp, because that’s not sustainable. We do our best by our priorities and resources. 🙂
Thank you for the question… that is a great topic to go in-depth on for one of my next blogs! In the meantime, I do talk a little bit about that in this one: https://juliedevivre.com/2023/02/03/my-10-commandments-of-budget-travel-from-a-full-time-nomad/