Updated July, 2017 - Peso slides to 19.6 Mexican pesos to the American Dollar
The on-going plunge of the Mexican peso to the dollar is the largest since 1993, is due to a global economic downturn causing less demand for emerging markets assets, like oil.
From that point, the causes are fairly indecipherable to economic laymen, or at least they are to ex-pats from rural Oklahoma.
Looking online, I found a great deal of highly technical information about the devaluation from 30,000 feet, but nothing at the economically granular level of my grocery shopping. “Shouldn’t I be doing something?’ I wondered.
For example, would it make more sense to buy a new car in Mexico when the exchange rate is so favorable? Would a car really cost almost a third less?
Someone else floated the idea that I should move the income needed for my next six months living expenses to a Mexican bank account to take advantage of the exchange rate.
In what other ways would you feel the impact of the devaluation if you lived here?I pay my rent in dollars because my landlord happens to live in San Diego, but my electric bill, which runs about 1,100 pesos a month in the summer, has gone from $92 U.S out of my American bank account to $65.
My grocery bill last summer, including copious amounts of wine was 2,200 pesos ($183 U.S) every two weeks. Now it’s $131 (U.S). If I go to the best restaurant in town, my 260 peso (once $21) meal will cost $15.
Your financial strategy, however, as a expat should be to spend money like a Mexican so you need to know the Mexican value of things no matter what the exchange rate is. Spending like a Mexican is easy in grocery stores, restaurants and shopping malls, anywhere with prices fixed in pesos. Other times, you need to know a little about haggling.
Regardless of the exchange rate, you always have to be on guard for situations where you might be charged differently than the locals. Some touring companies see charging tourists more as perfectly reasonable, as a kind of “tax.” Don’t assume by the price that you’re getting a good deal just because of the exchange rate.
Some will even cite they are charging you more because of the exchange rate, which doesn't make any sense (you should be charged what Mexicans pay) and you need to tell them that.
Let’s say you want to rent a catamaran. The quote might seem cheap but still might be 30% more than it would be for the Mexicans behind you. Tour operators frequently charge tourists more than locals. If you find that annoying, you may need an intervention.
Happily, this is where friends come in. Mexican friends. Regardless of your level of Spanish, if you have a good attitude and a generous spirit, you will make Mexican friends if you live in Mexico.
I can honestly say that making friends in Mexico is no more difficult in Mexico than it was Denver, even with my often ridiculous and overly ambitious Spanish skills. I frequently ask them what they pay for things.
When I first moved here, relative strangers would stop me from paying what they thought was too much for something.
Will I be out there shopping? Absolutely! But I think I’ll drag a few friends along.
A very Mexican phrase that I just learned is “al pendiente,” which means someone is aware and watching out for you. When the appropriate cost of things gets confusing, it’s nice to have them around.
If you're traveling, things to consider about the exchange rate by Travel Agent.com
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Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico.
She is also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. Don't be one of those expats who doesn't speak any Spanish! Get started today!