Our May 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

We had another great month in May in terms of our overall spending, even with some additional healthcare costs taken into account, coming in well below our goal of $2,000 for the month.

Transportation – $66.62

Since moving to town about a year and a half ago, we average one fill-up of gasoline in our car per month. May was no exception. A full tank of premium gas cost us $63.63. Add on a few parking fees and tolls and that brings us to our monthly total of $66.62.

Groceries – $368.34

Another thing I’ve noticed about living in town is that we buy groceries more frequently. In May, we purchased food on 21 out of 31 days. Sometimes it’s just walking across the street to Super Mario for a pint of milk; other days it’s going to three different stores to buy everything on our list or heading to the feria for fresh, localy grown produce. We haven’t really changed what we buy at the grocery store. We eat pretty healthy, lots of fruit and vegetables, meat or poultry usually once a day, whole grains, very little processed food, and wine normally only when we have guests.

Meals Out – $84.35


We ate breakfast or snacks out twice, lunch four times, and dinner twice. Our new favorite place to go is Soda Filipos, located at the entrance of the feria. Filipos offers Mediterranean fare like gyros (with meat or falafel), salads, hummus, pesto chicken wraps, and a daily special entree and dessert. Everything we have had there has been delicious. We especially like the gyros and salads. Chef Filipo used to work for one of the restaurants at the InterContinental Hotel in Escazu and his menu is creative and tasty. Dinner for both of us came to $16.35.

We also ate at long-time San Ramón restaurant, El Establo Steakhouse. It was a going-away party for friends Steve and Dianne Fischer who are moving back to the States. Steve and Dianne were both very active in the Community Action Alliance, Steve serving as its last president. More than 50 people gathered to show their appreciation for their service and to say goodbye. They will be greatly missed! We all enjoyed El Establo’s happy hour menu which includes a choice of dinner — steak, pork chop, chicken, lasagne, etc. — and a glass of wine for $10 per person. Total cost for two, with tax and tip, came to $24.27.

The third meal out that I will mention is lunch at Elements Coffee House in San Ramón. Elements is a comfortable U.S. style coffee house with a variety of hot and cold coffee and tea drinks. They have an extensive dessert selection and serve a small selection of sandwiches and soups each day. Lunch for Paul and me came to $16.22.

Healthcare – $424.21

For a couple of months now, Paul and I have been catching up on some needed health screenings so our healthcare expenses have come in much higher than the norm. We had the normal expenses — our monthly Caja payment, our pro-rated MediSmart payment, and regular supplements — which totaled about $115.00. The rest of the expense in this category was all about me (Gloria).

First up, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. My dentist mentioned it a year ago but since it wasn’t bothering me, I waited to have it pulled until now. The dental surgeon came to San Ramón from his San Jose practice for the day. The cost for the extraction was $100. I was able to have the surgery downstairs from our apartment in our dentist’s office so it was very convenient. After the surgery, I was prescribed an injection for pain, antibiotics, and some pills for pain, plus a medicated mouthwash. Cost for these came to about $55.00. I was also given a diet for the next few days as well as a schedule for dental care for the following weeks. Besides the obvious discomfort from the surgery (I was awake though numbed with lots of Novocain), I was very pleased with the care I received.

I also had a follow-up appointment with my gynecologist through MediSmart so the cost was a low 9,000 colones (about $16), had some lab work she ordered ($26.64), and purchased the bioidentical hormones she suggested (about $40).

Next, I went to see an ophthalmologist. I noticed that when I read my iPad at night, I have been having flashes of light that have been annoying. It was time to get it checked out so I went to see Dr. Zúñiga who sees patients every Wednesday at Óptica Nueva Imagen in San Ramon.  His main practice is in San Jose. Just as I thought, I have the beginnings of cataracts in both eyes. He recommended surgery, sooner rather than later because it would be easier to correct. But, he said, there is no guarantee I won’t need glasses after surgery, effectively reversing the Lasik surgery I had about 20 years ago. Since I’m not ready to give up my distance vision quite yet and the problem isn’t too bad, I’ve decided to wait a bit. In the meantime, I have made an appointment with an ophthalmologist in the Caja to see if I can have the surgery done in the public system. If so, it will save me the expense of having it done privately — $1,000 for each eye as quoted by Dr. Zúñiga. The Caja appointment isn’t until May of 2019 so, yes, there’s a wait, but I’m not ready to have the surgery done anyway. Cost for the ophthalmologist exam and consultation was 40,000 colones (about $71.00).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $791.98

No surprises in this category. The only expense of note was a higher than normal expense for housecleaning. That is due to the fact that May was our turn to pay our housekeeper’s Caja bill which covers her and her children. In case you haven’t been reading our newsletter for a while, we take turns with the other couples for whom she cleans to pay her monthly Caja. Since there are five us us, we each pay once every five months. Since we are each legally obligated to pay this expense as she is a regular employee, this rotation saves us money while ensuring that her healthcare is covered.

Personal Care and Clothing – $40.31

A haircut for Paul ($4.48), a cut and color for me ($17.92), and a couple of nail files ($.72) made up the personal care part of this category.

Our clothing purchases came from our favorite “ropa Americana” store, Megaropa San Ramón Tienda de Ropa Americana located just a block and a half from our apartment and 100 meters south of the San Ramón hospital. Just about everything in the store is 2,800 colones (about $5) but they often have sales and there is, of course, the huge area in the back with drastically discounted clothes and other items just piled up for folks to dig through). Paul usually stops in a couple of times a week. In fact, we take you there in our recent video “A Walk Around Our Neighboorhood.” In May, he bought two shirts at the special price of two for 4,000 colones, so $7.16. On another day, I bought two dresses at the regular price, for a total of 5,600 colones, or $10.04.

Services – $3.58

We’ve always said that Costa Rica is a “no iron zone” so we’ve never purchase an iron or ironing board. That way, I never have to iron Paul’s shirt. Smart, huh? However, he does like to look nice so he has someone iron a few of his especially wrinkly shirts ironed by a local lady. She charges by the hour and the cost to have three long-sleeved dress shirts and one pair or pants ironed was 2,000 colones (about $3.50).

Spanish Classes – $44.80

Yes, after more than nine years of living in Costa Rica, we still take Spanish classes. It’s a process. We speak English at home and with our expat friends so we aren’t speaking Spanish all day every day. And it’s hard to remember what you’ve learned when you don’t use it all of the time. We forget. And then we review. And keep taking classes. In May, Paul had five one-hour classes with a local Spanish teacher for 5,000 colones ($8.96 USD) per class.

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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