Our January 2020 Costa Rica Cost of Living

January was a transition month for us. After living in Oaxaca, Mexico for six months, we started out the new year with a trip to Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico, before returning to Costa Rica on January 8th. Obviously, that increased our expenses for the month.  Our total spending was $2,617.17. Here’s the breakdown of our vacation spending and our Costa Rica spending once we returned home:

Transportation – $547.20 (Mexico: $545.92 + Costa Rica: $1.28)

We came home to a car with a full gas tank and in good shape, thanks to our friend, Bill, who was subletting our apartment and car in Costa Rica. Since we walk most places in town, our CR transportation expenses were limited to a few tolls for the month of January.

The bulk of our spending was for transportation within Mexico and our return flight from Mexico City to San Jose, Costa Rica. Round-trip first-class bus fare from Mexico City to Morelia and back for the two of us totaled $70.86 USD. This was for two seats on the upper deck of a luxurious bus with great visibility, individual movie screens, controls, and headphones, wide, reclining seats and a bathroom on-board. The trip took four hours each way.

Our one-way flight home from Mexico City on Interjet cost $356.58 and included the cost of one extra bag.

The rest of our Mexico transportation expenses included Ubers to and from bus stations and the airport, a taxi tour of the city of Morelia, and a taxi tour from Morelia to Patzcuaro and back.

Groceries – $513.23 (Mexico: $5.91 + Costa Rica: $507.32)

Other than a few miscellaneous purchases while traveling in Mexico, 99% of our grocery expenses for the month of January consisted of restocking all of our normal foods in Costa Rica. This, of course, meant a trip to PriceSmart to buy large bags of nuts and chocolate chips for baking, blocks of cheese we can’t get locally, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a few other things. PriceSmart carries quite a few Kirkland brand products. Then there were multiple trips to the grocery stores and the weekly feria to buy fresh fruits and veggies and everything else. I have to admit that the total we spent on groceries for the month is a bit staggering to me!

Meals Out – $373.29 (Mexico: $254.59 + Costa Rica: $118.69)

When we travel, we eat well, though usually inexpensively. Our six days in Morelia and one day in Mexico City totaled $254.59 for two to three meals a day. We averaged, for the two of us, $36.37 per day. We tend to eat where the locals eat and have found that it is much less expensive to eat out in Mexico than in Costa Rica, by 50% or more.

Once we returned to Costa Rica, we also returned to our habit of eating at home for most meals. When we ate out, three lunches and four dinners out came to $118.69. All were at casual restaurants, including our favorites, Filipos and Savory a la Thai. We also discovered Green Garden, a new Italian eatery in San Ramon (the owner/chef had worked in New York’s Little Italy for 10 years) and we ate there a couple of times.

Healthcare – $175.18 (Mexico: $105.85 + Costa Rica: $69.33)

Traveling is hard on our bodies! There was too much recirculated air-conditioned air, sitting on buses and planes, and generally being in public where there were always some sick people. Paul was sick with a bad cold and lots of sneezing the first week of January, and then it was my turn to get the dreaded gripe on our return flight home, though mine was accompanied by lots of coughing. We saw the “box doctor” in Morelia a couple of times — a doctor that works at pharmacies who will examine you and write prescriptions for medications that you can then buy in the pharmacy — and bought lots of cold meds. I also woke up one morning with terrible back pain (probably from all of the traveling and sitting) and went for a therapeutic massage while in Mexico.

After our return to Costa Rica on the 8th, our healthcare expenses included more cold meds and our monthly Caja payment.  They did not include the pro-rated monthly amount we normally pay for our annual Medismart plan since it had lapsed in December and we didn’t renew it until February.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $705.45 (Mexico: $5.33 + Costa Rica: $700.12)

Our only expense in this category while in Mexico was one more week of phone service on our Telcel sim cards. Everything else was to cover our Costa Rica expenses as broken down here:

Our friend, Bill, had already paid the Internet for the month and the electricity bill was for December’s usage so he paid that as well; therefore our expenses do not include these amounts. Housecleaning expenses were for three days of four hours each to clean our 1100 s.f. apartment.  Phone expenses were higher than normal as I needed a new case and glass cover (about $21 USD) for my smartphone. The rest of the phone expenses were for our “pre-pay” Kolbi sim cards and our monthly Vonage line.

Pet Care & Supplies – $2.12 (Costa Rica)

Our kitty, Laura, was fully stocked with kibble and litter when we returned to Costa Rica so our only expense in January was for a package of treats. It took her a few days to get used to us being back. Six months is a long time to be separated! But she was in great hands with Bill and has become a kind of a shared kitty.

Personal Care and Clothing – $0

Entertainment & Travel – $244.06 (Mexico: $228.25 + Costa Rica: $15.81)

While in Mexico, expenses in this category were for hotel accommodations — six nights in Morelia at Hotel El Carmen ($33.25/night) and one night in Mexico City at Hotel Embassy ($28.77).

In Costa Rica, our only other entertainment expenses were our monthly Netflix bill (now $13.81/month), Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun online ($2.00).

Miscellaneous – $14.92 (Mexico)

What’s a vacation without souvenirs? On our day trip to Patzcuaro from Morelia, we stopped in the town of Santa Fe de Laguna to visit a potter’s workshop. While he had some beautiful and very different pieces, I resisted the temptation and walked away with just a traditional necklace (100 pesos, about $5 USD), earrings, and a gift for a friend. Here’s a picture of the necklace, with a close-up of the little mugs, each individually painted and glazed. So cute and colorful!

Postage – $11.15 (Costa Rica)

It was time again to renew our post office box. The fee has gone up every year and, this year, the fee for 12 months was 18,927.5 colones (about $33 USD). Since we share our post office box with two others, we each pay 1/3 of the fee, so ours came to $11.15. None of us gets very much mail and we each have a key to the box so it has worked out well for all of us.

Services – $30.58 (Mexico: $24.40 + Costa Rica: $6.18)

In the Services category, our Mexico expenses were for baggage handling as we traveled and lavanderia charges to have our clothes washed and ironed if needed.

In Costa Rica, we launder our clothes ourselves (this is one of Paul’s “low tech” chores) and send them out to be ironed by a local lady for less than $1 USD per piece.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months reported (May and June were our last two months in Costa Rica before we left for Mexico in July 2019). If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:

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