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Jul 27, 2009, 2:27 PM

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Re: [mskitty] Your low income/FM3 experiences

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Mskitty- I think your general approach is very valid. Come down for a bit and look around first. Plan on renting. Get your FMT at the border and sign up for an FM3 down here when you have definitely settled on a place to live for a length of time. $900/mo. is limited, but you can probably make it depending on where (and how) you choose to live.

If you look carefully, you can find a decent place to live in the Lake Chapala northshore area for $250-$450/mo. I know because my wife and I recently checked out rentals this Spring. It may be more difficult (but by no means impossible) to fine something like that in Ajijic, but there are plenty in Chapala, Jocotopec, and some of the other northshore villages. Look on the bulletin boards at the Lake Chapala Society, and the grocery stores where gringos shop. Real Estate agency rentals will generally be more expensive. Another option is housesitting. Many gringos live here only part of the year and contract with other gringos to stay at their place rent-free while they are gone.

If you avoid the more expensive gringo-oriented stores, and buy your food at the little tiendas, your fruits and vegetables and other basic foods will be very inexpensive. My wife can buy several meals (for 2) worth of fruits and veggies for about $1.00 USD. You can get a package of tortillas that will last you most of a week for about $0.60 USD. Mexico's national health care system (IMSS) should cost you about $250-300 USD annually. Most routine health care is very inexpensive and accessible, so we pay out of pocket rather than deal with the IMSS bureaucracy (no worse than Kaiser Permenente, by the way). A doctor's office visit will cost $10-12 USD. I could go on, but you will find out more by asking lots of questions when you come down.

We live in Ajijic in a gated community in a 2 br, 2 ba home with about 1500 sq ft. Our rent is $550/mo. We had to shop around, but we found our place without a lot of trouble. We drive a 4 year old car which we keep garaged most of the time, except for weekly shopping and trips to outlying areas to explore. Our gasoline costs us about $15-30/mo. USD depending on how much we drive.

We have tracked every penny of our overall expenses (computers are great for this!) and we have averaged $2100/mo. total for two people over the last 2 years. This includes a 3-5 day trip every couple of months to a colonial city in the Western Mexico area where we stay in nice hotels and eat at restaurants every meal. It also includes a new laptop computer purchase this Spring. We also eat out at local restaurants 3-4 times a week. If you exclude the trips, computer, and local restaurants, we probably average about $1600/month for 2 people for basic expenses. If we chose to live more frugally (a less expensive apartment, no gringo stores etc.) we could probably knock this down to $1300-1400/mo. for 2 people. That is not a far jump from $900/mo. for a single person, particularly if that person isn't paying for all the expenses related to a car, which many people down here do without.

As I say, you won't be living high on the hog, but you can be comfortable if you live simply and are careful with your money. If you can find a roommate, you can get a nicer place and share many expenses. Best way to find out is to give it a try.

RE: the FM3 financial requirements. All we have ever been asked for by local authorities in this regard is the last 3 bank statements showing income. What some people do, and it apparently works just fine, is to have a savings and checking account in the US. In the last 3-5 months before you must get (or renew) your FM3, transfer the amount of required income from your savings to your checking account each month. Then you will have the paper trail required, regardless of what your actual income is.

Good luck!

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