Two Months with a Mexican Bank Account

I was able to get a Mexican bank account with HSBC on September 27th. Frankly, I thought it was going to be a headache managing three bank accounts (two in Canada, one here), plus two PayPal accounts. So far, there’s been nothing but positives even if there is a lot of account juggling involved.

First of all, fees. HSBC only charges me about $40 ($35 + tax) per month for the account. The only other fee I’ve had so far was to do an initial cash deposit. So having the account is not a huge additional monthly expense.

Furthermore, I fund the account through transfers from PayPal. I have several semi-regular clients who pay me smallish amounts that I use for my Mexican budget. They pay directly into my PayPal account tied to my HSBC account. This way, I save one currency fee. Instead of having to go from USD to CAD to MXN, I go straight from USD to MXN. PayPal is less than transparent about currency fees so I have to do some digging to see how much I’m actually saving, but whatever it is, the amount will add up.

The hiccup is that I don’t yet trust that PayPal account. I’ve been getting some concerning messages about my transactions getting extra attention, probably because I have two PayPal accounts. This is because PayPal has to follow various banking laws around the world and can’t adequately serve a clientele that lives in different countries. They’re the ones who advised me to open the second account and are now being cagey about what’s up with those messages. It’s a shame — I’ve been using PayPal for a very long time and had nothing but praise for it, but it’s turning into one of those big corporations now where you can’t easily reach a real person.

So that’s why I only transfer in small amounts (less than 2,000 pesos). For anything really significant, I still send the money to my Scotiabank account to withdraw cash there. If a worst case scenario were to happen and I suddenly am no longer able to fund my HSBC account through PayPal, I’d go back to my old method of withdrawing cash at Scotiabank and then depositing it at HSBC for a reason that is explained below.

So what advantages do I get having a a Mexican bank account? I’ve identified a few so far and I’m sure more will come up.

The big one is I now have a debit card. Most stores here accept debit and that has been my preferred method of payment for decades because it makes it so much easier to keep track of my budget (no need to hang on to receipts — just check my statement at the end of the month).

I also don’t have to worry about carrying large amounts of cash, with both the fear of getting robbed or losing it and also of simply not having sufficient cash on hand when I need it. It happened once in Chelem that I was heading to Mérida when I realised that a) the fuel gauge was much lower than I remembered and b) I only had $200 on me. Instead of putting that $200 in the gas tank and then having to stop at a bank to get more cash and then go to another gas station, I was able to use my debit card to fill up.

The debit card also allows me to make online purchases. I have trouble with some sites (like TelCel) not consistently taking a foreign credit card, so that solves that issue.

(But TelCel has a new app now that lets you top up in a few much easier steps — if you have a PayPal account tied to a Mexican bank account!)

Another perk of having a debit card is that I can ask for a cash withdrawal at some store checkouts, saving me from having to find an ATM.

Unlike the Canadian Interac system, the debit card here works more like a credit card as it takes days for your transactions to post rather than having the money come straight out of your account. The amounts that are due to post are tallied up and except for upcoming PayPal withdrawals, your available balance is correct. So that’s not an issue for me.

The HSBC website is a bit of a pain to get through as it has three layers of security, but it works as expected. I have not been able to get into mobile banking and need to make a phone call to sort that out. This is going to have to be done because I can’t pay some things online without a code that I can only get from a functional mobile banking app.

Another useful feature of having the card is that people can make payments against it at many locations, including Oxxo convenience stores or right at HSBC. This is nowhere near as convenient as Canada’s Interac e-transfers, but it comes close. So whenever I start a business here, clients could, for example, pay me at an Oxxo or bank near them instead of coming to my house. Or let’s say I was selling something on the garage sale site but the buyer couldn’t come straight away to me or wanted me to deliver, they could pay me a deposit in advance.

Today, I discovered another perk of having my HSBC account. I went to pay my rent at a nearby branch and there was a long lineup for folks who weren’t clients of HSBC and no lineup for folks who are clients of HSBC. Being a client, I got out of there in record time!

Having a Mexican bank account was a huge piece of the puzzle that is slowly migrating myself over to Mexico and I definitely wouldn’t be without it now.

Keystones

A keystone is something on which everything else depends. I first heard of the concept when it comes to homemaking on a forum I used to belong to. I used to have a hard time keeping a tidy home until I found out my keystones. Now, as long as I can deal with those, the rest comes together.

It was much of the same with setting up my new house. I was having a hard time moving forward until I could get the kitchen set up and I couldn’t do that with the existing sink and faucet. Both were disgustingly crusty and the tap was loose. I bought a new faucet a full month ago, but was only able to get it changed today. That meant that that was it for grunt work in the kitchen and that I could properly clean it and start setting up.

As a point of reference, here’s what the old faucet looked like:

The plumber got the new tap in in record time, but things looked worse when he left:

I would have like to have removed the old tap myself to have plenty of time to clean all the crusty bits under it, but one of the shut off valves was seized so I wasn’t able to do that. It’s really wasn’t pretty!

Well, I got in there with a scraper, steel wool, Bar Keeper’s Friend, and a green scrubby and greatly improved things. It’s still not perfect, but I left paper towels soaked in vinegar over them and that should further loosen things. But even so, I made a real improvement. Behold a sink I would actually want to use!

I then cleaned the counters really well and set up the microwave.

It’s really not a great place for it, but it’s the only three-pronged outlet in the room and was specially wired for it, so I’ll have to live with it there. I went out to Oxxo at one point to get water and to pay my power bill and ended up coming back with a decent ham and cheese croissant that I was able to heat up in the microwave. It worked well!

I can’t believe how much I look forward to spending time at that sink thanks to those windows!

I still don’t have all the storage I went for the kitchen, so for the time being, I set up my plastic table. Eventually, I want a stainless steel island, but I’m glad I waited because I don’t think I would have bought the correct size.

I’ve been pricing stoves and I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy a brand new one. I’m always nervous when it comes to gas appliances and would have to hire a professional to install a used stove anyway. So I figured I might as well check the sales and buy from a store that will install for me. I’ve actually seen stoves that meet my strict criteria for less than $5,000 so this could easily be a November purchase for me. In the meantime, it won’t kill me to keep cooking on my hot plate.

I’m glad I turned the fridge on the other day because I’m able to do some tests. I put a bottle of water in it this morning and within less than an hour, it was forming ice! I’ve lowered it a tad and hope that my water will be liquid when I return on Saturday!

Once the plumber was gone, I put another coat of paint on my dressing table (spoiler: it looks amazing) and then did the kitchen cleanup. I then had to head out to run a few errands. I needed to pay the rent, the internet and water bills, and get some food. Rent needed to be paid at HSBC, internet at the Izzi store, and the water bill could be paid at a Comercial Mexicana. So it made sense to go to Gran Plaza as it had all three businesses I needed, plus a food court.

Gran Plaza is always a bit of a nightmare to get to, but I’m starting to learn my way around.

If you go the way Google suggests, you get caught in this spiral where you inch your way to towards Gran Plaza, but have to make a lot of turns and really go out of your way. I figured that if I took Calle 9, I could shoot straight over to Prolongación Paseo de Montejo and then easily get to Gran Plaza with no detours. Worked like a charm!

I did the bank first and learned that I can only take out $7,000 per day when my rent is $9,000. Thankfully, I had other cash! I just had to give the teller my landlord’s name and account number to do a direct deposit. Easy peasy.

I will pay my CFE (power) bill at the bank next time as well because Oxxo charged me $6 to pay it there. I know that’s not much, but fees add up! My power bill for the house being empty was just under $50 (yes, about 3.40CAD!). I can’t wait to see how much it will jump when I’m living there. I’m billed every two months for power.

Next, I went to the Izzi store and just had to give them my account number to pay with cash.

After that, I went up to the food court to buy what ended up being a ginormous “salbute de pavo,” (link goes to a picture) which is a fried masa base topped with shredded seasoned turkey, tomato, pickled onion, lettuce, and avocado. I couldn’t believe the portion for just $21! I have a feeling the stand where I get them won’t be there much longer, which is a real shame since their food is always consistently good. 🙁

Final stop of the day was Comercial Mexicana for a few groceries, a new mop for the cleaner, and to pay my Japay (“high pay” — water) bill. Unfortunately, their machine could not scan the bill, which was delivered to me super crumpled and dirty. So I have to find the actual Japay office to pay there.  The bagger explained to me that it’s near Chedraui, but I really didn’t have time for an extra stop as I had to get back for the cleaner. So I think I’m going to be a couple of days late paying that bill. 🙁 I could not believe how high it was — $249! That is the standing rate for two months with no water used at all. I have a sinking feeling that my water bill is going to be a bigger deal than my power bill…

I don’t think I’m going back to the house until Saturday, which is desk moving day! I’ve advised my clients that I’m basically off from Friday night to next Thursday morning, so I’ll be able to pretty much set up my office. The movers are also going to bring my dressing table upstairs. I measured and it should fit absolutely perfectly where I want to put it!

Also Saturday, my landlady is sending me help to light my water heater (I officially have a water heater curse). While he’s there, the guy is going to check to see how much gas I have, so that could be another bill coming up soon.

There was a bit of miscommunication with the cleaners in Chelem and they are having to come on Monday to prepare the house for the owners’ return, not Tuesday. So I think that I’ll bring the rest of my things on Saturday and keep in Chelem only a few clothes and my computer equipment so that I don’t have to rush Monday morning. That will really just leave me Sunday here in Chelem. I’ll still have to sleep here on Monday night because of Puppy, but I can spend Monday at home getting set up and be there for good by midday/early afternoon Tuesday, as planned.

I can’t wait for the dressing table to make it up to the bathroom so that I can start setting up that room. I need to figure out a fixed home non-travelling lifestyle earring storage solution, so I think I’ll spend part of this evening on Pinterest. 🙂

Current Mood: Teal

One thing you hear constantly about freelancing is about how precarious it is. You can be drowning in work one day and then, boom, nothing for days if not weeks on end.

But there’s an opposite to that that not many people seem to talk about — that when the work is flowing well, you have enormous power over your income. I have been working super long hours all week and refusing to say no to anyone, including taking a job super late job last night that was due this morning. I haven’t made up for my truck expenses, not by far, but I’ve at least been able to ensure that I can get most of the less expensive bits that I’m missing for the house. Not just that, when I got in the truck this morning, I knew for sure that I was going to spend the afternoon doing some painting. That was an enormous boost for my morale.

I finished the job around ten and then spent close to an hour making a few more boxes up and hauling them to the truck, as well as doing chores and playing with Puppy.

I made it to Mérida before noon, to my surprise, and stopped at the bank and then got brunch before going to Home Depot. I hadn’t planned to get my paint there, wanting to get to get to know my local suppliers, but I had to pick up something for the owners of the Chelem house so I figured I might as well kill the proverbial two birds with the same stone.

For the paint colour, I had a very clear idea in my mind of what I wanted and I found it on a Berel paint chip. Berel is a Mexican brand of paint of decent quality (as per reviews I’ve read). There is a Berel store right by my house, so I figured that if I ever needed more, I could go there. I had all the Spanish I needed for the transaction, saying I needed a gallon of glossy (“brillante”) paint for wood furniture. The clerk picked what base I needed and mixed up my paint in record time. It was perfect. I also happened to find the cabinet pull aisle, so, after being surprised by the low prices for several models I liked, I picked out seven of these beauties to replace the existing knobs on my dressing table. I hesitated between this orangey shade and the same ones in silver, but my love of blue and orange won out. I think I made the right choice!

When I got to the house, I unloaded my things and then I decided to see if I could bring the dresser in on my own. I started with the drawers and then discovered that the dresser was super light. Still way too awkward to carry up the stairs on my own, but it was no effort at all to bring it into the living room. It was filthy and I spent quite a bit of time cleaning it and removing stuck on gum (yuck!) and tons of cobwebs. I then sanded it well.

I started my painting with one of the bookcases, though, because I was so curious to see if my vision for what they could be was true. It was!

I didn’t do the others because I need to refine my technique as I got more drips that I expected onto the fixed shelves. I will probably lie the other ones on their back and paint them that way. But what a welcome burst of colour in a drab room!

While I was in the kitchen, I plugged in my fridge. It got super cold in seconds. I don’t think I’m going to regret that purchase! By the way, I saw on the locals classifieds what I am sure is my exact model of fridge in two different ads for $3,000 and $5,000, when I paid $2,000 including delivery! I done good on that one. 🙂

I gave my dresser a first coat and then did a first coat on the coffee table.

As a reminder, this is the before:

And here it is stripped of the disgusting fabric and with one coat of paint:

Not bad, huh? Sure I might eventually want to get something a bit prettier because the coffee table is literally the first thing you see when you come in the door, but that pop of teal against the brown couches will go a long way to making the living room more inviting. I’m not showing the dressing table until it’s done. 🙂

It was four by the time this was all done and I’d had enough for one day. I cleaned up (I look like a Smurf, but I at least got most of it off my hands) and took out the trash. Then, I headed to Chedraui to pick up coffee and a few other sundries. I happened to notice that you can buy chocolate-scented body wash in Mexico that smells good enough to put on an ice cream sundae!

It’s been a good day.

Today Was a Long Day

I worked super late last night and only got about six hours of sleep before being back at it super early so that I could complete today’s most pressing work before going to Mérida, if it came to that.

In between work spurts, I dealt with an interesting email issue I’ve been having. I want to get an online account for Izzi, my ISP, but haven’t been able to because I never got their confirmation of my email address email. A couple of days ago, I tried again and this time went to Track Delivery in my cPanel and discovered that Izzi’s emails were marked at being a 9/10 spam score! Legit emails are generally a negative number and I have my spam tolerance set to 4. I added Izzi to my whitelist and again tried to get the confirmation email. This time, it was marked as delivered, but did not come to my inbox.

I contacted my webhost and they got back to me to say that due to some bug they haven’t identified, my Izzi emails were being redirected to another email account under my domain (ie. still belonging to me!). I went into it and there were the emails! Thankfully, clicking on the confirmation email from a different email account wasn’t an issue and I finally made it into my online account. There, I could see if I owed anything (No. As it turned out, the $600 I’d paid was for the first month, not an installation charge!) and if I input my debit card info, I can just pay my bill from the app with one tap. That sure sounds like less work than going to Oxxo or to the Izzi store. I’m having PayPal issues related to my Mexican card that are in the process of being sorted out and once they are, life here is just going to keep getting easier thanks to HSBC (and my landlady!).

By 1:30, I had not heard from the mechanic and I was kicking myself for having forgotten to get his number. The rental car was due back by 3:00, so I made the decision to go into town and see what was what.

Traffic coming into Mérida was appalling and I realised that I was a lot more patient since I wasn’t boiling. The truck AC is definitely getting looked at.

My mechanic (“Rod”) texted me as I was two blocks from home saying that he’d been sent the wrong part and the truck wouldn’t be ready until Monday. 🙁 I read the text at a red light, but waited to get home to reply. Just as I was doing so, Rod showed up, saying he’d been pulling away, but noticed that a car was parking right in front of my driveway and figured it was me. He gave me more details. I went through a similar thing with Miranda’s axle repair in that Ford has just very slightly changed some parts (augh) on newer models of some vehicles and the newer parts, of course, don’t fit the older vehicles. Rod said that he was super frustrated because he had taken everything off last night and gotten up early to put the new parts in, only to find that they didn’t fit right. By the time he figured out what was going on, it was too late to get the correct parts delivered as the part shop closed at noon. He tried a few other places before giving up. He says he can surely get the parts tomorrow and then have them in by noon Monday.

That meant that I need the car for another two days. *sighs* I called the rental company and they said there was no problem with keeping the car two more days. So that’s another $1,000 that I need to magic up out of somewhere. Thank goodness I can eat so cheaply here!

BTW, I am surprised by how much I love having a landline! Cell service in my house isn’t great (expected) and it’s noisy outside. I love that I can sit in a comfy chair in a well ventilated room and have a very clear conversation. I just need to figure out how to dial Mexican numbers, though (Canada and US are straightforward). Sometimes, the phone wants 10 digits, sometimes 7, and sometimes it wants 11. Must be related to the type of number I’m calling (landline, cell phone, “long distance”).

I had an appointment in Progreso between 4:00 and 5:00 (more on that below), so I decided to do some unpacking as best as I could with the storage solutions I have on hand. This way I’d feel like I’d made some progress and the trip hadn’t been for nothing. I also brought a small load from Chelem. It’s actually getting difficult now to find an actual load of stuff that I know for sure I won’t miss in the next couple of weeks.

I started in my master closet room, amused that it has a window I could open and fan I could turn on for ventilation! I hung up what needed to be hung up and sorted a few things to eventually get put into a dresser.

I then moved to the office and put away some of my books. It’s not home until I have my Harry Potter books on display. 🙂

The rest of the books will go upstairs with a bookcase (that I could not get up there on my own) as I think I will like the landing as a reading nook with my Poang chair.

I then started on the kitchen. One of the first things I found were my plastic wine glasses, so they went into the armoire in the living room with a rack for them. I think that now that I don’t have a house on wheels, maybe it’s time to get some proper ones? Then again, plastic is safer on tiles and these are pink!

I started to put a few things onto one of the bookcases in the kitchen.

Top shelf has the acrylic tumblers I picked up at Costco some weeks ago. Next to them are four really pretty mugs that I picked up for next to nothing (less than I would expect to pay for used mugs at a thrift store NOB!) at Chedraui one day, and then two cereal bowls. Below that is some ovenware and below that my Pyrex bowls. My trusty food processor and tortilla press won’t live up there forever, but are at least out of the way.

I didn’t do much with the deep armoire, just shoving into the bottom baking things and other bits that I won’t need often. I put my mandoline and a strainer in the huge drawer that I’m thrilled to have even if the rest of the cabinet feels like wasted space to me.

Once the faucet change is sorted and I can properly clean the counters, I’ll move the microwave to where it belongs and will keep my pots and pans where the microwave currently sits. Poco a poco and all that. 🙂

It’s really exciting to see a home emerging from this big echoey house. I really want to get my desk over there, but have given up on my movers and can’t afford anyone else at this point. So I will take it apart entirely to make it moveable on my own. I was really hoping to avoid that since the particle board is so fragile, but I’ll glue some of the parts together to make the desk more solid and it should last me a while longer.

I left around 4:00 and headed straight for Progreso. A couple of days ago, a woman posted that she was coming back from England and a few people jokingly asked for stuff, including one who wanted HP sauce. A man in Progreso said that he had a bottle for her, but she’d have to come get it. Neither had a car. It was clear the woman really wanted her sauce! I offered to pick it up and bring it to Mérida for her.

(In a funny case of things getting paid forward, I jokingly asked the English woman for Jaffa cakes and… I have an economy sized package of 36 incoming next week! Some people are so nice!)

Well, I am never going to Progreso again if I can avoid it. Its streets are an absolute disgrace and I had to drive through a dozen actual lakes in my rental car to get to the guy’s house. It was terrifying and I waited at many of the lakes for someone else in a low to the ground car to make it across safely before I went through. I remember from my last trips there that the lakes were no less terrifying in my truck! I was just trying to do a nice thing for someone and never expected my little side trip to be such an ordeal. 🙁

I finally made it back to almost terra firma (I had one huge lake left) and popped into Bodega to get some fried chicken for dinner, helped a grateful guy pick the best sliced cheese for his burgers (Lala — made with real milk!), and exhaustedly headed home to be greeted by a dog who was very sad at having had me go out two days in a row. We had a good play session and then we both had our dinners. I asked him at one point to please bring back the sandal he stole from me a few days ago and… he obliged, dropping it at my patio door while I was having dinner! I had such a laugh about that. He apparently buried it as it was covered in sand. I gave it a good rinse and hope it will still be usable when it dries.

Then, I went to work. If I could squeeze two hours of work out of myself tonight, then I could have a super lazy morning tomorrow and then spend the afternoon proofreading from the couch. I still have an hour to go and I have to give up since it’s a translation job that needs more brain cells than I have left. Zzzz.