After spending 3 months on this popular Indonesian island I have a good grasp of costs to live here. All of these numbers are just for a single retired man. No dog. No wife. No kids. Just me. Here we go with Bali cost of living… The cost to rent on this island, in popular areas, can be absolutely amazing low and can go up as high as “are you kidding me”. For example I booked a few hotel rooms, normally referred to as a “home stay”, for as little as 7 USD per night and this included breakfast!! I Read more…
San Miguel de Allende and all its Beauty
It is difficult to believe that this is a town in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende. If I had seen just photos alone then I would have guessed Spain or Italy, but certainly not Mexico. First there is no beach here :).. when my family and friends learned that I live in Mexico there first question was “what’s the beach like”. I agree that in my previous thoughts “Mexico” and “beaches” were synonymous. The weather here is not unlike that of Tucson, where I lived from 2007 to 2012.. hot summers and cool winters.. though temps here rarely exceed 32 C and Tucson 40c + is common. Winters here average 8 c at night and about 20 C daytime. Since homes in San Miguel have zero central heating, various methods are employed to stay cozy. Many here use portable propane heaters.. not that attractive to look at, but they get the job done, my home has a nice gas fireplace and I bought with me a heated mattress pad. This was one of the BEST items I brought with me..it covers the whole mattress and has a temperature controller and shuts off automatically after 8 hours. Toasty.
My rent is $550 USD a month. The owner is a gringa.. meaning a woman (as opposed to gringo) from north of the border and she has several of these apartments in town all nicely furnished with everything I need. Many of the household items I bought with me was a waste of space and I would have been better off selling 98% of EVERYTHING before arriving here. For this amount of rent I get a beautiful 1 bedroom, large kitchen, living room with views of Centro and the campo (countryside), a small bathroom (no tub) and a large dining area that I have divided into an eating plus office area. The water, gas, Internet and cable TV is included with the rent I just pay for my electric which so far has been around $20 a month. The last time I paid this sort of rent was in 1984 at the beach in California. A good value here. Meal prices here are not as attractive. Often my meal here can be had for the same money in Tucson. In fact if you move to Mexico because it is COST of living that is the big attraction then you would be wrong. Sure you can live like a Mexican and your costs will be about $300 a month but for a gringo lifestyle.. furnished apartment, 50% of your meals at restaurants beer and wine 4 nights a week, cell phone, a little travel, a concert each month then you will spend what I do.. about $1,700 a month for all of this.
The expat community here is big.. they/ we are everywhere. Canadian and USA being the largest demographic, followed by a few of everyone else. It is interesting how certain places become “expat hangouts”, but this is a fact in every town I have visited in Mexico. Sometimes I find the company of fellow Brits and yanks a welcome sight and at other times, not so much. We have a several theaters here, the biggest being the Angela Peralta and hosts plays and concerts of all sorts. The list of other cultural activities would be a huge article of its own! Several parks, dozens of churches dot the landscape in this prettiest of towns. The focal point of all things social is in the El Jardin, where park benches, mariachi music, warm Mexican families fill this beautiful space. The most prominent architectural building in this town is a masterpiece right in front of this festival of relaxation.. La Parroquia. I describe the style of this beautiful church as “whimsical”, many events are centered on this church including weddings, funerals, Quinceañera and daily mass.
I know that I live in a beautiful place because every Mexican I come across elsewhere in this country, they all will remark how lucky and how beautiful this town is. Lucky me!
It is January 2013 and having explored, on paper, some towns in Mexico to live in I chose San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is in the Colonial Central Mexican Highlands. The Spanish building influence is all over the area and 300 year old buildings are not uncommon. The town of about 100,000 residents rests at 2,000 meters, about 6,300 feet above sea level. I had visited this town just once before on an exploratory trip to Mazatlan, Guadalajara and San Miguel de Allende (SMA) in November 2012. I still don’t really know that much about the town but my feelings was that I KNOW it is a beautiful place and so if I made some sort of gross error then at least it would be nice to look at while I put a Plan B together.
I have arrived in SMA with zero Spanish skills and a mini van filled to the brim with what I thought I would need and want in Mexico. I bought a Dodge Caravan in Tucson for $1,200 to be used as my moving and storage van while I journeyed to SMA from Tucson USA and looked for an apartment to rent. The streets here are very narrow and processions happen ALL the time, hence in just a 6 month period my van was towed 3 times.The last time my van was towed I threw my arms up in the air and just went with the flow… I just used the police compound as my parking space! Then it dawned on me that a car in this town was not needed and I got rid of it quickly. We should all remember this in our new lives abroad: take note of what once worked in your life does not necessarily apply or is applicable in your new found paradise. Walk for goodness sake! Back in Tucson, Arizona I used to walk about 4 km a WEEK and now I do that day!
Renting was not new to me, having lost my home to the financial debacle of 2008 it was the best thing that happened to my finances, I was living the New American Dream; I was renting! Having little savings is actually far less stressful in my humble opinion. If I lost half my investments in 2008 to the “crash” then half of $100 is.. only a $50 loss. Foruntaely I do have more than $50 in the bank. I think. So now in SMA having small cash savings prevents me from making stupid mistakes. For example, it amazes me that retirees here arrive and within a few months BUY a home. I don’t get it. Why in retirement would you tie yourself and your money down to one place, a place that could change VERY quickly. The Mexican government has has a history of changing the rules with regards to banking, peso value and foreign real estate ownership. Plus, what if your new neighbors have 2 rooftop dogs that bark 24/7, what about crime increase or just plain boredom of your chosen town? For me renting is the best option and in spite of lack of funds to buy a home, I would like to think if I did have $400,000 in the bank then I still would not “invest” it in a house.
In a future post I will post lots of pretty pics and give details about this pretty town. Until then, buenos dias, Adios.
Making it legal in Mexico
I got a HUGE surprise at the Mexican Consulate office here in Tucson this morning. First let me explain about Mexico’s visa process which is very similar to the other countries on my short list.
You can not just waltz into Mexico and rent a home, stay for more than 180 days and call yourself a resident, well not legally that is. It takes paperwork and a little money and a whole lotta patience!!
Earlier this year (2012) the Mexican Government announced 2 major changes in their immigration program in order to become a Mexican Resident. First the income requirement were just about doubled from $1,200 a month to $2,300 a month. Second the process to apply MUST start outside the USA. The income also must come from outside of Mexico, so my USA Social Security qualifies in this regard.
The nitty-gritty: Keep in mind that whatever you are reading here and now has a good chance of being outdated at any time by the Mexican Government. In addition the person you are face to face with, either at your Mexican Consulate or Mexican immigration can really make or break what you are trying to accomplish. Thier mood can change from day to day.. and YOUR attitude can help things dramatically. First, TRY to at least say Buenos Dias and Holla when approaching the staff member, second- have ALL your document ready. ALL of them. Often times they need 4 copies of everything and guess what – they have no copy machine available to you.. so you will need these copies upon your arrival. Smile and be patient, do not appear in a hurry. After all, since you are retired what IS your big rush? Take a book, sit down relax and wait.
For the current rules on income, background checks etc etc please check HERE.
Now fast forward to today again and my surprise. I drove to the Consulate office and knew full well that my income was short but rationalized that “it would be just fine”. Crazy me. The 2 ladies at the front desk took a look at my income and it stopped right there.. no, I can not move to Mexico and I was basically handed my hat. So much for THAT dream. I sat in my car with the incredulous feeling and said out loud “oh great so my income isn’t even good enough to live in Mexico??!!”. I marched back in to the office.. and headed for a different area and spied a man in his 30’s that I felt I could appeal to. I began a conversation with him about my desire to live in Mexico and that surely my close to $2,000 monthly pension income would be sufficient in a practical sense. In an adjacent office I was aware of a man, well dressed, crisp white shirt who interrupted our conversation and in a really great Mexican accent asked “so you want to live in my country?” he introduced himself as the consul! He then invited me to Mexico and to return tomorrow and he would approve the application. Whewwwww.
Lesson learned: The Mexican consul has complete discretion as to who is approved and who is not. So if you are in in a similar quandary about your “lack” of income and you desire to move to any Third World country, don’t give up so easily..there are ways to make it happen! On the flip side, a high income and a poor attitude along with an ego the size of Mexico, you may not get to live in Mexico. Good luck to you all.