Wow! We came in under $1,700 for March! We are definitely pleased. But why did we spend so little? I think the biggest reason was Semana Santa, Holy Week in Costa Rica. It was a week when it was hard to spend money!
During Semana Santa, just about everything closes down — government buildings, banks, and most stores, though grocery stores are open, sometimes with limited hours. Ticos head to the beaches, which is why we stay home, to avoid the crowds and traffic. On Good Friday, even most restaurants are closed. We went into town on Good Friday to watch the procession and had a hard time finding a place to eat dinner afterwards. We ended up eating burgers and fries (not your typical Good Friday meal for two people raised as Catholics!) and spent about $13.00. To give you an idea of what a typical coffee town in very Catholic Costa Rica does for Good Friday, here’s a quick little video:
Our groceries came in slightly below average, though we entertained quite a bit in March. We had a friend stay over at our house at least one night per week, plus we hosted Easter dinner at our house with friends. Just as our Good Friday meal wasn’t traditional, our Easter menu wasn’t either. I bet we were the only people to have homemade pizza and salad for Easter dinner! But it’s a fun meal and not expensive to make, even with homemade dessert and wine.
We also had guests for the day who were visiting from the States, and tour clients who spent a night at our house before Paul took them to the airport the next day. But since I cook and bake just about everything from scratch, our grocery bill doesn’t get too big.
Our utility bills were pretty low in March. Propane gas, which we use for both cooking and hot water, has gone down to less than 6,000 colones (about $11.36) and tanks have been lasting us about 3 weeks. So some months, like March, we only need to purchase one tank. If you use propane, it’s a good idea to have two tanks so that you always have a spare when the first one runs out. It’s usually when I’m about to cook dinner that the propane runs out and it’s great to have the extra tank close by, and Paul can change it in about 10 minutes.
Here’s a breakdown of our rent, phone, and utilities for March:
Our water bill was very inexpensive (6,145 colones) as we don’t water plants and lawns much in the dry season. I’m sure our neighbors who love to garden pay a bit more than we do. Perhaps if we didn’t have such “brown thumbs,” we would have a higher bill!
Another expense that was less in March was for our housekeeper, as she only came four of the five weeks, a savings of about $15.00.
Our electricity bill remained low (21,090 colones) as the dry season continues. There just isn’t as much of a need to keep lights on and run ceiling fans to keep the mildew down. And we don’t use the dryer in the dry season as we can hang laundry outdoors. Plus, I love the scent of fresh bed sheet dried outdoors!
Entertainment & Travel – $30.89
Just because we didn’t go the beach during Semana Santa doesn’t mean we missed out! We’ve had about two beach days every month at Playa Doña Ana, and March was no exception. It only costs us about $6 to spend the whole day at the beach. Paul’s entry fee is only 750 colones since he’s over 65 years of age. Mine is all of 1,500 colones, and parking costs 1,000 colones. Our only other expense is for charcoal and groceries for whatever we want to cook-out that day. Even though the temperature at the beach was hot, there is always a breeze. It also helps that the picnic tables are in a shady area. The white-faced monkeys were out in full force and seem to be getting bolder. You have to watch out for them coming up to your table to try to steal food. On one of our March beach days, a monkey stole a whole bag of hamburger rolls from our table while we were in the water! And it’s happened before, too — check out this video:
Other than our beach days, we spent $3.99 for a set of James Herriot Kindle books that were on sale, and $8.47 for our Netflix subscription. One thing I wanted to mention about Netflix is that they are cracking down on people who use VPNs to access U.S. programming from other countries. In the past, we could watch anything on U.S. Netflix, or for that matter, Netflix in any other country. But with the changes, we are limited to Netflix for Latin America. I contacted our VPN provider, Witopia, and they told me it is still possible to access Netflix via VPN from some city servers but not others. Hopefully the VPN providers will come up with work-arounds for their clients.
Most of our entertainment doesn’t cost anything! We go to concerts at the local cultural center, visit with friends, play with our cats, read, and watch videos on YouTube (Paul’s favorite past-time) and other free sites. I can honestly say I’ve never been bored in the seven years we’ve lived in Costa Rica!
Meals Out – $84.48
We spent a bit more in this category in March, most of it for fairly inexpensive ($3-$5) lunches, as Paul is in town more often these days. In March, he started teaching a “survival English” class for adultos mayores (senior citizens). He is doing it on a volunteer basis, teaching two afternoons each week, through June, as part of the University of Costa Rica’s Programa Integral de la Persona Adulta Mayor de la UCR (PIAM) (Comprehensive Program of the Older Adult). The challenge is that some of his students speak basic English while others are starting from scratch. But they are all very nice folks and seem to be enjoying the class as much as Paul is enjoying teaching it.
That’s it for March. 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:
- Our 2014 Annual Cost of Living in Costa Rica Summary
- Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary