Family and Fulfilment on $2,500 a Month in San Miguel de Allende

When I turned 65, I traveled alone, not knowing a single soul, to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I’m still here now, at the age of 79.

When Alan, a friend of mine from my Unitarian-Universalist (UU) congregation in Philadelphia, visited San Miguel to study Spanish, it sparked my interest. I, too, wanted to work on my Spanish. I also wanted to escape the Pennsylvania winter.

I checked the city out online and saw that there were about a dozen language schools to choose from, and that the only English-speaking UU congregation in all of Mexico was there too. So, I knew that I would find like-minded people.

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Here in San Miguel, I have a huge number of friends from all over the world, both expats and Mexicans. The expats here have created many opportunities for friendship, support, information sharing, and just plain fun. Much of it centered around organizations like The Civil List Facebook page, Literary Sala writing community, and Pro Música music group.

Best of all is the excellent weather. It’s perpetually springtime, with temperatures in the 70s F most days, cooling down at night to the 50s F.

I have always rented in San Miguel. I never wanted to own here. In my earlier years, I rented different places, but now I live in a hotel, all of whose units are fully-furnished, fully-equipped apartments.

The owners are a middle-aged Mexican couple, who have told me that they are my family here. And in Mexico, family is everything. I know that I can count on them in any emergency, and I have other Mexican friends who fall into that category, too.

I pay $1,400 a month for my three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Centro. This sum includes all utilities, cable, WiFi, housekeeping once a week, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, glasses, linens and towels, and reception services from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

I find that living here is mostly more affordable than in the U.S. Rent is lower, food is especially inexpensive, both in the markets and in restaurants. Bus fares and taxis are also very affordable, and with the INAPAM (Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores) card—a discount card for seniors who are residentes permanentes—you can save a lot of pesos.

If you use local doctors and dentists, you’ll save. Across the board, doctor, dentist, and lab fees for which I have had to pay out-of-pocket are considerably less than they would be in the States. But it’s still a good idea to purchase medical insurance.

I am retired and have income from investments and my Social Security. My monthly budget, not counting travel, medical expenses, or healthcare insurance, is about $2,500 a month. That includes my rent.

And what do I get up to all day? With much support from the literary community, including the Literary Sala, I am now the author of four books, two of which are about visiting and then living in San Miguel del Allende as a residente permanente. (My newest one is called A Lifetime to Get Here.) I am also a photographer, and my books are full of my photos, particularly the two about San Miguel.

Check out our Detailed Guide to San Miguel de Allende here.

Plus, there’s so much to do here: Music performances of all genres and in varied venues, theater of all kinds, tours, lectures, movies, classes from cooking to tennis to photography to writing groups. There’s pickleball, yoga, gyms, then meditation groups, bridge, horseback riding, and so on. There is a saying in San Miguel that if you are bored, it’s your own fault.

If you’re planning to move here, I would advise you to learn at least some rudimentary Spanish. You will get so much more out of your experience if you can express yourself, and you’ll be able to read signs and menus. Mexicans perceive silence as rudeness, so greet people on the street with Buenos Días and make eye contact.

Take your time. San Miguel is not going anywhere. Feel the different seasons, enjoy the annual fiestas, learn the town and the bus routes, visit the neighborhoods you’re considering (each is quite different from the others).

You don’t need a car here. This is a walking city, with a good bus service. There are cheap taxis everywhere, and private drivers you can get to know and use on a regular basis.

Above all, the way to feeling fulfilled is to find a way to give back to the people of San Miguel. There are so many opportunities for volunteering that wherever your heart lies, there will be a way for you to make a difference.

For example, there’s Libros para Todos (Books for Everyone), whose mission is to inspire children in rural communities to enjoy reading. Or Mujeres en Cambio (Women Changing)—a scholarship program for girls and young women that funds schooling beyond the required 6th-grade level. Or Casita Linda (Pretty Little Home), which helps the poorest of the poor by building them their own small homes, providing families with dignity and safety. This changes lives for the better, including yours.

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