It’s time, once again, for our annual cost of living summary. Some of you will find this interesting, but others, not so much. That’s okay— Just read the section below that describes your level of interest.
Important!For the Mildly Curious:
Our cost of living for 2013 was $24,473, if you include our 17-day trip to Mexico. If you don’t include the trip, we lived on $22,470 for the entire year.
NoticeFor the Somewhat Interested:
- Groceries – due to price increases and more liberal buying habits
- Rent/Phone/Utilities – due to moving into a rental house from the all-inclusive “Cabinas”
- Entertainment & Travel – absolutely because of our wonderful 17-day trip to Mexico!
We spent less in every other category — Yea, us!
The most notable decrease was in transportation. 2013 reflects more normal transportation spending because in 2012 we had a “fender-bender” which cost us $1,100 in body work to repair our car. Also, gas prices have remained pretty stable over the last year, with just minor increases from time to time.
Important!And for the “I love numbers and details and I want to see it all” group:
Here’s a breakdown of what we spent by category for the entire year and averaged monthly. The next two columns show what we spend monthly in 2012 and 2011 respectively. We wanted to include our trip to Mexico, but since it’s not actually a Costa Rica living expense, we broke it out. Not including the trip, we are well under our goal of living on less than $2,000 per month at $1,872.50. But including the trip, we are a little over our goal at $2,039.43. And that’s close enough to make us happy!
Our grocery bill monthly average went up by a small amount (about $30) as it has the previous years. Yes, it definitely costs more to buy some things in Costa Rica than it did previously. The inflation rate has held steady at about 5% — actually 4.5% to 6% per year over the last five years. Our spending on groceries has actually gone up by almost 10%. This category includes paper products, cleaning supplies, and fresh flowers. Though nothing really stands out to explain the difference, I think we are spending money at the grocery store a lot more freely. We’re over the “sticker shock” we experienced when we first arrived, though we are always searching for the best deal on most things we buy. We are still saving about $100 per month compared to what we spent in the U.S. for groceries.
But perhaps even more notable, we spent almost the same for transportation in 2013 that we did in 2011, two years ago. These two years reflects more normal transportation spending because. Gas prices have remained pretty stable (at about $5.50/gallon) over the last year, with just minor increases from time to time.
And even though we have an old car, we have a reliable one. We’ve only had normal wear and tear maintenance on our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner and have an honest and reasonably priced mechanic.
Taxi and bus fares were minimal since we mostly use our car, but we do use public transportation at times, especially if we’re heading into San Jose for the day or when our car is in the shop.
Rent, Phone, Utilities, & Housecleaning
We did experience an expected increase in our Rent/Phone/Utilities category, by about $130/month. We knew when we moved from the Cabinas, where everything was included, to a rental house, that it would be more expensive for us. But it’s definitely been worth the extra cost.
Our electricity bill is quite low since we don’t have to pay for heat or air-conditioning. That’s one big reason we chose to live in the Central Valley. Another reason that it’s low is that we use bottled propane gas for both cooking and hot water. But even when you add the two together, our energy costs average only $67.56 per month.
We have two cell phones and a Vonage phone. With Paul’s cell phone, we have a monthly contract and, though the bill fluctuates a bit from month to month, it’s usually about $20-$25 per month. My (Gloria’s) phone has a “pay-as-you-go” sim card and it probably costs me about $2 per month—I’m not a big phone talker and mostly use my phone to check in with Paul. We also had to buy Paul a new cell phone in 2013 after he accidentally washed his old one with the laundry. 🙁
Our internet service is a high-speed wireless connection through a private company. ICE, the national electric and phone company, does not provide service in our area. If one day they do, we could probably reduce our monthly cost for Internet. Though this is one of our larger expenses, we do watch television over the Internet which eliminates the need to buy a TV and pay for cable.
We include “housecleaning” in this category because it was included in our rent at the Cabinas and it’s easier to compare that way. You’ll see that this included our payment of a Christmas bonus to our housekeeper, which is required by law. You can read an explanation of the law at this link: http://www.crlaborlaw.com/espanol/christmasbonus.htm.
Amazingly, our healthcare expenses went down in 2013 by about $15/month when compared to 2012, and they are pretty consistent with our expenditures in 2011. While we have aches and pains like everybody else, we’re both pretty healthy. The biggest reason, though, is that we continue to use the Caja for most healthcare needs. You can read more about this in our article: “Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System.”
Entertainment & Travel
As we mentioned above, the main chunk of spending in this category in 2013 was our 17-day trip to Mexico, though we also took a few overnight trips within Costa Rica. But other than those expenses, this category includes things like book and magazine purchases, a subscription to Netflix, and an online subscription to the Baltimore Sun (our hometown newspaper) for Paul. I read a lot and, since purchasing my Kindle Fire a couple of years ago, I’ve found that I can keep my costs down by taking advantage of all the free books available.
- Meals Out – We still eat lunches at “Paul’s Famous $1 Restaurant” and usually have dinner at home, except for special occasions when we eat at nice restaurants, and when we travel.
- Pets – We still have our two cats, Tori and Laura Chinchilla, so our main expenses are cat food, litter, and occasional vet visits.
- Other Household Misc – This includes things like getting our blender repaired and buying security rods for our sliding windows as well as our yearly post office box rental, postage, and printer and office supplies.
- Personal Care/Clothing – Hair cuts and beard trims for Paul, hair cuts, color, and an occasional pedicure for Gloria, and clothes, mostly from Ropa Americana.
- Miscellaneous – This and that, gifts and donations, anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere.
- Bank Fees – No more stiff ATM fees for us since we opened a savings account here in Costa Rica and write checks to ourselves from our U.S. bank account. Take THAT, Bank of America!
So, all in all, 2013 was a very good year for the Yeatmans. We’re frugal, and tend to live simply. We did a lot with less than $25,000. and feel really good about that. But even more important than what we spent in 2013 is that we tried to live each day with grateful hearts and that we did it together.
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary
- Our Costa Rica Food Budget Breakdown
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Car Repairs
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Sign Up for Skype, Vonage, or Magicjack
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Vacation the Retire for Less Way!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service