January 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

There is free art all over Mexico like this mural on a house outside the pyramid at Cholula.

Wow! January was our cheapest month of tracking expenses since I started doing so in February of last year! I don’t know if it is just all the stars lining up, that we are getting better about spending money, or because we have been traveling in Mexico. I find it interesting because some things like gas and camping are way more expensive here – but visiting museums and eating out is way cheap! Perhaps it all balances out.

Total Money Spent

Although we are spending mostly pesos while we are in Mexico, I have converted all expenses here into US dollars. Because the exchange rate is different every time I get cash from an ATM- it is a bit of a process to convert. Luckily, I like playing with numbers.

And so here is the total for everything we spent in January:


And here is the break down of what we spent in sheet form:

And here is a version you can download.

We spent almost two weeks in Mexico City this month and the rest of the time traveling and exploring in the states of Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, and Oaxaca. All of our expenses were pretty normal – no surprises, no dental expenses, no van repairs — so what did we spend money on? Let’s look at some of the numbers and see…

Camping spot at Jardín Botánico Helia Bravo Hollis. This spot was a little pricey at 300 pesos (about $15 US) per night – especially considering there were few amenities (no shower or wifi), but it was there when we needed it and absolutely gorgeous.

Van Living Expenses

These are all expenses relating to the van itself, living in the van, and traveling in the van. The total for January:


Our biggest expense here was camping at $198.00. This expense hurts a little. There is so much free camping in the US. Not so in Mexico. I am learning to accept it. The next biggest was gas with $154.47. Since Ballena Blanca was parked for a good bit of January in Mexico City, the gas expense was lower than most months.

Our other van expenses were for insurance, $96.63 and $2.40 for 24 gallons of water.

Unfortunately we buy most of our produce in the grocery store since we never know where we are going to be and if there is going to be a Mercado. But I’m pretty sure we picked up some these pretty apples and bananas from this Mercado in Malinalco.

Groceries and Booze

This is food and alcohol we buy a grocery or liquor store as opposed to in a restaurant.

– Food and Booze

Food: $168.56
Booze: $73.76

These numbers are low since did a lot of eating and drinking out in Mexico City. I find that groceries are somewhat cheaper here and beer is definitely cheaper.

Cooking Tlacoyos in the mercado in Malinalco. Mexican street food is cheap and amazingly good. Two tlacoyos costs us 30 pesos (about $1.50 US).


This category is for eating and drinking out, live music, museums, and attractions. Here are the breakdowns:


Almost two-thirds of this number, $190.80, is for eating and drinking out – if you balance this against what we didn’t spend in food and drink in January, we probably did pretty good. The rest of the money in this category went to Museums, Lucha Libre, bathroom expense when we are out (Clean bathrooms with toilet paper and seats on the toilets cost money – although not much – in many places in Mexico), and tips for street performers.

The Voladores are everywhere. We saw these flyers in Cholula. Great entertainment for however much you want to throw in the hat when it comes around.



One of the things that is super cheap in Mexico is prescription and over-the-counter medicine. When is the last time you ever paid so little for prescription medicine without insurance?

We have buying gifts for family and friends as we travel. It is fun trying to find that perfect gift for someone. These flowers, baskets, and dinosaurs were all woven with dried leaves from local plants in a small town in San Juan Raya in the Reserva de la Biósfera Tehuacán-Cuicatlán. The owner of this booth wasn’t around, but the guy who was manning the ecotourist center where there were several booths just like this left and found us another craftsperson with a booth – she got the sale.


These are the same kind of household expenses that you might have even if you didn’t live in a van or on a boat. Like toilet paper, clothes, personal items, laundry, and phone/data plan.


The biggest expense here, $86.12, is our phone plan with Google Fi. We could probably find a cheaper plan but I have been so happy with Google Fi in Mexico. We have up to 15 gigs of data and international phone calls are inexpensive. I had to make two phone calls to the repair shop about my computer when it was being fixed in Guadalajara. The first call cost me $1.20 (6 minutes at 20¢ a minute), but for the second, I made sure I was using WiFi and it only cost me 10¢ (10 minutes at 1¢ a minute).

We have also been spending money on all the usual stuff as well as finding the perfect gifts for family and friends.

I love how the shops spill out onto the sidewalk like this one in Cholula. They are fun to look at from the outside but we rarely go in them, preferring to buy things directly from a craftsperson.



Travel expenses include all of our costs for riding the subway and our bus trip to Teotihuacán when we were in Mexico City. Also included here are toll costs in Mexico – toll roads are everywhere and although we usually try to keep this cost down by avoiding them and taking the more scenic and sometimes rougher routes, every once in a while we just want to get somewhere fast or are tired of all the bumpy roads and those potholes or topes (speed bumps) that send things flying in the back of the van.

Bread vendor in Malinalco. Bread looks so good in the Mercados, but all of the breads we have tried in these open air markets are sweet – so we stick to our supermarket bread.

No Manches


A tour guide in Guadalajara told us that “No Manches!” means “Oh My God!” in English. I added this category for unexpected expenses like getting our computer repaired. We hope we have seen the first and last of the No Manches expenses

Tips for saving money in Mexico…

Gas is expensive in Mexico running anywhere from $3.65 to $4.05 US a gallon depending on the current exchange rate. We have found that gas is more expensive once you get inside a city center so we always look for gas stations on the edges of town. We also have an app on our phone that helps us find the cheapest gas called Gasoapp. Gasoapp works a lot like the GasBuddy app does in the US with prices, reviews, and directions. Gasoapp also has symbols denoting the closest and cheapest gas and most expensive for quick decisions on the go. The only problem with Gasoapp is that it only shows gas stations in a 20-kilometer radius. Of course, since we are traveling across the country we often want to know where the gas is up the road a bit. I have another app for that, Guía Pemex, which also has prices and locations. Unfortunately, Guía Pemex only shows where the state-owned Pemex stations are. But sometimes on a long haul through the middle of who-knows-where, it is just good to know if there is any gas up ahead at all.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

So what do you think? Do you track your expenses? How does this compare to your sticks and bricks expenses or your traveling expenses? Are our expenses less or more than you would have expected?

4 thoughts on “January 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Well done, you guys! About $1200 a month, that’s what we are talking about! 🙂 Gas was about the same price in California this winter. Pretty crazy. Although, we buy diesel, which has a higher price in the US. That being said, as we are still in California, we have been “milking” our tank, waiting to fill it in Arizona. Almost!

    I think one of the reasons your expenses are lower than usually is because you paid for the AirB&B in December, so that actually gave you two weeks of “free” nights in January, while you might have had to pay more for camping otherwise. Or, for water and maybe other utilities.

    Oh, I forgot to mention in one of your last posts that in Belgium (and other European countries) you pay for public bathrooms as well. It drives Mark crazy and it is a reason why so many men pee in the alleyways…

    Keep it up!

    1. Yes, the paying ahead for lodging kept January’s cost down – but on paper it looks really good. We haven’t really had a normal month here in Mexico yet, but I think the next two will be good also.

      I haven’t noticed anyone peeing in the street while have been here in Mexico but Greg said when we were in Mexico City and he was on the front balcony practicing his accordion he saw guys peeing on the street below. I guess they do it but are pretty discreet about it.

      We were in the bar the other day and I needed to visit the potty before I left. The bartender gave me a pass to go to a restroom at a separate business adjacent to the bar. Oddly I felt weird for getting a free pass and not paying. It was a very nice bathroom.

    1. Yeah – we picked up a little slang in Mexico! I had sort of set myself a budget of $2000 a month for Mexico – so we did pretty good. I think if some of the expenses (gas prices) come down in Mexico lots of people will be on the road on the “fun side of the wall.”

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