When it comes to living in a big city, like Mexico City, it's all about trade-offs, but when you choose wisely, you can not only survive but have a pretty good life.
Unless you are a rich heir, a wealthy business person, an expat or a politician (among others), the probabilities that you have an unlimited budget are slim.
My wife, two kids, and I are among the 98%, the one with a budget, that cannot afford to live, work and send the kids to school in Polanco neighborhood. How have we managed to have a good life in one of the biggest cities of the world? As I mentioned earlier, it's all about trade-offs.
First Trade-off - Location
Mixcoac is the neighborhood where we live, I would say this is a middle-income place, but the truth is that, as in most of Mexico City, poverty and richness live side by side. Rents are not cheap, but are more accessible than the trendy neighborhoods of La Condesa and Del Valle.
Mixcoac doesn't escape from the traffic jams (they make no distinction among social classes in this city), but it is conveniently located between or close to several main routes: Periférico, Revolución, Patriotismo and Rio Mixcoac, Viaducto.
Second Trade-off - Transportation
As many of us have often experienced, it's irrelevant to have main routes if all of them are packed and moving turtle speed or as we "chilangos" say: "a vuelta de rueda". Another of the beauties of living in Mixcoac is the quick access to alternative transportation methods, community bikes, shared electric scooters and the apple of my eyes: the Metro.
Our familiar infatuation with the metro started with my wife, for whom was impossible to leave the office and pick up the kids at school at 5.30 by driving her car, the Metro was the only option. Using the subway was also natural for her as she is Swiss and most of them have public transportation engraved in their souls.
Since some months I have followed her lead. As I leave office later than her, I tend to find the Metro a little bit more packed. People who find out that I have started using the underground instead of the company car ask me if I don't mind the sardine feeling, well, I don't. I prefer this and knowing exactly when I'll be home than the comfort of the car and the variability of making between 30 to 90 minutes.
Third trade-off - Space
Remember the limited budget issue? We have a two bedroom apartment, lovely but rather small.
You are on a budget and long for a garden, an extra room or a view? Probably you will need to go quite north or south and extend your commuting times up to two hours every day.
Living in a small place teaches you something great: live with the necessary, let go the crap, the more you own, the less free you are.
I don't want to go overly simplistic and say that achieving a good life in CDMX is easy and everyone can have this at any time.
My wife and I have a decent income; we're lucky enough to have jobs close to each other and an excellent school close to home (and we can afford to pay for it), all of this connected by the seventh metro line.
Having a good life on a budget in Mexico City? not easy, but doable, we're the living proof of this.