Our March 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

March was a relatively quiet month for us. We had a beach day, invited friends over for dinner a couple of times, and did a few tours for potential expats. We also had higher than normal expenses in healthcare and groceries. More about that below.

Transportation – $206.14

March was a month where our car stayed in the garage most of the time. It’s one of the many advantages of living in town. We can walk most places and that cuts down substantially on the cost of gas and other related expenses. We only paid for one fill-up at the pumps in March ($52.85) and a few tolls.

The rest of the expense for the month was our car insurance through INS for six months. In Costa Rica, you insure the car, not each individual driver. Our car insurance, with full liability coverage as well as coverage for any additional drivers as well as passengers in our car and emergency road service, cost $146.23 for six months. That comes to less than $300 per year for our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner.

Groceries – $408.21 and Meals Out – $39.74

I definitely think that food prices are rising. In March, we didn’t make any trips to PriceSmart or AutoMercado. All of our expenses were local. We did have friends over for dinner a few times, but there really wasn’t any big reason for our grocery spending to be over $400 for the month. Maybe part of it is that it’s so convenient to run out to the store. There’s a “mini-super” less than half a block from our apartment, and several grocery stores within a few blocks. We are more apt to run out to pick up a few things than if we had to get into the car and drive 15 minutes into town.

Also, we ate most of our meals at home, only spending $39.74 on meals out for the month.

Healthcare – $456.37

We took care of some healthcare “maintenance” in March, with a full day of appointments in San Jose through MediSmart.

We each had appointments with a dermatologist. We saw the same doctor about 18 months ago and were returning for a follow-up check. She spent an hour with each of us and checked everything from our scalps to between our toes and everything in between.


Through MediSmart, the cost for each 1-hour appointment was 60% off the regular price and came to 18,000 colones (less than $32). The doctor also biopsied a tiny growth on Paul’s nose that she had been keeping tabs on. The cost for the biopsy was 20,000 colones (about $35) and we were promised the results in about 10 days by email. We actually received an email from the doctor six days later with positive results. Total cost was $36,000 colones ($63.53). There was also an additional expense of $33.91 for the scar prevention cream the doctor prescribed for Paul’s nose.

The same day as our dermatology appointments, I (Gloria) had appointments for lab work, a mammogram and ultrasound, and bone density scan, all ordered by my gynecologist the previous month. The mammogram and breast ultrasound cost a total of 30,000 colones and the lab work cost 106,349 colones, for a total of $240.63 USD. The cost of the bone density scan came to 24,921 colones ($44 USD).

You can read about our MediSmart experience in detail at this link.

The balance of our healthcare spending for March was for our Caja payment, our prorated annual MediSmart membership ($180 for the year, spread over 12 months, or $15/month), and a couple of supplements.

Rent/Phone/Utilities: $750.03

Tigo Web Ad

Rent for our two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the town of San Ramon is $550/month plus utilities. It came unfurnished and without appliances. Once we made all the needed purchases, however, our expenses in this category remain pretty stable. Our electricity bill goes up and down a bit, mostly depending on how many days there are in the month. The bill we paid in March was for the month of February so the bill was lower than normal at $44.18. Our Internet, with 8mgs through Tigo, came to $39.42 (19,500 colones) and our phone service totaled $46.01. The total for phone includes both of our cell phones as well as our Vonage line for calles to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Our one luxury is having our house cleaned every week. The total for housekeeping for March came to $70.42. This is for four hours a week at 10,000 colones each time.

Other Hardware/Household: $74.49

There’s a lot of this-and-that in this category — duct tape, dish rags, pants hangers, new curtains for our guest room ($19), and a new charging cable for my iPad (a whopping $36!)

Vet/Pet Supplies – $48.51

Our kitty, Laura, dozing on the couch

Our pet car expenses are usually pretty low. In March, we tried to upgrade our kitties’ food to a better brand (which we discovered they don’t really like) and bought them a new, large, litter box ($13.63).  They are such a big part of our lives and we want them to be happy and healthy. We will have to keep trying other cat foods until we find one that they enjoy.

Everything Else

There wasn’t much more of note in March. I got my hair cut and colored (10,000 colones or $17.61). We had a beach day at Playa Dona Ana ($5.72 for entrance fees and parking). We paid our NetFlix and Baltimore Sun subscriptions. That’s about it.

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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