Mexican PesosThe passing of January 2013 marks the end of our first full month on the road, and the beginning of a new series of posts:  A monthly exposé of all of our spending.  This will be updated regularly on the new Expenses page of the blog

During the planning process of this adventure, I came across countless travel blogs and stories, but few (if any) with useful information on expenses.  In an effort to fill this void, I’ll disclose the full details of every penny spent, with explanations.  Hopefully this will be a boon to future world travelers.

At the very least, it will keep us honest on budgeting and let us know if/when we get a little excessive.  One of the reasons we are starting our travels in Latin America is to provide a relatively low cost of living to counterbalance a future visit to Western Europe, so some checks and balances are in order

On to the details:

January 2013 was spent in Mexico, 5 days in Mexico City and the remainder 4 hours north in the city of San Miguel de Allende.

In Mexico City, we stayed at the Corinto Hotel for about $33 a night.  It was in a great location, making it easy to walk to a surprising number of local sights and within 2 blocks of the subway and an express bus stop.

We did a day trip to Teotihuacan, a huge archeological site northeast of Mexico City.  Total cost including bus transportation was less than $20, and is well worth a visit.  It was impossible for me to appreciate the amount of work involved in building this city 2000 years ago until I was standing on top of the Pyramid of the Sun.  It’s incredible, and that you are allowed to climb these monuments is a fantastic bonus to the experience

We traveled by bus from the Terminal Centro Norte to San Miguel de Allende, which took about 4 hours.  A first class bus with ETN, which was more or less like traveling First Class on a US domestic flight, cost $30.25 each.

Our first night in San Miguel de Allende, we stayed at the Hostel Inn in a private room for $31.  It was a decent and clean room, but for that price there are nicer places.  We had sent out a few Couch Surfing requests while in Mexico City, but none of them panned out, so we found this place last minute

In San Miguel de Allende, we attended Habla Hispana, a Spanish Language school, for 4 weeks.  It was full immersion 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, with an additional 6 hours of Spanish immersion each week in a group tour, a music class, and a cooking class.  Total cost for all of this was $560 each.  The level of growth was incredible.  Winnie had almost zero Spanish going in, and 4 weeks later is having conversations with shop owners and people in the street.  I would recommend this school to anybody that wants to develop or improve their Spanish skills

By chance, the school also had a casita for rent on the school grounds.  We had a huge bedroom with King-sized bed, a private bath, and communal kitchen and roof-top terrace, for $32 a night.  The commute to class in the morning was my favorite part 🙂

Food is a big part of our entertainment, and San Miguel has a plethora of fantastic restaurants that are great value by American standards.  A very nice dinner out for 2, with wine and dessert, comes to less than $40.  (I have a separate category for alcohol, but in the first month of this exercise I haven’t broken it out completely.)  We’ve sampled a wide variety of restaurants.  By contrast, delicious tacos in the street for 2 costs less than $4 and amazing tortas de carnitas for 2 can be had for $3.

Winnie fell in love with the patisserie El Petit Four, and has had a piece of cheesecake a day since we got here.  Everything I have had here has been the best I’ve ever tasted…  the cheesecake, the tres leches, the chocolate truffle cake, the raspberry tarts… it goes on and on.  Everything has a great balance, not too sweet, not too rich, just right.  As a result, we spent a bit over $200 here in January on coffee and pastries as we spent a couple hours each afternoon doing homework and studying.  We also took a cooking class for $150, which was spectacular.  It started with a 2 hour tour of the local market, sampling exotic fruits and buying ingredients for use in the class, and then 5 hours of hands on cooking and dining in a beautiful outdoor kitchen with a view of the city.  It was well worth it, although all of this is very much a luxury

Transportation costs are very low in San Miguel, since we walk everywhere.  We’ve taken 2 or 3 taxis, which have a fixed price of 30 pesos in the city (about $2.50.)

An unexpected expense came about while going through the X-ray machine during immigration.  I had quickly put our laptop into my bag without sealing the case or removing a USB dongle for the mouse, and then dropped the bag to the floor from knee height.  This forced the USB dongle inside the laptop case, cracking the motherboard.  Despite having the extended Apple Care warranty, I was informed that a drop wasn’t covered.  The authorized Apple reseller in Mexico City took 2 weeks to get parts and do the repair, after saying it would take 3 days, so I had to go back to Mexico City from San Miguel to get it.  Total cost, including transportation (but not including 10 hours of travel time and a lost Saturday), came to $949.  The original purchase price including extended warranty was $1195.  Oops

A note to Microsoft:  Maybe you could get rid of those stupid dongles.

We also ordered a new 1 TB portable HDD from Amazon for $97.77 for photo storage, which will be hand delivered by a friend next week

In summary, our actual costs were:

Travel Expenses Jan 2013 Notes
Location Mexico
Housing $1,000 5 nights in Mexico City, 25 days in SMA Spanish school
Healthcare $233 Our monthly HDHP premium
Transportation $103 1 way to SMA via 1st class bus; misc taxis, buses
Groceries $178
Dining Out $725 Includes $200 of cake and coffee and some very nice meals.  $100 of this is probably drinks
Alcohol $116
Misc $46 Includes a day trip to Teotihuacan, and SMA Botanical Gardens
Gifts $38 A bottle of tequila for a house warming party
Total Travel $2,439 $79 USD per day
Other Expenses Nonrecurring and atypical travel costs
Spanish School $1,120 1 Month of Spanish immersion classes, 4 to 6 hours per day
Laptop Repair $949 Cost of replacing motherboard and associated travel
Cooking Class $150 A full day market and cooking experience with Paco from El Petit Four
1 TB HDD $112 Photo storage
Total Other $2,331
Total Spending $4,770 $154 per day

We’ve been living a luxurious lifestyle with a luxurious price tag, with lots of room for reductions if needed or desired.  We’ve met people living in nice places here for $300 – $450 a month, compared to our $1000, and have seen advertisements for rooms for $50 a week.  That $200 a month cake and coffee budget could be brought down to a more wallet and waistline friendly $20.  For the price of 2 cappuccinos we purchased a whole bag of coffee beans, so this will come down in February.  We also don’t need a cooking class, Spanish class, a new HDD, or to fix a laptop every month.

Without these costs and staying in a place for $450 a month, we get to a very reasonable $1821 a month, about $58.75 a day.  A less bourgeoisie dining lifestyle would trim another several hundred from the budget, while still providing a great quality of life.  As we understand it, San Miguel de Allende is expensive by Mexico and most of Latin America standards, so on average costs will come down

Retire Early.

Travel the World.

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