In the 2011 update on our cost of living in Costa Rica, we talked about the areas of savings we experienced over living in the United States. We broke down our living expenses here in Costa Rica, with emphasis in the big areas of housing, food and healthcare. Then we shared a breakdown of our total expenses, directly from a spreadsheet we keep of everything we spend. (If you haven’t read the previous article, you can read it here.) In this article, we wanted to focus on what has changed and what our current living expenses have been for the first six months of 2012.
First of all, let’s talk about what’s changed:
- Gasoline: Since all gasoline must be imported, and Costa Rica does not have a refinery, it is particularly vulnerable to changes in world oil prices. The good news is that gasoline prices are regulated by a national government agency, so you will pay the same price no matter what gas station you go to, anywhere in the country. The bad news is that increasing taxes have contributed to the high prices for gas. Gas prices rose in March 2012, then dropped in July. The current prices are 744 colones per liter for Super, 699 colones for Regular, and 604 colones for diesel. Translated in prices per gallon, and at today’s exchange rate of 494 colones to the dollar, the numbers are $5.70 per gallon for Super, $5.36 for Regular, and $4.63 for diesel.
- Imported Goods: Imported goods require more transportation than locally produced items so the increasing gas prices have an impact here as well. We are using fewer imported products as we have found local substitutes for many things. Here’s are the prices we’ve paid lately for some of the imported goods we still use:
- French’s Dijon Mustard: $6.46
- Kellogg’s All Bran Cereal: $7.70
- Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa: $7.59
- Heinz Apple Cider Vinegar, 16 oz.: $2.37
- Inflation: Overall inflation in 2011 was about 5.5% and 2012 is expected to be the same.
Despite inflation, there are expense areas where our spending actually decreased from 2011:
- Household miscellaneous items: down 33%, probably because we are pretty much set with most of what we need.
- Entertainment/travel: down 14.5%. Since we have our beach days more often, we find ourselves taking overnight trips less frequently. And despite the fact that we are staying closer to home, we do a lot!. Just read our monthly “What’s Up With the Yeatmans?” in our newsletters and you’ll see for yourself. Bored? Not us!
- Personal care/clothing: down 11%. Hair cuts, pedicures, and beard trims are inexpensive here, and as far as clothing goes, again, we pretty much have what we need.
- Meals out: down 5.5%. I’m cooking at home more than ever, and when we do go out to eat, it’s usually for lunch, and often at our $1 restaurant.
Our spending is basically the same as last year in the following areas:
- Pet care & food
- Rent/phone/utilities (our rent has not increased and includes all utilities except telephone)
- The Value of the US Dollar: Twelve months ago, one dollar bought 498 colones. Today, the value of the dollar is 494 colones, though it fluctuates by a few colones day-to-day.
There are three areas where we have experienced increased expenses over 2011:
- Transportation: up 33%. However, only part of this big percentage is due to higher gas prices. Paul had a fender-bender accident back in February and we spent $1,100 on body work to repair our car. This affected not only our expenses for that month, but the monthly average transportation expenses are skewed as well. Hopefully after 12 months, this average percentage will be reduced.
- Health Care: up 20%. This is due to some health problems that required prescription medications that were not covered in the Caja. On average, these medications cost about $1 per pill and needed to be taken several times a day. But considering our monthly Caja insurance payment is only $42/month and these medications were only temporary, health care here is still a bargain.
- Groceries: up 4%. Not bad at all, and to be expected.
So, here is how we actually spent our money for the first six months of 2012, directly from our spreadsheets.
Again, the anomalies are February, with the increased transportation expenses due to the accident, and April, with increased travel, restaurant, and grocery expenses, due to an eight-day visit from family.
And here are our totals in each category, and the monthly averages for the first six months:
So that’s our Cost of Living Update. Overall, we’re pleased and are finding it very manageable to live a good life, for less, here in Costa Rica. But remember, it all depends on the way you choose to live. The above expenses reflect how we live. We live well, though we are also budget conscious; however we don’t feel like we’re “doing without.” We live simply and we’re happy doing so.