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Apr 17 2017

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Our March 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living

In March, we made what will, hopefully, be the last of the big purchases for our new apartment — our couch and love seat. We still have a few things to buy but we’re almost done!  Here’s the breakdown of what we spent. Without the purchase of the couches, our spending for the month of March would have been $2,012.78.

Transportation – $260.06

The main reason our transportation expenses were higher again in March is that it’s when we pay our car insurance for six months. Even though we are using the car less since our move into town, insurance is one of those expenses that doesn’t go away.

Groceries – $492.95

What the heck happened to our grocery budget in March? Ouch! This has to be one of our highest months ever. And, for once, I don’t have an explanation. I know that our freezer is full, so that’s good. But even our non-food expenses were higher than normal. In March, we spent $449.48 on groceries and an additional $43.47 on non-food items (about 9%). Yes, we are buying more organic produce. And yes, we started entertaining again, now that we’re more settled in our new apartment. But almost $500 on groceries! That’s a lot for us. Hopefully April will be lower.

Meals Out – $136.79

Our expenses in this category covered three dinners out, and quite a few lunches. Again, this is higher than normal spending for us.

Healthcare – $241.63

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In addition to our normal healthcare expenses (monthly payments for Caja and MediSmart), I also started seeing an acupuncturist in March: Franco Lin, at the Centro de Medicina Alternative Traditional de China (Center for Alternative and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in San Ramon. The office is located 75 meters east of the Tremedal church. The first visit cost 20,000 colones (about $36) and included a consultation; the three follow-up visits cost 10,000 colones each (about $18).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $796.07

Here’s the March breakdown:

As I mentioned in last month’s cost of living article, water is now included in our rent, so we will no longer have that expense.

Electricity continues to run around $60/month. We were hoping that would go down but so far it hasn’t. It’s most likely due to running the dryer every week. We really miss being able to hang clothes outside on the line to dry.

Our housekeeping expense was a bit higher in March since Flor cleans for us on Wednesday mornings and there were five Wednesdays in March. But, it’s well worth it to us. Just cleaning all the tile floors would take us hours.

On the 26th of March, we finally had to refill our propane tank. Of course, the tank ran out while I had a quiche in the oven in preparation for brunch with guests. Luckily, Dr. Gas in San Ramón delivers seven days a week, 7 am to 7 pm. We called them and they were able to bring us a new bottle of gas in about an hour. Brunch turned into lunch, but the quiche survived! The propane refill, delivered, cost us 7,000 colones ($12.70). We are planning to buy a 2nd tank so that we can have a refill ready to go at all times, but it’s nice to know we can get refills just about whenever we need them.

Furniture for New Apartment – $658.94

By far, the majority of the expense in the category went towards buying a couch and love seat for our living room. We had shopped for months and finally, on March 9th, we got tired of shopping and decided to buy something that day. We had narrowed it down to Muebles Mucarú as their couches seemed more reasonably priced and comfortable. Plus, friends also bought couches there and were very pleased with the quality and price. Our two big criteria, in addition to price, were that it needed to be long enough for Paul (who is 6’2″) to nap comfortably, and high enough for me to rest my head on the back cushions. Muebles Mucarú has three showrooms, two in Palmares and one on Rt. 1 between Palmares and Naranjo. We had been to two of their showrooms in the past, so we headed to their third showroom, just off Rt. 1 at the entrance to Palmares.

Not only did they have several couches we liked, the price was right and their delivery guys were right there. While I paid the bill, they were already starting to load our couch and love seat into the delivery truck. They met us back at our apartment and then the adventure began! We live in a 2nd floor apartment with a winding staircase up from the front door. They were able to bring the love seat up the staircase but the couch was just too long. The guys took it in stride and, with good humor, they brought it up over the balcony from their truck below:

We still need a few things like tables and maybe a television and stand, but having a functional living room has added to our enjoyment of the apartment.

The couch and love seat cost 345,000 colones ($621.15). Since we bought it off the floor instead of having it custom made, we got a better price than the normal 425,000 colones. Since the furniture we chose had only been on display in the showroom for 3 days, we got the best of both worlds — just what we wanted, when we wanted it, and at a better price.

The only other expense in this category was for the chair pads we bought for our kitchen chairs. Cost for six chair pads was $37.79 at Ekono.

Pets – $58.92

Out cats needed furniture too! When we were shopping for our couches, we specifically looked for fabric that they would be less likely to scratch. But our cats, being cats, had to investigate the new furniture with their claws. We tried spraying the couches with citrus-infused water, and even tried spraying them (with plain water) to break them of the habit. But the best thing to do was get them something they could scratch. The scratching posts we found were poorly made, yet expensive, so I looked on Pinterest for ideas and decided to build one myself.

It took a bit of creativity to find suitable materials in San Ramón, but after wandering the town, finding a place that would cut wood planks to order for me, and lots of visits to hardware stores, second-hand stores, and places that sold rugs, I had everything I needed. I borrowed a drill from our neighbor, plugged in my newly-purchased hot glue gun, and got to work one Saturday. About five hours and $52 later, it was finished:

Since this picture was taken, I’ve added some hanging toys and bells and the kitties are loving it, especially Tori! And, of course, we praise them every time they use it.

Tori sitting pretty

Entertainment – $72.04

One of the highlights of March for us was a trip to two organic farms in Zarcero. It was organized by a local expat through La Paquereña, a local produce market which receives weekly deliveries from these two organic farms as well as other organic (and conventional) products from local merchants. Here’s a peek at the tour:

We visited Finca Organica Guadalupe, which is a certified organic farm in Zarcero. We also visited Finca Organica Tierra de Sueños. which, though no longer certified organic, still maintains its organic practices and values. We also had a wonderful organic lunch at Finca Organica Tierra de Sueños.  The tour, including bus transportation, tours of both organic farms, a presentation at Finca Organica Guadalupe, lunch, and even samples to bring home from both farms, cost 12,000 each, or a total of about $43.00.

Lunch at Finca Tierra de Sueños

Miscellaneous – $91.19

In March, we spent about $80 to get both of our drivers licenses renewed. You can read all about it in our article, “Renewing Our Costa Rica Drivers Licenses: A Time-Saving Tip.”

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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