What It Costs to Live in Mexico, and Why I Increased my Budget 

If you guys have been tracking my spending updates during the last few years since I semi-retired outside the U.S., you’ve seen… my spending (more or less) slowly increasing. 

In 2022, I spent most of the year in Mexico and Europe, and I spent $27,000 as a global nomad.

In 2023, I’m spending most of the year between Mexico and South America, and with just a few months left of 2023, it’s gonna shake out to be a little more. If I were to guess… my end of year spending, as a single woman with a dog and a car, will probably register between $36-37K.

Some theories on why I’m spending more in 2023

  • Cost of living in Mexico. Things just seem to cost more now, whether because of inflation, or demand.
  • The peso has strengthened against the dollar. (In 2022, the dollar to peso was 1:20, while in 2023, it has been between 1:17 and 1:18.) In layman’s terms, the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has weakened. 
  • I have made different — more upgraded — spending choices. You’ll see this later on in this blog. That includes treating myself a bit more… but also, I am investing a LOT in my business and personal brand, and as they say, “it takes money to earn money”… personal investment doesn’t come cheap.

Why I started sharing spending updates in the first place…

When I quit my job and moved out of the U.S., I started sharing where the dollars and cents in my pocketbook went, to illustrate a few things: 

⭐️ A life with more travel is financially attainable — and PROBABLY COSTS LESS THAN THE STANDARD WESTERN WAY OF LIVING. If you live in a Western nation (as the vast majority of my readers do), you can’t say that you “can’t afford to travel.” You can. 

I decided to share my spending choices and be fully transparent so that you can compare and contrast to your own spending habits — so that you can actually see, if you make any of the same choices as I do — what that might mean to your bottom line. 

⭐️ BUDGETING IS KEY. A budget is meant to be realistic, to help you make choices within the parameters and priorities you set for yourself. It is not a tool to restrict you, but to help you succeed. Make a smart budget, spend within that budget, and stop feeling guilty! Prioritize what you want, then enjoy the fruits of your hard-earned labor. 

I’m not going to die sitting on a pile of money, I’m going to spend every last cent. 

⭐️ It’s all about PERSONAL CHOICE. Firstly, I’m talking about the personal choices I made back when I was working, earning a U.S. living — to take on side hustles, live beneath my means, and save upwards of 40% of my paycheck for years. Secondly, it’s also about the personal choices I’m making as I travel. The nomadic 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 uber-luxurious, I am comfortable and I am able to frequently “indulge” in things like tours, a nice hotel once in a while, cocktails at dinner, and a cappuccino and croissant in the morning. I’m definitely not scraping by, but there are trade-offs. 

You can spend as much or as little as you wish, wherever you want — but where you start depends on cost of living. 

And on that note, for the love of God, please don’t tell me “that’s a lot for Mexico!” or “that’s so cheap!” My choices are mine, and I made them on purpose: I never said what’s a lot or what’s a little. (By the way, it’s uncouth to call something cheap out loud.) I’m simply saying what it is, and you can divine what’s a lot or a little TO YOU

…and why I’m pausing, after this update

Everything I say above still applies. But I’m not going to write monthly spending updates anymore, at least not in the way I’ve been writing them.

Why? I don’t think I’m a realistic example anymore. And that’s because I am not your average full-time traveler or nomadic semi-retiree.

As a blogger, content creator, and travel coach/advisor — with an audience — my recommendations have influence and weight. And because of that, this year especially, I have been invited to partake in a lot of experiences for free. 

Because I have promised to be super transparent with you guys, I won’t tell you my life costs $2,500 a month… if I’m getting above and beyond for a discount or for free. Because if anyone else were in my shoes, it would cost them more — and I’m not going to perpetuate a lie to ya’ll. 

And on that grain, I’m extremely grateful and fortunate for the opportunities to experience amazing things, and share them with you… things that would otherwise be outside of my budget!

Ok, let’s get into the meat of it! I spent $8,184 in 90 days, or about $91 per day. Here’s what I spent it on.

My budget breakdown: What I spent the last 3 months… in detail (in USD)

Transactions reflected below were posted during a 90-day period, between July 23, 2023 to Oct 22, 2023

Travel $2,657.01

In the last 90 days, I spent $2,657 on “Travel”: that’s an average of $886 a month, less than $30 a day — mostly to lay my head at night. (In the past 90 days, I’ve mostly been in Mexico City, with some San Miguel de Allende, Queretaro, and Peru peppered in between!)

This amount includes sleeping accommodations (hotels and housing rentals — mostly private, but sometimes shared), airfare (for some upcoming flights that haven’t happened yet), and a packaged trip in September/October hiking the Inca Trail in Peru — highly recommend. I also volunteered for 2 1/2 weeks in Querétaro, where I exchanged my skills for room and board.

Because I snagged an exclusive invite to the GX Summit in Peru, my flights to Peru, food, and hotels were covered by G Adventures. Thanks G! — that also helped make a big dent in my expected spending in September. 

Food & Dining: $1,462.50

Food is another interesting stat. I spend about $16 a day to feed myself — and that includes restaurants, groceries, alcohol & bars, coffee shops, and food delivery. Over the past three months, I spent:

  • Restaurants & Coffee Shops: $810.49
  • Groceries: $353.18
  • Alcohol & Bars: $181.52
  • Food Delivery: $117.31

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. 

Personal Care: $821.05

Here’s one category that has been particularly high the last few months, and there’s one main culprit — my yearly Botox treatment, which was administered in Mexico! At the office where I went, and with the exchange rate at the time, Botox costs somewhere between $7-8 per unit.

This category includes other personal grooming like massages, waxes, nail appointments, and hair coloring. Luckily, it’s largely more affordable to do all of these things in Mexico! I’ve luxuriated in a few treatments over the last few months, and I do NOT regret it one bit. I spent:

  • Med Spa & Waxes: $442.57
  • Spa & Massage: $200.24
  • Hair: $122.72
  • Nails: $28.15
  • Laundry: $27.37

Auto & Transport: $679.25

This spending 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! I spent:

  • Auto Registration: $192 renewal fee in Kansas state
  • Service & Parts: my battery died and I had to replace it for $170.90
  • Ride Share: I don’t really drive around Mexico City, so I take a lot of Ubers at $156.82
  • Auto Insurance: $87.59 for my U.S. policy — my Mexican policy is paid in full for the year
  • $52.94 in Gas & Fuel and $16 in Tolls from my drive to and from Grutas de Tolantongo, San Miguel, and Querétaro
  • And $3 for the handful of times I took Public Transportation (between $0.30-0.40 per ride)

Shopping: $581.97 

This is a little more than I typically spend on shopping, and it’s because, when you’ve been wearing the same clothes for the past three years… things start to fall apart. Plus, I needed some new clothing for hiking the Inca Trail in Peru.

I bought $259.55 in clothing, and $162.23 in sporting goods (wool socks and my La Sportiva trail runners). I also spent $129.74 to replenish some cosmetics, $21.41 on a portable charger for the Inca Trail, and $9.04 on face jewels — some festive adornment for the women coming with me to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead!

Health & Fitness: $398.96

This category includes the gym, pharmacy, dentist, and health insurance, and it’s higher now than in previous time frames — mostly because I splurged on a pack of 20 classes at the OrangeTheory in Mexico City ($252). Love this workout!

My health insurance spending, on the other hand, is very low. I’m on a combination of an Affordable Care Act plan and nomad travel medical health insurance.

I spend $4 a month on my U.S. plan — because I’m low-income/underemployed and it’s government subsidized, and I spend $45 a month on SafetyWing, my nomad medical health insurance plan, which covers my medical needs when I’m outside the U.S. 

Gifts & Donations: $382

This includes charitable donations and gifts for loved ones. 

Business Services: $337.03

Business Services include the cost of my domain, website hosting, software or subscriptions, and some advertising. Websites aren’t free, ya’ll! (If you enjoy my content, want to support the lifestyle, or just want to treat me to a cerveza, I’m on Venmo or Paypal at @juliebrose.) As my business grows, I’ll be able to write off some of these business expenses next year!

Pets: $282.92

This category includes what I spend to care for Penny: like dog food, flea & tick, and her anti-anxiety meds (she hates fireworks, and Mexico is famous for ‘em). The biggest expenditure was her pet-sitter when I was in Peru. 

Entertainment: $249.45

The Entertainment category includes expenses like excursions, guides, and tours (including tips for free walking tours: I recommend GuruWalk), concerts, entrance fees to places like the Grutas Tolantongo, and tickets to the movie theater (yes, there are English language movies in Mexico!). I actually canceled my Sirius XM music streaming membership because it wasn’t reliable in Mexico.

Everything else — Uncategorized, Bills & Utilities, Education, Home, and -Fees & Charges: $331.47

This spending category includes cash from the ATM that I haven’t spent yet or tagged (typically small or miscellaneous purchases or tips that I just don’t have time or energy to keep track of), renter’s insurance (for my belongings back in the U.S.), Mexican cell phone data, Spanish language tutoring, and refunds on my ATM fees (thanks Fidelity — it’s awesome withdrawing cash for free all over the world!).

And BTW, I’m increasing my budget

I’ve written an eBook about how I made sacrifices to have the life I wanted, and how you can too. I’ve shared a number of budgeting and money-saving travel tips on my blog, social media, and YouTube. And I fully believe that a life where you aren’t beholden to an employer or trapped by lifestyle creep is within your grasp. 

But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that absolutely legendary experiences are WORTH IT. So… 

At the end of 2023 and in 2024, I will be investing more in my travels, and I’m increasing my budget. And I’m organizing a lot more group trips — and YOU’RE INVITED!

What’s next on my agenda?

  • November 2023: Oaxaca for Day of the Dead
  • December 2023: Antarctica
  • January 2024: Buenos Aires and Patagonia, Argentina
  • February to April 2024: Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, TBD)
  • April/May 2024: Morocco (TBD)
  • September/October 2024: Iceland (TBD)
  • December/January 2025: South Africa and Kenya (TBD)

I’ll be upping my budget and pulling more from my savings to make all these trips happen, but you know what? I can make more money, but I can’t make more time. And the time is now… join me. ❤️ 

👩‍💻 Become a member of my Facebook group, open to anyone traveling or thinking about traveling with me on a mini-sabbatical trip — you’ll find announcements, tips, and can chit-chat with other group participants.

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