Our July 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

Our spending in July was right on target. Actually, if you take into account that almost $300 was spent to renew our residency, our “cost of living” spending for the month was low, more in the range of $1,700.

Transportation – $108.33

We stayed close to home in July, waiting for the call from the hospital that a bed for Paul had become available. Our transportation expenses for the month included one fill-up with premium gasoline at about $80, some assorted tolls and parking fees, plus round-trip bus transportation to the hospital on July 27th — the day we were told Paul would have a bed at the hospital, only to be sent home after being told that it was a mistake.

The total also includes a $14 parking ticket (7,800 colones) we got outside of Hospital Mexico. We parked where we usually park, not realizing that the newly-numbered space meant that there was now a charge to park there through a new smartphone app. The take-away is that if you see a numbered space — common now in areas of San Jose and Grecia — parking there requires advance payment via an app. The trick is to discover what the app is and how to set it up with your credit card. Bottom line: don’t park there unless you have previously made these arrangements or you will be ticketed.

Groceries – $306.14

We ate most of our meals at home as usual, with 87% of our spending on food items and 13% on non-food items. There is nothing much of note here except one visit to PriceSmart.

Meals Out – $67.90

As I mentioned earlier, July was a waiting period for us. It was stressful, and since we chose not to tell a lot of people yet about Paul’s condition, it was easier (for me, at least) to stay home and not have to pretend that everything was normal. We did have lunch one day in July at a restaurant in Grecia to hear our friend, Frank, perform a concert. Lunch for both of us was $24.60. The only other meals out were related to doctor or hospital visits.

Healthcare – $330.67

In June, we paid out-of-pocket to see another urologist for a second opinion about Paul’s CT scan results. By July, we were resigned to him having the surgery but we had questions for the urologist we saw in the Caja. After our initial meeting with her, we were in too much shock to think straight. After we left the consultation room, we thought of all the questions we should have asked. Also, we were home waiting for the phone call about a bed in the hospital becoming available and we felt helpless. We had no way to reach the Caja urologist, so I did a Google search and found out that she sees patients privately in MediSmart, our plan through Hospital Metropolitano. We made an appointment and were able to see her at the discounted rate of $31.95 (24,000 colones, a 60% discount off the regular rate of 60,000 colones).

We were able to ask her our questions about the surgery, his recovery period, the odds that the tumors were actually cancerous (90-95%), and how she recommended we get through this waiting period (“Live your life,” she said.) She also called the admissions department at the hospital while we were in her office to see where Paul was in the queue for a bed. It should be soon, we were told (which unfortunately turned into three more weeks.)

Also included in this category were a few supplements like CoQ10 & Omega 3 fish oil, prescriptions for Paul and me, and our monthly Caja and MediSmart payments. The urologist appointment, Caja, and MediSmart accounted for 28% of the total spent in this category ($92.20) and the prescriptions and supplements accounted for the remaining 72% ($238.47).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $752.84

All expenses in this category are normal. We bought a tank of propane, which we use for cooking only, at a cost of $13.37 (7,500 colones). A tank lasts us 2-3 months, depending on how often I bake.

Other Hardware/Household – $14.89

A visit to Pequeño Mundo in Alajuela gave me the opportunity to buy some more glass storage containers with locking lids. I have been phasing out plastic containers and never use them to heat foods in the microwave. Pequeño Mundo has a good selection and great prices.

Personal Care and Clothing – $90.13

Paul got a haircut for 2,500 colones (about $4.50) and bought a shirt at his favorite ropa americana store, Mega Ropa, for 2,800 colones (about $5.00).

The bulk of the spending in this category was for shoes. Since Paul’s a tall guy and wears bigger shoes than the normal Tico, the selection available to him is limited, at best. A friend told us that PayLess Shoes carries a larger selection in his size, so off we went. We each found two pairs of shoes we liked and, since the store offered a “buy one, get the second pair at half price” deal, we bought all four pairs. Total cost: $78.20.

Vet/Pet Supplies – $53.60

Nothing too exciting here. The visit to PriceSmart allowed us to buy two 42 lb. bags of Fresh Step kitty litter ($17.42/bag). They changed their packaging again, back to one big bag after a short time packaging the littler in four smaller bags inside of big bag — way too much packaging in my view, so I was happy about the change back.

Only other expense in this category was dry cat food and kitty treats.

Entertainment – $48.64

It wasn’t a fun-filled month, to say the least! Our entertainment spending went towards our NetFlix subscription and two online newspaper subscriptions for Paul.

Renew Residency – $280.82

It has been several years since we changed our residency status and became “permanent” instead of “temporary” legal residents of Costa Rica. (You can read and watch our video about the process at this link.) Our cédulas (residency ID cards) expired in July so it was time to renew. The first step was to call to make an appointment at BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) by calling 2211-1120. After trying several times, we were able to make appointments for both of us at our local BCR in San Ramon. Complicating this process was not knowing when we would receive the call from the hospital for Paul to check in. Another complication was that we needed to also renew our Caja coverage (which has recently been linked with cédula renewals); we couldn’t renew our Caja until we had first renewed our cédulas. This was stressful for us in light of Paul’s impending hospitalization but, thankfully, it all worked out eventually.

On the day of the appointment, we went to BCR with our current cédulas, passports, and proof that our Caja payments were current. We also had to pay 78,770 colones each ($140.41) which included included the fee to mail our new cedulas to our local post office.

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 for that month below:

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