Our family was lucky enough to spend some time in Mazatlan in July, and by “lucky enough” I mean we were smart enough to budget for it the rest of the year.
I love telling the story of how I told my girls they could choose between driving to Idaho and flying to Mexico IF they wanted to buy their own plane ticket there. I know it’s horribly uncool for kids to have jobs and pay their own way for things these days (cough cough), but we like it like that.
My three older girls babysit several times a week and have some of their own income. We’ve taught them to give away a percentage first every cheque (“It’s not all about you”), and save the rest for what they want later. Oh and not to go to 7 Eleven and bleed it out three bucks at a time.
By springtime they had all saved a fair amount of money, way more than they might need for a cheap plane ticket to Mexico. (It should be said that I have to help out my ten year old until she’s old enough to babysit).
So by the time I added up the numbers of driving to Idaho and staying there, food etc, I discovered we could do the same trip to Mexico with a comparable strain to the family vacation budget. Some people might be jealous of us and we were fortunate for sure, but in my experience a very disciplined budget on limited income is what tends to bring the good fortune?
Erin and I still go over every single grocery list together, and fight about it.
Every single cent gets entered on our budget app in our phones. “You spent WHAT on ____???”
There are no secret purchases.
Every penny we spend hurts a little.
Buuuuuuuut, we saved enough to go to Mexico! And what an experience it was for us!
We couldn’t afford an all inclusive, so we bought groceries and took buses most of the time. We rented a condo for cheaper than anywhere we wanted to go in North America and had a truly cultural experience.
First of all we should note that there wasn’t a day under 30 degrees, which brings out the rich odors of hot climates, from sewage to vegetation. I went for my 38 minute run most mornings and would start sweating about ten feet out from the parkade because of the heat. It was so hot one morning I had to stop a half block from home to grab a gatorade from the corner store just to Not Die.
Wednesday nights were some sort of Mexican family picture night on the beach. We’d walk about a mile and see a half dozen large families all wearing matching clothes with a photographer capturing their summer moment forever.
They had little marching bands (minus the marching) strike up all along the beach on the same night, and one time a few feet away from our balcony overlooking the ocean.
The water in the pool was not exactly refreshing as it was as warm as bath water, and the ocean was no cooler. One day it rained like crazy and was overcast and actually cooled the pool off and that was nice. Most of the families would come out in force after the sun went down, and it was a pool party every night until the guards shut it down at ten.
It was the rarest of rare for us to encounter any English speaking folks, including staff at the tourist attractions like the Aquarium. I would just hold up six fingers for how many of us there were and start pushing pesos across the counter until the lady stopped talking as I didn’t understand how much it was per person. Then I would wait awkwardly to see if there was any change coming back.
The sea lion exhibit was kinda cute, but even cuter as there were some hundreds of black haired audience members and I, then my four girls and their mom in what must have been an exotic look. It was fun. And everyone assumed we spoke Spanish which was also hilarious when trying to get the best deals on taxi rides.
One of the funnest experiences we had was walking across the road (pay attention or get run over!) to a little eating place with no sign called Ranch something or other (I can’t read Spanish either), where there was no menu, grandma was hand making blue corn tortillas, there were chickens running around on the dirt floor, and the girl taking our order spoke zero English and couldn’t tell us what we were ordering.
It was delicious, but I’m still not sure what I was eating. We were just under strict orders from Neela not to order the chicken tacos because it felt a little like betrayal when she was trying to pet the chickens under the table.
Then the police showed up with fully automatic rifles and shed their full on riot gear and masks to eat there too while Neela stared.
It was a rich experience.
The richest part was that we were exploring it together with no digital interruptions
and the only phone on was mine in case google could help me order the “Not Chicken” tacos.