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Living in Cancun on $1,000 per Month

Dec 18, 2011 | No Responses

One of the bonuses of living in Cancun above and beyond the beaches and the bohemian atmosphere is the low cost of living Mexico has in comparison to the United States. And while it is true that if you wanted to live a rockstar lifestyle in the Hotel Zone you could easily spend 3-4k a month, if you are someone who appreciates having an upper middle-class existence at a fraction of the cost back in the United States, heading to Centro or one of the residential areas of Cancun is going to be exactly what you are looking for. It is entirely feasible to live extremely well on around $800 per month, or $1,000 a month if you are pushing the envelope and enjoy your tequila, beers and bars.

In the United States, your necessities boil down to needing at least $2,500 a month to upwards of $3,000 a month. In Cancun necessities come to $600 – $800 a month if you are living on the cheap, and top out around $1,000 per month if you are going out all the time to the bars and buying beers/drinks and paying entry fees.

Rent in Cancun averages around $400-$500 per month for a 2-3 bedroom, fully furnished, all-utilities included place if you are renting from English-speaking Mexicans or foreigners who own property and rent it out. If you speak Spanish and know how to negotiate and aren’t afraid to live in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, you can find fully furnished studio apartments for $250-300 per month, or fully furnished 2 bedroom apartments for around $300-$400 per month. The cost of food for a single individual is around $150 per month if you do a lot of cooking, or $250 per month if you mix it up between cooking and eating out. If you eat out exclusively, you can do it on a budget of around $300 per month.

At the basic level, if you assume around $400 per month for rent and $300 per month for food, you are at $700 per month. Tack on another $300 per month for entertainment costs and you are right at $1,000 per month. And the thing of it is, $300 per month in entertainment is a lot of outings in Cancun, because the cost of going out and doing things is basically nil in comparison to going out in the United States. Not to mention $300 a month for groceries gets you far more than what it would get you back in the States. It is entirely feasible to eat out 3 times a day and have decent Mexican food (quesadillas, tacos, chilaquiles, sandwiches, etc.) for $10 per day, but shopping at the store will save you half that if you like cooking.

You can use for researching actual costs of living in the United States to compare, because the data is gathered by real people paying real bills, and you can see numbers across the country ranging from $1,500 a month on the poverty end of things (sans car, living off of noodles, for example), to over $3,000 a month living in a nice neighborhood with all the fixings, such as Washington D.C., Seattle or Chicago. There’s also a fun little tool over at Kiplinger’s which helps you break things down into more detail. Their average per-month expense for a single individual is around $2,200. Meanwhile, in Cancun you are living like a king on $800-$1,000 per month, well beyond the poverty end of things in the United States. In essence, you are getting about $3,000 per month worth of costs out of $1,000 per month due to the lower cost of living.

According to the PDF for 2009, the 2009 median earnings of all working men aged 15 and older, regardless of work experience, was $36,331. Now, assuming for a moment you are one of the normal, everyday people of the U.S., which means an average of $2,500 a month needed for basic necessities (not counting taxes to the government or credit card payments). In short, you need around $30,000 a year just to pay for your basic necessities. But the interesting thing is that the$36k income figure is before taxes. If you use the salary checker over at you see that the average take-home pay after taxes is actually only $27,700 off of a gross income of $36,000, using Colorado as a baseline example, since it’s a mid-western state with an “average” cost of living.

So, assuming $30,000 a year of living expenses, it is impossible to actually cover all of your necessities on the average salary. Most people are forced to spend at least $3,000 a year in credit of some form just to make ends meet. And they certainly aren’t getting to head to the beach every day, kick back tequila and indulge in the bohemian atmosphere that is Cancun.

Taking a closer look at Cancun, you can take that average take-home pay of $27,000 against a cost of living of around $1,000 per month. Since you only need 12k a year for your expenses, you are left with $15,000 to spend as you see fit, after taxes and your total cost of living per year. And that’s assuming you only make the average salary of around 36k a year. The more you make, the more you save.

The bottom line is that what would normally cost you $2,500-$3,000 per month to have in the United States, you can do for $1000 or less in Cancun. This allows you the freedom to live your life in a far more relaxed manner without needing to stress about a ridiculously high cost of living, and as any doctor will tell you, the less stress you have in your life the healthier you are and the longer you will live, which means more time to enjoy the beaches and a brighter future to look forward to.

Author: T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is a location independent digital nomad who has been traveling since 1999 and living abroad in foreign destinations since January of 2008. Along with writing services offered through Complete Writing Solutions, he specializes in teaching people how to live like a local in cities and countries around the world via Marginal Boundaries

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