We really blew our budget in February! The overages are mostly in the transportation category but they are in a couple of other categories as well.
Transportation – $1,158.08
First off, here’s the breakdown:
- Gas, tolls, & parking: $173.14
- Replace engine light sensor: $28.25 (15,000 colones)
- Replace clutch: $941.62 (500,000 colones)
- Car wash: $15.07 (8,000 colones)
The biggest expense, as you see, was to replace the clutch on our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner. Paul drives about 9,000 miles per year, which probably doesn’t seem like much. But driving these mountain roads, with all the hills and curves, is tough on a clutch. The car is 18 years old and we’ve owned it for six years. This may be the first time the clutch has had to be replaced, we don’t know for sure. So, big expense, yes, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Without needing to get a new clutch, our monthly expenses would have been low, $1,783.61. But things happen and we’re grateful we have a reserve for emergencies.
Earlier in the month we had problems with the check engine light coming on. After checking the car, our mechanic confirmed that the engine is fine, we just had to replace the engine light sensor. He called his parts supplier, got a new one, and replaced it. The next day the light came back on. We went back to the mechanic, who checked and told us that the new part was faulty. He got another one from his supplier and replaced it again (at no extra cost to us) and it was fine…until the next day when the check engine light came on again. He called his supplier who admitted that he had some problems with these parts and sent a new one over. When our mechanic replaced the clutch, he installed the 3rd new sensor. And, guess what? The next day the check engine light came on again. So now we’re waiting for another new sensor, this time from another supplier — who hopefully gets his parts from somewhere else!
Gas, tolls, and parking were right in line so no comments needed there. Well, maybe one…several months ago we were paying about $80 to fill our tank with gas, and now, after the price decreases, it’s costs about $50.
The only other car-related expense was a car wash. During the dry season it gets really dusty here and this year it’s been especially windy also, so it’s been hard to keep the car clean. Paul usually washes the car himself but he wanted to have a really thorough job done so he took it to one of the car washes in town. Usually it costs 5,000 colones but for this more thorough wash, it cost 8,000 ($15.07). The car looked great! But the wind blew all the dust around and it’s time to wash it again. I’ll take that any day over dealing with snow, ice, and freezing rain!
Rent/Phone/Utilities – $792.72
The reason this category fell under $800 is our water bill which was only $11.85 (6,295 colones). Even with watering our flowers and plants every day during the dry season, our bill has gone down as a result of replacing the inner workings of one of our toilets which had been leaking.
Personal Care/Clothing – $170.48
- Personal Care products: $103.72
- Clothing & jewelry: $31.98 (16,990 colones)
- Haircut & color (Gloria): $22.56 (12,000 colones)
- Haircut (Paul): $3.77 (2,000 colones)
We had a friend coming to visit in February so we took the opportunity to order some things from Amazon.com that we can’t find here. One such thing is Braun Oral-B brush heads for our electric toothbrush. In the past, we were able to find them at Walmart here in Costa Rica but they no longer carry them. So we ordered a bunch — some “genuine” Oral-B brush heads and some knock-offs which were much less expensive. Hopefully they will work as well.
Also in this category is clothing. I purchased two new bathing suits at a local store (Ekono) for a total price of 12,990 (24.46). They were on sale for 50% off as Costa Rica’s summer is winding down. While they aren’t the same quality as I could buy in the States, they are pretty and fit okay. Another purchase in this category was some “ankle candy” made by our friend, Jen Beck Seymour (the “Costa Rica Chica”). So with my new bathing suits and anklet, I’m ready for the beach!
Paul and I both had haircuts, though his was substantially less expensive than mine at only 2,000 colones — less than $4. However, I’m not complaining as my hairdresser does a great job cutting and coloring my hair at only 12,000 colones — less than $24.
Entertainment/Travel – $80.46
No traveling in February so this was just pure entertainment. In addition to our normal expenses like Paul’s online subscription to the Baltimore Sun, our hometown newspaper, and our monthly Netflix bill, we did some fun things in February.
First off Paul went to a futbol (soccer) game in San Jose with some Tico friends and our friend, Peter, who was visiting from the States. It was Paul’s first time at the new stadium and his first time at a professional soccer game. Tickets cost 15,000 colones ($28.20) for some of the best seats in the house. He and our friends were rooting for La Liga, Alajuela’s team, which, unfortunately, lost 2-0 to Saprissa, San Jose’s team.
We also visited Playa Dona Ana twice in February. We’re back to doing regular beach days with friends and have really been enjoying them. The cost to enter is very reasonable:
Adults 65+: 750 colones (about $1.50)
Adults: 1,500 colones (about $3)
Parking: 1,000 colones (about $2)
We bring our own food, cookout on the grill, visit with each other, play with the dogs that some friends bring with them, swim and play in the waves, and just have a relaxing day. We live about 50 minutes from the beach and are usually home by 4pm.
Also in this category is the purchase of a Rick Bayless DVD from his cooking show, Mexico One Plate at a Time. We’re planning another trip to Mexico this June and will spend most of our time in Oaxaca so we bought his Season 9 DVD which features the cuisine of Oaxaca, one of the culinary capitals of Mexico. It will be fun watching it both before and after our trip. Once again, we are taking advantage of a visiting guest — this time, my sister — who “muled” it to us from the States.
Office Supplies – $35.43
This category actually includes things other than office supplies. It also includes photocopies and faxes, shipping, postage, and our post office box rental. February is the month that the annual PO Box fees are paid and we found that they went up again this year from 14,000 colones in 2014. When we moved to Costa Rica six years ago, it cost 9,000 colones (about $18) for the year. This year, the cost is up to $15,000 colones if you pay by February 1st and if you paid late but before the 28th, there would be a 50% surcharge according to the notice in the Correo (post office). I had lost track of when payment was due and we hadn’t received any notification in our box, so I was unhappy with myself about the extra expense as I waited in line for about 30 minutes. But when it was my turn, the postal clerk only charged me the 15,000 colones ($28.20) for the year. Maybe because I smiled at her instead of complaining? Who knows?
All in all, despite being over-budget for the month, we did a lot for the $2,725 and we feel good about that. We took care of our car, ourselves, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Pura vida!
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Car Repairs
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana
- Our 2013 Cost of Living Summary
- Our 2012 Cost of Living Summary