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Jul 16 2017

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Our June 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living

Our June 2017 Cost of Living Report needs a bit of explanation. As we mentioned in our last newsletter, Paul and I traveled to Mexico on June 20th where we will be staying for an extended period. Therefore, our June Costa Rica Cost of Living report includes all of our normal fixed living expenses but only shows the variable expenses we incurred for the first 19 days of the month. Had we spent the entire month in Costa Rica, I’m sure our grocery expenses would have been about $100 more, but I don’t expect that the other categories would have increased much, if at all. Some categories were already inflated due to preparing for our trip. Let’s take a look at the breakdown.

Transportation – $113.44

Since moving into town, we find that we keep our car parked in the garage most days, mostly using it for our relocation tours and to visit friends. We only had one gasoline fill-up in June, which cost $51.36.

We also did some routine maintenance on our car in June. An oil change cost $54.47 and we paid $2.44 to replace a light bulb.

The balance of our transportation expenses went to tolls and parking.

Groceries – $111.06

This has to be our lowest grocery bill ever, even allowing for the fact that it only covered 19 days instead of 30. Knowing that we would be leaving for an extended period, I tried to use up what we had in our freezer and fridge, buying mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. We also did very little entertaining in June.

Another factor that influenced our low spending for the month was that, for the first 15 days of the month, we were very busy with our healthcare and relocation tours. Paul was gone so often on tour that he wasn’t around to eat meals at home. That meant that I didn’t cook as much. Our total of $111.06 includes both food and non-food purchases.

While we’re talking about groceries, I have some exciting news! My new book, “Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica” should be coming out soon. The final editing is taking longer than expected but I am hoping to tell you in the next newsletter where and when you can buy a copy.

The book is a food guide and on-going reference tool for when you are shopping for groceries and cooking both familiar and new foods in Costa Rica. It will be released as a Kindle book, so you can download it on your smart phone or iPad and take it with you whenever you shop. A paperback book will be available as well in the coming months.

The book includes an English/Spanish and Spanish/English dictionary of foods, cooking terms, and things you find in the kitchen, as well as recipe substitutions, a U.S. measure to metric conversion guide, food and cooking related resources, and a bonus section of recipes from other Costa Rica bloggers and cooks. I will be sharing more info about the book and how you can get your copy in the next newsletter, so stay tuned!

Meals Out – $63.27

As our departure date for our Mexico trip approached, we ate out more often instead of at home as our cupboards were bare and I was busy packing.

Healthcare – $334.11

In June, we both had dentist appointments for cleanings and I also had a filling replaced. Dental care in Costa Rica is a bargain. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons folks come for medical tourism. Our dentist is no exception. For each of our dental cleanings we paid 15,000 colones, totaling $53.29 USD. The normal cost would have been 18,000 colones each but, for some reason, she charged us less this time. My thought was that maybe she didn’t have correct change. When I went back two days later to have a cracked filling replaced, the charge was 20,000 colones ($35.52). I spent over an hour in her chair and she told me to be sure to call her the next day to let her know if I was having any pain.

In June, we also stocked up on our vitamins and supplements, both at local macrobioticas and through a VitaCost order which friends “muled down” for us from the States. I divided the total cost of the Vitacost order in half and will be showing the other half in our July expenses.

Also included in our healthcare spending was our monthly Caja payment of 27,360 colones ($48.60). We used the Caja a couple of times in June. Paul had had a colonoscopy through the Caja on May 31st, so on June 2nd, he had a follow-up visit with his gastroenterologist to discuss the results. We both refilled our prescription medications. And I went to our local EBAIS (Caja clinic) to see the doctor for some on-going IBS symptoms. He ordered some tests which I will have done when we return to Costa Rica in early August. Since all of this was done through the Caja, we had zero out of pocket expenses, over-and-above our monthly Caja payment.

Rent, Phone, & Utilities – $804.30

June 2017 Rent & Utilities Breakdown

This category came in higher than normal since we finally bought a second propane tank. We use propane only for cooking in our San Ramón apartment. We bought one propane tank when we moved into the apartment in January. A tank usually lasts us two to three months. However, it always seems to run out when we are having guests over for a meal! And since it takes an hour or two to get a propane refill, we decided to buy a second propane tank. The cost of the second tank, full of propane, was 45,000 colones (about $80 USD). Now that we have two tanks, when one runs out, we will have the other tank in reserve. Then, all we have to do is refill the empty tank at our leisure. I say “refill,” but in actuality, we are exchanging the empty tank for a full one. Even though you “buy” the propane tank, you never actually keep the one you bought; you exchange it for another tank. That’s why it’s important to work with someone who will give you a tank of the same quality as the one you are trading in.

Our increased spending due to the propane tank purchase was somewhat balanced by the fact that we only paid our housekeeper for two cleanings in June, due to the timing of our trip.

Our electric bill continues to be right around $65/month and all other bills are in line with previous months.

Other Hardware & Household – $293.71

Most of the expense in this category was for the purchase of a Berkey Water Filter, a set of flouride filters, and a maintenance kit ($286.50 USD). Thanks to our friends Laura and Terry who muled it to Costa Rica for us! In Costa Rica, the water is drinkable just about everywhere right out of the tap. They don’t floridate the water here, but they do add chlorine. I’ve never worried about drinking the water in Costa Rica. However, since I started to bake sourdough bread, I need to have a source of filtered water. Combine that with our upcoming trip to Mexico (where you definitely can not drink the water out of the tap), we decided to buy a water filter. We chose the Berkey because of it’s great reputation, its ability to remove  99.9999999% of pathogenic bacteria and 99.999% of viruses, and its affordable price. We chose the Travel Berkey for its portability and capacity. With normal use for two people, the filters will last us four years.

Personal Care & Clothing – $41.74

You know how it is when you are getting ready to take a trip. You get your hair cut (and in my case, colored), you check your wardrobe to see if you need to buy anything new, and you make sure you have all the basics. We got a lot for our money in this category. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Haircut (Paul) – $4.44
  • Haircut and color (Gloria) – $17.76
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses (Gloria) – $5.33
  • 5 pairs of pants at Ropa Americana (Gloria) – $9.24
  • 1 blouse at Ropa Americana (Gloria) – $2.49
  • 1 shirt at Ropa Americana (Paul) – $2.49

We’ve written about Ropa Americana many times. In fact, it’s not just one store but many stores (depending on the size of the town) which sell gently used clothing from the U.S. at bargain prices. The day I bought the pants, I bought the first pair at the regular price of 2,800 colones (about $5), then decided to check upstairs where the real bargains were.  I found a pair of jeans for 1,200 colones ( little over $2) and went to the register where the cashier told me that it was buy-one-get-one-free. I went back to the rack and found not one but three more pairs I liked. Granted, some of the clothing for sale is less “gently used” than I would want to buy, and it’s often hit or miss when I’m looking for something specific. But when I come home with lovely “new” clothes for so little money, I’m a happy camper!

Pet Care & Food – $41.57

As I write this newsletter, Paul and I are in Oaxaca, Mexico and our kitties, Tori and Laura, are back in Costa Rica. We miss them! But we know that they are in good hands. Our friends, Bill and Barbara, are staying in our apartment while we are gone and are taking wonderful care of them. The cat food Tori and Laura like can be purchased just about anywhere, but we can only buy the scoopable litter at PriceSmart. Therefore, in preparation for our being gone, we stocked up on kitty litter which now costs 9,495 colones (about $17.60) per 40 pound bag.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:

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