May 18 2013

Newsletter – May 18, 2013

Welcome to our Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria


In This Issue:


Retire for Less Goes to Mexico!

That’s right, we’re going to Mexico, to speak at the International Living Ultimate Conference in Playa del Carmen, also known as the Riviera Maya, south of Cancún.

Click to Enlarge

We’ll be leaving on May 20 and returning June 6. After five days at the conference talking about our lives in Costa Rica, we’ll spend the next 10 days traveling from Playa del Carmen to Toluca, Mexico City, Puebla/Cholula, and finally Oaxaca. While at the conference, we’ll speak for 25 minutes and assist at a workshop about Costa Rica, plus spend time at a booth answering questions. Our presentation will cover our favorite topics: simplicity, our cost of living, healthcare, the importance of learning Spanish, and why we chose Costa Rica. We spoke at IL’s 2012 Costa Rica conference last November and we’ll be presenting at their next one in August. We’re very excited about the opportunity to talk about our favorite subject: this special country that we have made our home.

This will be my (Paul’s) first time out of the country, so I’m really excited about this trip. As some of you may know, I graduated from the University of the Americas Puebla in 1977, and Gloria and I had our honeymoon in Mexico 9 years ago. We hope to retrace some of our steps with a better camera, and have several tours and small trips planned.

Frida Kahlo "Self Portrait" 1940

In Mexico City, we plan to:

  • Visit Coyoacán and the Frida Kahlo house, which is now a museum.
  • Go to the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon at Teotihuacán.
  • Visit the Bellas Artes.
  • Spend some time at the Zócolo, viewing some of the world famous murals of Frida’s lover and husband, Diego Rivera, and, like on our last visit, maybe even see a shaman perform a healing ceremony with a snake.

Then we head to Cholula and Puebla by bus (2.5 hours from Mexico City). We will:

  • Stay at a hotel in downtown Puebla.
  • Visit my University, where I can buy a sweatshirt. If I’m lucky and it’s not too expensive, I’ll buy a class ring – University of the Americas Puebla, Class of 1977.
  • Visit  some of my old haunts in Cholula.

Market Day at Ocotlán Oaxaca Mexico

Then it’s off to Oaxaca by bus (4.5 hours). We’ll:

  • Check out Monte Alban
  • Sit and eat in the Zocalo
  • Visit an old college friend who lives in San Augustine Etla
  • Visit the various Indian markets in Ocotlán, one which has been in the same location every week for over 1000 years.
  • And naturally, we’ll try lots of moles – Oaxaca alone has seven.


So, What Does This Mean?

Is Retire for Less leaving Costa Rica and moving to Mexico? The answer is no. We’re just taking full advantage of a trip to Mexico. And while we’re there, we plan to investigate the cost of living and other factors. Ultimately, we’d love to spend a month each year in Mexico, just for the variety and the adventure.

What About Your Cats and House?

While we’re gone, both our kitties and our rental house will be well taken care of by the owners of the house who are visiting from Maine. After all, who could take better care of this marvelous casa than the owners? Our cats, will get used to new people watching over them, but we have to admit, it’s hard to leave the little buggers for 2 ½ weeks. We’ll miss them.

What’s next?

We get to enjoy the wonders of a different country for a time, and then we’ll return to Costa Rica and tell you all about it! Our next newsletter will most likely go out the middle of June and, shortly after that, we’ll get back on our regular schedule. So, hasta luego!


Our April 2013 Cost of Living and Our Transportation Budget Breakdown

Our April 2013 living expenses totaled a mere $1741.38. It was such a good month we went back and double-checked everything, just to be sure. Even with our increased costs since moving to the new house, a bigger than usual grocery bill, and some other extra expenses, we were surprised to see that we didn’t break $1800.

We spent over $400 for groceries. Maybe we entertained a bit more in April, but nothing else really stands out to explain the increase. I know we made a visit or two to Auto Mercado for some specialty items, but we didn’t have one big standout grocery bill the entire month…we just went to the store more frequently.

Healthcare was also up, by about $90 for Paul’s medical treatment when he had chest pain. But thankfully, the visit to the emergency room and tests they ran didn’t cost us anything.

Our Entertainment/Travel category includes $49 for a one year of Witopia’s VPN service. This not only protects us when surfing the web by encrypting our data, it allows us to access U.S. programming on sites such as Since we don’t have a television and are not paying for satellite or other tv services, it is well worth the price to us.

Our Transportation Budget Breakdown

Transportation expenses of $195.33 were actually down, well below our average of $331.71 over the first four months of 2013. We didn’t take the bus or any taxis. The remaining category breaks down as follows:

  • Gas: $182.06
  • Tolls: $5.65
  • Parking: $2.60
  • Tire Repair: $5

In April, we didn’t have any of the extras — car repairs, Marchamo (annual registration), insurance, or RITEVE (annual inspection). It was pretty much just gas (2.5 fill-ups), tolls and parking. We did have a flat tire repaired for 2,440 colones – about $5.00.

To give you an idea of some or our regular car-related expenses, this is what we paid last year:

  • Marchamo (annual registration): $187
  • Insurance: $319
  • RITEVE (annual inspection): $20

The largest part of our transportation expenses is from gas and car repairs. Gas is about $5.50/gallon in Costa Rica and it is normal for us to use 2 to 2.5 tanks of gas per month at about $75 per fill-up. Car repairs vary as parts on our older car wear out and need to be replaced.

Here are our expenses for the previous two months:

Related Articles:


Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: See the “Doctor” at Clinica de Ropa

Sometimes my clothes are “sick” and need repair – a hem, a new zipper, a tear to be mended, a hole to be patched, buttons to be sewn on, or maybe elastic to be replaced. So what do I do? Why, it’s simple! Just take those worn-out but fixable rags to the Clinic, of course. Once you do that, you can breathe a sigh of relief. (I think they’re even capable of open-heart surgery, but most of the time I settle for a “quick fix.”) These seamstresses can fix almost anything and do it for a great price. Here are some examples:

  • Hem Gloria’s blouse, bottom and both sleeves: $3.00. Note: this was a brand new blouse that she bought at Ropa Americana for only $2, so the whole thing was a bargain.
  • Replace worn out zipper in Paul’s pants: $4, including the zipper.
  • Sew new buttons on Gloria’s shirt: $1.00  (This is the same shirt that Chiquito, the spider monkey, popped the buttons off of when he grabbed the bottom of the shirt and pulled, and the same shirt that Gloria paid 80 cents for at Ropa Americana. Are you starting to see a trend here?)
  • Patch a hole: $2.00
  • Sew a tear: $2.00

They can hem your curtains and mend practically anything (though they can’t replace worn elastic on a bathing suit…go figure). Their prices are somewhat fixed; there is a sliding scale based on degree of difficulty, materials needed, and sometimes, who you talk to. But it’s cheap. It’s just one of those services that’s a real good deal here.

But don’t fret if you don’t have a Clinica de Ropa in your neighborhood. (Hey, is the doctor in?) Have no fear; you probably do have one in your town, though it may be called by another name. After all, “a rose by any other name is just as sweet.” So, even if it’s not called the Clinica de Ropa, you can rest assured that just about every town in Costa Rica will have a similar place to have things mended. Or, maybe you’re good with a needle and thread…hey, do I sense a business here??

Related Article:


Featured Property: House with Rental Apartments-4BR-Lake & Volcano Views $150,000

Reference# Res-60

Flexible large home: 4 bedrooms, 3 baths


The  main living area of this versatile home  totals 1808 sq. ft. The total including the storage rooms and carport is 2346 sq. ft.

It has long lake and volcano views, especially important if used as a B&B. There are extra features like good restaurants and interesting Expat neighbors to enhance enjoyment of tropical life near the village of Sabalito at the northwestern end of Lake Arenal.

It is conveniently located only 20 min. from Tilaran and 1 ½ hours from the Liberia International Airport.

In addition to the 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, there is a Jacuzzi, a multi-purpose garden room/exercise room, two large storage rooms, strong room for valuables, large laundry room and a wide covered porch.

The half-acre property has beautiful tropical flowering plants and fruit trees including mango, orange, mandarin, banana,grapefruit, lemon, cas and coconut trees.

The home could easily be divided into three areas and thus could have two or three apartments for extra income.The present owners rent the second-floor apartment regularly by day, week or month.  Since it is only a few minutes from the windsurfing center on Lake Arenal, the apartment is especially desired during December through March windsurfing season.

Click here for more photos and to contact the realtor for this property.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


Have a Reserve Fund

For a Rainy Day

If you’re retiring overseas and you have a pension or Social Security, that’s fine. But you better bring a cash reserve as well. How much? I don’t know. Bring what you can. Recently we suggested at least $20,000, but $120,000 would be even better. And when I say “bring down” I don’t mean physically bringing a wad of cash. You can leave it in the bank in your home country, or invest it in CDs, or another vehicle that is somewhat liquid. The reserve, of course, would be over and above your Social Security or pension. You may never need it…but you never know. Things happen. (See the article below for an example.)

You may want to buy a car, or you may have some unforeseen medical emergency that requires an operation. Plus, you may not be in the Caja yet, so that healthcare option wouldn’t be available to you. You would need to go the private healthcare route. Your cash reserve might prove to be very handy for whatever the need is. You just never know, and that’s why you need a cash reserve.

Keep Your Medicare B

This is one of those times we tell people to do as we say, not as we did. Keep your Medicare B or other national health care plan, if possible. We opted out because we needed the extra $110 per month that Medicare B would have cost us. At the time, my monthly Social Security check would have gone from $922 to $812/month. It would have put an extra monthly financial strain on us that we couldn’t afford. We feel we made the right decision for us.

So, if you can afford to keep your Medicare B, you probably should. It’s just like the cash reserve. You just never know what’s going to happen, so it’s nice to know you have that medical option open to you. Plus, it covers preexisting conditions. One negative is that, currently, you can only use it in the U.S.

We Came Anyway

When I read or write our own stuff, I realize we weren’t totally ready or prepared financially to come to Costa Rica. We had my Social Security of $922 and a very small cash reserve. Once we made up our minds to move to Costa Rica, we saved like crazy for less than 2 years. During that time, we made four trips, drawing down our cash reserves. I’m so glad we came down those four times, not so much to check out Costa Rica, because I knew we were coming anyway. But more as a break from work. I mean, once we knew we were going to do this thing, we couldn’t do it fast enough. The days seemed like weeks, and the months like years. But, you know what? We’ve never regretted it for a minute. To be fair, it was easier for us, even though we didn’t have a lot of money, because we don’t have kids or grand-kids to consider or hold us back.

So, before you move to Costa Rica, or anywhere internationally, think about the “what ifs” and plan for them the best you can by having a reserve fund and, where possible, a backup for medical care. Because…things happen.

Things Happen (reprint from October 2012)

We always advise people to come to Costa Rica with some extra money – at least $15,000, $25,000, $50,000 over their Social Security or Pension, because unexpected things happen and can blow any budget. For us, a pair of eyeglasses and a new radiator blew our September budget.

If it weren’t for those unexpected expenses, we would have been right within our monthly budget of $1,700-$1,800, but things happen. Last February, we were right on our way to setting a record of $1,356, our lowest and most austere month, but things happen, like a fender-bender requiring a $1,100 car repair.

You can rest assured that things will happen, unexpected accidents, Illness, auto repairs, hospital stays — some small expenses and some not so small. You just never know, so plan on the unplanned and bring some extra money so you have a reserve fund, over-and-above your monthly retirement checks.


Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube

You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter, so please “like” us on Facebook“follow” us on Twitter, and watch and share our videos on YouTube.


What’s New on the Website

Check out our newest posts on

Permanent link to this article:

Comments have been disabled.