June was an expensive month for us, especially in the categories of Transportation, Meals Out, and Healthcare. We came in about 20% higher than our target of $2,000/month. But some months are like that. Here’s the breakdown:
Transportation – $280.83
For us, during a normal month we fill up our Toyota 4-Runner just once. In June, we needed three fill-ups averaging about $60 each. We took lots of trips to San Jose and Alajuela throughout the month, and as usual, we tried to do several things each time so that means several stops along the way. From San Ramon, it takes us about one hour and 15 minutes to get to San Jose if traffic is good and about 55 minutes to Alajuela.
In addition to a higher than normal gasoline expense, we also had some minor car repairs. A front end alighment, balancing of the front tires, and a new light bulb came in at under $20. Later in the month, our mechanic fixed an oil leak in the front of the car which included replacing a part. Total cost was about $67.00.
Add in tolls and parking and that brings us up to our monthly total of $280.83.
Groceries – $305.55
Our total grocery bill for the month came in a little lower than average, even with a visit to PriceSmart. The biggest reason for this is that we ate out quite a bit more than normal as you will see below. 91% ($278.96) of our spending went towards actual food items, with the remaining 9% ($26.58) for non-food items like cleaning products, paper goods, candles, etc. Dinner is our favorite meal to have at home. Every evening we set a nice table, light candles, and listen to music while eating our meal. It is a relaxing and lovely way to share a meal together, whether it’s just the two of us or if we have friends joining us.
Meals Out – $198.10
This was the shocker of the month for us. In fact, I went back and double-checked everything to be sure I didn’t have any errors or misplaced decimal points! In a normal month, we spend $50-$100 on eating out, but in June, we at least doubled that. It was all the trips to San Jose and Alajuela — they were usually long days where we needed to eat at least one meal out or we got back late and I didn’t feel like cooking dinner. We also joined friends on several occasions to share a meal.
Some of the meals were at local sodas (small, family-run restaurants serving typical Tico food) and other were at nicer restaurants. Of all of our meals out in June, our favorite remains Savory a la Thai, Chef Addie and husband Gerardo’s restaurant that recently moved into their home in Piedades Norte de San Ramon. (NOTE: Their phone number, hours, and location are on their Facebook page. And they now accept credit cards.)
We also tried an Italian restaurant in Naranjo that we had heard good things about. However, the food was underwhelming at best and we were both disappointed. Maybe we would have enjoyed it more had we ordered differently — the food at the next table looked good. Unfortunately, it was also the most expensive meal out of the month so that was doubly disappointing.
All in all, we ate either lunch or dinner out a total of 10 times and breakfast out a couple of times. It was an unusual month which we hope not to repeat any time soon.
Healthcare – $470.87
Other than Rent/Phone/Utilities, we spent more in June on Healthcare than in any other category. A big chunk of this went to an eye exam and new bifocal eyeglasses for Paul. Total cost for lenses, new frames, and the exam came to $166.64 which we were really pleased with. For years, we have used Ópticas Rosán, a family business with two locations in San Ramon. We have always been pleased with their service and prices and highly recommend them.
As always, our monthly spending includes our Caja (about $46) and pro-rated MediSmart payment of $15/month. We purchased supplements at the macrobiotica and one prescription at the farmacia. The rest of the spending was for a blood test ($24.81) for me and two appointments with specialists ($42.52 through MediSmart, and $88.67 not through MediSmart) for Paul.
Rent/Phone/Utilities – $769.06
No surprises here. Rent and Internet remain the same. Phone varies little month to month for our two cell phones with Kolbi pre-paid sim cards and our Vonage line to the States — a bargain at $50 for all that. And we got our house cleaned four and a half times during the month for about $80. The half time was an emergency that Flor, our wonderful housecleaner, helped me out with. I discovered, to my horror, a termite infestation in our built-in chest of drawers and office closet. Our landlord’s worker came by to spray but he left a huge mess. Not only did we have to clean up everything but we had to wash all of our clothes that had been in the drawers as well. We got it all done in a day, thankfully, and I appreciated the extra help.
Other Hardware/Household – $40.86
The termite infestation in our office closet destroyed a cardboard box filled with memorabilia. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of the contents but were able to salvage most of the family photos, reminders of our earlier lives, and diplomas we had stored there. No more cardboard boxes! Before replacing things in the closet, I purchased several new plastic bins with lids to keep things safe. Cost for one large bin, two medium ones, and a small one was $18.66.
We also bought a cushy new kitchen mat for in front of our sink when we were at PriceSmart for $14.21. I saw a similar one in a local store for almost double the price. While I always prefer to buy from local businesses whenever possible, this was one time the price difference was too great to ignore.
The balance of spending in this category was for light bulbs and bug spray.
Personal Care and Clothing – $22.28
Hair cut and color for me for 10,000 colones ($17.83). The salon I have gone to for over a year now has closed due to rising expenses. Yohanna’s landlord raised the rent 30% and she could not afford to stay — unfortunately, this is pretty common in Costa Rica. Luckily, Yohanna is now working out of her home in San Juan, just 10 minutes away, and her prices have remained the same.
Paul also bought a “new” shirt at MegaRopa, one of the many ropa americana stores in San Ramón. The cost was 2,500 colones ($4.46).
Vet/Pet Supplies – $65.21
A PriceSmart visit always means picking up Fresh Step kitty litter. A 42 lb. bag costs almost $18 and this time we bought two bags. Just recently, I’ve begun seeing Fresh Step in local stores but the cost is about double, so this is one more thing we will continue to buy at PriceSmart. It’s the only clumping litter I’ve ever seen in Costa Rica.
Our kitties are also eating a new, more expensive cat food, which also accounts for the higher spending in this category.
Miscellaneous – $164.93
There were two main expenses in this category. First off, we renewed Paul’s U.S. passport. It was a simple process. Just go to the website: https://cr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports/ and click on “Adult-Passport Renewal.” Download and print out the required form and click the link to set up a appointment. There is also a section on this webpage titled “Passport Passback with correos de Costa Rica” where you can set up the mailing of your new passport to your local post office. A post office box (apartado) is not required to use this service. Cost was $7 USD, payable online (note: this expense was included in the “office expenses” category).
On the day of the appointment, bring the completed form, one 2×2 black and white passport photo, the completed form, your old passport, and $110 USD payable in cash or credit card. We had the passport photo taken across the street from the embassy for 2,550 colones ($4.55) and headed into the embassy for Paul’s appointment. I was surprised that they didn’t ask for our names and check us off a list before allowing us to enter the embassy. However, they no longer allow purses or bags of any kind in the building so we had to return to our car to leave my purse behind. The appointment was easy, the staff helpful and friendly, and we received Paul’s passport at the local correo in about a week.
The other main expense was for our PriceSmart membership. After nine years of borrowing membership cards from friends, we finally got our own! Our friends never minded and always refused when we offered to split the membership price with them. But we decided, for convenience sake, to bite the bullet and pay the $35 membership fee ourselves.
Other expenses in this category were a birthday tip for our favorite guachimán (guy who watches your car when parked on the street) and our monthly contribution to Cruz Roja’s Programa Familias Contribuyentes San Ramón.
Services – $5.90
Services, generally, are a bargain here. Paul has been taking his watches to the same shop for many years. He just had the battery changed on one of his watches and Hector also cleaned the watch for him…all for 1,300 colones ($2.32). We also have a local lady iron his shirts. She did five long-sleeved dress shirts for 2,000 colones ($3.58).
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:
- A Walk Around Our Neighborhood (Video)
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana