Jun 11 2019

Our April 2019 Costa Rica Cost of Living

We have been busy the last couple of months so I am a bit behind in getting you our monthly cost of living reports but we will catch up! April was another month of low spending for us. We stayed close to home and had no big or unusual expenses. Here’s the breakdown:

Transportation – $0.00

I think this is the first time this has ever happened! We spent zero on transportation. We had filled up our tank with gasoline at the end of the prior month and then, since we stayed close to home, we didn’t need another fill-up until the following month. We walked most places in town and when we drove, it was only locally, so no tolls or parking expenses, plus we had no car repairs. 

Groceries – $372.20

Our cost for groceries in April was a bit lower than in recent months, perhaps because we ate our main meal of the day in restaurants more often than normal. Of the total spent, 84% was for food ($313.47) and 16% was for non-food items ($58.73).

Meals Out – $131.11

We ate lunch or dinner out in restaurants seven times in April — once at Savory a la Thai with friends, three times at Filipos, twice at a newly discovered restaurant, MegaMariscos, and once at El Establo for their $10 happy hour dinner special which includes a glass of wine with your choice of a limited menu. For two people, our meals out ranged from $17.44 to $26.73. All of these restaurants were in our town of San Ramón.

Healthcare – $188.68

In April, we had a few expenses in addition to our regular Caja payment and the pro-rated monthly MediSmart membership fee.

As a followup to his kidney surgery last August, Paul had a kidney function test done at the local lab. Thankfully, everything looks good. The lab test cost only $16.81 and he received the results the same afternoon.

The other expense was 28,000 colones ($46.74) for our dentist to replace one of Paul’s old fillings.

The balance of our healthcare spending for the month ($64.05) was for supplements, some of which we buy locally and the rest we had a friend bring us from the States.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $798.91

No real surprises here. We did buy propane in April (a tank lasts us 2-3 months; we use it for cooking on our gas stove) which cost $11.69. Our expense for housecleaning was the same as normal though Flor cleaned for us only three times instead of four. The reason is that we gave her the paid day off during Semana Santa (Holy Week), as did most of the other families she works for.

Our total phone expenses include cell phone service ($23.37) for both Paul and me, as well as our Vonage VOIP line  ($18.98) which allows us to keep a U.S. phone number. Our cell phone service is pre-paid which means we don’t have a regular plan. We pay as we go and only add money to our accounts when the balance runs low. Our phone expenses were a bit higher than normal in April as we bought a 64 gigabyte SD card for Paul’s Huawei phone. The cost of the SD card was $32.77.

Other Hardware/Household – $38.47

It was time to buy new sheets for the king bed in our guest room. It used to be that there wasn’t much of a selection in San Ramon, but a few years ago, a store opened just a block from our apartment that carries a big variety of sheets, towels, and comforters. Great, we thought, we’ll go there to buy what we need. Now, we know that often items like sheets aren’t of the highest quality, but we thought we found a great deal on Egyptian cotton sheets:

I remember laughing to Paul about the 1200 thread count. “Somehow I doubt that that’s accurate,” I said, “especially at this price” of $23.28. We paid for the sheets and took them home to make the bed. We were still laughing later, this time at ourselves when we realized that the “1200” had nothing to do with thread count and that our Egyptian Elegance sheets were 100% polyester made in China.

Three lessons learned:

  • Always bring my reading glasses to look at the small print.
  • Don’t make assumptions based on packaging or marketing. You get what you pay for.
  • Even “old-timers” in the expat life can be fooled at times.

Personal Care and Clothing – $35.89

For years now, I have paid only 10,000 colones to get my hair cut and colored. My long-time stylist moved to the States with her husband a few years ago and I was lucky to find another stylist who charged the same amount and did a great job with my hair. However, in the last year, she moved to another town and I changed stylists again. The new stylist charged 12,000 colones and she was just up the block from our apartment. When I tried to go back to her in April, I found that her small shop had disappeared.

I came to the conclusion that it’s hard to make enough of a living charging only 10,000 colones for a cut and color and maybe if I paid more, the shop would be around for a while. I decided to try another salon nearby which had been in business for five years; in fact, they had just moved from the same building as our apartment to a larger location so that they could expand. Now, instead of paying  10,000 colones, I am paying 16,000 colones ($26.71) and am very pleased. I have since been back and they are still in business, so fingers crossed for the future.

Pet Supplies – $22.92

Our only expense for the month was a bag of Science Diet cat food for our two kitties, Tori and Laura.

Entertainment  $52.08

In addition to our monthly NetFlix bill ($11.68, but about to go up to $12.99 starting in May) and Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun online ($2.00), we also attended another event at Vientos Bajos in El Empalme de San Ramon. This time we were treated to lunch and a choral presentation by the Homestead Choir from Cupertino, California. They were excellent, especially their soloists. It was a great opportunity to enjoy time with friends and hear a range of choral music. We had a lovely afternoon for the price of 20,000 colones for both of us ($33.39).

Services – $8.35

We have the luxury of having our clothing ironed, as needed, for less than $1 USD per piece. In April, we had 10 of Paul’s shirts ironed by a lady in our neighborhood for a total of $8.35 (5,000 colones).

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months reported. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:

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