Mexico: Living at the Beach on $800/month

One of the first questions that people ask before moving abroad is how much money they should expect to spend per month. And the answer is always, it depends. Which is true. This post is specific to the country of Mexico, which right now has a favorable exchange rate for those who are making dollars. But it still depends on the city, location within the city, the size of the dwelling and lifestyle factors. There seems to be two types of expats that relocate to the developing world; those who want to live like a king and those who want to blend in with the locals. I am definitely the latter.

That being said, I do enjoy eating out a couple times a week, and I love my margaritas on the beach. I’m sure we could slice the budget down even further by giving up those luxuries, but I’d rather not. I decided to relocate with my daughter to Progreso, in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. It is a small beach town. There is a retired ex-pat population and cruise ships stop here 2 – 3 times per week, but other than that, it isn’t a big tourist destination, which is exactly what I wanted. It is about 4 hours by bus to Cancun so we are also close enough to a major airport and a tourist hotspot if we want a little more adventure.

Progreso is a small, quiet and relaxing beach town.

Our Expenses in progreso, mexico

Rent: $200 USD monthly for a furnished studio apartment with separate kitchen and bathroom. Utilities (electricity, water, cable, and internet) included.

Part-time nanny: $35 per week

Food: $30 per week ($25 at the grocery store and $5 at the market)

Well baby visit: $20 once a month

Vaccines: free

Formula and Diapers: $16 per week

Transportation: $3.50 per week. (I take a taxi to the supermarket at the entrance to the town once a week.)

Laundry service: $3 once a week

Spending money per week: $57.50 for eating out, buying clothes, medicine, etc.

Personal Insights on mexico

As you can see, we don’t spend much money at all compared to living in the U.S. Mexico has always been a bargain for expats, but even more so recently. The exchange rate, which is nearly 20 pesos to 1 dollar, helps save a lot of money monthly, especially on formula and diapers. I also make my own baby food with fruits and vegetables from the market and a blender.

One of the biggest money savers is that we don’t need a car. Our apartment is located 2 blocks from the beach and 4 blocks from the town’s market and supermarket. Everything is within walking distance and my daughter loves to go for walks in the stroller. Our other entertainment is the beach, which is free.

Her stroller is our main mode of transportation, even on the beach.

And although she isn’t quite ready to play at the parks, there are plenty of them around. Overall, Mexico is a very family friendly country and you can find children playing in the streets and at the parks well into the night.

There are plenty of free parks for kids and some have exercise equipment for adults.

I try not to eat out every day, but when I do want to treat myself to a margarita, they run about $3 at the beachfront restaurants and food is $5 – $8 per plate. If I go to eat at the market, meals are $2 – $3.50. At the end of the week, I always have spending money left over.

Additionally, if I were a single person, I would be spending just $576 monthly, as the nanny, pediatrician and baby items run about $224 per month.

To make sure you get the best deal possible when you move to mexico or abroad

  1. Learn the local language. If you don’t, you will end up paying much more for housing.
  2. Rent a hotel room or Airbnb for a few days. You will find the best rental prices by walking around and looking for “for rent” signs.
  3. Ask the locals (The lady that owns the laundry mat found our current apartment for us).
  4. Weigh the pros and cons of the location. You may pay more to be downtown but if you save on a car payment, gas, maintenance and insurance, it may be worth it.
  5. Ask your landlord about throwing in appliances and/or furniture. Mine was able to lend me a gas stove and propane tank so I didn’t have to purchase one myself.

Do you have questions?

I hope that this has been helpful to you if you are considering moving abroad. If I have forgotten anything or if you have a question, please comment below.

If you are considering moving to Latin America, I provide online Spanish lessons. You can find more information about them here.

Note: Prices are in USD and have been calculated at a 20 pesos to 1 dollar exchange rate. The actual rate at the time of this post was 19 to 1. In recent months the peso has fluctuated between 18 and 22 to a dollar.


50 thoughts on “Mexico: Living at the Beach on $800/month”

  1. Hi Sara,
    I am currently living in Guatemala,and am thinking of moving to Mexico.Progreso is one town that I have been particularily interested in.I do have some questions for you.Is the beach clean? Is the swimming water polluted ? Is it a quiet town? Is it a safe town? Are there any ATMS and at least one grocery store in town?
    Thanks very much for your responses,

    1. Hi Marina. I just came here from El Salvador so I know the transition. Yes, the beach is white sand and the water is very clean. It’s technically the gulf of Mexico but it’s very clear and blue. It’s very quiet and the Yucatan is the safest place in Mexico. There are many ATMS and banks in town and there is 1 supermarket in the “Center” (although that is like 4 square blocks) and 2 more at the entrance to the town. There is a Costco and a Walmart in Merida, which is about 20 minutes away, plus other large malls.

      1. Hola marina I just love to see you young gals living here in Mexico I left the US and 2000 I was about 57 now I am living in Chapala after spending 10 years in Guatemala I live on less than $1000 a month I always save money I am now 75 years old and I never planned to go back to the states

  2. I’ve been surviving in Cozumel with a teen daughter on $800 US a month, but she’s being homeschooled as I can’t afford the pricey private schools ($500 month, ouch)…
    In costa rica it was costing us twice as much to live in a crappy barn like shack, food was a terrible price, but in Cozumel, mexico you can find nice studios for 200-300 month with air conditioning and fridge. And it’s very safe here… Tamrindo, Costa rica was not so safe and we were victimized by various thefts and other crimes…

    1. I’ve been to Costa Rica twice and I agree….. too expensive. Have you tried to get a PT job at a local private school? Some will let you enroll your daughter for free if you agree to teach a few hours. That’s my plan once the little one is in school.

  3. Excellent post. Thanks for breaking it down. We are hoping to retire in Merida but for now we must be satisfied with visiting once a year. Progreso and Chelem are very nice.

  4. I live south of Monterrey in a small town. I own my home but I also find living to not be expensive. We don´t eat out just because I don´t think it’s too healthy to make it a habit. However, I can speak to expenses that most foreigners have but do not realize how inexpensive the same things are in Mexico. Here is my list: insurance for two vehicles, one travel trailer, home insurance, gym, basic cable, electric (we have well water, a pool filter and we sparingly use the A/C), LP gas in cylinders, all of that amounts to 3770 pesos a month or roughly two hundred dollars. Then, of course, are groceries and gas and those depend on whether you need a car and what your diet habits are like. Unlike Canada, alcohol is very inexpensive including good Mexican, Central and South American wines, and fresh produce can’t be any less expensive than in Mexico. I can easily agree with Sara and her budget.

    1. Fresh produce is a big one for us. I am from Phiadelphia and produce is very expensive. It’s so cheap here and I can spend $1 and make so much baby food.

      1. Yes, produce is so inexpensive in Mexico (the Yucatan). My biggest problem is the difficulty of finding organic. And Mexico is VERY GMO and all the produce heavily sprayed. I’m planting a veggie garden on my rooftop next time I go down. I just cannot stand GMO taste and poisonous chemicals. Love Mexico, but lots of chemicals. And sorry, but Progresso in on the Gulf of Mexico. Has everyone forgotten about all the serious oil spills? At least in Tulum, the Caribbean is less toxic. Just want to honest with folks coming down here to live, especially who have children and/or grandchildren.

        1. There are organic markets in every major city. You will pay more, just like in the US. Since I am not an oceanographer, I can’t comment on the “toxicity” of the gulf. It’s very clean and clear water to me.

  5. May I ask how you came to know about the town you settled in? The most difficult part to me in deciding to move to Mexico is knowing where to go. I’m not excited at the idea of living in a big tourist center (PV) or a huge expat community (Lake Chapala). Progreso sounds ideal. But it also sounds like the kind of place you would never know about if you had not landed there on a cruise ship. Thanks.

    1. I had heard about it from friends while I lived in Mexico. When you make friends with the locals, you find these little gems that aren’t tourist traps. I agree that I don’t want to live where there are a bunch of expats or tourists because the prices go way up and there are scams everywhere.

  6. Have you been to Playa Del Carmen?
    How does that area compare to Progresso?

    I am a single parent as will with young children, just curious as to your take on these two locales, pros/cons and such if you don’t mind!
    Thank you!

    1. Playa del Carmen is great but it’s a larger town and more expensive, especially for rent near the beach. You will need to either have a car or spend a lot of time in taxis or on public transportation. I wanted to avoid those costs so that’s why I went to Progreso. But PDC is great to visit!

    2. There is a Facebook page: Two Expats Living in Mexico.
      This is a couple,from Florida that have retired to PDC and post a lot of informative info on the area as well as the issues that affect expats in Mexico.

      Good luck.

    1. There is also a Montisori (sic) school on calle 56 owned by an american lady and has been open for about 15 years. Very popular private school with locals and ex pats alike.

  7. Can we just leave the US and never go back.., how does that work? Mexico will just welcome us? Do we remain US citizens; Do we still pay taxes… oh so many questions. As you can guess, I’ve never been out of the country.

    1. You can apply for residency in Mexico from the US. You will need to have a steady income or so much money in savings to do it. Otherwise, you get a 6-month tourist visa on arrival. You would have to leave Mexico once every 6 months to renew it, which many people do. As a non-resident, you don’t pay taxes on the first 100k of foreign earned income. If you work for a US company, you may have to pay taxes. For example, I have to pay a self-employment tax of 15% even though I am not a US resident. Each tax situation is different though of course.

      1. Hello is residency quick if you have everything in order and how close to the nearest border for your passport stamp

  8. I am free as a bird with grown children. Whoo Hoo. Looking for my first big adventure. I am in the process of learning spanish. Will I survive with less language skills where you are?

    1. There are a lot of waiters and people that speak English because of the cruises that come by. There are also Spanish schools here. You will be fine in tourist restaurants and on the malecon but maybe struggle at the market and other local places. Why not take some online classes before you go?

      1. Hownmuchbfornthebfox Spanish does one need? I’ve.been working with duolingo and spoke Spanish where I could when we visited Cancun and Puerto Morelos.

      2. How much Spanish does one need? I’ve been working with duolingo and spoke Spanish where I could when we visited Cancun and Puerto Morelos.

        1. It depends on how involved you become with the local community. There are plenty of expats here that don’t speak Spanish and stick to the touristy areas near the beach. Waiters for the most part there speak English. But if you go to the market or in other parts of the town you will need to communicate in basic Spanish. I offer online classes if you are interested.

  9. Very good post, clear break down and also very clear that this is just a factual accounting for you and people can (and will) live differently and therefore have their own calculations. Personally I can skip the diapers but need to add dog food 🙂
    Only 1 thing gave me the shivers: Mexico is NOT at all a third world country. The expectations with that phrase in your first paragraph are completely off and logically you get questions like “are there ATM’s” or “is it safe”. And yes, Yucatan is the richest state of Mexico and yes, you will still find places out there without an ATM, but really, Progresso is in many ways more developed than many towns in the so called first world.

    1. The middle class in Mexico is getting bigger every day but for many purposes, it is still considered the 3rd world. It is still developing in many states, especially in the south. I don’t know where you got the information that the Yucatan is the richest state… it actually is very rural and has a high unemployment and low wages. Maybe you meant Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located? It is actually a different state even though both are located on the Yucatan Peninsula. If you do have some information regarding the richest/poorest states I would be interested in seeing it. I have lived in 5 different cities, and I would guess that CDMX has the most concentration of money, then Cancun and the other tourist areas, but I could be wrong. As far as the ATMs, in Progreso there is 1 area downtown with about 4 ATMs. Otherwise, there aren’t any that I know of and you will need to carry cash for most restaurants and corner stores. I’ve personally found a lot more ATMs in Central America, in each convenience store and gas station.

  10. Did you fly out or take a cruise ship out? I’ve seen many people go via cruise ship and stay there instead of reembarking. Seems like you could bring more luggage that way too. What did you bring with you when you moved?

    1. We literally came with 1 large duffle bag and her stroller. I bought a secondhand pack and play and a walker when I got here. That’s it! We flew in on AeroMexico from Nicaragua. It was a spur of the moment decision so I didn’t get to bring everything I would have if I had the chance to go home first.

  11. My husband and have considered retiring to an area very muchike you describe Progreso to be but I want sure it existed! I do have a few questiions. What is the approximate population? How is the health care and how expensive? Is there health insurance available? How expensive? Are reasonable rentals pretty available?
    Thank you! 🙂

    1. I don’t know about health insurance because I don’t have any. We pay out of pocket for now but will be looking into it now that we have settled somewhere for the foreseeable future. There are tons of properties available since it’s not a great economy here, a lot of unemployment. There is a local clinic where I get my daughter’s vaccines for free and then there is a private hospital a few blocks away. Major hospitals, for surgery and such, can be found in Merida, 20 – 30 minutes away. You can rent a large house easily for under $500/month by the beach. The population is less than 40K. It’s a small, walkable town.

  12. Hi Admin
    I live in Mérida, a lovely and friendly city, but I really dislike Progreso, not a pretty place, where the beach is not always clean and definatly overcrowed during la semana santa and also during the Winter time with all tourists there…
    The current rate (May 2017) for $US is 17.5 (and CAN13.0) and life is getting more expensive since 2017, but still affordable for expatriates, of course. But as opposite to Progreso, Mérida has everything to offer: capital of cultur (music, theatres, museums, art galleries and much more) and of excellent restaurants of all levels. Last point: many nice houses are for rent or sale. However, the beach is still at 35 min (by local bus)…. The choice is yours, of course!;-) Saludos!

    1. When I flew into the Mexico City airport 2 weeks ago, the rate was 19.6 to sell dollars. I do notice that is it lower in the Oxxos and perhaps in the tourist areas in general. If it does go anywhere near back down to where it was 3 years ago (12ish to 1), we will be off to our next adventure… so here’s to hoping it stays in the high teens! I prefer Progreso because I don’t like traffic and I like to be close to the beach. We are coming here from El Salvador and trying to escape a hot city, traffic, public transportation and traveling back and forth to the beach. I much prefer being 2 blocks away…especially with an infant. But to each their own! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  13. I so agree with all you have said however I have really struggled with Spanish and have found the best part of the day is going to the market and without a word spoken that both parties understand but a few smiles and Olympic level charades we all have a few laughs and I spend pennies on fruits and veggies. The people here are so warm and friendly we have got’n by beautifully and made so many new friends.

  14. YIKES!!! ” relocate to the third world” According to AP: “Developing nations is more appropriate [than Third World] when referring to economically developing nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America. That statement is grossly misunderstood in our times and really should not be used. As a teacher living here myself, I would never even think a statement like that, let alone write it or use it in speech. As teachers, I think it is important to keep up with certain “politically correct” (although I dislike that term) terms. Just like we do not use the term “retard” anymore, instead using Developmental Disability. So next time you are speaking or writing or thinking, please think of using Developing Nation or country. 🙂

    1. Although I disagree, that third world is still commonly used to refer to developing nations in many research studies and academic texts, I still wouldn’t want anyone to be offended so I edited it to say “developing” instead. Thanks for reading!

  15. I think Mexico is between 1st and 3rd world. A nation somewhat developed. Infrastructure is O.K., not like in U.S. or Europe. Learning some Spanish is easy. learning lot is hard. But many unilingual folks learn the basic words and pronunciations. The beach is reasonably clean, and the water is only dirty with seaweed now and then (and that’s organic). I bought packaged red and yellow peepers and lettuce this winter, and they were from Ontario Canada! And so you wash vegetables in vinagre, or forget it for those you don’t eat the skins. (bananas, avocados, mangoes, juice oranges, melons, etc.) As for medical, drugs are cheap, and with serious bronchitis this March, doctor was 20.00 U.S., x-ray with interpretation 30.00, drugs 25.00. Compare to Texas! But Merida is too hot. Progreso is laid back, on the shore, and air cond. bus to Merida is every 10 minutes for 2 bucks return. Symphony orchestra performance for under 10 bucks every Sunday in Merida is the bargain of all time. We only spend 3 months there, but am looking forward to January. And as for safety, we walk home 10-20 blocks at midnight with no nervousness at all. Worst danger is potholes in the sidewalk or projections from walls about head height you could walk into. You have to keep your eyes peeled and be careful.

  16. Regarding using the term, “Third World,” it seems most of us don’t know what this means. An online search offers this: “Mexico is a Third World country, although many people misunderstand the term ‘Third World,’ according to One World Nations Online. While the term has come to represent poor or developing countries, originally it designated a country not directly aligned with the West or the Soviet Union after World War II.

    So it means a country not directly aligned with the West or the Soviet Union after World War II, assuming this definition is correct. Since it does seem to have such a negative connotation these days, I will avoid using it in discussions of Mexico. I do not want to offend people.

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