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.
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 to live for the entire year in Costa Rica, as well as the monthly averages. The next two columns show what we spent (total and monthly averages) including our three trips. We were on the road for more than two months out of the year so we wanted to show totals both with and without our expenses out of the country.
Some expense categories were not affected by our traveling; we had to pay them whether we were in Costa Rica or not:
- car-related expenses other than gasoline
- the security system for the house
- our Vonage VoIP phone
- pet care
- some other miscellaneous expenses
As mentioned above, the categories that were most affected by our travels are:
- meals out
- entertainment & travel
- miscellaneous (lots of souvenirs and gifts here)
- bank fees
That being said, our goal is still to spend $2,000 or less each month to live in Costa Rica. If you look at the monthly averages for just Costa Rica spending, we fell well within that amount. But if you include our travels, we are about $500/month over that total. If you divide the total CR amount ($21,191.79) by only 10 months, it comes to $2,119/month, but using that as an average would err a bit on the high side (as we paid rent and most utilities for 12 months). Bottom line, we are extremely pleased with how we were able to live and travel for the money we spent.
Previous Years Spending
When you look at an overview of the last four years, we can generalize by saying that we spent about $100 more per month each year over the previous year:
Our Costa Rica monthly average for transportation is down from previous years because, again, we were traveling for more than two months without our car. Note that these expenses do not include our travels out of the country
Gas prices were pretty stable throughout most of 2014 (at about $5.50/gallon) and similar to the previous year.
Even though we have an old car, we have a reliable one, and an honest and reasonably priced mechanic. We’ve only had normal wear and tear maintenance on our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner.
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.
Marchamo (annual registration and mandatory insurance) is one car-related expense that increases every year:
Rent, Phone, Utilities, & Housecleaning
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 $69.61 per month (about $2 more per month than last year).
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 $3 per month—I’m not a big phone talker and mostly use my phone to check in with Paul.
Our internet service is a high-speed wireless connection through a private company. ICE, the national electric and phone company, still (as of April 2015) 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 when we lived at the Cabinas, so it’s easier to compare that way. You’ll see that this included our payment of Workman’s Comp insurance, our share of our housekeeper’s monthly Caja payment, and her Christmas bonus, 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 actually went down in 2014 by about $9/month when compared to 2013, and even lower than our expenditures in previous years. While we have aches and pains like everybody else, we’re both pretty healthy. 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 2014 was our three big trips out of the country, as well as a couple 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 appliances repaired, our share of buying a new hot water heater, and batteries
- Office Supplies/Copies/Postage – We broke out this category this year, which also includes our yearly post office box rental, printer ink and paper, and miscellaneous 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. We did, however, incur ATM fees while traveling in Nicaragua and Mexico.
So, all in all, 2014 was another very good year for the Yeatmans. We’re frugal, and tend to live simply. We did a lot with the money we spent, both here in Costa Rica and while traveling in three other countries, and we feel really good about that. But even more important than what we spent in 2014 is that we tried to live each day with grateful hearts and that we did it together.
- Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary
- 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