This 65-year-old retiree lives in Mexico on $ 1,500 a month, why she “never returns to the United States”
When I left the United States for Mazatlán, Mexico 15 years ago, I had stars in my eyes. Everything about this place seemed wonderful, and since I retired a few years ago I have had the opportunity to make the most of it.
For many people, expat life seems like such a big unknown. But in reality, your daily life won’t be that different from what it is right now. However, you might not find exactly what you expected, and there will always be downsides.
But these things weren’t deal breakers for me. In fact, when people ask me about my experience, I tell them that I will never go back to the United States. Here’s what I love living in Mexico and why it’s the perfect place to retire:
1. The food is fantastic
Mexican food is more than tacos and burritos. This time that we love is a good time to grow tropical fruits and vegetables, as evidenced by the abundance and affordability of avocados, mangoes, pineapples, limes and coconuts.
In Mazatlán, seafood is king. Some iconic dishes the city is known for are aguachile (raw shrimp marinated in lime juice, chili peppers and salt) and ceviche (raw fish or shrimp marinated in lime juice, with tomatoes, cucumber, onions and jalapeños).
I got used to having shrimp in everything: omelets, pasta, salads. They are locally caught fresh, as are tuna, mahi-mahi, sea bream and oysters. In the United States, fresh fish is usually out of my budget. But here I can buy two big tuna steaks for $ 3 or half a pound of big shrimp for $ 5.
2. The weather is wonderful
Mexico is a large country, with different climatic zones and different types of weather. Are the seaside towns too humid for your taste? Head inland to places like San Miguel de Allende or Lake Chapala, where summers are mild. Want more of a lush tropical lifestyle? Discover the regions of Yucatan or Puerto Vallarta.
Mazatlán is on the coast and the climate is temperate most of the year, with blue skies 99% of the time. I love it, although some people find it too hot and humid. I have a simple wardrobe of small, light clothes, and I keep socks and sweatshirts in my suitcase for trips up north.
The days are long and beautiful, which makes me happy. No fog, snow or gray skies!
3. An adventurous and stress-free lifestyle
Until I moved to Mexico, I didn’t realize how hungry I was for new experiences. And there are so many here: the language, the customs, the way things are done and, of course, new friends.
Building a completely different community – and assimilating to the local community – can be both difficult and empowering. But most of the time, it’s just crazy fun.
On a related note, I crossed a lot of things off my to-do list. I started surfing and yoga; I started two businesses; I published a book; I speak and read Spanish and I am now learning Italian.
And after? I don’t know, but it all keeps my brain alive and active – and a smile on my face.
4. The cost of living is very low
Like everywhere else, you can spend as much money as you want to create your ideal lifestyle.
But I like being able to have a very comfortable lifestyle here, where I spend a lot less than in the United States.
I’m retired now, but still freelance writing on expat related topics and promoting my book. I live on about $ 1,500 per month (which includes Social Security benefits).
Some examples of my base costs:
- Rent a two-bedroom apartment: $ 420 per month
- Wireless (includes landline): $ 20 per month
- Telephone (unlimited international calls, free Facebook and WhatsApp): $ 18 per month
- The water: $ 5 per month
- Electricity: $ 20 per month
- Maid service: $ 15 per visit
- Veterinary (control and injections): $ 15 per visit
- Pharmacy medical consultation: $ 4 per visit
- Dermatologist or other medical specialist: $ 35 to $ 45 per visit
- Grocery stores: $ 160 per month
- Eat outside: $ 110 per month
5. The beautiful colors and the panoramic views
It’s such a simple thing, but it’s a wonderful and fulfilling part of my life. Beginning with the slowly developing sunrise montage and ending with the colorful sunset riot, each day is a constant performance of Mother Nature at its best.
From the bright blue skies to the verdant jungle-covered hills and the vivid colors of colonial houses, the colors of Mexico are calm and uplifting.
Do the colors seem more vivid due to Mazatlán’s proximity to the Tropic of Cancer? Is it all in my head? Anyway, all I know is that it’s hard to be depressed or worried when surrounded by such a magnificent tapestry of vibrant and dazzling colors.
6. People are friendly
When I visit the United States, there’s always a shocked re-entry for a few days as I adjust to the impersonal “bubble-me” mentality that seems so prevalent: don’t smile. Do not make eye contact. And hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.
In Mazatlán, people just seem friendlier – maybe that’s part of the culture. It’s okay to nod or say hello when you pass someone on the street or stand in line behind them at the bank. Complete strangers say “Provecho!” (basically means “enjoy your food”) to other diners as they enter or leave a restaurant.
I know the names of the people I see regularly: Oscar, who runs the little store down the street; Joaquin, who washes my car; Paola, the fantastic barista at my favorite café; and Anita, who lives across the street with her big sheepdog. And they all know my name too.
7. It’s near you
This is one of the main reasons I chose Mazatlán: it’s a short flight to visit family, but still far enough away to be an adventure.
I wanted to be able to go back there for Christmas or birthdays, to help with the birth of a new grandchild or, if necessary, in the event of a serious medical situation. (Although I have health insurance and medical care here is affordable and highly regarded, my Spanish is not enough to make me feel comfortable with a serious health problem.)
The added bonus is that it’s a beautiful destination for friends and family to visit so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Janet Blaser is a writer who has lived in Mazatlán, Mexico since 2006. A former journalist in California, her work now focuses on the lives of expatriates. Janet’s first book, “Why We Left: An Anthology of Expatriate American Women” is an Amazon bestseller. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.