Apr 03 2015

Our March 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2015_MarWe did a better job at meeting our budget in March, coming in at $2,065.78, even though we had some big expenses. Here’s the scoop:

Groceries – $512.57

Since we were having guests stay with us in March, we took one of our always-expensive trips to PriceMart and stocked up to the tune of about $150. We bought the usual stuff — a block of feta cheese in brine and a large wedge of Parmesan, big bags of chocolate chips and walnuts for baking, olive oil, a big container of Italian seasoning, and Fresh Step kitty litter (which we can only find there) — and a few things we don’t normally buy, like a loaf of chiabatta bread to have with homemade chicken salad for dinner that night and a 3-pack of my favorite wine. Hopefully it will be a while before our next trip to PriceMart!

Transportation – $342.75

Other than the normal gas, tolls, & parking, we had two other car-related expenses:

  • Car Insurance for 6 months: $150.43 (79,726 colones)
  • Replace hydraulics system for clutch: $47.17 (25,000 colones)

INS_logoIn a strange way, those two items are related. First off, let’s talk about the car insurance. The only mandatory car insurance comes with your car’s annual Marchamo (see our article below about the compulsory insurance included in the Marchamo), but we elect to purchase additional coverage through INS. When we first moved to Costa Rica, we spent about $600 per year on extra liability, collision, theft, and emergency road service. In time, due to the deductibles involved, the low cost of body work, and a very sensitive car alarm, we reduced our optional coverage to just liability and emergency road service (Coverage Items “A,” “C,” & “G”). Luckily, we’ve never had to file a claim for an accident, but we have used the emergency road service several times, most recently last month.

We were coming home from another great beach day, still in our swim suits, when Paul had to pull the car over because his clutch pedal wouldn’t come back up. Luckily, we were in Esparza, right on the main highway and directly in GrúaPlatformafront of a gas station, restaurant, and mini-mart. We couldn’t reach our mechanic who was closed for the day. We were especially concerned because we had just had the clutch replaced in February. Since Paul couldn’t get the car into gear, we called INS emergency road service. What made it easier was that they had an English-speaking customer service rep. Within the hour, a tow truck (grúa platforma in Spanish) arrived and took us back to San Ramón. Towing was free as the trip was less than 30 miles. The rep also told us to call back the next day if we needed the car towed to our mechanic’s. What great service!

The next morning, our mechanic was able to get the car to his shop where he had to replace the hydraulics system that works with the clutch. Total cost for parts and labor was 25,000 colones (about $47).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $779.42

Since both our water bill and the cost of propane (for cooking and hot water) have decreased, we thought it was a good opportunity to show you the breakdown of expenses in this category. It’s pretty self-explanatory.


Other Household Expenses – $66.04

GEfridgeThe house we rent was outfitted with used appliances and, to my knowledge, there are no such things as home warranties available here. Luckily, service on appliances is affordable.

We were having problems again with our refrigerator keeping things cold and the freezer not freezing completely so we called our local kitchen appliance repair guy. He spent about an hour at our house and, after we removed everything from the freezer and much from the fridge, he diagnosed the problem and replaced the timer. Total cost: 35,000 colones (about $66).

It took another hour of my time to clean the fridge and freezer, tossing anything that had gone bad, and to replace everything else. All in all, not a bad deal.

Clothing and Personal Care – $79.72


Paul and his Ropa Americana purchases

In March, it was Paul’s turn to go shopping, not something he easily does for himself. Part of the problem is that, since he’s a tall guy, it’s hard to find his size, especially in shoes. But one of the local store owners was keeping an eye out for shoes in his size and called him over one afternoon when we were visiting the Central Market in San Ramón. We left that day with a pair of gray shoes that fit Paul perfectly, for only 13,950 colones (about $27). Oddly, they didn’t come with shoe laces so we picked up a pair in another store for $400 colones (about 75 cents). About a week later, when we had about an hour to kill, we stopped by Ropa Americana so Paul could try on some shirts. He bought two nice shirts (a Lands End button-down and a good quality blue pull-over) for 2,200 colones each (a total of about $8.30). Both looked great after laundering (though without ironing — we live in a self-proclaimed “no iron zone!”)

Also in this category is my trip to the salon. My sister was visiting and we decided to have a girl’s afternoon of pampering. I had my hair cut and colored and also got a pedicure for a total cost of 21,000 colones (less than $40). It was a nice way to spend the day together!

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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