Mar 31 2018

Our February 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

Here’s our February 2018 spending breakdown:

Transportation – $319.63

When you have an older car, like ours, repairs are part of life. Our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner has always been a reliable, comfortable car. We have used it for our tour business as well as for personal use, and it doesn’t show any sign of letting us down. However, minor repairs seem to be coming more frequently.

In February, we had the following maintenance repairs done:

  • $57.19: front brake pads (18,000 colones), brake fluid (4,424 colones), & labor (10,000 colones)
  • $89.16: replace 2 front ball joints-parts (30,643 colones) & labor  (20,000 colones)
  • $4.75: replace front turn light bulb (2,700 colones)
  • $17.61: front end alignment & balance 2 front tires (10,000 colones)

That brings the expense for car maintenance to $168.71. The balance of our transportation expenses for February went towards gas, parking, and tolls, totaling $137.08.

Groceries – $305.79

Our spending on groceries for February was a bit below average. Of the $305.79 total, 87% was for food items and 13% was for non-food items. Non-food items, for us, mostly include paper products, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Anything that clearly falls within another category gets put there instead.

In February, we did not visit PriceSmart, which kept our spending lower. We did pay a visit to Mayca, a restaurant supply store in Alajuela, to purchase a large bag of hard winter wheat flower for baking. Since our visit to the Alajuela store, a location has opened right here in San Ramón, which will be much more convenient for us in the future.

Meals Out – $103.79

We ate out in restaurants six times in February. The most noteable meal was “The Whole Enchilada Mole and Tacos Festival,” held at Choco-Tour Costa Rica in La Garita. Alex Corral the owner of Choco-Tour CR is a chef from Mexico City. This event was the first of, hopefully, more similar events to come.

About 30 people shared a wonderful meal which consisted of three different kinds of mole served over enchiladas, guacamole, quesadillas, sopes, lamb barbacoa, beans, rice, sauteed mushrooms, fish, and incredible desserts. My favorite part of the meal were the several spicy salsas that Chef Alex made to accompany his dishes. Muy saborosos!

In addition to eating lots of beautiful food, we also learned all about mole — it’s origin, ingredients, and the culture surrounding it.

Since this was the first event of it’s kind, Chef Alex charged an introductory price of $15 per person, a bargain to be sure! To learn about future events or to contact Chef Alex, check out the Choco-Tour’s Facebook page.

Health Care – $245.81

In addition to our normal monthly Caja and MediSmart expenses, we had two large expenses that raised our total healthcare expenditure for the month. First was an order of supplements which cost $92.

And second, I had a gynecologist appointment at Hospital Metropolitano through MediSmart. I will be writing more about our recent MediSmart experiences in the next newsletter, but for now, here are the basics. Through MediSmart, the cost of my doctor’s appointment was 80% off the regular price, only 9,000 colones (less than $16). The doctor also did a PAP test and an IU ultrasound right in her office. The total cost of the visit was 30,000 colones ($52.94). We loved the doctor; she spoke perfect English which is always a plus, and spent about 45 minutes with me.

The same day as the gynecologist appointment, I also had an X-Ray done at Hospital Metropolitano. The cost was 22,784 colones ($40.22), 40% off the regular price since we had it done through MediSmart.

Rent, Phone, and Utilities – $758.21

Here’s the breakdown for this category:

Expenses in this category were normal, though our electricity spending was a bit higher than we would like. Our hot water heaters (we have two, one for downstairs and one for upstairs) run on electric. We try to remember to turn off the hot water heaters once we have showered (upstairs) and done dishes (downstairs), but we often forget. We are pretty good about turning off lights when we leave a room (Paul is especially good at this!) Our clothes dryer is electric and, since we don’t have any outdoor space to dry clothes in our downtown apartment, this is another contributor to higher electric bills.

Other Hardware/Household – $27.25

Two new bed pillows, a drain stopper, and some cute napkin holders cost us a total of $27.25.

Personal Care & Clothing – $81.51

I had my hair cut and colored at the Shine Salon near our apartment for 10,000 colones ($17.61). Yojanna always does a great job. Paul also got a haircut from Maria at the salon in the Central Market where he has been going for many years. Cost for his cut was 2,500 colones, about $4.40.

In terms of clothing purchases, Paul had a pair of shoes repaired for 5,500 colones ($9.58). They will last him another year, at least, he says. And he bought a dress shirt at one of the local ropa americanas for 2,800 colones ($4.93). I purchased a new change purse for $3.69.

Entertainment – $25.92

In addition to our NetFlix payment of $11.65 and Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun Online ($3.96), we also had another beach day at Playa Doña Ana. For a full day at the beach, it costs us entrance fees of 1,500 colones for me, 750 colones for Paul since he’s over 65, and 1,000 colones to park in their secure lot — a total of less than $6 USD.

In February, we spent six days in Mexico City for business, exhibiting at International Living’s first Mexico country conference. As many of you know, we spend part of the year in Oaxaca and we have developed a Oaxaca retirement and relocation tour. (You can read all about it on our sister website, Since our trip expenses were business-related, we do not include them in our Costa Rica cost of living reports. But I will include what we spent on entertainment in this month’s newsletter. We didn’t have very much free time during our brief stay in Mexico City, but we did get to go to the Diego Rivera Mural Museum to see Diego Rivera’s famous mural, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.” One noteable feature of this mural was Rivera’s inclusion of “La Catrina,” the lavishly dressed skeleton which later became a symbol of Day of the Dead. The museum was a short walk from our hotel near Alameda Park. The cost for both of our entrance fees and permission to take photos was only 75 pesos ($4.26).

A portion of Diego Rivera’s mural, “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda.”

On our one free day, we walked a lot around Mexico City’s historic district, visiting the San Juan Market, Chinatown, La Ciudadela crafts market, and the Biblioteca de México “Jose Vasconcelos,” all of which were free.

San Juan Market

Biblioteca de México “Jose Vasconcelos”

Chinatown cart

There were no other expenses of note in February.

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