I was thinking recently about why we choose to track our spending in such detail and to share it with our readers every month. When we moved to Costa Rica back in April 2009, we had Paul’s Social Security of only $922.00 USD. We knew that we couldn’t live on just $922 per month but we were determined to find a way to make it work. Luckily, I was able to continue working part-time for my previous employer for the next year, so that supplemented our limited income. We knew that we would have to “retire for less” and we wanted to show others that it was possible too. That’s where the name of our website came from. Costa Rica isn’t a cheap place to live, but for us, it works and we have been able to afford living here for the last 10 years. In fact, we celebrated our 10 year anniversary of living in Costa Rica on April 1st (April Fool’s Day—do you think that means anything?) We believe that the cost of living shouldn’t be the only reason to choose Costa Rica or any country for that matter. It’s important, but there is more to making a happy life. Wouldn’t you agree?
Anyway, off my soapbox and on to our March 2019 cost of living report.
Transportation – $184.43
Living in town has definitely decreased our transportation expenses. Usually, that means only one fill-up of gasoline per month. That was the case in March as well. It cost $45.12 USD to fill the tank of our Toyota 4-Runner with premium gas. Other than that, we spent a tiny amount on tolls. The big expense was the payment of our car insurance for six months. We insure our car through INS, the national insurance company. We have full liability coverage but no collision coverage as our car is older (1996) and labor on car repairs is relatively inexpensive. Even though we both have a driver’s license, we only pay one car insurance as, in Costa Rica, the car is insured, not the individual drivers. Cost to insure our car for six months is $137.39.
Groceries – $433.89
The low $400s seems to be our new norm when it comes to our monthly grocery bill. About 93% of the total was for actual consumables; the other 7% was for non-food items like cleaning and laundry products, paper products, etc. We did go to PriceSmart once, spending about $80 on food. Since living in town, we go to the grocery store more often since it’s so convenient, usually spending $25-$30 each time. I think that leads to more frequent impulse purchases, especially since we have Super Mario just two doors away. It’s a great place to buy the basics, but it’s surprising how many things they carry in such a small space. It’s always a pleasure to stop in on our way home, but the location does make it too easy to pick up a carton of ice cream to indulge a sweet tooth. Lately, they have been selling cartons of 30 fresh eggs for 1,900 colones (about $3.17) and after Paul bought two cartons within a few days, we now have a moratorium on buying 30 egg cartons!
Meals Out – $86.93
For $86.93, we ate out seven times — coffee once, lunch five times, and dinner once. Most of the time, it was a meal at Filipos Mediterranean Restaurant on our way back home from the University of Costa Rica where we are taking a Spanish conversation class. We can always count on a great meal at Filipos, with their daily specials and great regular menu.
Healthcare – $88.22
This has to be an all-time low for us for monthly healthcare. Our only expenses were for our monthly Caja payment, our pro-rated MediSmart payment (we pay for the whole year in advance and then show the expense on a monthly basis), some supplements, and sinus medication.
Rent/Phone/Utilities – $785.10
No real surprises here. We didn’t need to buy propane in March (a tank lasts us 2-3 months; we use it for cooking on our gas stove). The only expense that was higher in March than normal was for housecleaning. Flor comes once a week for four hours, so that was four times in March. However, it was our turn to pay for Caja coverage for her and her children, which cost $45.52. We set up a payment schedule with the five other couples for whom she cleans and we each pay her healthcare once every six months. That way, Flor and her family have healthcare, and we have fulfilled our responsibility as her employers to provide it, without any of us having to pay every month.
Personal Care and Clothing – $4.17
Paul got a haircut and we didn’t buy anything this month at one of the Ropa Americana stores!
Pet Supplies – $69.49
We bought two bags of Science Diet cat food and some treats, plus a 40 lb. bag of Fresh Step litter.
In addition to our monthly NetFlix bill ($11.68, but about to go up to $12.99 starting in May) and Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun online ($2.00), I bought a Kindle book for $1.99 and we had a couple of fun outings. First, when friends visited us from Maine, we had a beach day at Playa Doña Ana. We used to go all the time but have gotten out of the habit. It’s hard to believe it had been a year since our last visit! Cost for parking and entrance fees for four people: $6.68.
We also went to another event at Vientos Bajos in El Enpalme de San Ramon. This time it was a lunch of three different soups and a talent show, complete with music, skits, storytelling, and poetry. There was a lot of talent showcased, a bit of intentional overacting, and lots of fun. Cost for lunch and the show for both of us came to $33.39.
Services – $6.68
We have the luxury of having our clothing ironed, as needed, for less than $1 USD per piece. In March, we had 6 of Paul’s shirts ironed by a lady in our neighborhood for a total of $5.01 (3,000 colones). We also took our floor lamp to have the switch repaired. Our cost was less than $2.00. As we have noted many times, services are a bargain here, whether it’s having the house cleaned, clothing ironed, or shoes, lamps, and watches repaired.
As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months reported. If you want more information about a particular month, just click on the graphic for that month below:
- The Best Way to Live for Less in Costa Rica (or Anywhere), by Rob Evans
- Paul’s Money Saving Tip: Find Reasonably Priced Housing
- A Walk Around Our Neighborhood (Video)
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Shop at Ropa Americana
- MediSmart: An Affordable Alternative to Private Health Insurance in Costa Rica