Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Financial Reality

Wham! Zina has written a great blog today explaining the reality of making ends meet here on Isla Mujeres. She did the math, whereas I mostly went with my gut, which told me that expenses seem out of line.

We just came through the Christmas season, and normally I would have had our decorative lighting on for a few weeks. I love Christmas lights in the yard, the plants look so pretty all lit up. But guess what? We now depend on rental income for day to day living, and so we are trying to control spending.

Electricity is the #1 concern. Our bill for Nov/Dec, in a house that cooks with gas and has no heating, was $125/month (US) - 2600 pesos for the two months. We don't use a/c, we turn off the hot water tank and the water bomb after we've had our daily baths (usually). When we have guests here the house runs differently (extra lighting for guest comfort, a/c, water bomb is left on to ensure good pressure, etc).But not THAT differently!

If that was our bill, how much did many of the locals who lit up their homes for weeks on end have to pay to enjoy the Christmas season? And a bigger question - how did they afford it?

We've started turning off anything that doesn't need to be on. My computer isn't on all day like it used to be. The lights over the kitchen sink go off in the evening and are replaced by a little night light (I actually like the lower light more anyway). We are not using the spotlight in the garden. Thanks to the cool weather (not great for tourists, but good for us), we have not used fans for weeks. There are still other ways we can cut, but part of me asks "why?". Why should I have to think about cost before I turn on something? Like - I used my bread maker twice. And the slow-cooker once. Will the cost of using those appliances mean I can no longer enjoy fresh baked bread or tender beef stew?

I am not opposed to living on a budget. I've done it before, and I can do it again. But how the heck do the locals make ends meet? And how do the small businesses stay in business? We offer more personalized service, will that be lost as the tourist population demands more and more amenities that are offered mostly by the big hotels? Will the small businesses have to go out of business simply because they can't compete?

I think change is in the wind, and I think it might be a down-wind. A stinky wind, maybe. If you are like me and you love Isla Mujeres for all its quirks and charm, you may be dismayed from watching the trends of some of the tourist population. The island is attracting a different type of tourist now. "Build it and they will come". Dream vacations, more Cancun-like all the time.

We've so enjoyed the guests we've had stay with us. But will they continue to come when we're forced to raise our prices just to keep up? And will they still find the little local places they love now if they do come?

Only time will tell.


IslaZina said...

Yes, I have been remiss in not turning my water heater off between uses! Now, to bring that to the attention of renters...

Life's a Beach! said...

Worrying about every light and appliance in the house is no fun, but I think my grandparents always lived that way (that would be the Bowman grandparents). The U.S. saw inflation earlier in this storm due to the rapid rise in fuel, but nothing like what you're seeing in Mexico. And now prices on a lot of goods have dropped steeply due to lack of demand.

I think Isla has overbuilt rooms, and combined with the reduced numbers of tourists, it's led to greatly reduced prices on rooms. After I came back, I realized the price of my room at Media Luna in November was about what they were charging back in 2002. I hope the tourism numbers rebound soon!

Anonymous said...

From Dujy
I liked Zina's comment about renters asking for discount. My favorite -are there discounts for staying a week? Plus if booking through rental agent your also paying them a commission on top. I haven't raised prices in 5 years an still get discount questions. I agree with the change of type of toursits coming. I see more an more packaged airline deals/room for Isla. Mostly all the newer buildings.

Islagringo said...

Bravo, Sue! Well said. I think that a lot of us are seeing fewer and fewer bookings because of the deals, all inclusive or not, being offered by the big conglamerates downtown.

And I so agree that the type of tourist we are seeing has changed...anot for the good.

Bennie said...

I hope you can continue to get the business. That electric bill seems high from what I've seen you use. I had my highest Electric Bill in my life in Dec/Jan. It was $250 US. I about passed out. I've never had a bill over $170 ever then all of a sudden it went well over that.

Least to say even in the states I cut back on the electric.