Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In Our Special Rainy Season Issue:
- Our June 2013 Cost of Living
- Meals Out – A Budget Breakdown
- Paul’s & Lance’s Monthly Weather Report for San Ramon & Atenas – June 2013
- Tracking the Weather in Atenas, by Diana Miskell Turlock
- Costa Rica Climate: Incredibly Diverse and Tropical, reprinted from Viva Tropical
- ‘Tis the Season…for Mold and Mildew
- Appreciating the Mist
- Cooking Class in Oaxaca Mexico – Muy Sabroso!
- CPI, For a Great “Spanish” Vacation
- Things are Growing at Coopenae by 10.75%
- New Links
As we pointed out in our last newsletter, when you go away on vacation, you still have all of your major expenses back at home – rent, utilities, health insurance, and your other normal expenses before and after your trip.
So, for June, we are showing the portion of our monthly expenses that went towards the vacation (5 days), and the portion that went to our expenses back home in Costa Rica (25 out of 30 days). Take a look at the breakdown on the right to see how it shakes out for June.
Groceries and Transportation (our consumables) were a bit lower than normal. Utilities only went down a little as we had people living in the house during our absence.
As our vacation spanned portions of both May and June, you can see the entire vacation breakdown in our article, “Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!”
As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:
At Retire for Less, we’re still trying to live for under $2,000/month. We must admit, it’s getting more difficult to achieve it every month. Believe me, we’re not suffering. We have a car, telephones, high-speed wireless Internet, and a great house to live in. I mean, really, what more could anyone ask?
“Meals Out” is not an expensive category for us, as you can see below. So far in 2013 we have come down in our spending over the two previous years, partly to offset other expenditures for the new house. Here are our monthly averages:
- 2011: $100.10
- 2012: $102.98
- 2013 to-date: $78.15
We know that many of our friends and neighbors eat out more often than us and at more expensive places, so perhaps this is one small area in which we economized. Don’t get me wrong, we still eat out a lot, but we’ve devised a little strategy to enable us to have a nice meal out once in a while.
Quite often, in the U.S., you can eat lunch for less, be it at Panera Bread or a nicer restaurant which features a less expensive lunch menu. In Costa Rica, a lunch can cost the same as a dinner and the menu usually doesn’t vary much from lunch to dinner. So, typically, when we’re in San Ramon at mid-day, Gloria and I go to “Paul’s Famous $1 Restaurant” (AKA “Soda Kendy”) and spend just a few dollars. In this way, we’re saving up our dollars for a more expensive dinner out. It’s just a little soda in the Central market, the restaurant is usually crowded, the food is tasty, and it turns, so we know everything is fresh; plus we’ve never gotten sick from eating there.
Additionally, since we’ve moved to our new house, we’re just going out less, with more lunches and dinners at home. Unfortunately, our grocery budget has gone up accordingly. Did I tell you that Gloria is a great cook? So there you have it. We’re home-bodies, and we just don’t go out much for meals. And when we do, there’s always “Paul’s Famous $1 Restaurant” to offset the cost.
You can read more of Paul’s food-related money saving tips at the links below.
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: $1 Lunch at the Central Market
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Just What You Need
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Local
Usually you can tell when it’s cloudy because when it’s cloudy, it’s cooler. The days when it’s 70-75°f, you can best believe it was cloudy. With 13 days of trace or no rain, it give you an idea of volume on the days it did rain. The days when we got 2.5 inches or more of rain might be some of those 15 days I’m always talking about. If you extrapolate the 15 inches a month we got in May and June over 6 months it would come to almost 90 inches which is typical for this part of the country. We thought we would get less here but it’s not turning out that way so far.
Generally speaking, living here at 3,000 ft. elevation, the days range between 60°f on the low side and 80°f on the high side all year long. It’s similar to the weather at the cabinas where we used to live (at 4,000 ft. elevation), just a bit warmer.
As usual, we took the temperature at 6am, mid-day, and 6pm daily, as well as rainfall totals for the previous 24 hours, measured at 6am. All temperature readings are taken in the shade (just like official meteorologists do). If taken in the sunshine, the temps are usually 8-10 degrees higher. You also have to take into account the altitude — the higher the elevation, the cooler the temps. It gets warmer by about 4-5 degrees per 1000 feet as you descend in elevation.
Following is our rain and temperature data, at our home in San Ramón at 3,000 ft. elevation, for the month of June 2013:
- 14.9 inches of total rainfall on 17 days
- 1 day measured 2.7 inches of rain and two days measured 2.5 inches
- 4 days measured trace amounts of rain
- 9 days with zero rainfall
Here’s the rainfall trend since the first of the year 2013:
- January – 0 inches
- February – .05 inches
- March – .15 inches
- April – .15 inches
- May – 14.85 inches
- June – 14.9 inches
Total rainfall year-to-date: 30.10 inches
- 6am average: 65.5°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 75.9°f (high of 80°f on 1 day & the lowest high of 73°f on 3 days)
- 6pm average: 68.5°f (lowest reading was 64°f on 1 day and highest was 71°f on 3 days)
To give you an idea of the difference that elevation has on temperatures, here is the breakdown of temperature data from June 2012 when we were living at 3,950 feet elevation, about 1,000 feet higher than we’re living now:
- 6am average: 63.4°f (lowest reading was 61°f on 1 day)
- Mid-day average: 73.7°f (high of 78°f on 1 day & low of 67°f on 1 day)
- 6pm average: 66°f (lowest reading was 63°f on 1 day and highest was 70°f on 1 day)
Our friend, Lance Turlock , recorded day-to-day overnight low temperatures and daytime high temperatures at their home in Vista Atenas at an elevation of about 2700 feet. The temperatures may differ from the town of Atenas itself where the elevation is lower, or other nearby places where the elevation is even lower or higher. A few hundred feet can make a significant difference.
- Overnight lows (about 6am) Average: 68.5°f (lowest reading was 65.3°f & highest reading was 70.7°f)
- Daytime highs (about noon) Average: 84.2°f (highest reading was 89.4°f & lowest reading was 78.1°f)
- 8.04 inches of total rainfall over 16 days
- 1 day measured 2.8+ inches of rain and 2 days measured over 1 inch
- 14 days with zero rainfall
We’ll continue the weather info next month.
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2011
- Our Weather in San Ramón de Alajuela, Costa Rica – 2012
- Our Weather in San Ramón & Atenas Costa Rica – 2013
- 15 Days
by Diana Miskell Turlock
You’ve heard of caramel apples on a stick and corn dogs on a stick…but bet you’ve never heard of a rain gauge on a stick –until now. Actually, it’s a great idea and I might do the same thing with my rain gauge in San Ramon. Thanks to Lance’s wife Diana for allowing us to reprint this from her blog.
My husband Lance is collaborating with Paul and Gloria Yeatman on keeping daily rainfall and temperature statistics for both Atenas and San Ramon, a town that is at a higher elevation than Atenas and therefore experiences different rainfall and weather patterns. Costa Rica is a country of microclimates. Many think that the country may be uncomfortably hot and humid. That is simply not so. It depends on where you choose to live.
Paul and Gloria live in San Ramon and have a very informative and interesting website called “Retire For Less in Costa Rica”. They share many of our philosophies about living a simpler life with less “stuff” to clutter up your space and mind. Their site offers lots of helpful information about living in Costa Rica.
Lance recently received a rain gauge as a gift from our friends and neighbours, Rose Mary and Tony … thank you! On the days we have rain, he records the amount of rainfall and also the daily high and low temperatures at our altitude. It is interesting to compare the different figures between Atenas and San Ramon, especially for those people researching living in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and wondering what area would suit them best.
Notice the nice green pole the gauge is mounted on. It is mounted in an area unobstructed by overhead foliage. We went to the Atenas hardware store, Vargas, and found the perfect piece of wood behind the store in their lumber area. It even had a pointed end to drive into the ground. Then we bought some outdoor green spray paint for the pole and a couple of screws to loosely mount the gauge on the pole. The loose mounting allows the gauge to be lifted away from the pole to eye level for reading, emptied of water, and placed back on the pole with ease – ready and set for the next day’s reading.”
by Park, reprinted from Viva Tropical, July 1, 2013
When many expats think of Costa Rica climate, the first thing that comes to mind is tropical. Costa Rica is warm and tropical, and while this is true in many regions of Costa Rica, the climate in this small country is very diverse and varies from region to region. It may be surprising that such a small country is made up of so many micro-climates, but if you have been planning on making a move down to Costa Rica, it’s good to know a little more about the different climate zones before you commit to a spot.
Costa Rica is located close to the equator and sits between 8°-11° North latitude, providing it with the ideal weather that attracts more expats each year. While the Costa Rica climate is known to be like ‘eternal spring’ with the average temperature ranging between 21.7°C (71°F) and 28°C (81°F), the country’s climate will change drastically as you move throughout the regions, so take the time to experience as many as possible before you take the plunge.
Rainy season vs. dry season. Like many tropical countries, the Costa Rica climate is split into two seasons, rainy and dry. The dry season or summer (named ‘verano’ by Spanish colonizers) generally runs from December to April, while the rainy season or winter (‘invierno’) spans from May to November. Yet even the dry and rainy season will vary slightly from region to region and the distinct topography of each place will have an influence on the climate.
The sweeping mountain ranges that spread from northwest to southwest split Costa Rica into two regions, the Caribbean slope and the Pacific slope. And the rainy and dry season differs on each slope. Along the Caribbean slope the rainy season spans from late April through to December while the Pacific slope experiences its rainy season from May to November. But it doesn’t end there. The climate on each slope will also change according to the region. The Northern portion of the Pacific slope will experience an extreme dry season with little to no rain and the Southern half will have a shorter and less intense dry season.
So now that you know the basics of Costa Rica climate, you can begin to take a closer look at the different climate zones, a factor that will help many expats in choosing the ideal spot to call home.
Central Valley. The Central Valley of Costa Rica, that includes the capital city of San Jose, attracts many expats and tourists with its ‘eternal spring’ climate. But even in the valley the climate will change from warm and dry to chilly and humid depending on which side you choose. When it comes to Costa Rica climate, it all depends on elevation. The western suburb of San Jose, Pavas, sits at an elevation of 3, 280 ft. (1000 m), giving it an ideal average temperature of 71°F (22°C), while in the foothills of the Poás Volcano (located on an elevation of 6, 070 ft.) on the opposite side of Central Valley, the average temperature is a much cooler 62°F (17.4°C). But no matter where you choose to settle, in the Central Valley, you can expect to be greeted with moderate temperatures, clear mornings, and rainy evenings, making it the perfect combination for many expats.
North Pacific. The gorgeous North Pacific region is the most popular region in Costa Rica due to its warm sunny weather and numerous beaches like Playa Conchal, Playa Ocotal and Playa Coco, to name a few. Liberia, the capital city of Guanacaste can be found in the North Pacific region and boasts an average temperature of 82°F (28°C), perhaps a little too hot for some expats, but just right for others.
Central Pacific. This region of Costa Rica includes the provinces of Puntarenas and San Jose and is home to many popular expat destinations like Dominical, Uvita and Jaco. In Puntarenas to the north, it is not uncommon for the daytime high to reach the low 90s and while this may seem a bit on the hot side, the cool breeze coming off the Pacific works wonders to help manage the heat.
South Pacific. The South Pacific is home to some of the country’s most diverse landscapes and in this region you can enjoy both mountain ranges and majestic stretches of rainforest, including the Corcovado National Park (home of the world’s only Jaguar reserve). As a result of this varied topography, the climate in the South Pacific bounces from hot to cold. In some higher areas the temperature can dip as low as 50°F (10°C) making a light jacket a must. Near the coast, the average temperature remains high year round, from the low 80s to the low 90s, but a more moderate climate can be found in the Valle del General (the general valley) and the temperature here will hover around the high 70s to the low 80s.
Caribbean. Spanning the length of the Caribbean coast, the Caribbean region is quite humid, and here, heavy rainfall can sometimes last for days. Although it rains throughout the year, you will find drier weather in September and October, which incidentally, are the wettest months in the Central Valley.
Northern Zone. In the Northern Zone, the climate will differ in accordance with the altitude. In the areas that sit at a higher elevation, the temperature can drop to the low sixties, while the lowlands remain in the high seventies to low eighties. The Northern Zone is also home to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, a breathtaking, mist covered forest that has become a popular tourist spot.
So which climate is right for you? With cool temperatures in the highlands, eternal spring in the Central Valley and heat along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, the Costa Rica climate is extremely diverse and definitely something all expats should consider. To make sure that you pick the right region for you, rent before you buy and experience the many different micro-climates Costa Rica has to offer until you find that perfect match and the perfect place to call home.
(reprinted from 6/11/12)
While we love living in the tropics, there are challenges, especially during the rainy season, when we get about 80 inches of rain each year. While the moisture in the air is great for our skin, it can lead to mold and mildew in our home. Because we love having our door and windows wide open, and because we want to minimize our usage of electricity, we’ve chosen not to run a dehumidifier, though others do. Instead, here are some of the actions we’ve taken to minimize the problem in our cabina.
- Paint the walls with an anti-fungus paint. We picked the colors and bought the paint, and Cesar, the manager of the cabinas, painted all of the interior walls of our cabina with “anti-hongo” (anti-fungus) paint. The result was a brighter cabina that’s more resistant to mold and mildew.
- Improve drainage and coat the foundation and tiles with a sealant. Our cabina is at the bottom of a hill, so when heavy rains would fall, water would seep in through the foundation. The property manager here at thecabinas improved the drainage and applied a sealant to both the outside and inside of the back of our cabina where we were having the problem. Since then, no water seepage and a drier cabina.
- Increase air flow. We keep our door and windows open most of the day for good cross-ventilation. You can also run fans to increase air flow.
- Buy anti-mildew mattress and pillow covers. This was important for us because we were both breaking out in hives due to mildew. I found a great source online at National Allergy Supply.
- Install lights in your closets. We bought a few inexpensive lights and either put them directly into our closets or clamped them on the closet doors. This small step goes a long way to prevent mildew from taking hold on your clothes.
- Hang out your clothes on sunny mornings. The combo of sun and gentle breezes combine to stop mildew in its tracks before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, you have no other choice but to launder them.
- Keep a supply of white vinegar on hand in a spray bottle. If you see the beginnings of mold on leather chairs, belts, and other surfaces, spray them with straight white vinegar and wipe them down with a soft cloth or paper towels. Once you’ve removed all the mold, treat leather surfaces with a leather conditioner.
- To minimize waste, buy items like flour, salt, sugar, spices, etc. in small packages and, as much as possible, store them in your refrigerator. Don’t store items in cardboard boxes (pasta, oatmeal, etc.) in your cupboards for long periods, even if they are in plastic zipper bags. It’s amazing how easily moisture can get into sealed plastic containers.
There has been a lot written about fighting mold and mildew as well as dealing with allergic reactions. Here are some links that we found helpful:
It’s misty today. We’re deep into the rainy season and, while it doesn’t rain every day, we seem to spend part of most days in the clouds. They make everything look mysterious, as if there could be some secret place just beyond them.
I can hear the river, now replenished from the recent rains, rushing down below. The deep hoo-hoo-hoo of the howler monkeys in the distance lends a prehistoric feel of the jungle. There are also the ever-present sounds of many species of birds, including the small swifts darting by, trying to chase me away from their nearby nest in the roof of our porch. And then there is the crazed clacking, almost hiccupping, of the gray-necked wood-rails who seem to love the mist and rain; maybe it’s when the fattest worms come out. Hummingbirds chatter at our feeders and flowers, competing for a taste of nectar. And then there are the sounds of all the other birds and insects, too numerous to count. But even with all of the activity, it is still peaceful.
There will be no dramatic sunset tonight. The sun will slip down, unnoticed, behind the clouds, a quiet end to a quiet day. But in these moments, I am aware of all that is around me; I am grateful for this mindfulness, and for another day lived in the beauty that is Costa Rica.
For me, one of the highlights of our trip to Mexico was taking a cooking class at Casa Crespo in Oaxaca. Sure, I can make quesadillas and burritos, even fajitas, but the preparation is more Tex-Mex style. True Mexican cuisine is so different than what we’re used to in the U.S. and I wanted to learn. While a half-day cooking class barely skimmed the surface, I loved every minute of it and came away with a little more knowledge about Oaxacan cuisine, some basic skills in how to prepare several dishes, and the recipes.
Class started with deciding which of the many possible dishes we would prepare; no easy feat for our class of six. After we selected the menu, we walked with our instructor, Chef Oscar, to a nearby market to shop for the ingredients. As we walked through the many stalls, Oscar explained what we were seeing and buying – all the different types of dried chilies, the squash blossoms and epazote for the Quesadillas con flor de calabaza y quesillo, and the fruits, nuts, spices, and of course, chocolate for the Mole de Fiesta. He bought fresh Oaxacan cheeses, meats and chicken for the various dishes,
tomatoes to be roasted for the Sopa de tortilla and Salsa de jitomate asado, and small, fragrant limes for the Nieve de limón. He even brought a bag of prepared corn to the market to be ground into masa for the Tortillas de masa fresca.
We made two different types of tortillas and spicy salsas four different ways, tasting the subtle differences in flavors. We ground garlic cloves in a traditional stone morter and pestle for Guacamole con mango. And we prepared an authentic tortilla soup, poblano chilies stuffed with more than 20 savory ingredients, a rich, delicious, and complex mole sauce served over chicken, and for dessert, a light chili lime sorbet. Then we got to eat the feast which we had prepared.
Class was a bargain at $65 for the day, including the meal, and Paul was able to join us for lunch for only $25. It was a long, leisurely meal with good conversation and a little mezcal – a thoroughly enjoyable experience for both of us.
Gloria and I were at CPI’s language immersion school last week. While we were there, we noticed some families taking a different kind of vacation. What we saw were three generations traveling together and learning Spanish – kids, parents, and grandparents. It was something they could do together as a family, a kind of cultural vacation. I mentioned it to the school director, Lorena, and she told me that people of a similar age want to study together. So the family members were placed in classes, not only by their level of Spanish, but based on their ages as well.
They were enjoying their classes as well as cultural events and excursions. They arranged everything through CPI — classes, accommodations, and excursions. It’s a lot better than being in a hotel where you might be at the beach, doing nothing, kind of bored, and paying a lot of money to do it. Lorena told us, “We go to the beach too, with our optional weekend and ½ day beach excursions.” You can read more about CPI’s family program here.
So why not do something different? Come to Costa Rica with the family, have a purpose, go to the beach, and return fresh and reinvigorated. You can study at any of CPI’s three campuses: Heredia, Monteverde, or Flamingo Beach. Yes, you can have it all, even a 10% Retire for Less discount if you contact CPI through our website.
We love the month of June, when everything is growing, including our CDs at Coopenae. June is when we roll over our CDs for another 12 months at a great rate. This year, 2013, the 12 month CD rate is 10.75% and the 18 month CD rate is 11%.
You can read more about it, view Coopenae’s most recent corporate report, and get contact information at this link.
- Read about the howler and spider monkeys where Gloria goes to “monkey sit” at these two websites: Spider Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release) and Howler Monkey R & R (Rehabilitation and Release).
- We are often asked our impressions of the town San Isidro de El General in the southern zone but, I’m sorry to say, we have not yet visited this area of Costa Rica. While it is on our list of places to go, watercolor artist Jan Hart has chosen this area to settle in. She writes about it in her blog, and she and her husband, Frank, share their corner of this beautiful country with tour guests during their “Simply Living in Costa Rica” tour. You can find more information on her website.
- We’ve mentioned our friend, Diana Miskell’s blog a few times and we’ve finally added a link to it on our “Links” page. Diana’s Costa Rica Blog: Tales of moving from British Columbia, Canada, to Costa Rica, with husband and cat in tow.
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What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!
- Retire for Less Went to Mexico!
- Our May 2013 Cost of Living
- Downsizing: It’s All “Stuff” by Tom Bunker
- A Different Form of “Due Diligence” by Diana Miskell Turlock
- Schedule for Mandatory New Costa Rican License Plates
- Retire for Less Goes to Mexico!
- Our April 2013 Cost of Living and Our Transportation Budget Breakdown
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: See the “Doctor” at Clinica de Ropa
- Have a Reserve Fund for a Rainy Day
- Reinventing Yourself in Retirement
- In The Mailbag – April 2013
- 9 Tips to Find Your “Perfect Place” in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica Scores High on Social Progress Index
- Our Costa Rica Food Budget Breakdown
- Why You Shouldn’t Move to Costa Rica
- When is the Best Time to Visit Costa Rica?
- MythBusters: What’s it REALLY Like to Live in Costa Rica??
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary