How Much Does it Cost to Live in Mexico?

Why do people move to Mexico? Their reasons differ. Some are ready to escape the fast pace of life up north. Others are looking for a place where they can live like a millionaire for the cost of a middle-class existence at home. Still, others are searching for a safe haven, a place where the crime rate is low and they can enjoy a “small-town” lifestyle. In Mexico you’ll find all those things and more.

Everyone seems to agree: The quality of your life improves in Mexico. Things take longer…so you’ll need to learn to slow down. Goods and services cost less…so you can afford the kinds of luxuries only the very wealthy enjoy up north—like a maid, a cook, and a gardener. And in Mexico you have the good fortune of giving up very little when you make your move. You’re heading to a near neighbor where you can get internet, cable TV, and all the other comforts you’re used to…

A Better Quality of Life for Less

“It’s the quality of life” is what we hear most often when we ask expats to tell us what they most appreciate about Mexico. Some talk of the slow pace and the smiling faces…others mention the small-town feel and the comfort of safe streets. But whatever their initial remarks may include, they all agree: Your money buys more south of the border…and that makes for decidedly comfortable living.

When it costs $200,000 for a house you’d pay $300,000 for back home, you’re left with savings you can spend on living well. You can employ a maid for about $3 an hour and a gardener for $3.50. Pamper yourself with a manicure, pedicure, and haircut…and pay less than $60. For a small home, you can expect your annual property taxes to come to no more than $200. Your electricity bill will likely cost between $25 and $50 a month (unless you use air conditioning a lot), gas about $25 a month, cable TV about $30 a month, and basic telephone service about $20. You can eat out at a nice restaurant for $15 per person or grab a quick lunch at a local cocina económica for $3 to $7.

You’ll pay around $1 a kilo (that’s about 2.2 pounds) for fresh fruit like mangos or oranges in season. A kilo of avocados sells for about $1.25—which is roughly what you’ll pay for one avocado in the northeastern United States.

The key to smart shopping in Mexico is local shopping. While it is true that you can find just about any product you’re used to having up north—from Campbell Soup to Tide—it’s also true that you’ll probably pay more for the convenience of a brand name. But if you shop at the local produce markets and the stores where locals buy, you’re sure to pay less for your goods.

Cost of Living in Mexico

 Expense U.S. $
Rent (furnished, two-bedroom home) $750
Electricity $30
Water $15
Gas $30
Household help (maid, three times a week) $135
 Internet $20
 Cellphone $10
Cable/Pay TV $35
Healthcare (IMSS or Seguro Popular for two people) $85
Transportation (car maintenance/public transport) $30
Groceries $350
Entertainment (dining out and other activities) $250
Miscellaneous/Incidentals $150
 Monthly Total $1,890

This adds up to $22,680 per year.

Electricity: Electricity costs will vary, depending on whether you need/use air conditioning. (Electricity is relatively expensive in Mexico, and air conditioning use can raise the cost to several multiples of what it otherwise would be.)

Gas: Gas is generally used for heating water, cooking, and possibly for a clothes dryer. In several areas of Mexico (notably the Colonial Highlands), many people install solar water heaters. A solar heater can reduce gas usage to a third or less of what it otherwise would be…resulting in annual gas costs as low as about $150 to $200 for a couple.

Internet/phone: Mexico has several providers of internet and telephone services, from phone companies to cable TV providers that also offer internet. However, the majority provider is Telmex. Telmex offers packages for highspeed internet plus landline service that start as low as about $20 a month. The package guarantees 10 Mb per second for internet, and the landline service offers free long-distance calls worldwide. Telcel, the cellphone division of Telmex, offers 30-day plans of unlimited calling throughout North America for about $10.

Cable/Pay TV: Numerous companies in Mexico offer cable plans for $35 to $45 a month. These plans offer limited English-language programming, however. Satellite or other TV with more English programming will run higher than these amounts. However, given the reliability and speed of internet in Mexico, many expats (as well as locals) view their programming via services like Netflix (a subscription runs about $10 a month). HBO and other services are also available.

Healthcare: If you have a valid residence visa, you can sign up to one of Mexico’s nationalized health systems. With IMSS, your healthcare costs will run about $500 per adult per year or less, plus any medications that you choose to buy on your own. (If you are age 60 or over and have a valid residence visa, the national system Seguro Popular is free.) If you have private health insurance, this can add several thousand dollars a year to a couple’s annual costs (perhaps $300 a month).

Transportation: Many Mexican cities are walkable and public transport is inexpensive. Bus fares tend to run 30 to 40 cents a ride, while taxis generally run only $2 to $4, depending on the distance, within most cities. So having a car is not necessary, though many expats like to have one. Maintenance, fuel, and insurance for one car can average about $150 a month…whereas public transportation can run only $30 or so, depending on how often you take cabs.

Food/groceries: This budget assumes that an expat couple would buy a mix of imported and local items and purchase a moderate amount of alcohol. Tequila in Mexico can cost $8 to $25 or so a bottle, depending on the brand. Wines start at about $5 a bottle. The more imported and specialty items you buy, the higher your expenses.

Entertainment: This figure includes items like meals out, movies, theater, and concerts. Movie tickets run about $5 each (popcorn and soft drinks are extra). Concerts run $5 and up, with most local ones running $5 to $15. Lunch can run $3 to $15 or so, and dinners about $15 to $25 per person on average. This budget assumes a couple goes to the movies three times a month and to concerts or the theater once a week. They eat lunch out a couple of times a week and go out for a nice dinner once a week.

Some other points to consider:

Clothing purchases: A clothing budget of $100 a month in Mexico will buy two to four shirts or blouses, depending on the store, or a couple of pairs of jeans or trousers, or up to about three pairs of shoes or sandals—again, depending on the brand and quality.

Garbage pickup: Some areas of Mexico charge for garbage pickup, but this is by no means universal. Even in areas where garbage pickup is charged, the cost tends to be low: as little as $30 to $40 a year.

Taxes: Mexico charges sales tax on manufactured goods (although not foods). Property tax, known as predial, rarely runs more than $200 a year, and is generally paid in a lump sum at the start of the year, rather than in monthly payments. Most states offer a discount off predial if payment is made in January.

Everyone’s lifestyle requirements are different. You could live on less than what the budget above allocates. It’s possible to rent a place for $400 a month…or spend $1,500 a month or more to rent a large colonial house with a pool, patios, and gardens. If you don’t need cable TV or internet, you can save on those expenses.

If you like to eat out frequently, travel, play golf, scuba dive, and the like, you will obviously spend more money. But still, all these costs are much less than you probably would spend for a similar lifestyle in the U.S. (And with much better weather!)

A very comfortable lifestyle with all these amenities—including the maid, a car for travel, and private health insurance—can come in at about $2,500 a month for a couple. You probably would have to pay twice this amount to have this lifestyle in the U.S.

Our Mexico Expert on the Cost of Living in Mexico

Hey IL,

We are hoping to move to Mexico in the coming months. We would like to know more about the cost of living and general living expenses in the towns/areas that your experts cover?

How much money do we need per month to live well in Mexico?

Don Murray – IL Riviera Maya Correspondent

don murray, mexico Hi, and thanks for the great question. Cost of living questions are, understandably, the ones most often asked. We certainly understand! As expats ourselves, we also had to make our choices very carefully and budget considerations were at the top of the list.

Before I try to answer your question, allow me to ask you a question. If I was an immigrant thinking of moving to the United States, how much would you tell me it costs to live in the United States?

You would tell me that, “It depends.” And indeed, the cost of living in Mexico and all other countries depends on the lifestyle you choose. Costs vary widely from region to region and city to city. Everything from housing costs (the largest expense) to food and transportation, entertainment and medical expenses must be considered.

All that said, the communities in Mexico’s central highlands, San Miguel, Ajijic, and Lake Chapala are all popular expat strongholds where one can live a very comfortable life for $1500 monthly. You can certainly spend more and some do just fine on less.

Life on one of Mexico’s beaches, perhaps the Pacific coast, Gulf Coast of the Caribbean coast will cost more, generally speaking. Move away from the beach to save some money. One can live a nice life on the beach in Mexico for around $2500 monthly. Again, you can pay more or less, depending on your requirements.