One of the appeals for the migration of retirees to Mexico and other Latin American locales is the cost of living. However, as places like Ajijic become more prosperous and populated by more Americans and Canadians, the cost of living inevitably rises. So the question becomes, is it really cheaper to live in this area of Mexico? The answer is yes...and no.
Perhaps the most noticeable high cost of living here is housing. Many of the ads in the real estate ads are selling houses in the $250-300,000 USD range. This is because many wealthy American, Canadian, and Mexican developers have figured that there is a market for these homes, usually built on the mountainside with a view of the lake, and separate from where most of the people live. Many US retirees who have sold expensive homes in the US can afford to pay cash for these houses. It's really not much different from Maine or anywhere else. Where there is wealth, there will be expensive homes.
But these ads are a bit misleading. There are homes in the Lake Chapala area in all price ranges. Because there are very low property taxes in Mexico, usually $50-100 per year, people are not as much in a hurry to sell, and prices are often higher than the property is worth. Overall, I'd say property in Ajijic is equivalent to what we would find in Maine, although I have seen decent properties for under $100,000 advertised in Chapala and Jocotepec.
Rentals vary as well. Pixie and I are enjoying our rental and the fact that we don't have the hassles of home ownership. Many people here rent. We know people who rent small but very nice places in Chapala for about $300 a month. Our beautiful lake front cottage in Ajijic is $700 a month. For $600-700 a month, it seems one can find very nice rentals almost anywhere. Of course we also see rentals advertised for $1500 a month as well. In terms of housing, you can pay as much or as little as you want, but overall, it's certainly not dirt cheap.
I won't discuss medical care because I covered it in my last post. It is a significant expense of living here, although cheaper than the US.
Food is very economical, IF you buy Mexican and local products. We shop for food in several places. First, we got to the outside market (called the Tiangas) every Wednesday. There we typically buy things like fruit (mangoes, pineapples, limes, melons, apples, strawberries, bananas) and vegetables (zucchini, beans, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, nopale--edible cactus--, and peppers). Usually we buy about $5-6 dollars worth which gets us through most of the week. We buy locally made yogurt (unusual flavors--celery pineapple, carrot orange, strawberry walnut-- ALL good-- for about $1.50 for a half liter). We buy fresh fish (brought in every morning from the Pacific, NOT Lake Chapala!), usually red snapper, for about $4.00 for a serving for two. (You pick the fish, and he fillets it for you). Huge shrimp are available for about $8.00 a kilo--2.2 lbs.) Bread is available for about 50 cents a loaf. Granola is available in bulk for about $2 a kilo. We also buy a bunch of fresh flowers for the house each week for about $3-4 for a large bouquet. You can also buy household goods, electrical supplies, batteries, and clothing at the market. We usually spend about $30 there.
We also shop as small neighborhood stores which are everywhere. We tend to buy our milk, eggs, tortilla chips, beverages, soap and other miscellaneous items from these local merchants. One nice thing here is that you can buy whatever you need: one egg, two small rolls, one small bottle of white glue, one piece of wrapping paper. I love fresh corn tortillas which I buy from a local tortillaria. I usually ask for 5 pesos worth ($.50) which gives me 20 or so tortillas which last a week or more. I heat them on the tortilla heater which our stove is equipped with.
We do have a few supermarkets which sell many other products, but not always cheaper than the local merchants, surprisingly. We tend to buy things like olive oil, which is harder to find at these local shops for a good price, at these larger stores. We go to them less than we did however, as we discover local resources. American products are available for a premium price.
Pixie loves plants, of course, and this is plant -lovers paradise! We have slowly been picking up plants, mostly in big ceramic pots (so we can take them with us if we move) for very reasonable prices. Typically large tropical plants like the ones illustrated here, cost about $5-8, and the large ceramic pots cost $7-12. We've been picking up about one each week. It's fun, because we know we can leave them out all year, and it gives our home a more tropical look. As you can see, Pixie has a good eye for this.
Here are what we have found the costs of some other items to be:
Shaving cream: $4
Gasoline: $2.80/ gallon (one price everywhere)
Gas (for stove and hot water): $28-- we're still on our first one.
Electricity: No bill yet, but we're told about $50 for two months
High speed wireless Internet: $40/month, but we're sharing cost with two others
Phone: $23/ month
Haircut: $4 (me) $8 (Pixie)
Massage: $20/hr (Pixie loves these)
Maid/Gardener (ours are included in rent--good news they just hired a new couple so I don't have to mow the lawn!) $3.50 per hour in the Ajijic area.
Vet: Maggie had to go get dewormed, antibiotics, and a shot of something, plus an exam which cost $40.
Prescriptions: These prices vary. Many generic drugs are cheaper down here, but brand name drugs can be very expensive. Drugs are available over the counter, so it pays to shop around. My heartburn medicine will cost me $14 a month. Some prescriptions can cost $50 a moth or more. A significant cost.
Eating out: This varies. You can get a very nice meal in a fancy restaurant for about $45 with drinks. We rarely do this. There are lots of good restaurants where we eat for about $20-30, for both of us. We also love some Mexican restaurants where you can eat for $10-15 for both of us including cerveza. we also like to get food to go: tamales for $3.50 (dinner for two), roast chicken (whole) with roasted potatoes $7.
So, overall, you can live comfortably for about $2000 a month, excluding travel, major medical problems, and extravagant shopping. Many live on less, many on much more. What's nice is that we CAN live on what we have.
A few other notes: As I mentioned, they've hired a new maid and gardener for our compound. the maid is wonderful...we don't know about the gardener since he hasn't started yet. We took a boat trip to Mescala Island 12 miles out in Lake Chapala with some of our UU friends. It demonstrated to us how HUGE the lake is! We are both well and seem to have adjusted to the Mexican environment!