"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, January 6, 2014

A List of Some Frugal Shopping Tactics in Mexico

I found Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette, in the late 1990s. She revolutionized my life for which I will be forever grateful.

Once I got the book, I tried to be a good tightwad.

In the states, I bought used clothes, used books and other items. I used her grocery price book idea and stocked up on staples like tuna, toilet paper, noodles, etc. and when items were on sale or marked down.

I had a route of a Asian grocery store for eggs and vegetables. A dollar store for some basics and a grocery store that had lower prices and good sales. Plus, I went to a discount bakery outlet once a week for baked goods.

One time, I found mayo on a special sale rack and took two. When I got to the counter, they rang up the retail price. I pointed this out and had to show the customer service representative the sale rack. I got them at the sale price. It pays to look for the same item in a store in different locations.

My goal was to make meals for under $1. I achieved that goal and much more.

Among other tactics, I saved refund checks, salary raises and more, I managed to save enough money to survive several financial crises. But, with the U.S. economy in the toilet, the loss of employment in 2011, and lack of affordable health care insurance, my only solution to survive was to sell my home and move to Mexico.

In Mexico, trying to be a tightwad has been harder, so far I use the following tactics:
  • use public transit;
  • for some prescriptions, I try generics;
  • buy bulk groceries;
  • compare price options like toilet paper - I choose the one with the most sheets. I avoid double sheets, colored or scented varieties;
  • look for sales;
  • look for banks with lowest ATM charges; and
  • follow exchange rate, use ATM or credit card when peso value is high.
While there are no used clothing stores like Goodwill here, there are weekly flea markets in various locations. Some are too far, some I can get to by bus. At the markets, you can get a variety of items from kitchen items to clothes. I found one lovely black and white, long, lacey, dress vest which I wear over a black dress or black pants for $70MX ($7US). I get a lot of compliments when I wear it.

Also, you can find "garage" sales at private homes. One great find was titanium frames for prescription glasses for $20MX ($2US). In 2013, I got new progressive lenses for $900.00MX ($90US) and used my yard sale frames.

There are tiendas (mom and pop convenience stores) on almost every block, where sometimes you can get a better price on some items.

There are food vendors in the open markets and those that set up stands along the streets at busy locations or who ride bike-driven carts selling pastries, fruit and more. The food vendors are the best bet for lower prices. But, there is one caution, sometimes "tourists" or Expats will get charged "foreigner" prices which are higher.

You can find several WalMart stores and Mexican food store chains. I go to Chedraui for bulk shopping. I am not always getting the best price but often there are items on sale that I can use. For me, saving time and cab money, is a savings.

I am working on a price book, so I can do better price comparisons.

Many Expats buy homes here as a way to save money on housing. I rent a 1-bedroom apartment.

To buy a house here, means paying a lawyer and a realty agent, it also means paying for renovations because many homes that are affordable are also fixer-uppers. So, in the end you can spend anywhere from $40,000US to $100,000US.

I don't have that much money to invest in a home. Plus, you have to add in the utility costs like electric, cable, water, trash and pool cleaning services. Many also hire housekeepers and gardeners. Plus, from my observations, Mexican homes, which are made from Yucatan cement, need frequent maintenance.

I pay $3100.00MX ($250-300US) plus electric which runs about $150.00MX every other month ($15.00US) for a one-bedroom apartment which suits my needs. The expenses vary based on the exchange rate.

I continue to calculate future expenses to try and determine other means of reducing my expenses.

When I first came in 2011, I investigated various clothing and grocery outlets trying to get a handle on prices. For clothing, most shops seemed to sell pants, skirts, tops, and dresses for anywhere from $100mx to $400+mx which is about $10US to $40US.

I found a shop that sold pants and tops for about $3.00US each, so I bought several pants and tops to mix and match and I have been wearing these clothes for over two years. While I do not have much variety in my "look", I have saved a lot of money on clothes.

Also, in this tropical climate, I, now, wear flip flops. After a search, I found a store that sold flip flops for about $2US, whereas in other shops they sold for $3-6+US. I have several pairs of flip flops in a variety of colors. I walk a lot and these flip flops are sturdy and hard to wear out.

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