Kevin Trowbridge

Software Developer. Husband. I ❤ Webpages.

A Note on the Cost of Living in Mexico

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The amount of money I am being paid here seems to me like a funny joke, and I of course didn’t come to Mexico to become rich. It is a frustrating experience, however, not only to spend my savings to support myself here (while working my butt off from 9-5 each day), but also to witness the experience of the average Mexicans.

I am paid $4,800 pesos per month (the Mexicans use the same symbol, $, as we do to signify pesos), which seems to be average for an intern in Mexico. That equals $428 US per month, whereas as an intern in Minnesota last year I was earning about $2,500 per month (these figure are after taxes). In Mexico I am earning 17 % of what I earned in the US.

In Michigan people said to me, “Well, the prices are lower down there, aren’t they?” I believed this to be so at the time, but distressingly in Monterrey the prices are not much lower than in the US.

For example let’s consider a typical night out (prices in US dollars, assuming 11.25 pesos / dollar):

Cost of a night out in USA vs Mexico (2004)
Mexico USA
Movie tickets $4 $6.50
Gasoline (1 gallon) $2.26 $1.80
Dinner: $3.55 (tacos) $8 (hamburger)
(2 beers) 4.44 $6
Total $14.25 $22.30

* Mexican prices from my own experience and this site. US prices from my experience.

That puts the cost of the mexican night out at 63% that of the US night out. So my personal experience here is that I earn 80% less and spend 63% of what I would spend there!

There are mitigating factors. First we must acknowledge that what I am earning as an intern is not representative of the difference in wages between the two countries. In North America interns are paid well because they don”t usually live with their parents, have to move to a different city, own cars, etc. In Europe interns are often not paid anything as all! The Mexicans typically live with their families until they get married, and for this reason they can survive on lower wages and therefore they are paid lower wages.

However looking at official figures from the “CIA World Factbook” for USA & Mexico, it looks like my situation is, on the whole, representative of the difference in the cost of life between the US and Mexico.

Mexico USA
GDP per capita $9k $37k

9k / 37k = Mexican GDP is 23% of the American GDP.

So to sum things up—if your costs were to decline proportionally with your earnings, it wouldn’t matter at all. But when your earnings drop dramatically while costs remain about the same, that just sucks! It translates into less economic freedom: you can’t do as many things, you can’t buy as much stuff, you can’t make as many trips—which makes it harder for you to become educated or dress well.