Cost of Living at Lake Chapala, Mexico

Cost of Living Lake Chapala Mexico

It’s been a year since I last did a cost-of-living post. (Here are our expenses for October 2012 and November 2012). We’re still living at Lake Chapala, but during the year we moved and made some other changes, so our budget looks quite different from a year ago.

The big news is our expenses have decreased by more than half. For one thing, we’ve been hunkered down, working a lot and not eating out much. And about four months ago we moved from our fancy Mexican house to a small bungalow at an eco-hotel just out of town. We were planning to head to Morelia after a week, but we ended up enjoyed the community (and the low rent!) at the hotel so much, we stuck around.

Here are our basic costs for last month. NOTE: These are our costs related to life in Chapala. I haven’t included business expenses or broader things like life & health insurance.

Rent (includes all utilities, including internet) $375
Electricity $0
Gas $0
Phone & Internet $0
Groceries $310
Meals & Entertainment $110
Auto (Petrol and Maintenance) $53
Medical care $0
Education $0
Maid $12

**Total cost: $860 USD

Expense Breakdown for November 2013

Monthly cost of living, Lake Chapala, Mexico

Our Mexican Bungalow

We’re living in a two-bedroom bungalow at a local eco-hotel. (“Eco-hotel” basically means there are dogs running around.) The property is expansive and green, which means Archie has a lot of space to roam. This is the first time I’ve been able to let him do that, and I loved the freedom, for both him and me (from leash walks). The long-term residents are mainly cool, thought we’ve had a few colorful crackpots.

During our time here we’ve enjoyed the company of neighbors. Our last house, like most houses in Mexico, was surrounded by high walls, which makes things kind of lonely for a small family. Here at the hotel we found a community, which helped us realize it might be time for a base. There’s a big pool here, and Scout has free reign to swim, climb trees, or visit the neighbors without a chaperone.


All utilities, including internet, are covered in our super-low rent. It’s a great deal. The only downside has been the internet, which had spotty periods that led to some frustrating days. Mark and I need to be accessible for us our ebook-design clients, so that was a bit of a challenge. On the bad days we’d head down to the coffee shop down the hill, which accounted for some of our meals out.


We have zero educational expenses. The Mexican school Scout tried last year was disappointing, so we didn’t do it again this year. We got extremely lucky when a lovely Mexican family with three kids moved in for a few months. Their kids spoke no English, so after two months hanging out together all day, Scout is doing phenomenally well. She can chat confidently in Spanish now, and has definitely surpassed me conversationally. When we go out, she often assists as our translator, which I know makes her proud. I am so glad we stayed here so that could happen!


We’ve been eating at home for the most part. The chef next door tells me Jalisco is the worst state in Mexico for food, and I believe him. We’ve had some good street food here and there, but in general we’re not missing anything by cooking for ourselves. To put the food expenditures in perspective, we cook from scratch and rarely buy processed foods, with the exception of a box of bran flakes once in a while. And of course Mark likes his Tecate beer. Generally I buy fresh local produce, fish, and meat from my favorite shops without too much regard for price. If you consume a lot of processed or imported foods, you’ll spend more.


These expenses are basically unchanged. It costs 500 pesos to fill up the tank of our Subaru, about 40 USD. We don’t use the car much other than the occasional trip into Guadalajara (45 minutes away) or to drive into town for marketing. The town isn’t far, maybe five minutes away. In case you’re wondering why we drive such a short distance, it’s because the road down the hill is really dangerous. Cars race by, and there’s no safe space to walk. Pedestrians are either right in the road or or off to the side in waist-high, thorny, snake-infested brush. Local workers walk it because they have no choice, but I’ll pass.


We went to a few movies, which are dirt cheap at our local theatre. (Here’s a recent post about what it costs to see a movie at Lake Chapala.)


We have a maid, Ceci, who comes for one hour a week. An hour is all it takes to clean our small place. But it’s nice to have someone give the floors, kitchen, and bathroom a good scrub. Ceci charges $45 pesos an hour, which we round up to $50. That’s 3.87 USD per hour.

Other expenses

We also pay a couple hundred dollars a month for our  Mexican car insurance and our expat health insurance. I left those out of the chart, since they don’t have to do with Lake Chapala expenses.

So there you go. As you can see, our cost of living is pretty low these days. You could easily spend more here, but we’ve been busy working, a good thing for now, and are happy to be saving money for a while. Next month we’re going to be moving on to Morelia, and although I’ll really miss our neighbors and the tranquility here, I’m looking forward to being in a city again. Here we have to use the car to go anywhere and we don’t walk much. I’ve gained a couple of pounds and can’t wait to walk those off in town.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy @worldschoolAdventures December 8, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Wowzers that is cheap! Thanks for sharing your expenses again. I know what you mean about living in community. Right now we are housesitting in a small intentional community and it has been SO amazing. The kids are outside playing practically all day long with the other kids here.


2 Tiffany December 8, 2013 at 9:57 pm

I appreciate these budget posts. It’s so nice to get some insight into the real costs of living outside of the USA. After we RV around the US, we may head south with the pooch and settle in Mexico for a time. Thanks for the inspiration!


3 Danielle December 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Thanks for the post. I really like to see these prices too. We will be looking to settle for a month somewhere on our travels in February. Its nice to know you can find decent accomodations for great prices.


4 Patti December 9, 2013 at 12:30 am

It’s amazing how expenses vary so great depending on where in the world you find yourself. Sounds as if you really found yourself a little piece of paradise!


5 December 9, 2013 at 6:13 am

Yep, that all sounds about right. We can easily live and travel in Mexico for under US$1,000 a month for the two of us.


6 Renee December 9, 2013 at 9:07 am

Hey guys! Yes, it’s pretty reasonable here. I could bring down the grocery budget if Mark would just stop chuh-a-lugging the beer! 🙂


7 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:40 am

You guys are budget-stretching superstars…glad I passed muster. 😉


8 Tona Echeita December 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I so appreciate this information, we are planning on visiting Lake Chapla in 2014 & are putting together all the info we can.



9 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

Great Tona, I’m glad it helped. Please let me know if you’ve got other questions.


10 Heidi @WagonersAbroad December 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Oh how I love Mexico. It isn’t currently on our list as we are hitting Europe and then Asia. But when the finances get low, that will be the place to go. Thanks for sharing!


11 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

Thanks for stopping by Heidi. Mexico won’t beat Asia, but it’s still a great budget choice, as long as you pick the right area and live simply. Since ou guys are getting fluent in Spanish, you’ll have better luck avoiding (well, reducing at least) the “Gringo Discount.”


12 gabi (the nomadic family) December 9, 2013 at 11:54 pm

renee, i love the clear breakdown and i love how cheap and easy your life is, in more ways than one. loooove it. one day we’ll have to make mexico home too! gabi


13 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:36 am

Love you Gabi, thanks! 🙂


14 Manfred @ Renegade Travels December 10, 2013 at 5:41 am

That’s an awesome place for just $375. I didn’t realize that Mexico was so cheap. I love reading about the costs of traveling to certain places, as it really halps us to plan our travels better.


15 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thanks for commenting, Manfred. Yes, Mexico can be very cheap if you live simply. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re on a budget. 🙂


16 Andrew December 11, 2013 at 2:42 am

Always love reading the cost posts. You have a really good set-up at th ‘eco-hotel’. It’s gonna be a few years before we head to Mexico but we may well look this place up.


17 Renee December 11, 2013 at 9:21 am

Thanks, Andrew. It’s a great place. Glad the cost info helps. 🙂 I’m glad to share the info whenever you want and will do a post about the hotel soon, once we’ve left.


18 Molly December 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

This post sooo made me miss Mexico… I could easily be happy living there for a few months… if only the now awesome teen was younger! Can’t wait to hear about your adventures in Morelia, very cool.


19 Kirsty December 14, 2013 at 5:35 am

Great post Renee, inspiring to know you can experience Mexico so cheaply 🙂


20 Alyson December 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

Just what I needed to read right now! Maybe Mexico next year.


21 Kerri December 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Okay you got me thinking….:)


22 Mike December 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Thanks for the blog Renee! I actually came across it while looking for cost of living comparisons for Chapala.
I am retired with a pension and my wife and I, along with our 14 yo daughter are interested in Chapala as our new home.
I like the idea of the “Eco-Hotel”.
Where or how do we locate one? Is it a month to month or a lease? What was the process for moving in?
Sorry for so many questions but we are currently in the process of liquidating the “material” things and wanting to head down straight away!
Thanks and great job!


23 Josh December 28, 2013 at 12:01 am

So, as previously mentioned in an additional comment, I got 3 little guys, and my wife and I. We would need at least a 3 bedroom with a small cove for an office. I know youre not some type of real estate agent, but what would a 3 bedroom place run????


24 Marianne January 5, 2014 at 4:28 am

Thanks for the clear breakdown of your costs, Renee – it’s really useful to be able to compare costs around the world. I’m sure loads of people will find it very interesting, if they are considering moving to live in Mexico.

Here’s a link to my latest Cost of Living in Spain post, for comparison:


25 Brian January 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Hi Renee,

Love your posts and stories. I stumbled upon your site as I am doing research for a trip on March 1st. I am staying at Hotel Perico, and your description/pics look very familiar. Is that where you are currently staying? Perhaps I will see you there!



26 Renee January 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

Hi, Brian. Thanks for commenting. Yes, we were indeed at Hotel Perico, though we’ve moved on now. It’s a friendly place. And if you’ve got a dog, it’s the best hotel in Lake Chapala/Ajijic.


27 Sheila January 18, 2014 at 8:48 pm

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that to live in Mexico full-time, .one must qualify financially. Prior to moving here it would be wise to consult with the nearest Mexican Consulate to find out the requirements. Good luck! It’s a great place to live.


28 Renee January 19, 2014 at 9:02 am

Thanks for commenting, Sheila, though I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. Mexico has a variety of visas for short-term (under 6 months) or long-term stays, not all of which require financial pre-qualification.

Yes, it’s always a smart idea to check legal requirements for living in a new country. Every country has various rules and requirements to be met by long-term visitors.


29 Brian January 21, 2014 at 7:12 am

I am going down in March to scout thing out. Yes, Spartacus is my boy and we are a pair. I don’t go far without my boy.


30 Renee January 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Good for you, Brian! I can’t leave Archie for long either. He’s my soulmate dog. 🙂


31 Karen January 22, 2014 at 8:27 am

We were thrilled to find this same ‘eco-hotel’ this past week and instead of staying just one night we’ve decided to stay for about 7 weeks. Staying-put can certainly help with the finances. The 9 of us are paying $500USD total for 2 suites connected; they were very accommodating to make it work for us. Wish we could get our food budget as low as yours, Renee, but these kids love to eat, and dh likes the beer, too. I could do with losing some inches. Maybe we’ll have to move on to Morelia and walk everywhere, too, someday.

Awesome blog, by the way.


32 Lisa Gerhart February 9, 2014 at 10:29 am

Hi Renee,

Thank you for your great blog. I found this today when I was looking for a quiet place to stay for about 3 months to work on my computer. I really like everything about the place.

I have one question for you since I don’t have a car. You may or may not know the answer this question because you do have a car. How much does the taxi ride cost to go to the main road to buy groceries, etc.? Once you are on the main road, is there public transport? I like to add this to my budget since I am also on a fixed budget like everyone else.



33 Renee February 9, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Lisa…the cost of a cab into town is 60 pesos. Sometimes you can get a ride from another resident heading down the hill. Everyone’s pretty good about helping out those without cars.


34 Chris February 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

I met someone who’s staying there with her cat and she loves it. Does anyone know a similar place down off the carretera?


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