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Meighan

Actual cost of living

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Hi all, we're here in Lakeside doing our research and would like some insight from those of you already established here--since there is only so much we'll accomplish in our 9 days!

1. So far we've checked out SuperLake and it seems the prices there are much more expensive at home. Where do you shop for your day to day groceries? Are you buying mostly Mexican brands, and is that a big cost savings?

2. Based on where you are shopping, do the grocery prices here seem accurate to what you are paying?

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Ajijic

3. Will the tianguis be significantly cheaper? Will they have a range of foods (meats, cheese, eggs, etc.) in addition to fruits and veggies? (hoping to make it to the one in Joco on Thursday but insights on comparison appreciated so we can target our time there as best as possible).

4. Regarding restaurants, we've eaten at Adelita's, Yves, and Johnny's and I would consider them "middle range" and at Arileo (which I would assume is "high end"). Are those assumptions aligned with the overall restaurant scene? Do the restaurant prices on this website seem about right? If not, can you give me an estimate of what you would expect to pay for 2 people for lunch at a midrange place (no alcohol)? and dinner at a mid-range place (no alcohol)?

thanks for your help!

 

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You need to realize that everyone is different here. Each person basically buys what they want and when and where they want it, and many are not concerned with prices. If you want food similar to what you buy NOB, then you will pay much more here. Many do. Some buy Mexican brands, and some shop at the Tianguis and corner stores. Remember, the Tianguis is NOT a local farmer's market and these people will short you often on your purchases. Do not get "taken in " by the remarks of some who will tell you "the fruit and vegetables are so fresh and pesticide free". Remember: in Mexico, seldom do venders throw out over ripe and rotted food; they sell it, as there usually is not that much of a markup where they can just get rid and take the loss. You must thoroughly clean all produce and soak it in a solution to kill anything there that would cause you illness. Many soak their meats, too. You will hear from some who claim they can eat anything anywhere and never have had a day of illness in their entire life. My guess is that you will NOT be one of those. You must wash your hands often and take care of parasites/amoebas when you get them. Some regularly take medicine every 6 months, just to be safe. Even the "best" restaurant foods here sometimes can cause people problems. Of course, there will be those who tell you that happens everywhere, so think nothing of it happening here. We find it best for us to eat mostly at home, where we know how things are prepared and how clean things are. But, everyone does their own thing and there really is no concensus. Bottom line, remember you are in a Foreign country, very different from where you came, so use a Lot of common sense and don't be awed by how "cute and quaint" things and people are. Often you will pay a higher price for things than locals do because you are a foreigner and have a Lot of money. Once you have lived here for a year or so, you will find your own style and know the ropes much better. Some of us have survived here for nearly 20 years. :D

 

 

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We shop at SuperLake for only those items not available at Walmart or Costco... We buy our meat at Costco or at Tony's (a local butchery) ... Meat prices are comparable to NOB...except for chicken... SuperLake is expensive and not for day to day items at least for us... We have been tracking our expenses for 18 months... Our biggest savings are in low taxes, insurance and utilities. 

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We've tracked our expenses for the past 6 years and here's a summary:

Groceries are a little cheaper, but overall we spend about the same as we did NOB

Taxes (real estate), water and utilities (electric, propane & internet) are cheaper

Restaurants - cheaper (you're pretty accurate on the ones you mentioned) lunch for 2 = 200 p dinner for 2 = 300 w tip

Housekeeper / Gardener - cheaper

Mechanics - cheaper

Doctor / Dentist / Vet - all cheaper

Actual living expenses NOB versus SOB based on our standard of living ~ 40% cheaper

 

 

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First off, Superlake is NOT the place to do your grocery shopping. They have anything you can imagine and IF you just can't do without it then you have to suck it up and buy it there but you will pay for it. Think of it as a high end convenience store. Do all of your shopping at the Wednesday market (in Ajijic), Walmart, or Soriana (in Chapala). If you can't wait for Wednesday, as you already figured, it's the same market in Joco on Thursday or in Chapala on Monday. The Wednesday market IS significantly cheaper and keep in mind too it depends on which vendor you buy your produce from. They do not all have the same prices.

The restaurants you mentioned are certainly mid to high end for here. Watch for specials like Johanna's Schnitzel on Tuesdays and eat at places like Cocinart or Teocintle. There are many excellent quality restaurants that are cheaper. Also don't be afraid to take out pizza from the Wednesday market (only 110 pesos for a huge pizza), or take out chicken from one of the roadside stands or chicken places. Even Adalita's has specials that reduce the cost, like their Tuesday rib special, (which not as good as it was) still helps to reduce the price.

Once you make the move to live here you will find many ways to reduce your expenses in time. I, too, have been keeping accurate records of expenses and coming from Vancouver, I find the savings to be closer to 60% than living back there.

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1.  When it comes to food, learn to buy Mexican.  You'll save a bunch.  Go to Costco for the rest.  We live just fine without regular shopping at SuperLake.  As noted, it is a pricey convenience store.

2.  Chose wisely with your house and no need for heating or cooling, maybe just need fans during May and early June.  Power is cheap if you stay out of DAC.  Propane is not cheap but if you are not heating, it won't cost much.

3.  Since we arrived 9 years ago, restaurants have picked up the NOB custom of over charging for a drink and holding food prices down.  We have a drink before we go out to eat.  Restaurants in general are much cheaper here than NOB.  For the top end restaurants and prices to match you pretty much have to go to GDL. 

4.  You are going to love the freshness, availability and cheapness of most fruits and vegetables here.

5.  Gasoline is twice as much here as NOB these days.  Locate yourselves so you don't have to use so much of it.

6.  You won't spend much on clothing.  The "gringo look" is dirt cheap if less than stylish. :)

7.  Services in general are much cheaper though very variable in quality.  

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For grocery prices get a Guadalajara Reporter and maybe an online subscription for use after you leave because the Repoter has a price comparison of a typical grocery basket from Soriana and Walmart. Take that and compare it to your grocery prices at home. We usually shop the Barato (tiangus) in Chapala on Mondays. It is a true mexican market and things are priced by the kilogram. If you want less you'll still pay for the full kilogram. We just take out what we want and give the balance away to house keeper or the poor. Many vendors there post their prices and if they don't we don't shop there. We find most fresh fruit and vegies 50% cheaper than stores. The Chapala market is more organzed than Jocotepec but much less gringoized than Ajijic. We find in Ajijic that many of the same vendors attend but are more expensive and don't post their prices. In Ajijic you are much more likely to pay a gringo tax as the seller sizes you up as to ability to pay. That is legal here though not in the USA.  Eggs are a different matter. There is a small tienda near the panteon in W. Ajijic that has the fresher ones at a better price. Eggs so simple to get good ones but they don't refrigerate them when they come in to the house or later at the market. Restaurant prices are much, much cheaper. Did you go to Adelitas on rib special night? Lunch should cost no more than $175 pesos for a couple. Nice dinner no more than $350 with a couple of beers.or glasses of wine. We split a rack of ribs at Adelitas and have leftovers for a couple of lunches or dinner with beer for $350.

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I just did the math. I just purchased some gasoline. It was 16.06 per liter. At 3.78 liters per gallon and an exchange rate of 18 pesos per US dollar, a gallon would cost $3.37 Us dollars per gallon. I remember going to the  Superlake grocery store one time and compared the same product, peanut butter. If the container had English on it, it was quite expensive, once I learned how to say it in Spanish, I bought the same product manufactured in Mexico, and not imported from the states and saved all kinds of money..

Now I pay my Maid 50 pesos per hour. Some will say, that I am paying too much, some will say it is not enough. Whatever it is the maid is very happy and at 18 pesos per dollar, it is about $2.78 dollars per hour. I could go on and on. Oh, at the weekly market I saw cigarettes smuggled in from Germany (or so the label said) that cost 15 pesos per pack of cigarettes. I think legal cigarettes sell for maybe $47 pesos per pack.  I don't smoke so I might be a little off. I just know that they are much more economical here than in the US or Canada.

 

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Thanks all! This has given us some great ways to target our "on the ground" time the rest of this week! This is such a helpful forum community, compared to many others I've been part of over the years. I really appreciate that fact that people are so solution-focused!

So, overall then, it sounds like that link I posted (regarding groceries) are the kinds of prices I can definitely expect to find--If I do a little legwork/brainwork, yes?

 

Edited by Meighan
inserted follow up question

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Here's what I have found:

If there is a cash register with a tape in it, it is the most expensive

If there is a cash register with NO tape it is cheaper

If NO cash register, cheaper still

Local markets generally cheaper and better produce

Back of a truck, cheapest

Sometimes there is a 50% or greater difference

9 years ago, cash registers were uncommon.  See more and more these days....

If you become a "regular" with vendors, you often get a little better deal.  

With groceries, I probably pay 40% less than when I first arrived 9 years ago just knowing where to shop now 

 

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Also remember the Wednesday market does not charge you the same price as it does to Mexicans.  Sometimes you can get a better price going to Chapala  at the main square, inside they sell fresh meat and lots of fruits and vegetable at a very good price.

bottom line is you need to know prices.  Example, we bought mints at Walmart for 8pesos per container, SL sells them for 79pesos.  Not a big decision where  we will buy them

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There are four prices in Mexico. In increasing costs, they are:

  • The price the vendor charges his relatives.
  • The price the vendor charges his friends.
  • The price the vendor charges Mexicans.
  • The price the vendor charges a non-Mexican.
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Might it be that the mints at Superlake were imported and those at Walmart not?  That is usually the reason. Take a look at a non-imported bottle of Coke at Superlake, and compare that with Walmart and the prices are quite close, look at a can or 12 can container of Coke imported from the states at Superlake with the Mexican Coke, be it in Superlake or Walmart and obviously the imported can is much more expensive.

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Oh, and Angus should you speak with the person at the cash register in Mexican Spanish, even with an accent and often you pay less than the person who speaks no Spanish

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29 minutes ago, daisy2013 said:

Also remember the Wednesday market does not charge you the same price as it does to Mexicans.  Sometimes you can get a better price going to Chapala  at the main square, inside they sell fresh meat and lots of fruits and vegetable at a very good price.

bottom line is you need to know prices.  Example, we bought mints at Walmart for 8pesos per container, SL sells them for 79pesos.  Not a big decision where  we will buy them

It is a no brainer  to shop at the chapala Tianguis as most of the stalls have the prices posted

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The "tell" is the pricing of Campbell soups at SL or El Torito...Same soup ie.chicken noodle, tomato, etc..one labeled in Spanish the other in English..Huge price differential..Many other items with the same difference..Just for fun I look at the price of a Swanson TV dinner at SL and I cannot believe anyone would pay THE CRAZY PRICE for a vile product that should never be eaten except in a dire emergency..(My belief)

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There are a lot of "hidden" costs we don't think much about, but they all add up.
- Car insurance: About half NOB costs IF you have US plates

- Annual visa: depending on if you do it, or hire a lawyer (much easier by far)
You want to go permanent, cost of visa + nationalizing car (if possible) meaning a 3 day trip to the border + $3K USD for broker
then return and get your plates and your insurance jumps 50% for the same car with MXN plates
- CFE (electric) IS NOT CHEAP: Not even subsidized is cheap and gosh help you if you get booted into the DAC rates which, last time I checked
were the 3rd highest in the world. Plus power is intermittent (the weather station was offline this morning). Power is "dirty" so you need
to have regulators on anything of value and even then the CFE can burn those out as well. I went through 7 wireless routers in 7 years + 2 UPS regulators and
replacement down there is full list plus 16%. Any electronic thing is expensive, any power tool is expensive and the power to run them is DARN expensive.
- Mailbox: I wanted to keep a US address, $240 USD a year + mailing Christmas cards to NOB was $10MXD each plus stamp (it did help trim my mailing list significantly)
- Shopping NOB?: many of us go NOB at least once a year to shop, travel expenses, lodging expenses
- Vet is cheap, pet food isn't: canned cat food 2X cost NOB
- Diet Coke at Costco: about 3X NOB generic brand at HEB
- Tequila is dirt cheap, beer not so much: you'd think Corona etc. would be dirt cheap, not at all, but tequila by the gallon is darn cheap

Food is important, but many of the "hidden" costs add up to be significant to maintain a gringo lifestyle. You can live gringo, or you can live Mexican, if the average Mexican needs/uses it, it's probably reasonable, if not? - get out the PE$O$.

 

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Well that explains why no rainfall data on the Riberas weather site!

Very well summarized Giltner.  One of the things that makes these comparisons difficult is the difference in life styles.  For example, NOB we would never have the domestic help we have here because of both the hourly cost and all the government BS you have to wade through there to hire someone.

Absolutely right about the higher quality pet foods, if you can even find them here they are at least 50 percent or more higher in price.  We bring as much back from the U.S. when we go as we can.  However, the vet is maybe 1/3rd the cost of the U.S. so that more than covers with a lot left over the cost of the food we buy from her.

Auto insurance for our Mexican plated car is a little cheaper than the same would be in the U.S. 

Go permanente and get the visa hassle and cost over with all at once.  Second the recommendation to use someone like Spencer as a facilitator as they know all the ropes and make it pretty painless.  Really not that tough here compared to what Mexicans have to put up with the U.S. Consul IMO.

CFE DAC rate easily avoided with a minimal solar installation.  We opted to go for 100 percent of our usage.  The system will pay out in less than 4 years.  Where can you get 25% return on investment these days?

Not having a lot of problems with dirty power these days, much worse 9 years ago.  However there are areas where it still really screwed up.  I'd make this one of my location criteria.

We also have a local mail service.  The Mexican post office is a real crap shoot for sending and receiving.

We are saving big bucks on utilities here because no heating or cooling and the solar power.  Propane is pricey but consumption is far less.  Gasoline is pricey but consumption is far less as we walk to most things, even a medical lab, we used to drive to. 

If I were to identify the major areas of concern here they would be the big decline in local municipal services such as trash pick up and street maintenance and the larger problem with deteriorating and unmaintained roads in the state of Jalisco.  Our Mexican friends have all noticed this and commented on it in recent times. 

Yes there are more of those pricey toll roads but the roads most use routinely, such as Chapala highway and the state libres have really gone to pot.  This is making it harder to get around and putting a lot of extra wear and tear on the car.

At least once you get out of this state in just about any direction the roads are much better for touring.  The expensive toll roads are still worth the cost because of the decrease in wear and tear on your car and reduced usage of that not cheap gasoline.

In country air fares can be quite cheap and approach the cost of driving when everything is factored in.  For example, the two of us can fly round trip to Oaxaca where our artisan friends are for around $300 U.S.  You can't begin to equal that driving.

In summary, it is all how you set things up and how you want to live.  We lived pretty well NOB and we live even better here but for less than what it cost there.  Interestingly, RE prices there, Albuquerque NM, are very competitive to those here.

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Without doubt it's lifestyle. I do miss my gardener when it comes time to mow an acre and a half in 90+ degree temps, I don't miss my pool guy because I don't have one here and in the 7 years there I estimated the big pool cost about $150 a month overall and I was never in it once. I did pull out enough palm fronds to make a couple of trees, a dead cat, rat, bat, several scorpions, a baby bird or two etc, but it did look nice (when it wasn't green?). And, when the CFE hamsters weren't providing juice to run pressure pumps, I could dip a bucket of "flush" water. I had a DC/AC inverter to connect to the Jeep so I could open the front gate to exit and hundreds of feet of extension cords depending on which legs of the power were operational. But, the power is better than 10 years ago when I got there I'll admit, no less expensive and yes, I'd have had solar day one - except I rented.

I did have to chuckle about street maintenance. As you know I lived at the end of 3 blocks of "dirt road". As it turned out it was actually all cobblestone except floods over the years washed down mud and of course no one ever scrapped it off? - so, we had dirt. One day I came out to see an actual road grader (1st sighting ever down there) and all the neighbors were out on the street watching the rare eventos, turned out the Gov was dedicating the school 2 blocks N and we never saw the grader again.

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On ‎7‎/‎4‎/‎2017 at 9:45 PM, Meighan said:

1. So far we've checked out SuperLake and it seems the prices there are much more expensive at home. Where do you shop for your day to day groceries? Are you buying mostly Mexican brands, and is that a big cost savings?

2. Based on where you are shopping, do the grocery prices here seem accurate to what you are paying?

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Ajijic

3. Will the tianguis be significantly cheaper? Will they have a range of foods (meats, cheese, eggs, etc.) in addition to fruits and veggies? (hoping to make it to the one in Joco on Thursday but insights on comparison appreciated so we can target our time there as best as possible).

4. Regarding restaurants, we've eaten at Adelita's, Yves, and Johnny's and I would consider them "middle range" and at Arileo (which I would assume is "high end"). Are those assumptions aligned with the overall restaurant scene? Do the restaurant prices on this website seem about right? If not, can you give me an estimate of what you would expect to pay for 2 people for lunch at a midrange place (no alcohol)? and dinner at a mid-range place (no alcohol)?

thanks for your help!

 

Basically, Ajijic is our local version of a tourist trap. I`m including Superlake in that.  If you get out of Ajijic and Superlake and into the "real" pueblos like Chapala and Jocotepec, you will pay half or a third of what you pay for everything: housing, food, restaurants, etc.

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Having lived in Ajijic for 20 years less annual trips up north, having often driven to the two Costcos, The large Mega Stores etc close to or in Guadalajara and some of the many stores surrounding Ajijic  I have never found that the costs at these stores to be 1/2 or 1/3 of what I pay in Ajijic and/or at Superlake. Sure I can usually do better in a big discount store, but nowhere ever as much as you have suggested 

Yes I guess I could buy something like a bottle of imported Coca Cola from the US at Superlake  for three times as much as a coke manufactured here also sold at Superlake But I do not consider that a realistic comparison.

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Everyone has covered it well, but lets just break it down into simple terms.

  1. Eat only the brands you are used to up North = more expensive than up North
  2. Eat a sensible balance of what you are used to up there and local things = probably a bit less than up North
  3. Eat mainly local food = much cheaper

And in all cases you will probably be eating a lot more healthy, local sourced, fresh fruit and vegetables = very good thing

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Hi,

We do not live in Ajijic, but in San Antonio.

I walk to Walmart 3-4x a month and buy groceries and meds. Many people look down their nose at me when I say that, but too bad.There are no small business, locally owned stores near me. I am grateful for Walmart. I usually buy Mexican brands. 

I also ride the bus to Chapala and shop for my meat at the mercado in the plaza and my veggies at a very tiny, busy, and crowded tienda behind the central mercado. I have figured out the time when the truck from the abastos arives. Sometimes I buy fresh bread from the vendor in the front and on occasion buy shrimp from the seafood vendor upstairs. 

My husband picks up odds and ends (milk, fresh bread, etc) in small stores in San Antonio when he walks the dog, and we get a lot of lovely veggies from the Sunday vendors that are usually set up outside the church.

Sometimes I get my chicken from Puritan Poultry which is an easy walk for me and the dog loves to come along. We don't eat out often, as I like to cook and esposo loves to eat.

We went out today for the first time in a month or two, so I can't say much about the expected prices. Today we paid about 450 pesos for a meal and a beverage for two, no alcohol. It was a bit $$ier than usual, in my opinion, but not really expensive.

Our solar power system was one of the first things we put up when we moved here permanently. We have Shaw TV, TelMex Cable and internet, and there is a free bonus to the Infinitum package called Claro Video. I think of it as a type of Netflix, with free tv to watch, old series from US and BBC and Mexican TV. A bit of Spanish is needed to navigate the site, but that is not a problem for me.

We buy premium dog food in 50lb bags and it is deliverd with a smile by the young lady that works there. Small dog so it lasts a long time.

Sometimes, when I am feeling extravagant, I call and have a dozen or so free range eggs delivered, but at 60 pesos, I don't count it in my budget. The "Dusty Chicken" folks by the Coke plant will deliver a whole, grilled chicken and sides for under 220pesos. 

We used to be customers of Cynthia Ornelas and her CostCo delivery service. I miss that and hope it does return. We buy some things in bulk, like TP/Paper towels/bottled water, beer, etc. 

I do not shop in Soriana, as it is too far away and I just don't have a good feeling when I shop there. I wish and wish and wish that we could swap it out for a Mega !

As you may have noticed, I walk and take the bus. No car. Might get a golf cart one of these days.

A big expense is our private international health insurance that we have as a part of our retirement from an iternational school. 

I have absolutely nothing against SuperLake. Sometimes I want a specialty spice or other cooking item, and more than likely SuperLake has it. I would NOT shop there for my typical grocery needs.

I think the biggest thing that makes our budget very low is the fact that we do not go out to eat a lot, we don't party and we are homebodies. For many people that sounds boring, but we are bookworms and love our life here in Mexico.

The first few years are the most $$, because you are setting up, don't know the ropes and it seems that you need everything ! I remember that well.

When we moved here I had all my linens, all kitchen items, all our clothes, music, etc. It still took 2 years to finally replace the curtains, get the rugs I wanted, buy a lamp and a nice table or two. The house was furnished, thank heavens. There are still things I would like to replace, but I am in no hurry. 

I made a number of trips each year to the US to see family and friends and every time I came back it was with a suitcase full of goods from the USA. It's not that things weren't available here, it was that the time and effort it took to get them in GDL was more time consuming and tiring than bringing back an extra suitcase.

Hope that gives a glimpse into another lifestyle.

 

 

 

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