Mar 20 2016

In the Mailbag-Everybody’s Talking About the Cost of Living in Costa Rica

When we posted Our February 2016 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses – $1991.73 on facebook, we got LOTS of varied reactions. Here are a few of our favorites:

Tom M. wrote:

This month, after living here since September 11, 2013, I had my best budget month. I am no longer fighting my impulse to wish I had the convenience of how we shopped in the USA. Also, I have finally found the shops for what I want rather then drop a bundle on being lazy! It takes time to learn this new way of life, but now my cash flow works and I have peace about the way of life. Why it took me so long, I don’t care!

Charles M. wrote:

You should be capitalizing and depreciating the asset purchases rather than expensing them. You will get a much more accurate number and it wont be so lumpy month to month. Also rather than showing the sequential results, why not compare year over year numbers? Seasonality is likely a major factor in costs.

Thanks, Charles, for your input. We do average everything out at the end of the year and compare year-to-year costs of living. The name of our work and web site is “Retire for Less.” It’s Retire for a life Less complicated, where month to month expenses over time make sense for people who want to know how day-to-day life shakes out for one family month-to-month in one country, living well, but modestly. People have always appreciated that simplicity.

Mike H. wrote:

Are you kidding me?? I can’t imagine one person living on that..let alone two? Do you ever have fun? I have had people saying I won’t make it there…. I hate saying what my retirement is but I will….it’s just me and my dog.. but much more than twice your budget is my income…if that is correct I could buy a really nice boat in a couple of years…

Then Mike, you could probably live like a king here. And yes, we do have fun. We go out to dinner, invite folks over for meals, go to community and cultural events, go to the beach for the day a couple of times a month. But for us, fun doesn’t always cost money. Fun for me (Gloria) is reading a great book in our hammock, listening to the birds sing, watching the sunset off our porch, or enjoying the water with friends at our favorite close beach.  But we know that what we call “fun” and what others call “fun” isn’t necessarily the same. We are sharing our journey to show folks that a great life is possible for us (and maybe them) in Costa Rica, on less.

And Bonnie V., a long-time reader, wrote this:

We met Paul and Gloria in April of 2012 when we first came here to explore retirement in Costa Rica. We kept in touch, and when we came back a year and a half later, they invited us to spend a night with them in their rental home outside of San Ramon We were there as their guests, not part of any tour, and they were gracious, welcoming hosts. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and breakfast which Gloria prepared from wholesome, locally sourced ingredients, all served on their comfortable patio with a beautiful view of the mountains and distant ocean. I have followed their newsletter for almost four years and have written to Gloria numerous times to ask questions. I have found Paul and Gloria to be generous with their time and forthright with their responses. Reading their tips for living on less and seeing first hand how they live joyful lives, gave us the confidence to retire last year rather than continuing to work until we had “enough” money. Some may find, as I do, that the toaster example is a bit extreme. But really, the point they make is that there are all sorts of ways that you can save a little bit here and a little bit there to carve out simple, joyful, and meaningful lives here. The choices you make will be determined by your income and tolerance level. If your income is twice or three times what theirs is, that’s wonderful! You’ll be able to live a lifestyle closer to what you lived wherever you came from. Out of necessity, we live on a budget that is even lower than Paul and Gloria’s. We’ve learned so much from their newsletters, yet we make different choices about where to save. Do we have fun? Every day! We enjoy the simple pleasures of walking our dog, interacting with the Ticos, preparing delicious meals at home, attending and hosting potlucks with our Tico and Gringo friends, watching movies on Netflix, etc. And we’ve enjoyed the company of several visiting friends and family members since we arrived here. The money we’ve saved by living in a small town and living simple, low-consumer lifestyles has allowed us to take several modest vacations to the Pacific coast, the Central Valley, the Caribbean coast, and the Southern Zone. We have good friends who live charmed lives here on far less money than we do. They swing this by not owning a vehicle, growing their own organic produce, rarely eating at restaurants, and taking fewer vacations than we do. We, too, track every expenditure, and it takes very little time. I always make sure to get receipts or jot down the amount spent when I don’t get one, and when I get on my computer in the evening, I enter them in a spreadsheet and throw most of the receipts away. It takes less than two minutes a day but is invaluable in making sure we live within our means. There are many paths to a happy life, and I appreciate Paul and Gloria sharing their path.

A few others mentioned our toaster example as well. Eric T. wrote:

Are you that big of a tight-wad Paul, or just trying to recycle? Buy a new freaking toaster, or at least eat the cardboard you have been reusing for the past year. Sheesh. How much did you spend per month while living in the U.S. before moving to Costa Rica?

toasterTo answer Eric’s question, we spent about $3450/month in the States and spend about $2000/month here — a whopping 42% reduction in expenses that goes along with an even better quality of life. The whole point of the toaster account in our cost of living report wasn’t that we’re tightwads (though I will admit to being frugal). It’s my (Gloria’s) desire to stop throwing away things which still work. Instead, we get them repaired or find work-arounds. I think it would make my depression-era parents proud! Plus, it’s always good for a laugh at breakfast time when we have folks visiting.

N. Johnson wrote:

I know my position is not well received here but people get way too intoxicated on pura vida do not fully account for the real costs to live in CR as an expat. Where are costs to do boarder runs or fly back to US? Where are costs to buy a relaible car in CR? Where are cost going out to dinner and having a few drinks costs? Where are auto repair costs? (not just maintnance). Paul’s job seem to be seducing gullible US citizen into thinking that can live in paradise for less than the US, and what he is selling is not reality (sorry Paul nothing personal). You can only survive in CR on less than $2K a month, you cannot live at the same comfort as in US. And you are not living in Expat communities like Santana, Nosara, or Santa Tersea for $2K a month. (Santa now being one the most expensive places to live in central america as an expat). I love CR and know it well, (been a habitual tourist here since 1998), many great aspects to the country which I adore. But its no cheaper to live the same life style in CR as it is in Florida, and in US you can actually work PT and make some money; not take jobs from Ticos.

And here is Paul’s reply:

N. Johnson, it’s true we live in the western central valley, in San Ramon de Alajuela & it’s considerably less expensive than living at the beach. However, we’ve been doing this for years too. We are not tourists, nor expats, but rather immigrants with permanent residency. We’ve NEVER said our way is the only way. Incidentally, we do mention & put in everything in our monthly cost of living, i.e. airfares, meals out, auto repairs, etc. We leave nothing out. Additionally, we write about crime, humidity, mold, & the heat of some areas.We never mention the word paradise nor luxury. We feel they are both disingenuous & a marketing “come-on.” We tell it like it is, the good, the bad, & the ugly. I hope our readers are not gullible. It’s also true, if you want to live that BIG American Life, it’s going to cost you. We just live a little life, an extremely fascinating & fulfilling one, & for us it’s just beginning. We’ve just scratched the surface of the possibilities.

If you are wondering what it would cost YOU to retire in Costa Rica, check out our article, “So What Would It Cost ME to Live in Costa Rica?”

And responding to Our January 2016 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses article mentioning watching television and movies in Costa Rica, Paddicakes shares the following info with our readers:

Here are two additional ways to watch TV shows from the US:
For live TV, there is ustvnow.comTVset
You can also record — but it is limited unless you pay additional. You can also sign-in using Facebook.

For yesterday’s TV and international TV without the VPN: use If you set up a profile, you can keep track of the shows you want to watch — but you don’t need a profile to watch. You can also watch episodes of shows that you missed and some older TV shows you used to watch. This site is a little trickier and you have to learn to not fall for any download requests and to just close and ignore the ads — very much like the old project free TV was. Also be careful not to fall for any start buttons that are really commercials. I find “vodlocker” works best for me and “vidbull” when it comes to view options. As for Downton Abbey, I got to watch it when it came out in Britain and have already watched the final episode — the Christmas special.

Thanks Paddicakes for showing us another way to have fun without spending money!


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