Sunday, August 23, 2015

Since We've Been Back in PV

This was our second time returning "HOME" to PV. Last year it was the start of us truly beginning our lives as Permanent Residents of Mexico. This year it was our first time leaving and entering with our Permanent Resident (green) cards. A whole different process. We did it with pride. It was like declaring that we had adopted our new home completely.

We had to visit the Immigration (INM) office in the airport to fill out our "return" paperwork and have it completely stamped correctly for submission to Immigration when we came back. Without doing this, you severely risk having your Permanent Residency card nullified. That means you have to start the process all over again! On returning, we asked the officer as we entered Immigration which line to stand in and he smiled and pointed to the "Nationals" line. Wow! We felt honored!! However, that's not always the answer you will get, so ask each time and follow their orders accordingly.

We discovered upon arriving home that our internet and TV was not working. Also, that our toilet was running and we knew when we left that we would have to deal with a non functioning ceiling fan. So needless to say, our first week was spent trying to get this fixed/working and the household restocked with groceries.

Mike, of course, was able to get all the parts needed to fix the toilet and we bought a new beautiful fan at Home Depot, which he installed adapting parts from the old fan to fit the ceiling bracket.. After waiting the prerequisite 72 business hours for the TV to be fixed, we made the call that it wasn't done yet and they did manage to get someone out within 3 hours. That's quite impressive here.

But, alas, it took us a full 5 weeks to get our internet reconnected. It was a painful and arduous process of calling every day where they would either end up "dropping" our call or we would hear many different excuses of why it wasn't done or empty promises. Plus, many many bus trips to their office in the mall where once again, Mike would be given excuse after excuse. A process that truly wore Mike's patience thin! However, great practice for his Spanish.

Somehow, though, after his last visit there on Thursday, the repairman actually showed up on Friday. A 3 hour installation of new fiber optic line. Oh, but wait! The router wouldn't configure properly with the computer at headquarters!! So we sat with bated breath that, in fact, the repairman would call that afternoon like he promised. At 4pm we got the call. And, YES, it was working with lightening speed. We did High Fives and happy dances!!

In between all of that, Mike made us a new microwave shelf above the stove so that I could reclaim a large part of the counter. As always, he did a great job! I know he enjoyed every moment of it.

A visitor from the states, Josh Sterret, was here in PV for a month and was teaching some photography to those that were interested.  Unfortunately, his DSLR has been stolen while in Central America. We were able to connect with him and Mike loaned him his DSLR that had belonged to his late uncle, Bert Keppler, a wonderful photographer in his own right. 

With this camera set up on a tripod on his apartment building roof one evening, he was able to capture this shot of a wonderful summer storm we were having. 

Our second week back brought nothing but sad, very sad news to our tight knit community. A construction worker who was on his first day of work at the construction site next door to us, was unfortunately killed within 15 minutes of reporting for work. Then later that same day, we were notified that a fellow expat, Colin Hamilton, was murdered by someone he knew. Colin was a good soul and is missed by everyone.

Then another tragedy occurred when Brenda Ratzlaff de Rivera was taken from us way too soon, at the age of 47. Brenda was the "go to" person for knowing where everything was located in PV, right down to the exact shelf and corner. Her bubbly self and always present smile is a huge loss for us.

Despite this madness and sadness, our community chooses to celebrate life and so we do, keeping those we've lost in our thoughts but knowing they would want us to continue on. So Mike and I enjoyed a wonderful day out on the Tequila Sunset with our good friends, Cindy & Bert. A fun filled day of sun, food, swimming, feeding the fish, chatting about life's comings and goings, and just relaxing. I'll tell you, that's exhausting!!

I've done a couple of women's only get togethers. One was a breakfast of women entrepreneurs here in PV. A wonderful group of successful women!

I was also invited back onto the boat for a girl's day. There with several that I knew but hadn't really had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with. How fun to get to know people better and connect!! Yup, another day full of food, chatting, swimming, going to the beach. eating lunch at Marikai B&B, and relaxing! Again, very tiring. Plus I've been fighting a chest cold. so that didn't help me much.

Although it's summer and supposed to be low season, Act II Entertainment is busy having shows, fund raising entertainment, and karaoke on Wednesday evenings in the Piano Bar. A great place to meet up with good friends in the air conditioning.

Our weather has been steamy and the rain has not been as abundant as in the past. I do think that's going to be the new norm in a great part of our world. We still don't have air conditioning except in our bedroom so during the day we pretty much try and lay low. Very easy to do here. But the sunsets have been beautiful, as usual.

Another great diversion to get out of the heat is to go to the movies, so Mike and I met up with Jim and Tessa and saw the new Mission Impossible. Truly enjoyed every moment of it!

Rob and Shauna returned from a month in England the week after we got back, so we've gotten together a couple of times with them.

Besides the passing over of our friends, the other matter that truly threw me for a loop, was the reaction of a few people I know from back in WA to a couple of comments I made on my own Facebook page about the Republican Debate. It's unimportant as to what my comments were. HOWEVER, it is important to discuss their bottom line on my even having an opinion. YES, correct. That I would even HAVE the audacity or have the right to comment.

Their take on what we have done with our lives is that we gave up all of our rights as a U.S. citizen when "we walked away" - we "talked with our actions when we abandoned the U.S.".  Well, I for one can tell you ---- NOT !!! 

Just because we chose to spend our retirement enjoying another part of the world at a lower cost of living so we could have a good quality of life in our retirement, never meant that we don't enjoy the very same rights that we had when we lived in the U.S.  To even question this fact, or to insinuate that we were now lower class citizens, is utterly and despicably obscene!! 

We vote in every election back home and, yes, I have the right to do so. And, yes, my vote counts. And, yes, I continue to pay my taxes every year.  I'm no less of a citizen than I was before.  How dare you !!! It has everything to do with my hard fought rights as a U.S. citizen!! And, I aim to keep them, thank you very much!

Ok, so off the soap box. The other major decision we've made since returning is to change our health insurance. At our ages, it becomes an annual review to see what programs are out there that best meet our needs.

So now Mike and I are both covered by WEA out of Madison, WI. We each as individuals have a $3mil policy, a $2,500 deductible and it covers all things major medical in every country of the world EXCEPT the U.S. My premium is only $1,238/yr but because Mike is 65+, his premium is $2,633/yr.  If you added in the U.S., the premiums would increase to $2,475 & $5,267 annually. The premiums will be reviewed every year to see how they increase. There are major increases when you turn 65 & 70.

When we travel to the U.S., we will have Traveler's Insurance for me until I turn 65, when we will both have medicare. As most of you should know by now, Medicare does NOT cover you outside the U.S. unless you have an Advantage policy that might. Each type of policy is different and it can differ depending on what state you live in.

I can't stress enough how important it is to know your policy rules before leaving the states and to know the health care system in the country you are considering for visiting, living or snow birding. We are extremely lucky to have Pam Thompson-Webb who has a business called  If you are considering the area of Banderas Bay/Puerto Vallarta, I urge you to talk to her and review her website. She's always available via email at She is invaluable to us all!!  

Many Canadians don't realize that their social health insurance may not cover them here either,  and, that every Province is different. Also, if they do, you must still pay out of pocket all costs before submitting them for reimbursement.  PLEASE, PLEASE know your home health care system!!

It is customary and standard practice throughout the world that as a tourist, expat or snowbirder, you WILL pay all costs of all medical/hospitalization UPFRONT. It's up to you to file for reimbursement with your own carrier when you have all of your bills marked paid. (Exception: the policy we have has many local hospitals here in PV as part of its group and claims possibly can be filed directly with WEA from the hospital.)

It was also a month where my membership on the Facebook Group: Puerto Vallarta: Everything You Need or Want to Know group passed 3,000!! I couldn't be more thrilled with the overwhelming good responses to this Group. Tons of valuable information is exchanged daily between folks all over the world about anything and everything that relates to Puerto Vallarta. It's been a challenge to identify and remove certain individuals who have nothing but anger in their blood. I won't and don't allow it!

My other Group, Vallarta/Banderas Bay Buy & Sell is up over 1,600 members and that's with all local people who live here and are selling, buying, and trading things that are personal items or homemade. It, too, is not an advertisement site. Not allowed!! Way too many other places for them. This is just "us".

So we have continued to enjoy our sunsets and the evening rains when they come. So far, not as many spectacular lightening and thunder shows but there's still plenty of time in September and October before things should settle back into High Season and the dry season.

We have mostly completed planning of our trip to Europe coming up in only 2 weeks (Sept. 7-Oct 21).. Trying to get things scheduled and into a comfortable itinerary has been challenging without consistent internet. We've managed somehow with vigilance. Starting to get excited!!

I also managed to get Windows 10 downloaded. Have not had much of chance to play with it but I must say, I'm liking what I'm seeing.  And, so are many of my friends.

Enough for now. Hasta luego, amigos!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

BUDGET UPDATE - July, 2015

In 2014, we showed that you could live a very good life style for $25,000/year, if you weren't lavish and chose where you eat and drink out.  We took advantage of Cupocity discounts on meals, tours, massages, etc. We also determined where we get the best bang for our buck, which allows us to eat and drink out with our friends. We are social people and gathering with friends is very important to us. (See Year End Budget posted in mid December, 2014 located in Archives) Living Expenses are broken out separately from Discretionary Spending. We are fortunate that we have some discretionary income and make no apology for spending it.

As we also knew would happen, our family and friends would start visiting us and the winter months would see us eating out and going on excursions more with them. My daughter and her family were here for 16 days in January, and several friends came to town to spend time with us. It definitely shows in our expenditures for these 2 month!

We also had the opportunity to meet up with friends from Nicaragua in Mexico City for a week in February and while we were already up in the "highlands" of Mexico, we decided to come back by bus and visit San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Leon. A beautiful part of this wonderful country!

The month of January also brought us the expenditures of washing machine repair ($232), camera repairs ($10), more of Mike's dental woes (a new crown, reconstruction of previous crown preparation performed in Costa Rica,  & a tooth pulled = $742), and Mike needing to visit a chiropractor twice for adjustments that couldn't be dealt with in a massage ($73). We also took a 3 day side excursion to Yelapa with family and incurred hotel expenses and a more expensive water taxi ride plus all meals out.

But, we are extremely happy that everyone wants to come see us!!  This was part of our decision to live here. We knew it was easier and more alluring for them to come here to PV than any other location we considered. So it is what it is and we make no apologies for enjoying our family and friends.

In March, our expenditures went back to normal. EXCEPT we had decided back in December, 2014 to purchase excellent seat tickets ($300) to the Santana/Journey concert in Guadalajara for March 26. The total of the expenditures including the tickets, tours of Guadalajara, meals out, our stay in a B&B, gas, taxes, busses, etc. are all accounted for.

April shows we have come out of high season and back to well below our goal budget for Living Expenses. This was also due to our renegotiating our lease here in our apartment. Because we have been an asset to our landlord, which allows him to spend more time with his family in the states, he agreed to allow us to sign a 15 month lease with 3 months of free rent during the low season so we could travel a bit more without moving. We all agreed to a steady cash flow over the 15 months of $800/month.

Restaurant Week(s) are held in May. This is where many restaurants have a special set 3 course meal for well below the cost of a normal meal at their establishment. We took advantage of eating at several restaurants that would normally be well out of our budget. We also attended a charity function called The International Altruism Festival, which had 35 restaurants represented there. Also as a result of several friends coming to town, we ate out way above normal for a whopping 18 times!

In May, we also took advantage of the low cost medical clinics that are provided by Pam Thompson-Webb of So Mike and I both had our ears checked for a cost of $46US for both of us. Mike had an ear infection, so we had medication to purchase for $3US. I also took advantage of getting a Shingles Vaccine at a local hospital for the low cost of $157US (it's about $400-$500 in the US).

In June, we traveled the whole month, which is why there aren't any expenses except our rent in the Living Expenses category. Our journey took us to Cancun, where we spoke at the 10th Annual International Living Retire Overseas Conference; then on to Playa del Carmen for a week; then to MA & CT to visit family and friends; and down to Raleigh, NC to visit with family. On June 30, we flew to WA, which is where we were until July 17. This is our annual US visit from coast to coast. An expensive trip but with family spread out all over the US, it's very necessary.

Our Trip Expenses include air fare, hotel, car rental, meals & drinks out, clothes, electronics, entertainment, cell phone, etc.

I'm continually asked how can we do all we do on what we actually show in our posted budget. I must admit, that those we meet with as a result of my blog, have been very gracious in treating us as their guests for meals and drinks in appreciation for our time and sharing of our experiences. We do this gladly without expectation of this!!

The Living Expenses are our true living expenses and we could easily have a good life on just this amount. However, we are fortunate and do have some discretionary income, which we gladly use to have an even better life. So just because you might not have this additional income, doesn't mean you can't enjoy life here in PV.

Living Expenses:    January    February      March      April      May      June      July
Rent w/util  $    1,000  $      1,000  $      1,000  $          800  $          800  $          800  $          800
Electric  $          24  $               -  $            23  $               -  $            45
 $            33
Cell Phone  $          42  $            40  $            39  $               -  $            14
 $            65
Groceries  $       227  $          219  $          249  $          143  $          231
 $          378
Meals Out  $       448  $          292  $          240  $          183  $          420
 $          112
Drinks Only  $       161  $          154  $            95  $          238  $          144
 $          116
Entertainment  $          60  $            57  $          105  $            33  $               -
 $            65
Massages  $       101  $            20  $            40  $            33  $            33
 $            43
Bus/Taxi  $          64  $            55  $            15  $            25  $            50
 $            10
Dental Cleaning  $          33  $            80
 $               -  $            33

Incidentals  $          25  $            18  $            82  $            25  $            78
 $            20
TOTAL  $    2,185  $      1,935  $      1,888  $      1,480  $      1,848  $          800  $      1,642

TOTAL W/O RENT  $    1,185  $          935  $          888  $          680  $      1,048  $               -  $          842

Discr Spending:

Visas/Legal  $             -  $               -

Clothes/Shoes/Gifts  $          13  $            32  $            27  $          162  $            63

Medical/Life Ins.  $       211  $          211  $          211  $          211  $          211  $          211  $          211
Tours  $          87  $            60

Home Improve  $       420  $          171  $            57  $            75  $            65
 $            53
Medical  $       237

 $          221
 $            48
Dental  $       742

Air Travel

Trips/Vacations  $       180  $      2,459  $          684

 $      2,685  $      2,655
Car Rental/Gas

Spanish Lessons

TOTAL Discr.  $    1,890  $      2,933  $          979  $          448  $          560  $      2,896  $      2,967

TOTAL ALL  $    4,075  $      4,868  $      2,867  $      1,928  $      2,408  $      3,696  $      4,609

*Drinks Only (in PV only): January 11x; February 9x; March 7x; April 15x; May 11x; July 9x
*Meals Out (in PV only): January 12x; February 10x; March 9x; April 8x; May 18x; July 6x
*Our Rent includes 1br/1ba; dipping pool; view of Bay; fully furnished with everything you need; cable TV, internet, water; excludes electric.
*I do not include health insurance as a Living Expense because many expats choose not to have insurance. It was our choice to have it.