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Mischiefmaker

Budgeting costs of reconnaissance

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Hello all! My wife and I have begun the research toward moving to this area to live/work, in a couple years. My questions are about budgeting our first trip. The reasons we want to move there are for a much MUCH lower cost of living (we live in CT and it's the WORST, hoping to be able to freelance/work remotely for US firms while there) and a better climate for health and sanity. The financial aspect and a warm, dry climate are pretty much neck and neck for priority. We are also considering Tucson, AZ, for comparison. However, our finances being so tight (we have no credit card debt but live paycheck to paycheck, and our only paltry savings will go toward our next trip), it's hard to take a lot of trips to vet these places, so we have to make the most out of each trip and keep it cheap. I found an air bnb in the area for $35/night that would be fine. I think the cheapest RT flight from CT to Guad I found was $355 but most seem to be about $400. So my questions are: 1) how much should we budget for food daily and 2) should we rent a car and how much do those run? Our goal will be to visit all the different towns/villages/areas to see which one we like best.  

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I’m from madison CT and indeed the cost of living here is indeed much lower.However you should know that the Lakeside areas most favored by expats  have been hard hit by gentrification in the past 1 1/2 years especially and while costs have risen for most things for everyone (gasoline, food, internet, doctors) rents and home prices for expat-type houses (nice kitchen/baths, gardens etc) , in popular areas have really sky rocketed and continue to rise. . A $650/month rent would be hard to find, though not impossible if you’re not too picky (ie  very basic small house , likely unfurnished, in a very Mexican neighborhood,). Working on-line is also very tricky. Again not impossible but because of poor infrastructure & exploding demand service  is highly variable by area and even house to house .Come explore beautiful Lakeside just don’t expect the ‘cheap’ living of only a few years ago. 

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Also to be considered is 'can you qualify' for a Permanente or Temporal visa. You suggest that you live paycheck to paycheck and have no savings and that does not sound promising. An alternative to those visas is to use the 180 day Tourist Card but that is not renewable in the interior so one must drive/fly/walk back to the border to get a 'new' 180-day card.  Many people do this but it becomes a drag sooner or later for a full time resident.

A rental car would make checking out the various villages easier, but as mentioned above using the bus system will be a ton cheaper... and you get to observe more of life that way. If 'work remotely' means over the Internet, the quality/speed of the Internet Lakeside varies widely, not only from town to town, but neighborhood to neighborhood and even house to house so make sure you do more than just ask 'does it have Internet access'.

Good luck with your quest...

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What Rick said, living pay check to pay check and no savings, not good because to even get a temporal(you want to live here right?), you need a decent bank account or are drawing a pension(something like $1400.00 a month) cause the Guv-ment wants to see that you can take care of yourself, otherwise 'no bueno' a 180 day visa is about all they're going to do for you.

Rents here have gone up a lot, $650.00 a month is still around but don't hold your breath. I think a good bottom end rent would be around $850.00 or so in the surrounding areas of Ajijic, less if you want to go to Joco or Chapala then you might want to become a 'frequent flyer' on the bus which they have excellent public transportation here and it is affordable( 9 pesos to go from Ajijic to the plaza in Chapala one way).

As far as internet goes, once again Rick hit the nail on the head. I did a speed test the other day and I had a download of 4.70 Mbps and I didn't even wait for the up speed but good luck in your quest.

 

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If you truly mean to live in Mexico, you will need to qualify, at a Mexican Consulate outside of Mexico, for a residence visa. Otherwise, you would be just a tourist with a 180 day, non-renewable tourist permit & have to leave Mexico before it expired. Those frequent trips would become an agrivation, as well as a great expense.  Also, if you wish to buy property, register a vehicle, or do much of anything within the rules, you would need other government documents & most of them are only issued to legal residents; Residente Permanente, or Residente Temporal visa holders. The financial requirements are available from the Mexican Consulates, but you should plan on being able to prove retirement income of $1400-$1500 per month/individual, or some $90-100,000 in untouched savings over the last 6-12 months, depending upon which visa you desire.  Only the Residente Permanente visa will allow you to work in Mexico without specific immigration permissions. However, if your work is online and based outside of Mexico and paid outside of Mexico, that will not be a concern for you.

For your trip, you should simply have good debit cards from your home bank, and use local ATMs for your daily cash needs.  Both food and transportation will be about half of what you might expect in the USA, but your habits will determine the baseline in the first day or two.

Practice your Spanish......Enjoy your trip.  We stayed for over 13 years, until age and infirmity forced us to Tucson and the availability of Medicare and the VA. Tucson is more expensive, and more boring, than Chapala, but less expensive than many other parts of the USA, as you seem to have already noticed.

 

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Thanks for all the responses so far.  It's all very valuable info!  We would not arrive to live there without something in our bank account (any idea how much is required? I haven't checked the consulate website yet.) as well as provable sources of income.  If we were "well off" we wouldn't be looking to live there! . 

But I wasn't asking about that, and I didn't give you folks our whole story because I was only asking about our first trip..... How much do we need to budget daily for food for our first reconnaissance trip?  Angus said $20/day/pp is sufficient. Do you others corroborate that?  And I asked whether we'd have to rent a car, which only Ragtopman answered.... Sounds like we can avoid car rental, which would be great.  

Angus, Can you please elaborate on "if it is the only reason you may find it insufficient to succeed here IMHO."? 

Also, I think it's hilarious that you claim that $650/mo is "expensive" for a home rental.  We currently pay $2,000 for a 3 br raised ranch in CT!  (admittedly, we live in a more expensive part of the state, but I have to right now for my child custody...he'll be 18 when we choose to move.)  If we move to Tucson, rent will probably be around $1,000/mo at the absolute min. I'll elaborate more on our preferences, etc., later on when I need to ask more questions.

 

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There are plenty of well off people who live here and many who live here without much at all.  Generally people who come just to make ends meet are in two camps - those who are adventurous and charitable and accept living on the edge financially AND those who resent not having enough or more.  The first are happy and the second are miserable.

 

We are from the Midwest NEOhio and did not experience the "cheap" living here as many of our friends from the west coast have because this was primarily a lateral financial move for us in 2005 with obvious savings in electricity, mortgage and especially property tax and not so much savings in daily life food, eating out, entertainment etc...  The cost of living here has pretty much kept pace with that of NE Ohio.  It is just those big hunky money items that are missing.  Even with that our monthly costs are more than the Mexican government requires to issue a permanente which I thought was around $2700 per couple.

Enjoy your look-see visit.  Much will change in the next couple of years - especially with a new government with a new philosphy.  What you and a lot of others wanting to come here need to do is to find the NEXT Lakeside area.

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3 minutes ago, RVGRINGO said:

Only the Residente Permanente visa will allow you to work in Mexico without specific immigration permissions. However, if your work is online and based outside of Mexico and paid outside of Mexico, that will not be a concern for you.

Hi RVGringo!  We are not retiring; I'll probably have to work until I simply cannot any more because I haven't saved for retirement sufficiently (freelanced and raised kids for years). I plan on resurrecting my freelance career if we plan to move to Mexico, or to get a job in Tucson if we plan to move there.  As an example, I am taking a freelance project next week. It will take me 25 hours to complete and my gross pay will be $650.  My wife currently works as an audiobook proofreader, which she can do on computer anywhere if they'll allow her to keep her job after we move in 2 years.  They do already have two employees working remotely so it's a viable option.  She makes $15/hour, which is minimal here in CT but would go a LOT farther in Mexico.  She LOVES her job.  Neither one of us would require constant Internet to do our jobs, only for the passing of files back and forth when needed.  Hoping that if home Internet is kinda sketchy that we could go to an Internet cafe or public building to do these file transfers? 

SO, if we have outside US income, and obtain a Residente Permanente or Temporal, are  we good to go?  

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If your work is all online and all payment is received outside of Mexico, your visa status is not a concern. 

To do any lucrative activity in Mexico, you would need at least a Residente Temporal Visa AND specific permission from INM (Immigration) for that specific position, with support from your INM approved employer, etc.  With a Residente Permanente Visa, you may work in Mexico with simple notification to INM.

Consult with the Mexican Consulate near you. They can give you their requirements in greater detail.  If approved, you will have six months to enter Mexico and then must report to INM within 30 days, with proofs of residence, etc.  INM will complete the process (tramite) within a couple of months, and issue your actual visa card. Note that Residente Permanente are prohibited from having a US, or other foreign vehicle, or operating one in Mexico. So, if you go for that status initially, you should plan ahead.  Otherwise, you may maintain Residente Temporal for 4 years, maximum, and will then transition to Permanente without further proofs; within Mexico. By then, you will have removed your foreign vehicle from Mexico and will have had to replace it with one purchased in Mexico.

Naturally, your exploration trip will be as tourists.

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Not quite yet.  Here's a huge question you must answer (for yourselves). What are you going to do about health care and the next logical question, health insurance? Do you know the limitations of SP and IMSS for instance?

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And....keeping Social Security, Medicare A & B, etc., when those things kick in; because you just might need them in your dotage, as we do.

Yes, there is a lot to learn. So, visit as a tourist. Then move as Residente Temporal and learn as you go. Time and Mexico will change you. Life will be different.

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Excellent advice about the RGV.  How about a 2/2 in a 55 and over community, built in the 90"s for under $100k? Progresso is just a stroll away for that Mexican experience, South Padre Island an hour away with great beaches, and excellent healthcare facilities in Harlingen. COL is some of the lowest in the US. Mexicans flock to La Plaza Mall in McAllen for shopping.  Hot as hell in the summer but no snow to shovel and lots of Winter Texans, if that's what you like.

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35 minutes ago, AngusMactavish said:

Have you ever been to the interior of Mexico? More importantly, has your spouse? If you can't embrace the culture, you will be toast and headed north quickly. Living a cloistered life in a land as exotic as Korea can get to be a drag. If you want cheap, I would move to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

Now, what do you know of Mexico beyond Google and Cancun?

 

Angus, Please, you are being antagonistic, judgmental, and making a lot of assumptions about us before hearing our full story.  I know you phrased them as questions, but they're loaded questions that carry judgments. To answer your questions, YES, we have, thank you very much.  My wife has visited Tlaquepaque and stayed in someone's home, and I've been to the Yucatan and Isla Mujeres. I refuse to go near Cancun except as the place to fly to, to take the ferry away from it to visit IM. I am intermediate in Spanish, having studied it a lot in college and spending a month in Spain. My wife has also taken trips to the Amazon jungle, Ecuador, and Peru, and we honeymooned in Bali. Neither one of us enjoy things like all-inclusive resorts, big fancy hotels, or "ugly Americans" abroad. Do we meet your criteria yet? This is why we're researching, reading, and planning a visit, for crying out loud. Texas? Probably not. Arizona maybe. I cannot afford to live off freelance here in the states, but I probably could in Mexico. If we were to stay in the states, we'd have very different requirements; I'd need a decent paying job, probably at a university. We couldn't live in the middle of nowhere. So if we stayed here we'd probably land in Tucson.

I saw the video and that's just advice for location choice. Can't we choose to live somewhat outside of town and thereby avoid quite that level of noise if we so choose? Look, I grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan and despise the "suburbs" I have found myself living in for my entire adult life. I'm familiar with noise.  

Medical is our other main concern and believe me, we're doing our research, and I welcome any and all advice on that front. If this area has gentrified beyond what we can reasonably afford, then sure, we'll look around more and I'll listen to advice on that score as well.

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1 hour ago, pappysmarket said:

Not quite yet.  Here's a huge question you must answer (for yourselves). What are you going to do about health care and the next logical question, health insurance? Do you know the limitations of SP and IMSS for instance?

Pappysmarket, As I stated  in my original post, I just needed info to help plan our first trip there, but then I got roped in to ALLLLLLL the other issues involved with making this eventual choice.  We only just started researching, literally it's only been 2 weeks, so no, I do not yet know the limitations of SP and IMSS, but I've started reading up on it, and yeah, of course medical care is one of our main questions.  But all of you do it, somehow, so why can't we?

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We ask questions because we are asked to give answers. If you are concerned about the costs for a quick visit you probably cannot afford to live here. 

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RV is right, if you are lucky, Mexico will "assimilate" you. This involves, not surprisingly, hanging around a lot of Mexican people. Yesterday, I spent most of a morning at a Mexican general hospital in Guadalajara (which accepts Seguro Popular insurance). We managed to see two Anaesthetists and a panel of five Urologists, including the head of Department. All conferring as to how to best remove a kidney stone. Myself, my wife, and our medical translator were the only pale faces out of a hospital full of at least five hundred people (Mexican doctor and hospital visits are often a family affair). Not one unfriendly face. Important breakthrough is learning Mexican humor. A nice, smiling older woman was seated next to me, and she asked in Spanish, how long I had been waiting to see a doctor. I told her Doctor, no, I was waiting for the number 65 autobus, late once again. She thought his was hilarious, and will probably tell her family this story over and over again. This is the heart of the common people, many who live on much, much less than what you describe.

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GREAT post Chillin'. Yes, I love the Mexican sense of humour and it is very similar to Canadian and British style humour. You nailed it!

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A note to the original posters: you will want to contact whoever you work for and make sure that they, or their clients, have no objections to your handling their information outside the U.S.

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34 minutes ago, ajijiccharlie said:

We ask questions because we are asked to give answers. If you are concerned about the costs for a quick visit you probably cannot afford to live here. 

Happy to answer questions!  Ask away. I only ask that you do so respectfully. 

Cost of living here is very high. So it makes it v difficult to save for any trips. Cost of living there is very low. If we do our research and plan well we can afford a few budgeted trips and to move there. We want to work and live there which we should be able to do more economically than we can in the US which is getting out of control. Just because we have to ask how much food costs there to budget our trip doesn’t mean we “can’t afford to live there.”  The whole point of living there as opposed to here is precisely to be able to afford to live better on less!

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2 minutes ago, JayBearII said:

A note to the original posters: you will want to contact whoever you work for and make sure that they, or their clients, have no objections to your handling their information outside the U.S.

Oh that’s a great point. I will look into that. Thank you!

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Food costs suggestion - if you google Ajijic restaurants many have Facebook pages that include their menus. Of course local Mexican food stands are cheaper if you’re ok with variations of tortillas, beans & rice. 

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1 hour ago, Mischiefmaker said:

Pappysmarket, As I stated  in my original post, I just needed info to help plan our first trip there, but then I got roped in to ALLLLLLL the other issues involved with making this eventual choice.  We only just started researching, literally it's only been 2 weeks, so no, I do not yet know the limitations of SP and IMSS, but I've started reading up on it, and yeah, of course medical care is one of our main questions.  But all of you do it, somehow, so why can't we?

Some of us have medical coverage that follows us anywhere in the world that is already in force that we don't have to "qualify" for. Some are convinced they are in good enough health to qualify to buy medical insurance once they get to Mexico. Some have enough savings that they figure they can self-insure for routine care and either use SP or IMSS for something serious or flee back north if anything bad happens. Some don't give a s**t and realize they will die someday anyway so why not in Mexico. Some look into the level of care provided by IMSS or SP and say "no way", I don't want to take my own caregiver to the hospital and also my own toilet paper. You may be in one of those categories or perhaps a completely different category. It's up to you and your wife to figure out where you fit health, healthcare and health insurance wise before you start dreaming about retirement in Mexico or wasting money on anything other than a pure vacation. Some figure it out ahead of time and come knowing they have a plan. Others, hopefully not you, say "But all of you do it, somehow, so why can't we?" Those that come with that philosophy are most likely to be the ones who return NOB sadder but wiser.

Baby steps.  Think about the big things first before you worry about how much food will cost on a daily basis.  You sound like the type of person who might do well here but there are lots of big questions to be answered before you focus on the little things.

Good luck.

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4 hours ago, solajijic said:

What you and a lot of others wanting to come here need to do is to find the NEXT Lakeside area.

Excellent advice!

Not easy to do, however. Even here in PV the influx of newbies and the uncontrolled building of condos in Old Town would make me no longer to suggest this place as an alternative to lakeside. Forget the climate debate, somebody is just cramming more people into the same finite space just as they are at lakeside. We enjoyed our 2 week trip up there, saw friends, had good meals, doctor visits but couldn't believe how congested and overrun it has become.

Thinking of Huatulco.  Dan and Suzan of IL spent over 2 months looking for a better alternative to lakeside and returned to report they did not find it anywhere in Mexico. To each his own.  The beach towns north of Merida around Progreso have a certain charm but the ocean is so shallow there seaweed chokes every beach. We found the same problem on Bali. The search is half the fun.

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