In a prior post, we discussed the cost of housing in the Chapala area. Here, let’s explore the other major variables that affect the cost of living in Chapala.
Although we do not directly pay for utilities: water, gas, electricity, and internet (they are included in our rent), friends here tell us that they spend about $100 U.S. dollars a month on these items.
TV is another story. We know some expats purchase TV through local services here, cable or satellite. We choose to access TV through web-based services such as Netflix and Fubo. DirectTV is another option. With TV accessed through the web, you may need to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connecting through a server that is based in the country where you are purchasing the service. (Some of these services are only available to the U.S.geography so use a VPN that allows you to specify access through a U.S.-based server.)
In total, we spend about $60 U.S. on TV.
Food and groceries. A lot of variability in this category as well that impacts the cost of living in Chapala. We’ve found that prices for ingredients are fairly uniform and remarkably inexpensive (compared to the U.S.) for locally-sourced produce and meat. It’s routine for us to visit the local mercado where lots of local vendors hawk their wares. We visit a fruit and vegetable stand (there are several), a carniceria (butcher), and a salsa vendor.
At the vegetable vendor, we walk away with a couple of large bags stuffed with fruit and vegetables, enough for a week of eating, for between $5 and $7.50 U.S. The butcher provides us with beef and pork and chicken. Typically, we get a kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef for about $7.50 (U.S.) We also buy fruit from the numerous vendors that line the main street of Chapala. I’m in love with the salsa I can get fresh every morning. Ditto with the frijoles (beans) with or without chili or carne (meat).
Some expats are squeamish about buying off the street. We aren’t. We’re choosy though and we have learned to develop familiarity with the vendors and tend to re-visit the same ones over and over. The locals buy here; why not us?
Products that are imported from the U.S. can be readily purchased here, either at Walmart or a local shop called Super Lake which caters to gringos and has lots of the favorite items gringos crave. However, compared to the locally-produced items, they are premium-priced.
That said, we frequent Pancho’s Deli Market. It’s small and packed with goodies gringos like us love. Excellent produce and fruit and staples such as jasmine rice, Asian sauces, chips, and other such items. Superb service too.
Dining out is also variable, just as in the U.S. The Chapala area has lots of restaurants that cater to gringos, ranging from what you might call diners in the U.S. all the way up to white tablecloth places. We gravitate toward the restaurants that cater to the locals. The prices are better; the food usually good to excellent, and the price (other than the money) is having to learn a little more Spanish in order to communicate our needs and wants. We think it’s worth it.
That said, you can eat heartily at lunch for about $5 U.S. for two. Dinner costs more in the $10 U.S. range. At gringo-oriented establishments, expect to spend $20 and up for dinner. (And, for transparency, we do not imbibe, so the prices I have quoted here do not included any adult beverages you might want.)
What else? Oh, household items. Hello, Walmart. Local brands cost about a third less than in the U.S. The familiar U.S. brands are about the same or slightly higher than in the U.S. Likewise with clothes.
A trip to the movies here? About $6 U.S. for two. Yes, for major Hollywood releases. See our previous post about the movies here.
We visted Guadalajara recently to partake of opera broadcast Live from the Met. In the U.S., the last time we attended the tickets ran $22 per person. Here, we paid about $10. (Remember, that pricing in pesos varies daily depending on the exchange rate.)
So to sum up, you have a lot of control of your cost of living in Chapala. Go local, go native, and you can live on a surprisingly small amount of money. Such as the average Social Security check (in the range of $1300-$1400 U.S. per month, or even less). And you can splash out, spending pretty much any amount above that.
Ah, the choices of living in paradise.