If you have stubbled upon our blog, and our experiences have whet your whistle, putting the thought of a move south of the border into your head, here are a few resources that we found that helped us with our planning and daydreaming and a few thoughts that may help with your research.
BOOKS TO READ
I read a lot and I love first person accounts of experiences, especially with regards to Travel. So when we decided to move to San Miguel I tried to read all the books about this beautiful town that I could get my hands on. I didn’t concentrate on travel guides since I find more up-to-date information available on TripAdvisor or even YELP. Here are some suggestions that are more interesting and are available through amazon.com. (If you plan on buying some please try to use the link as we will get a small stipend for leading you to them.)
Living In San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter by John Scherber
San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart by John Scherber
Expat Life: At Home in San Miguel de Allende by John Scherber
On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel by Tony Cohan
This is Mexico Carol M. Merchasin
Behind the Doors of San Miguel de Allende by Robert De Gast
Solamente en San Miguel Volume II, A Literary Celebration
Solemente en San Miguel Volume III, A Literary Collection
Tying Loose Ends in Mexico; Essays and Images from San Miguel de Allende by Peggy Stevens Falkenstein
Move to Mexico Bible by Sonia Diaz, Beverley Wood
Our Spanish teacher Regina Giampaoli just put out a guide Easy Guide To Spanish Verbs: Present Tense that you may want to take a look at.
We bought a Kindle on Amazon right before coming down here which was one of the best buys ever. We can use our library card number from the States to access our library on Overdrive and borrow books to read on the it. We also use Amazon Prime reading and Amazon has a Kindle Unlimited program with for a small monthly fee. There is a very good Biblioteca in San Miguel to get both Spanish and English books from.
MUSIC TO LISTEN TO
The music scene in San Miguel de Allende is fabulous and reasonable and Glenn will be doing a blog post on that soon. In the meantime enjoy some samples of the music of San Miguel de Allende. Gil Gutierrez owns Zandunga (a rancho outside of town) and Bistro Mi Casa (restaurant/music venue in the Instituto Allende). We have enjoyed both numerous times and don’t get tired of going, taking all of our visitors. Another fun group that plays with Gil for a number of months in the summer is Media Luna. This young trio (2 brothers and a cousin) is not only talented but extremely entertaining with their personalities and spirit. Other examples of the high caliber are Karin Allyson who did a jazz concert as part of the San Miguel de Allende International Jazz festival and Fernando de La Mora and Eugenia Leon who were part of an amazing free concert in the Jardin for the 250th birthday celebration of Ignacio Allende.
The Montauk Sessions with Gil Gutierrez (guitar) and Bob Stern (violin)
Lagrima del Toro with Gil Gutierrez
Some of That Sunshine with Karin Allyson
La Magica de Tu Amor with Fernando de La Mora
Corazon Mexicano by Eugenia Leon and Ramon Vargas
Agua de Beber (Bossa Nova and Boleros) by Eugenia Leon
LOOKING FOR A PLACE TO CALL HOME
Before we came to San Miguel the first places we looked were craigslist.org and AirBnb.com. And they are worth checking out. I just checked out craigslist.org again and they don’t seem to have as many nice options available anymore. It is very hit and miss. But they may be a possibility especially if wanting something short-term while looking for a long-term option. They aren’t regulated though so buyer beware and do your due diligence. AirBnb has some really good houses depending on the dates you want. And we have found that if you stay for longer than a week and better, a month, there are some great discounts. We have used AirBnb often and have had great luck with them.
We found both our houses by putting an ad on Yahoo Groups. There are two lists we have used. One is Yahoo Groups Civil_SMA_Renter’s Guide and the other is Civil_SMA. Both easy to become members of. The latter is used more for people giving information about things available in SMA, events, recommendations etc. If you use the Renter’s Guide to help you find a place make sure you give some good information about yourself, interests, background, hopes for your time in SMA etc. so that potential landlords get a feeling about you. Too often we see a notice that simple says someone wants a 2 bedroom near Centro and their dates and budget. How a prospective landlord is supposed to determine anything from that is beyond us. So give them something to work with. There are a lot of great people moving into San Miguel and our suggestion is to start looking early. We weren’t entirely sure how the location of our first house would work out so we committed to a month with the possibility of staying for 6 months. When we entered the house we immediately loved it, the location worked for us and we made good on that longer stay. We have rented both of the houses with gringos and this has given us the oh-so-nice option of paying by PayPal. We really like this since we do not have to be in town at the beginning of the month to hand over our rent. We just send it on over and it works easily.
We have several friends who housesit throughout the year. They may have to change their location every few months but for those on a budget this could be a great option. Usually housesitting opportunities seem to involve petsitting too. So if you love pets, check it out. We have seen listings in both the Yahoo Groups we mentioned above. There are also housesitting services that you can sign up with.
Another possibility for finding a place is to go to one of the many realtor offices in town. Our experience with visiting them though is that their offerings are a bit more on the pricey side. But they will have homes that you will not be able to find anywhere else.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE BUDGET
On the whole it is less expensive for us to live in Mexico than in the United States. And even though San Miguel de Allende is one of the more expensive places to be in Mexico we have found that our spending usually comes out less than our monthly income. So we are saving some money which is always a good thing. And we are doing so without scrimping. We have yet to stop ourselves from doing something because of the price. We have been able to find two beautiful houses to rent including utilities and maid, we attend musical and other events multiple times a month opting for the best seats, we eat well, attend Spanish class and more, with money left over.
Here is our main monthly budget to give you an idea (remember, we don’t scrimp and we usually spend less):
$1200 Rent (includes utilities, maid and we make sure to get a place with laundry)
$1100 Food/Restaurants/Grocery, Drinks
$70 Phone (We both still have a US number with T-Mobile mainly because everything is attached to that number and we haven’t dealt with the hassle of changing it. At 55 and older this is for 2 lines Canada/Mexico/USA)
$75 Everyday Doctor/Medical (we have a savings for anything major) Find out about our experiences with medical care here.
$300 Medications (mine are quite high)
$60 Personal hygiene (haircuts, manicure, shampoo etc.)
$50 Potable water (we usually go way under this as large bottles of water cost under $2)
$200 Education (our Spanish classes)
$65 Transportation (buses ($.35), taxis are cheap here, under $3 everywhere – a bit more at night or when raining)
$50 Misc. cash (tips to baggers at the shops, tips to musicians, public bathrooms, the Atencion newspaper, etc)
$25 ATM fees (we have found that we are coming out way less for this as we use Banamex with a Capital One 360 card at the ATM’s on the Jardin)
$70 General merchandise (clothes, toilet paper, etc.)
We pay $218 for a year of mail service with La Conexion. We have a postage box in Laredo, Texas with them where all our mail goes and then they bring it down to San Miguel where we pick it up at their office on Aldama. This has worked out well. There are extra charges for handling packages, which come down once a week. Minimum $4 per package or 17% of the value plus $1 per pound and $1 for insurance. This can get expensive. We find that for financial/government institutions in the US we still need a physical home address so we are using Glenn’s mom’s for now. But we have also opted for paperless delivery whenever possible, so we get very little mail from them.
We a have Capital One 360 checking account from which we withdraw cash (Limit is $300USD a day about 6000pesos at this time) from the Banamex either off the Jardin or across from La Comer. Capital One is great to have when traveling out of the USA since it does not charge a foreign transaction fee, which saves quite a bit of money. There is a fee for using the ATM but we have found that to be really cheap. The funny thing is that literally every time we have used the ATM the fee has been different. Same ATM, same 6000 pesos. The least we have been charged was $0 and the most $3.50USD. Weird, it makes no sense. We usually go to the bank 3-4 times a month. The rest of the time we use our Capital One Vantage card or occasionally our American Express gold. Both do not charge a foreign transaction fee. We have also heard that having an account with Charles Schwab and an ATM card for that account is a good option for the same reason.
We sold our car when we moved from the United States and have not looked back with any regret. Taxis in San Miguel are inexpensive, 50-60 pesos (between $2.50-3USD) and we typically use them only if we are out late at night, we have been doing some big shopping or if it is pouring rain. Buses are 7 pesos per trip ($.34) per person and I can get a small reduction by using my over 60 years old INAPAM card, but don’t bother because they are so cheap. We go to Queretero or Guanajuato once in a while usually when someone is visiting and ETN and Primera Plus first class buses are very reasonable and comfortable. $18 to Guanajuato, $13.25 to Queretero and $55 for Mexico City round trip. We can purchase the tickets at any OXXO.
If we are using the Queretero or Leon airport we get seats on the BajioGo shuttle for under $25 each way.
Being without a car is great too because we do not have the restriction of finding a house to rent that has a garage. This gives us more options. The parking situation is tight in San Miguel since the streets are narrow so we are also glad we don’t have to deal with that worry and I am an awful parallel parker.
If you do not have any prescription drug insurance in the United States then you should find that prescriptions are less expensive in Mexico. BUT, if you have health insurance up north that covers prescriptions then you may find that some are more expensive here. I was surprised to find this is the case because I had always heard about how cheap medications were in Mexico. We needed to adjust our budget accordingly once we started buying them.
I am Bipolar 1 and ADHD and have found my medications are very expensive and very difficult to actually find on hand. Many times I must order them in advance from the farmacias. Most medications come only in boxes instead of bottles so mine are usually limited to 14 or 28 in a package instead of a whole 30 days worth. I have also found that a change in dosage does not always mean a change in price. So if they do not have 80mgs on hand, but do have 40’s I have to pay double to get the right dose. I don’t think there is much to do about that except maybe check for alternative medications. Also every farmacia in town charges different prices for the same medication so shop around. We have heard that medications are available for holders of the Mexican public insurance Seguro Popular which is available to residents (both Temporary and Permanent). We just haven’t taken the time to start the process. Once we do we will let you know how that turns out.
We paid $473 Total for 3 years coverage for our Seguro Popular for the both of us (see our previous post “Our Experiences With Medical Care in San Miguel de Allende”).
If you like to read, and we have found ourselves doing a lot of it, get a Kindle!! There is a great Bibliotheca in San Miguel with a good English section but we have found that having a Kindle has been fabulous. We got the 6″ Kindle with built-in light and Wi-Fi and it works perfectly since it is small enough to take anywhere but still gives a big enough reading screen. It has really been wonderful for long bus rides, flights or just hanging out in the Jardin. We still have membership in our home library and have been able to get books through the Overdrive system. All you need is a current library card number and you can download 1,000’s of books. We also have Amazon Prime and can download books from that.
We hope this information has helped a bit for those of you who think San Miguel de Allende is a place to consider moving too. If you have any questions please comment below and we will try to provide answers. Mexico is a fabulous, interesting place to live with warm, welcoming people. If it is calling your name make a trip down to check it out. It might just grab you too.
A reader contacted us with a good question. John asked us how we managed our travels within our above mentioned budget.
We don’t, sort of. We have a separate savings account for our travels. Especially the ones of short duration that happen when we are still renting in San Miguel. For the ones lasting a month or more (like our upcoming Yucatan trip) we plan them out to occur in between rentals in San Miguel so we don’t double pay for accommodation. For these, aside from flights, travel insurance and some transportation we find that we are able to just transfer our normal monthly expenses over to our monthly travel expenses. This allows us to do the travel we love while still fitting regular daily expenses into our income.
If you, like John, have any questions about our lifestyle or travels please let us know. We would love to hear from you.