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The frugal expat

Today Tightwad is welcoming Theresa Diaz from What Do I Do all Day? about her life in beautiful Merida, Mexico. Tightwad is posting over at her site today, hope you'll come and visit! Welcome, Theresa, and congratulations on your new grandbaby!

When we lived in California we lived a frugal lifestyle. Almost everything in our house was second hand; even our pets came from the pound. When we made the decision to move to Mexico we didn't think that our habits would change that much.

Now after six years, I can say that we're still frugal but not in the same ways. I use my blender more than I ever did nob (north of the border). I still shop sales but that means that I know that the supermarkets have specials on vegetables on Wednesday .We buy our generic medications at Farmacias Similares on Mondays between 10am and 1pm and again from 5pm to 7pm, because that is when they offer an additional 25% discount. I know that the chain stores are more likely to run specials from the 8th of the month to the 14th, and again the 21nd thru the 30th since most people get paid the 1st and the 15th of the month. I've learned to ask independent vendors in the Mercado, if their prices are fixed and if they aren't to ask if the quoted price is their best price. I've even learned the fine art of bargaining.

In a country where labor is cheap, things get repaired. It's enough to make a tightwad cry tears of joy! Discovering that the cord for my antique electric samovar had stayed in California, I went to one of the many shops that sell replacement parts. The counter man kept pulling out cords from little drawers until he found one that fit. When I broke the jar to my Oster blender, he gave me a choice of plastic or glass, with lid or without. While I was there I picked up some extra gaskets for a total of about $7.50 usd. Checking online, I discovered that same jar selling for $16.99 but the gaskets were currently unavailable!

In California, I shopped at ethnic grocery stores; here I shop at the Mercado Galvez. It's like a flea market and farmer's market rolled into one. When I prepare Thai or Indian food, many of the ingredients are available locally but for some things require either someone bringing them down in their suitcase or buying them in specialty stores. The Liverpool department store (a high end department store chain) has an excellent imported foods section and an impressive spice selection. I miss Asia Mart and Food Max.

Amazingly, there aren't a lot of second hand stores in our city. People hang on to their stuff. There are plenty of upholstery shops and even people who will re-cane chairs. When furniture is expensive, it's more common to have things repaired. Once again we're living in a house mostly furnished with second hand, or as they say here half used furniture. Used cars and used furniture hold their value. The best deals are to be had when some expat decides to return home and sells off their household goods.

If something needs repairing, someone can be found to do the work. If the part can't be found, like when our radiator needed replacing, someone will make the part. Due to the high price of shipping and the 100% duty, it turned out cheaper to have a new radiator built for our car. When I called the Volvo dealership, I learned that Volvo began selling cars in 2002 in Mexico. Parts for our solid, practical and paid for 1997 sedan are unavailable.

It's easy to be frugal in a country where it's an accepted value. No one blinks an eye if Husband and I decide to share a plate in a restaurant. We live a nice life on a fixed income, but it isn't for everyone.


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