Ninety days of world travel complete, and by “world travel,” I of course mean flying to the first destination on my list and staying here the whole time. I've recorded every expense down to the last taco (not as difficult as you might think; I average just under three purchases per day). Using the exchange rate I receive at local ATMs – which hovers around 18 pesos to 1 dollar – here’s how I’ve fared so far against my monthly expense budget of $1,000.
TOTAL EXPENSES, 90 DAYS
$2,500 ($500 under budget)
AVERAGE MONTHLY EXPENSES
$833 ($167 under budget)
AVERAGE MONTHLY EXPENSE BREAKOUT
This includes my rent of $195 per month plus my first 3 nights in Mexico at an Airbnb in Sayulita (which almost equaled my subsequent monthly rent). Note to self / readers: never use Airbnb for long-term stays – it’s muy carro (very expensive).
Tacos, tacos, tacos. I spent $84 per month on them – nearly a third of my food costs and ten percent of my total costs. I estimate I ate, on average, about 5 tacos a day. I think one of the reasons Chiptole stock has been languishing is the fact I’m no longer living in the United States. This category also includes the dinners Paula cooked for me early on, though I ended that after discovering an awesome taco place open for dinner (Uno Mas closes at 3pm). Our arrangement had been that I'd pay Paula 100 pesos per meal, plus the cost of the food. Her "itemized receipts" for the purchases, however, were a bit, um, succinct...
Though this includes Nayarit bus fares, the bulk of my transportation cost was the $286 initial plane ticket. I benefited from not flying anywhere else in the quarter, though even if I did, I still would have come in under my $1,000 monthly expense budget. To anyone who thinks flights are prohibitively expensive, they’re not!
I wrote an earlier post on these, so I won’t bore you with redundant details here. Since then, though, I’ve begun supplementing my formal classes with informal conversational “lessons” from some of my tutorees.
This vaguely named category includes my purchases of a ventilador (fan) for 1000 pesos and a new set of almohadas (pillows) for 600 pesos ($50 and $30, respectively). Discretionary items like these are relatively expensive here, since most are imported from the US and subject to high tariffs. (By “here,” I mean in the larger cities of La Piñata and Puerto Vallarta; there’s nowhere to buy these items in San Pancho.) In fact, clothing, sneakers, and similar goods are actually cheaper in the United States, even taking into account the lopsided exchange rate. Note to any future US travelers: stock up on your Nike products before leaving! (And bring some to sell here . . . just joking, that’s illegal.)
Nothing exciting to report here. Just the usual toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, soap, etc.
This includes my gym membership (250 pesos per month, and the subject of a future blog post) and a couple yoga classes. This will be significantly lower going forward, since gym owner and friend Felipe waived all future gym fees after I started tutoring him in English a week ago.
This would be lower had I not destroyed my first SIM card after thinking the Federalies and Cartel were after me. I’m just glad I didn’t smash my iPhone to pieces in my state of hyper-paranoia. “They know where I am!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!!!!” [throws iPhone on ground and stomps on it]. In all seriousness, the Telcel monopoly charges only nominal rates for local calls, and with the fantastic Rebtel iPhone app, I can make international calls to my family at local call rates! (Rebtel is not paying me to say this, though I wish they would.)
Paula, my landlord, gives my apartment a full cleaning every couple of weeks, which costs 220 pesos (200 pesos - $10 - plus a propina – tip). It’s amazing: all my dishes washed (granted, I only have one plate, one bowl, a pan, and some silverware), all floors mopped, sheets washed, items organized, and dust . . . um . . . dusted.
There’s a Laundromat on the next street over from my place, and I pay 45 pesos (a little more than $2) for them to wash and fold all my clothes. Sometimes we lose water here for extended periods of time, so it’s actually somewhat of a crapshoot as to whether they’ll be able to wash my clothes.
That’s it! In a future post, I’ll detail my credit card / debit card / bank account setup. As a preview, I highly recommend the Schwab Debit Card to international travelers. No ATM fees ever, worldwide, with no exceptions. Schwab even managed to deliver a new card to me here in San Pancho; no small feat in a town where there’s NO mail service. More on that later.
PS. Bonus points to those who recognized that the bars in the graph were shaded to look like Mexican flags.