Why We Moved to Merida
Lindsay and I have toyed with the idea of moving to another country for nearly 2 years before we took the plunge. Three years ago we lived in Seoul, South Korea. While I enjoyed the adventures of expat life, Lindsay struggled with being so far away from family.
Our original idea was to live in a van and road trip Central and South America ala #VanLife but the reality is – we have two dogs who are our babies. While there are folks who’ve done the journey with pups, we were concerned about their safety. Another option was Chiang Mai, Thailand – because – well I just love it there. It’s one of my favorite places in the world but it’s also very far from Pennsylvania where Lindsay is from. Once we started digging into the different options, we quickly narrowed it down to Mexico as a country.
In an effort to make this blog our full-time jobs, Lindsay and I have made a ton of sacrifices over the years. While we were living in the US, we both worked crazy hours in order to funnel all of our extra income into traveling and building our blog together. We did it because we wanted to be able to take our future into our own hands and live on our own terms. While in Mexico, we still work full time, but we’re able to choose how we schedule our time and we’re able to accept last minute trips, conference invites, and opportunities when they come our way. Our quality of life is higher because we’re able to work from home together and choose how we’re spending our time. If you’re planning on moving to Merida Mexico here is a rough estimate of what you can expect.
Living on the Peso
The conversion rate changes from day to day but as of September 2017 the rate is 17 pesos for every one US dollar. Now that doesn’t mean that something that costs one dollar in the US will cost one peso here in Merida. Some things are much cheaper here, but not everything.
Of course, your cost of living in Merida will be dramatically impacted by your lifestyle. You can live like a local here or you can live a luxury lifestyle on a much lower budget than you’d pay in New York City – really that’s up to you. For Lindsay and I – we’ve selected a lifestyle that’s somewhere in the middle. We eat out in restaurants frequently and enjoy our iced coffee but we live in locals neighborhood and don’t own a car. Everyone will have different priorities and splurge differently. Everyone will also have different levels of debt and responsibilities from their home countries. Which is why I will be keeping this article to the budgetary basics and leaving out things like student loans and credit card debt.
While in Mexico, we still work full time, but we’re able to choose how we schedule our time and we’re able to accept last minute trips, conference invites, and opportunities when they come our way.
Cost of Living in Merida Mexico
In Merida, you can find almost everything you’d want or need, fancy neighborhoods, gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture, the beach, museums, culture, cenotes and several cities within a few hours drive. Merida is inexpensive, safe, quiet and affordable.
As a baseline, for most people moving to Merida from another country but particularly the United States or Canada regardless of your monthly income, it will go further in Mexico. Food, labor, and goods manufactured in Merida, for example, are extremely affordable. In general, the average couple will live very comfortably on $1200-$3000 US dollars a month.
Here’s a breakdown of our bills
We took out a six-month lease for our furnished two-bedroom house with an office. We had less flexibility with our living space than most people moving to Merida because we came with three dogs and my mother in law. We needed a landlord that would be flexible with the pups and a place that had a backyard. We also had a pretty tight turnaround and need a place that was open within a few weeks of us moving here. We settled on our house for $650 which is a very high rent for Merida. Apartments come at a much lower rate. We found dozens of two-bedroom apartments in the $200-$300 range on Vivanuncios and Trovit.
Merida Real Estate
If you’re more interested in buying property in Merida you will find that real estate in Merida costs way less than what you would pay for an equivalent property in the US or Canada. Homeowners pay an annual ‘predial’ (property tax payable to the city) in January which is about $5 US dollars a year. Homeowners are also required to pay for annual garbage collection which is roughly $6 if you pay in advance for the full year.
In outlying neighborhoods or gated communities with other amenities, it can be slightly more expensive. The cost of real estate varies widely but a quick search for properties in Merida brought up several nice two-bedroom, one-bathroom houses on small plots of land in the $40-$50,000 US dollars.
Water, garbage, and gas are all a few dollars each per month. Electricity is completely dependent on how much air conditioning you use. Merida is super hot. We’ve been hovering in the high 90s for the better part of two months now and it’s not even the hottest month of the year. We only use our air conditioners in the two bedrooms at night and paid $125 for a month. If you have central air and run your AC all day you could have bills that are ten times that rate. It’s not unheard of for expats to pay more for their electric bills than the rent on their apartments. It’s completely up to you to decide how much air to use.
We opted to not have cable because we’re not really big TV people. We have Netflix and will occasionally watch shows on Amazon Video. Wifi, however, is a non-negotiable bill for us. We work online so we need strong and reliable service. At $13 a month, it’s fast, reliable, and allows us to work from our kitchen table.
One unexpected bill that we have as part of our leasing agreement is a weekly payment for our housekeeper. His name is Santos and he comes to help us out once a week. He cleans and does odd jobs around the house for $10 a week. Normally, we’d be perfectly fine with doing these jobs on our own but our landlord let us now that it was part of our leasing agreement and if we didn’t need him they’d be letting him go. I wasn’t going to be the reason anyone lost their job. So every Thursday Santos comes and helps us figure out how to do things like relighting the pilot light and taking care of the yard.
We still have our unlimited T-Mobile family plan with three lines and international service. Which is why our phone plan is so outrageous. For $22 a month you can get a Mexican phone line with 200 minutes of Mexico calls and unlimited data. That’d work perfectly if you’re planning on doing most of your international communications via Skype or Facetime. For me, that wouldn’t work because I’m in a different country each month and my phone is pivotal for my job.
Ubers are roughly $2-$3 each way and a one-way bus ticket is about $0.30. We decided not to have a car but many expats import their cars without any issues. We do not have a car here so that eliminates the need to pay for insurance, gas, and maintenance that we were paying back in the US.
We spend roughly $60 USD a week on groceries. We also eat out in a restaurant about twice a week. If we’re eating at most Yucatecan restaurants we’re looking at about $5 per person. If we’re eating foreign food the prices can be anywhere from $5 for a combo meal at Burger King all the way up to $20 per person for a three-course meal at an upscale restaurant. As a general rule eating local will always be cheaper than eating foreign food. The perfect example is our local coffee shop around the corner from our house. An iced latte is $1.50 USD but the same drink at Starbucks is $4.50.
The Cost of Healthcare in Merida
Mexico has excellent health care professionals and facilities. Private clinics and hospitals feature the latest modern facilities and are built to international standards. There’s also something beautiful about getting sick and knowing that we can go to the doctor without a several thousand dollar health care bill.
Lindsay had to go to the ER a few weeks ago for her kidney stones. Her bill was a fraction of the cost that it would have been in the US. For minor issues, most pharmacies have a doctor on staff who is able to treat the issue and prescribe medications for free or a few dollars. Prescriptions vary on a case by case basis but all but one of my mother in law’s diabetic medications are less than $15 USD without insurance.
Living in Merida Mexico
The population of Merida is just under a million people. Merida is a very large city with tons of things to do. There are world class restaurants, museums, and events. Every Sunday there’s a giant fiesta in the center of town with live music, dancing, and great food. We’re about 30 minutes to the nearest beach plus we have access to beautiful Cenotes – which are underground water pools. We’re able to be more active and enjoy the outdoors. Most of the activities that we’ve enjoyed are free. Live music in the park on Sundays, beach days, exploring cenotes, or wandering the many shopping malls are all free activities that just require a $2 Uber ride or bus ticket. Giant margaritas are about $4 and it’s $20 for three people to go to the movies and get snacks from the concession stands.
What does it cost to live in Mérida?