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10 Tips for Having a Low Cost of Living in Latin America

Published August 20, 2020 in How to Make a Living Abroad - 0 Comments

As I discussed in this article here

It can often be quite cheap to live in Latin America.

However, that will vary quite heavily by where you are living and what your standards are obviously.

Either way, I figured I might as well give some of my personal tips for how to have a low budget when living in Latin America.

I remember in my first year living in Mexico City…

Spending a decent amount of money and then having to cut my cost of living to 600….

Before cutting it to 300 sometime later…

So, suffice to say, I know a thing or two about how to cut cost of living down here.

So I will give you some tips here from what I learned.

Many of them are obvious and others perhaps less so.

So let’s get into it!

Tip 1: Learn Spanish

If you are new to Latin America, you will realize over time that some people will try to fuck you over for being a gringo.

When some locals see you, they have dollar signs in their eyes and go “oh si si un gringo! Ya veo!! Dinero!!!”

And then will run up to you in broken ass English “friend…friend….FRIEND!!!! HOW R U !!!!!!!!”

Before trying to convince you that their fucking balloon is worth 20 dollars and you should buy it.

Or maybe you are looking for apartments online…

And some local Latino published some ad for an apartment that is in English in Mexico.

Now how many people who are Mexican are looking up advertisements in English for an apartment in Mexico?

Unless they were deported from the US and never learned Spanish growing up because they lived in the US…

They will be looking for it in Spanish.

So who the hell are these locals marketing to?

You!

They want your business because they know you come from a country where people are comfortable spending a 1,000 USD a month for a place or more…

Where you may not know the locals prices…

And have more money in the bank ideally…

So while they would charge normally 300 for a place, they will charge you 500.

So first and foremost, be wary of anyone trying to do business with you in English.

They are not all trying to scam you but a lot of the scammers I have met tried to speak English with me.

Second, learning Spanish in general will just make it easier for you to find better deals and….

Tip 2: Negotiate

This isn’t the US where prices are always firm.

Many times, they can be negotiated.

Go into a market and see different things sold…

Looking for something specific?

Don’t buy the first thing you see that you are looking for.

Ask the vendor the price and ask other vendors in the area what the price is that they have for whatever it is you are looking for.

It’s not likely all 5 vendors are going to give you a shitty price.

So now you will have a better idea on what to pay.

Also, as a side note, having local friends can help you with this also.

Where they can give you an accurate idea of how much one would normally pay before you go to a market for example.

Take your negotiation skills to the taxis also.

Need a taxi and it stopped for you?

Do. Not. Get In. The. Fucking. Taxi. Without. Asking. For. A. Price. Beforehand.

Knock on the window or open the passenger door and ask the guy what the price is for x place.

Now if you don’t speak Spanish, expect to get ass fucked.

If you ask for the price while the taxi ride has already started, give yourself a 40% of getting ass fucked.

With Spanish but with an accent? Maybe 20% likelihood he gives a bad price.

You can negotiate it down easy though but if he don’t bite, go find someone else.

Negotiations can also be taken to rentals as well – staying at an Airbnb for a long time? Negotiate on the price.

But better yet just look for an apartment and if you are staying longer than what the host requires for a minimum stay, you might be able to get a lower price.

I’ve done that before and some will work with you and others won’t.

So negotiate.

Tip 3: Transportation

So talking about taxis before and how to work with them…

Another thing to keep in mind is replacing those taxis with ubers…

But better than that…

If you really want to lower your cost of living, you can live in a small city where you won’t need it 99% of the month.

When I lived in Pachuca, Mexico, I only needed to take these combis – small little vans that pick people up along specific routes to specific destinations – whenever I went grocery shopping.

I think it was about 9 pesos a trip. So let’s say I go to Soriana twice a month and spend 36 pesos for two round trips with the combis.

That’s less than 2 dollars for monthly transportation.

Then there are cities like Cochabamba, Bolivia or Xela, Guatemala where I never needed public transportation really.

Outside of leaving a bar late at night and needing a taxi or whatever.

But if you happen to live in a city that is much bigger like Mexico City…

Well, the metro works just fine – 10 pesos or 50 cents for a roundtrip.

It really doesn’t factor that much into my monthly costs but these are the ways to either significantly reduce or basically eliminate the transportation cost of your budget.

Tip 4: Liquor Savings

If you like to drink a lot, here are some obvious tips I used anyway in saving money.

First, going to a local store like an Oxxo and buying those bigger bottles of beer that have like a liter or more in them each.

These stores often have decent deals for those like 3 for 2 or whatever.

Good thing is that you can return the empty large bottles later and get some of the money back for returning them.

It’s been a while since I’ve done that but it does help cover some of the cost for more beer later.

Though, as you already know, just skipping beer and going to the liquor is better.

In Mexico, I often see vodka as the cheapest.

You can get 3 for 2 deals down here as well but not always.

Outside of drinking at home though (which is the biggest money saver for drinking if you skip the bars)…

Well, looking for a bar to drink at…

In my experience, the bars that don’t have any or too many customers can, as you expect, have lower prices at times.

Or good deals!

So just keep some of these obvious tips in mind for liquor savings.

Tip 4: Eating at Home Pointless?

It’s often believed that eating out can be more expensive than eating at home.

Not necessarily…

There’s a taco place near me that sells these small tacos for 4 pesos a piece.

They are small though but if you get 10 of them, you will feel good.

Now that’s 40 pesos or 2 USD roughly.

In all honesty, there’s not too many meals you can cook at home that will be cheaper than that unless you cut on portion sizes.

At least that I know of anyway.

Maybe a box of Mac n Cheese for 20 pesos will be cheaper but I can’t think of too much.

Most of my meals anyway that I cook at home will usually range between 40 to 60 pesos with some being as high as 100 to 120 pesos if I get nicer meat.

So while cooking at home is not a bad thing…

It’s not necessarily always going to save you money compared to some of the food you can get outside.

Especially if you don’t live in a touristy area of a big city or some super touristy area like Cancun I guess.

Back when I lived in Pachuca (a small city in Mexico), I remember seeing hamburgers sold on the street for like 35 pesos more or less.

So, if you don’t feel like cooking while down here, then don’t worry.

You can perhaps find something comparably cheap outside.

Tip 5: Neighborhood Selection

Let’s say you want to live in Polanco of Mexico City…

A nice neighborhood that is fairly expensive.

Though I have never lived in Polanco…

I have heard that supposedly you can get cheaper rents for it by living in a nearby area called Anzures.

That’s what I remember hearing but I have never looked for apartments in that specific area of Mexico City.

Which doesn’t surprise me anyway – I’ve done that before by living in neighborhoods that are cheaper next to the more popular neighborhoods.

Where the distance isn’t much and you can enjoy those nicer neighborhoods to the side on some quick visits without paying the money needed.

On top of that…

You can also choose to live in neighborhoods that have more universities and where you might find lower rent available.

Another thing also when it comes to neighborhood selection – it’s not a bad idea to live in a middle class neighborhood that is normal and doesn’t have anything touristy.

Some expats who live down here are too much of a fucking pussy to ever leave Condesa, Roma, Polanco or any touristy area.

Like the second they step outside they will shanked in the kidney by the ghost of Pablo Escobar who is using an aids-infected, covid-infected, zika-infected knife.

Don’t be a pussy – you probably will be OK living outside the touristy neighborhoods.

Just don’t be stupid when outside.

And it can save you some money.

Now only with rent each month…

But also if you go for lower quality apartments in middle class neighborhoods, I sometimes see it a little more common to find places like that which don’t require a deposit.

Just the first month’s rent.

But I’m talking places that only cost like 3000 pesos a month anyway.

Or like 150 bucks.

Granted, you get what you pay for – I had a place like that in Cuatro Caminos and it sucked.

But if you are low on money, then it’s an option, I suppose.

Tip 6: Cheaper City

Obviously it’s not just the neighborhood of where you should live…

But also the city.

When I was looking for places in Pachuca..

I managed to get a nice apartment in the city center area for like 250 bucks a month. All furnished, utilities included.

But given that I like to save money…

I was thinking to myself “why not live in one of these rooms for rent that costs like 60 bucks?”

There were plenty of them!

And also small apartments for even cheaper at like 130 bucks.

There was one apartment I found for 130 and it was way up in some hill looking area of the city.

Based on Google Maps, it looked a bit sketchy.

“Probably alright – if I get shanked in the kidney only a few times, it should be worth it. Looks cheap!”

My girlfriend at the time, who knows Pachuca, rightly pointed out “no, no, let’s not get shanked in the kidney…How about live in a normal area of the city?”

And she pointed me in the right direction and I got the fancier place for 250.

Probably the right decision.

Which again highlights a previous point – how a local can help you out when it comes to stuff like this.

To also how you can live cheaply in other cities that are not touristy.

If I wanted to, I could have gone with a 60 dollar room to myself with roommates in areas that looked safe in Pachuca.

And other small, non-touristy cities of Latin America can be like that.

So keep that in mind.

Tip 7: Portion Sizes

This is more for us Americans who like to have bigger portion sizes with our food…

But I remember I used to date this one chick a long time ago who would only spend like 60 bucks a month on groceries.

Now she wasn’t poor really – her parents came from a decent enough family and provided her money to eat.

Whatever she needed really.

And she only needed 60 bucks apparently.

But her portion sizes were much smaller than mine.

Though she was happy with that – she didn’t need to eat much more I suppose.

If you can help it, I wouldn’t suggest you cut your diet down to barebones – especially if you are a guy – as such a diet would probably lead to muscle loss and not give you adequate protein.

But assuming you are somehow that desperate – I guess it’s an option.

One tip for it by the way that is obvious – go for foods that fill you up easier like apples or eggs.

Stuff like that so you feel more full with the right foods.

No junk food ideally.

Tip 8: Apartment Hunting

How to find an apartment is also key to having a lower cost of living.

For one, as I said before, be cautious with any landlord trying to sell you in English their apartment.

Not always a scam but it more often is from what I have seen.

Second, using Facebook groups that are meant for the locals can often be a good way as well to finding apartments.

Just go to Facebook and type in Spanish “departamentos en renta en x city”

Or whatever else really.

You can also go outside and just keep an eye out for any postings for apartments.

You know, someone putting up a sign that has a number and an offer.

Those tend to be cheaper from what I have noticed.

You also have sites like Vivanuncios where there are apartment offerings.

I’ve tried to use it before but the people there never seem to answer or whatever.

But I have a friend down here who uses that stuff and he says it works out great for good deals.

So your mileage will vary.

Finally, when it comes to cost savings and apartments…

Never EVER send the deposit to a place until you have seen it in person.

It’s a common scam where someone will tell you “well, my apartment is so popular and everyone and their grandma wants to live here! I got so many possible clients. You better send me a deposit RIGHT NOW so you can guarantee it is yours.”

You send the money. They disappear.

Only give the deposit and the first month’s rent when you are there to sign the contract, get the keys and then you give them the money.

Tip 9: Go Raw

Seriously, if you are so low on money that you need to live down here on less than 500 to 1,000 bucks a month…

Then…

Like….

Who needs condoms?!?

For real – they fuckin suck anyway and take all the pleasure out of sex.

And packs of condoms are like 3 dollars a pack.

Now if you are out here like a slayer…

A chad…

Then you will be running through those costs quick enough.

So either go raw in the pussy and forget those condoms…

Or have yo hookup girls give you blowjobs instead where you won’t get her pregnant that way…

It’ll help you cut the costs down a little bit…

Tip 10: Roommates

Obviously, having roommates can make a big difference in lowering your cost of living as rent makes up so much of it.

Where your cost of living can be as low as maybe 60 bucks in Pachuca to maybe 150 in Mexico City.

Not much more needed to be said on this – get a roommate if needed.

And now that we covered the basic tips here for lowering your cost of living..

Let me cover two basic tips for improving your income or financial situation so that you don’t have to worry about living on less than 500 to 1,000 bucks a month…

Tip 1: Earn USD

Living down here by being an English teacher?

Stop that.

Unless you make good money though, then keep doing it…

But don’t be one of those broke English teachers only making 500 bucks in pesos a month..

Truth is, you can make decent money online assuming you have the contacts, marketable skills that can be done remotely or some brand that you have built online that can make you money.

And assuming you can muster together a few income streams online, then you can really start feel comfortable down here beyond just 500 to 1,000 USD a month.

Of course, that takes time and isn’t done overnight.

I wouldn’t jump down here again necessarily like I did without developing some online skills ahead of time.

Because though I had fun in my first year in Mexico City…

It involved an ass kicking afterwards to get my shit together and figure out how to make money online fast.

So, if you haven’t moved down here yet, then spend the time learning how to make money online first.

More thoughts on that here…

And regarding home…

Tip 2: Go the Fuck Home!

Yeah, that’s right…

I’m talking to you.

Go the fuck home!

Get the fuck out of Latin America if you can’t afford it!

Home? It’s that way! *points north*

In hindsight, it was a bit stupid of me to be desperate enough to move to a shit neighborhood with a budget of 300 bucks…

I could have just moved the fuck home, got a job, build up some savings in USD while working on my online income over there..

Then when ready, move the fuck back to Mexico City.

Granted, it got my ass working when I ran out of money and now I am financially comfortable again.

But in hindsight it was pretty stupid.

It was all because I wanted to “hold onto the dream” and not go back home empty handed.

Leave your ego at the door.

Trust me, Latin America isn’t going anywhere.

It’s not going to just suddenly vanish and all the fun with it.

So if you are struggling and trying to figure out how to spend 500 bucks a month or whatever…

And that money isn’t allowing you to be comfortable enough..

If at all possible you can head back home, then do so.

Latin America with all its beaches, big booty women and cheap booze will still be here for you when you get back!

And when you come back financially sound with savings and an online income, then you can have fun again!

Or you can have fun after living in a shit neighborhood and working 12 hour days in front of the computer until you have a solid online income like I did.

Then you can have fun and work those 30 hour weeks.

Whatever you prefer I suppose.

Anyway, if you have any tips of your own on how to save money down here or experiences with living down here..

Throw a comment below – I appreciate it.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

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