When I look back at our spending over the last three months, we haven’t done a very good job at staying under $2,000/month. August was the last month we came in below budget, spending only $1626.96. And I have a feeling that December will also come in higher than we’d like, with Christmas gifts and other holiday spending. It will be interesting to see our end-of-the-year monthly averages for 2015. But for now, let’s look a bit closer at our November spending.
Some categories came in under our average spending. For once, the “Transportation” category was low. There were no unexpected expenses and all of our car repairs had been taken care of the previous months. Our “Rent/Phone/Utilities” category was also a bit lower. We only used one tank of propane (for cooking and heating water) and our housekeeper didn’t work one week. Also, as we mentioned in a previous column, our monthly Vonage bill has been decreased from about $31 to less than $18.
In November, we enjoyed a visit from Gloria’s sister, so to stock up on goodies and other things, we took trips to PriceSmart and Pequeño Mundo in Alajuela. At PriceSmart, we bought things that we can’t get locally, like feta cheese, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, and big bags of nuts. We also bought two 42 lb. bags of Fresh Step Litter for our kitties. And at Pequeño Mundo, we bought a supply of candles, some cleaning products, and a few other household items.
Then there were the items that we can’t buy in Costa Rica, coupled with a visitor from the States. Can you say “pack mule?” Once you are living in Costa Rica, you discover that many of the products you like or need aren’t available here, or are a lot more expensive. So when a friend or relative is coming to visit, it’s a great opportunity to have them bring you your specialty items in their luggage. There are almost never customs duties on them that way. And, it’s possible to bring personal care products in your luggage that just aren’t sold in Costa Rica, things that you couldn’t have shipped in, even if you were willing to pay the postage and duties. Lots of vitamins and supplements fall into this category.
Mostly because of our muled-down purchases, our expenses were higher in several categories, including Healthcare ($239.82) and Personal Care/Clothing ($172.47). One of the main purchases was a supply of probiotics for Gloria. We bought three different kinds, enough to last several months. This is one type of supplement we have not been able to find in Costa Rica, though we have found one product that the doctor said to take for just three days. We also bought some other good quality personal care products for which we haven’t found suitable substitutes in Costa Rica.
Another reason that our healthcare expenses were higher than normal is that Paul and I both had dental appointments in November. Each of us spent almost an hour with the dentist and the cost for both of us (cleaning and exam) was only $68.05.
We also purchased new clip-on sunglasses that are sized to fit Paul’s normal glasses. This is the third time we’ve ordered from this company and we have always been satisfied.
Gloria’s sister also “muled down” an indulgence item. You may remember that we love visiting Mexico, especially Oaxaca, and Gloria loves to take cooking classes when we are there. We are big fans of Rick Bayless’ “Mexico, One Plate at a Time” series on PBS and had previously purchased the DVDs from three of his 10 seasons. He not only shares recipes and cooking tips, he also features aspects of the culture in various parts of Mexico. We decided to splurge and buy the rest of the DVDs in the set, so now we have all 10 seasons. We have already started watching them and are enjoying them immensely. It was definitely a “want,” not a “need,” but I guess we will just consider them our Christmas presents to ourselves!
Entertainment and Dining Out
We had a lot of fun with Gloria’s sister, Toni, during her recent visit. One of the places we went was to the Macaw Sanctuary at El Manantial in Aranjuez de Puntarenas. They are a Costa Rican wildlife conservation charity working to save and protect endangered species from extinction. The main focus of the project is the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green Macaw (Ara Ambiguus), who once flew freely in many areas of Costa Rica.
The Sanctuary also protects many mammals, including tapirs, marmoset monkeys, and the troupe of spider monkeys Gloria worked with at the former “Spider Monkey R&R.”
Though we had to look at them through their cage instead of close-up as Gloria was used to, they looked great, though it was difficult to get good photos. And baby Dorita has grown and is living in the same cage as the older spider monkeys. Often, she can be seen holding on to Anita, the oldest female, who has adopted her as a surrogate mother.
Macaw Sanctuary at El Manantial is a great place to visit and is very affordable. Tourists pay $20 per person, however because we are legal residents, we paid only $10 per person.
The Sanctuary operates under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment Energy and Telecommunication (MINAET) and in accordance with the wildlife conservation laws of Costa Rica.
We also drove to Esterillos Este for the day and had lunch at the Pelicano Hotel, located right on the beach. We had a great meal and enjoyed the beach for several hours before heading back to San Ramon. Lunch for Paul and I came to $24.60.
Accounting for the spending in our “Miscellaneous” category, we donated some money towards the annual Magallanes Children’s Christmas Party, organized each year by our friends Dave & Doris Scott. It was a great time for all, with lots of kids’ food (hot dogs, pizza, cake and ice cream), a clown, and, of course, Santa Claus. Every child received reindeer antlers, an age-appropriate gift, and a chance to win something in a raffle. There were also games, face painting, and Christmas music. Here are some of the pics from the party, including me in my Cocinero Navideñia (Christmas cook) outfit.
Our Costa Rica Cost of Living for Previous Months
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:
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Dentist
- Monkey Rescue Misadventures: Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara
- Adventures of a Monkey Mama in Costa Rica