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Gauging the True Cost of Living

People are always asking me, again and again, “Malcolm, I know you are loving it so far in Mexico, but what is the true cost of living like, roughly?” To them I say, “It would be nice if you were real instead of in my head, because Jillian is going to be home soon.” But I will go ahead and try and form an answer for a hypothetical audience, anyway.

The Monumento a la Bandera, I’m pretty sure.

Determining the true cost of living has so far proven very difficult, and I am sure we won’t REALLY have an answer until we have spent a few months here. There are so many massive launch costs involved in chucking everything and moving to a foreign country. I mean, we lived like touring rock stars for the three days we were at the Hyatt, racking up a $300 incidental bill made up mostly of poolside margaritas, breakfast buffets, room service bottles of wine, and $5 bags of peanuts from the minibar. In addition, there are lawyers to meet with, cabs to take, first month’s rent to pay. Then there are all the startup costs you need when you are moving into ANY new place…buying salt and a spatula, for instance. We spent the first several days in our new foster country just spurting money all over the place, and it was difficult to see exactly what living here was going to COST.

Jillian in front of an unusual white building.

But slowly, these facts are starting to trickle in. Our apartment for the first month was about $600 US, and includes cable TV, water, local phone, and wireless internet (but not electricity). So right there, we are already somewhere between $500 and $700 (at least) a month better off than we were in New Haven. Not heating a place for the winter probably saves us another three Gs for the year, but we DO have to run air conditioning, so we won’t count that. Maid service is $7 a day, which we will probably do about once every two weeks. Laundry service is by the piece, but is next to nothing. And remember…we took the first place we found, which means we are probably paying even more than we have to.

My favorite feature of our new apartment, which hangs in our kitchen. A little girl smoking a cigarette painting a picture of herself wearing a hat (but not smoking). This is what is called, “neutral home decor” in Mexico.

We did a little grocery shopping last weekend to get the essentials (and keep me in ham sandwiches for the week). But today was the first day we really marketed the way we did in the States, which basically means that I acted like I was seven years old and bought every single thing my little heart desired. This amounted to, among other things:

  • A few fresh vegetables
  • Three different kinds of cheese
  • A pound of hamburger
  • Two beautiful rib eye steaks
  • A pound of ham
  • A pound of bacon
  • Genoa salami
  • Jar of tomato sauce
  • Pack of candy bars
  • One pound of coffee
    Quick aside…we drink this awesome coffee that is similar to American coffee, but is sweetened with spices. The result is thise wonderfully aromatic tea/coffee hybrid.
  • Dozen eggs
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Granola bars
  • Loaf of fresh baked bread and some kind of sweet breakfast pastry
  • One pack of “Boots” cigarettes
  • One bottle of good tequila

Enough food for a week or more, yes? Get ready for this. Sixty bucks, U.S. So, needless to say, the true cost of living is revealing itself to be quite low. Based on this market run, I would guess about half, using my very sophisticated system of measuring using my imagination. One thing is for sure. For once, I am spending far, far less than I am making in a given week, which is a nice feeling. Of course, for a couple of months, I won’t really notice this, as I pay the lawyers, ride around in taxis, and take weekend trips to Cancun, you know, just for fun because it’s 4 hours away by car. But all signs are pointing to an inexpensive retirement. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’ve got some new ham burning a hole in my pocket.

There Are 7 Responses So Far. »

  1. Sounds good so far, Malcolm. Here’s a glimpse into my paranoia. Cheese??? You have lived there under 10 days, and you are already brave enough for cheese, and the risk of Listeria??? I suppose combined with enough Tequila, it will kill anything.

    Thanks for the pictures and the updates. Living vicariously feels darn good.

  2. Serenity, we have been eating cheese since practically day one. 🙂 By god, if cheese is going to keep us down, then I don’t wanna live.

  3. Millie is adapting quite well. She’s finding her place in the pecking order with the two big cats (and finding it close to the bottom). She’s no longer hiding all day, and she’ll come out when I have visitors. She runs around like crazy, jumps, and plays.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much meat in my apartment,let alone in one grocery bag. Your ability to stay so svelte is impressive!

  5. I hope that smoking girl isn’t bolted to the wall and you are going to take it as a Mexican souvenir no matter where you go. That next to the portrait of “el gato negro” will enhance any home.

  6. “Cheese is Love”



  7. What is listeria, anyways?? (Then, Malcolm answers: exactly, dude… without noticeing that my question is not rethorical…)

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