Saturday, April 20, 2024

Can I afford that? 7 things that once seemed out of reach are affordable in Mexico

Why did you move to Mexico?

I imagine there are a variety of reasons. Weather, culture, family, the ability to live comfortably on less. As an expat you’re likely hyper-aware of the talk around gentrification. You may hear that we, as gringos, are single-handedly affecting prices by overpaying for services because they’re so expensive back home.

Concerns over gentrification aside, there are serious advantages to being an expat in Mexico. (Hotels.com)

This is another topic entirely and one that I will steer clear of in this article. Whatever your or your neighbor’s thoughts might be on the rapidly changing economic situation that has arisen post-pandemic in nearly every city in the world, you chose to live in Mexico because you’re seeking a better quality of life. 

And now you have it. Enjoy it! Take advantage of items and activities that are now affordable and accessible. From indoor plants to Swedish massages, Mexico offers you the creative, relaxed and happy life you have always dreamed of.

The following examples are based on Mexico City costs. If you’re living in San Miguel de Allende, Mérida or Los Cabos, prices will vary.

Potted plants

The plant collection of your dreams is within reach thanks to Mexico’s very affordable markets. (Huy Phan)

In Miami, I once bought a basic rubber plant with a blue ceramic pot for US $75, and that was before inflation hit. To determine the current price difference, I looked at the cost of a 12.5 to 17-inch white ceramic pot at Home Depot and a plant to fill it in a boutique plant shop in the Historic Center. Then I asked friends who currently live in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto how much the same things cost in their cities.

In New York, a pot that size ranged from US $66 to $139. In Los Angeles, it went for anywhere from $66 to $148, while the same pot in Toronto cost from CAD $87.41 to $140. In Mexico City, it costs about 350 pesos (US $21). 

As far as the plant itself, a 10-inch majesty palm ranges from US $21 to $60 in my friends’ cities. In Mexico City? It’ll cost you between 100 and 400 pesos (US $6-24) —  if you’re quoted 400 pesos, go somewhere else! 

That’s a drastic difference in cost, even with the peso’s current strength against the U.S. dollar. For what it’s worth, I now live in an indoor garden.

Spa treatments 

From teaching to partaking, exercise has always been a huge part of my life. Even though I’ve always known the importance of body work to counterbalance things like weight lifting and high intensity cardio, I’ve never been able to justify the cost. 

In the United States, a one-hour private massage — and let’s be real, who wants to sign up for one measly hour? — hovered around US $150, and fancier spas could charge as much as $300. In Toronto, expect to pay at least CAD $130 for a 60-minute massage.

I don’t even have to consider the cost of a 60-minute massage in Mexico City. I immediately seek out pricing for a 90-minute deep tissue, and with a freelance masseuse you can expect prices between 900 and 1,300 pesos (US $54-78). 

Creative classes

Unleash your inner Frida with art classes – or, well, classes in just about anything really. (Elena Mozhvilo/Unsplash)

I had always wanted to take painting classes. In Miami it just wasn’t a possibility — not only was the cost high, but I simply didn’t have the time. It felt like maintaining an average lifestyle in the U.S. impeded pursuing any hobbies.

Here in Mexico, I have the time and the extra money, and let me tell you, it’s one of my favorite activities. 

If painting isn’t for you, consider lessons in:

  • Singing – Check out institutions like School of Rock or local music institutes for group or private lessons.
  • Dancing – Your local dance academy will likely offer classes, as will meetups in city parks like Parque México in CDMX. If you’re a member of a fitness class app like Fitpass, see what dance classes are listed.
  • Sketching – Art institutions, museums, and even local art galleries often host weekly or monthly sketch classes that are open to the public. 
  • Ceramics – Ceramics shops and museums regularly host pottery classes. Try Airbnb experiences for one-day workshops.
  • Cooking – A great way to find cooking classes is through travel operators, like Airbnb or Tripadvisor. Culinary classes can be booked at hotels like Mesones Sacristia in Puebla or in official cooking schools like Marilau’s Cooking School in San Miguel de Allende.
  • Languages – Nearly every city and town in Mexico offers Spanish lessons, either through private schools or universities. Online classes are available on apps like iTalki and Preply. Private lessons are affordable and can be conducted online or in person with recommended instructors like my teacher, Pao Arley based in Mexico City. If you’ve already mastered Spanish and would like to brush up for your upcoming trip to Japan, expat foundations like Fundación Japón México host free language lessons.
  • Martial arts – Apps such as Fitpass and Gympass offer a host of martial arts classes, as will your local gym. If not, ask any of the trainers to guide you in the right direction. Look into foundations or expat groups from Brazil or Korea that may offer workshops.

I could go on and on. The point is, if you have an interest in something and never had the chance to pursue it, now is the time!

For private painting lessons, I pay 600 pesos (US $35) for two hours. Group classes cost me 1,800 pesos (US $108) per month which includes one three-hour class per week. Prices will differ depending on the activity, but I’m confident it’s more affordable than anything you’re used to in Canada or the U.S. 

Personal fitness trainers

Speaking of personal, this one is personal to me. I taught yoga in Miami Beach for 10 years and charged anywhere from US $100 to $150 for a private, at-home, hour-and-a-half lesson. 

I knew personal fitness trainers who charged upwards of US $200 per hour, even for repeat clients!

Personal training in Mexico City runs between 200 and 600 pesos (US $11-35), depending on the experience of the instructor and the location of the session. For private yoga classes, you’re looking at between 850 and 1,000 pesos (US $50-60) for an hour. 

Fitness instructors are a fraction of the price of the U.S. – and every bit as effective. (Bruce Mars/Unsplash)

Alternative medicine treatments

I’m all about natural healing — give me all the herbs and all the reiki. Despite that, I never tried acupuncture until I moved to Mexico. I couldn’t afford it. 

Consultations in New York and Los Angeles range from US $75 to $300, with subsequent sessions of 30 minutes running anywhere from $50 to $150. In Toronto, the consultation fee is CAD $150 and follow-up sessions are CAD $80. Since acupuncture is not a one-time experience, you’re looking at a minimum spend of US $275 or CAD $470.

In Mexico City, a consultation costs 600 pesos (US $35) with follow up sessions ranging from 400 to 550 pesos (US $24-32), or a minimum of 2,200 pesos (US $130) for a consultation and five 30-minute sessions.

Dental work

I don’t even want to tell you how long it had been since I’d seen a dentist before moving to Mexico for the sheer fact that a simple cleaning in the U.S. was hundreds of dollars before the upsell — and, in my experience, there was always an upsell. 

A routine dental cleaning in New York or Los Angeles can run between US $127 and $150 when paying out of pocket. You might be thinking “no way, it’s double that,” but keep in mind that this is the lightest cleaning available. Deep cleanings can exceed US $1,200. In Toronto, dental cleanings start at CAD $200.

A cleaning in Mexico City ranges between 450 to 900 (US $26-54) pesos with a reputable, highly-rated clinic.

A good dentist is significantly cheaper than in the U.S. or Canada, even if you require treatments. (Caroline LM/Unsplash)

Housekeeping

What you pay domestic workers can be a contentious topic. I suggest keeping the rate to yourself or within the boundaries of a trusted group of friends. 

Cleaning services in Miami weren’t outrageous by U.S. standards, but they weren’t cheap either. Pre-pandemic, I paid US $100 for a four-hour cleaning in a one-bedroom apartment. According to personal and internet sources, prices in New York and Los Angeles run from about US $200 to $300 for the same service. 

In Mexico City, a four-hour cleaning for a one-bedroom apartment, which might also include cooking and laundry, falls somewhere between 300 and 600 pesos (US $17-35). Pro tip: always let the cleaner set the rate.

Concerned about contributing to prices rising? To avoid this as best you can, speak candidly with Mexican friends about what they pay for certain services. Not everyone will be willing to talk about pricing, but most will be happy to guide you in the right direction so you don’t overpay or push prices higher.

Remember: you moved here to enjoy life more. Things that were out of reach in your previous country don’t carry a hefty price tag here, so if what you want is better biceps or whiter teeth, rejoice in the fact that you can now have it. 

Bethany Platanella is a travel planner and lifestyle writer based in Mexico City. She lives for the dopamine hit that comes directly after booking a plane ticket, exploring local markets, practicing yoga and munching on fresh tortillas. Sign up to receive her Sunday Love Letters to your inbox, peruse her blog, or follow her on Instagram.

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