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‘Here’s what you can buy here for $5 or less’


Even though I lived there for years Mazatlán, Mexico for 15 years, I still find myself surprised at how much — or, really, how little — things cost. The prices drop once you move away from tourist destinations and resorts.

Being a single, 66 year-old retired person, I must be careful about what I spend. Mexico has a lower cost of living. $420 per month for an apartment half a block from The beach. Aside from my basic necessities, I also spend about $160 each month on food, entertainment and occasional quirky purchases.

A country in which the minimum wage is the equivalent of $8 to $12 per day, here’s you can buy for $5 or less:

1. Everything you need to know

One reason I enjoy living in Mazatlán is how affordable my monthly living expenses are. For these basic necessities, I spend $5-$6.

  • Monthly water bill for two bedrooms apartment
  • When I don’t use air conditioner, my monthly electricity bill
  • Hand car washing at its best
  • For two hours, you can garden
  • House-cleaning Service for 1 Hour
  • A small but decorative palm tree that I can use in my apartment

These palms are an inexpensive décor option.

Janet Blaser

2. Groceries

Mexico offers fresh products like dairy products and meats on a tight budget. Buy seasonal to keep the prices down. For $5, you can buy half a dozen of these pineapples right now. You can get 16 pounds of mangos for $5 in summer.

Mangos, when in season are so affordable it’s amazing 1 kilogram equals 22.2 pounds. 15 pesos are not even one. The math is easy!

Janet Blaser

If I have $5 to spend on groceries, it is possible to buy almost anything:

  • 40 eggs
  • Ten pounds sugar
  • Fresh ginger, 5 lb
  • 5 lb of turmeric root
  • Eight heads lettuce
  • 12 pounds carrots
  • 10 pounds of tomatoes
  • Avocados – 3 lb
  • Fresh oysters: 10
  • A pound of fresh-caught swordfish or dorado
  • Whole roasted chicken, potatoes, salsa and tortillas
  • 3 inch wild-caught shrimp weighing 1 lb
  • 4 quarts local organic milk
  • One-half pound organic coffee beans, freshly roasted.

A pound of fresh wild-caught shrimp costs about $5 — cheap enough to have it whenever I want.

Janet Blaser

3. Get your drinks and beers

They say beer is cheaper than water in Mazatlán, and sometimes that really is true! Small cafés on the beach will serve cheaper drinks than fancier restaurants, but compared to the U.S., alcohol prices are inexpensive everywhere.

Here’s what you can get for $5:

  • A 10-pack of Pacifico or Tecate beer 
  • Two 3-liter bottles of Coke
  • 15 gallons of purified water
  • Two 3-liter bottles of Coke
  • Two liters of freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • A cocktail made with name-brand alcohol
  • Four big bottles of Topo Chico mineral water
  • Two cappuccinos or lattes
  • A 16-ounce draft of artisan beer, plus another 5-ounce pour
  • Three fresh coconuts

4. Full meals

Going out to dinner in Mazatlán doesn’t have to break your budget. There are many affordable cafés and taco stands where meals hover around $5. 

At some more “formal” restaurants, certain entrées can be within this budget, too.

Going out for lunch in Mazatlán doesn’t have to break your budget.

Photo: Janet Blaser

Here are some of the things I’ve had for $5 or less:

  • Three to 10 street tacos
  • Three restaurant tacos
  • An order of Huevos Rancheros with coffee and juice
  • A BLT
  • A burger with fries
  • Eight boneless chicken wings and beer on tap
  • A dozen chicken wings
  • Seafood or tortilla soup
  • A four-topping medium pizza at Dominos
  • Almost a pound of grilled pork ribs
  • Four large croissants

At my local bakery, I can get four of these buttery croissants for $5.

Photo: Janet Blaser

5. Fun activities

Mazatlán is known for banda, a traditional Sinaloa music style that sounds like horn-heavy German polka. You can enjoy a private concert from a strolling band on the beach for $5.

But that’s not all you can do with a $5 budget. That’s enough for:

  • A bicycle rental for a little more than an hour
  • A salsa class
  • A yoga class
  • A Zumba class
  • A reserved seat at a movie theatre
  • A dozen red roses, for a great date
  • Three round-trip boat rides to Stone Island — a small, beach island to the south of Mazatlán

$5 gets you three round-trip boat rides to the peaceful Stone Island, south of Mazatlán proper.

Photo: Janet Blaser

6. Health products

You’ve heard that medicines, doctor visits and prescriptions are significantly cheaper in Mexico. But what will $5 really get you? These necessities:

  • Two consultations with a licensed doctor
  • A 236-milliliter bottle of Pepto-Bismol
  • 30 600-milligram ibuprofen tablets
  • 30 550-milligram Ciprofloxacin antibiotic tablets
  • Four Oral-B toothbrushes
  • Three tubes of Crest or Colgate toothpaste

Pet not feeling well? A basic vet visit or a shot of antibiotics is also just $5.

7. Transportation