Jan 10 2015

Our December 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2014_DecDecember is one of those months when we know our cost of living will be higher than normal due to expected expenses.

Transportation – $417.79

First off, we can always count on our car-related expenses to be high in December. This is the month when the Marchamo is due on all cars in Costa Rica. The Marchamo is a combination of yearly registration and mandatory basic liability insurance. The amount you pay is based on the type and age of your car. You can pay Marchamo at most banks and many other locations including the Cruz Roja (Red Cross) and INS offices. INS is short for Instituto Nacional de Seguros  (National Insurance Institute). This year, we paid it at the INS office in San Ramón on December 18th. The deadline is December 31st (though a recent Tico Times article stated that “Nearly one-quarter of car owners fail to pay marchamo on time”).

You would think that the rate would go down as your car gets older but that isn’t always the case. This year, the Marchamo on our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner was 102,916 colones ($195.66.) We thought it would be interesting to see how the expense has, or has not, changed over the years, so here it is for the last four years, complete with conversion to US dollars and the exchange rate at the time. As you can see, as our car has gotten older and, presumably, worth less, our Marchamo has increased.

marchamo_yearly

At the time we paid our Marchamo, we discovered an unpaid parking ticket that we weren’t aware of. Luckily, it was only for 5,500 colones (about $11). We had to pay it in order to pay our Marchamo and get our registration sticker for the new year.

Gasoline has gone down in price to about $4.60/gallon from a high of about $5.50. Other than gas for our car, we had a couple other expenses as well:

  • Oil change & lube: 26,800 colones ($50.95)
  • Car wash: 5,000 colones ($9.52)

The rest of this category is made up of parking, tolls, and an occasional taxi or bus fare.

ayote-ready-to-roastGroceries: $359.59

Despite all of my holiday baking and special foods, our grocery expenses were pretty much in line, just a tad over our normal $350/month. It helps that we stocked up on nuts and chocolate chips on last month’s trip to PriceSmart and that I did so much from scratch — including roasting lots of ayote (a hard orange-fleshed squash similar to pumpkin) for the 15 or so loaves of pumpkin bread I baked, roasting the “pumpkin” seeds, and even making my own ricotta for our Christmas Day lasagna. Luckily, I enjoyed doing all of it!

Rent/Phone/Utilities: $866.35

This category is a bit higher than normal for two reasons. First, Paul’s phone bill was somewhat higher, coming in at just under 20,000 colones ($37.32). and we also put 3,000 colones ($5.71) on my pay-as-you-go phone. Of course, we also had our monthly Vonage bill which is now $31.07.

ChristmasBonusThe other reason this category is higher is due to paying our housekeeper her Aguinaldo (Christmas bonus). Basically, the aguinaldo is an additional month of wages that employers are required by law to pay between December 1st and the 20th.The amount due is calculated by adding the total wages for the year (December 1st of the previous year through November 30th of the current year) and then dividing by 12. Our housekeeper’s Aguinaldo came to just under $50 and she has been working for us for about a year now, four hours per week. Though not required, we also paid her double-time when she cleaned for us on Christmas eve. So, our total cost for housekeeping in the month of December was $115.52.

Miscellaneous: $87.66

This category was also higher than normal due to the holiday season. This is where we noted gifts of cash to individual service workers — parking guys, waitresses, hair cutters, etc. who give us such great service throughout the year. Also included was our gift to the Community Action Alliance’s Animal Welfare Giving Tree.

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 below:

2014_Nov2014_Oct

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