Feb 14 2017

Our November and December 2016 Costa Rica Cost of Living

November and December were busy months for us as we prepared for our move to an apartment in town. We may not have sent out regular cost of living reports, but we managed to still track every thing we spent.  Because we wanted to show our purchases for the new apartment as part of January’s expenses, we are NOT including them in this report. That way, all of the expenses for our new home will be shown in 2017, not 2016.

November 2016

In November, we returned from our Mexico trip on the 3rd, then left again on 9th. We traveled to Las Vegas to exhibit at International Living’s Retire Overseas Bootcamp Conference, returning to Costa Rica on the 14th.

Groceries – $538.32

You would think that spending only 3 weeks of the month in Costa Rica would cut down on our grocery budget, but that wasn’t the case. Why? Trader Joes! There was a Trader Joes down the street from the conference hotel in Las Vegas. We took the opportunity to stock up on all kinds of wonderful things, from nuts and seeds to vitamins and supplements, to cheese, canned pumpkin, and mushroom soup, spending $156.94. We also bought some non-food items like Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and then at the pharmacy, some razors, aspirin, and other miscellaneous things that can be bought cheaper in the States, spending an additional $56.24.

Transportation – $273.75

We didn’t use our car for about 8 days of the month, so our gas expenses were lower. We did have some repairs done later in the month though, which cost $104.18. Here’s what we had done:

  • Tune up
  • Check brakes
  • Oil change
  • New wiper blades
  • Replacement of a screw

Health Care – $292.60

You will see in the “Unusual Purchases” section below, we purchased some vitamins and supplements online which fall into this category. Our normal spending was, well, normal — the cost of our monthly Caja ($50.02) and our MediSmart fee ($12.50 pro-rated), two prescriptions we get that are not available through the Caja ($78.59) and some allergy eye cream ($5.15). The only other medical expense was Paul’s appointment with the dentist for his every-four-months cleaning. She spends a hour with him each time and the cost is only $32.73 (18,000 colones).

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $819.44


Our spending in this category was normal except for one item, “housecleaning.” Though not officially due until later in December, we paid our housekeeper’s aguinaldo early, on November 29th. Basically, the aguinaldo is an additional month of wages that employers are required by law to pay between December 1st and the 20th. The amount due is calculated by adding the total wages for the year (December 1st of the previous year through November 30th of the current year) and then dividing by 12. Our housekeeper’s aguinaldo came to $62.09. Our total cost for housekeeping for the month was $127.55, which includes her aguinaldo and payment for cleaning our house four times for four hours each time.

Unusual Purchases


A big THANK YOU to both of our “mules”

Also in November, a friend returned to Costa Rica and brought with him some vitamins and supplements we had ordered from Vitacost ($86.06) and some non-toxic cleaning supplies from Grove Collaborative ($21.33). Those expenses also show up in our November cost of living in the categories of “healthcare” and “other household.”

And in preparation for my sister’s visit the first week of December, we also ordered some things from Amazon ($55.73) that had been on our wish list so that she could “mule them down” for us. Thanks Toni!

The one other unusual purchase was a beautiful bracelet and earrings we purchased ($48.83) from Global Hands Artisans while at the International Living Conference. The owner, Judy Miranda, markets folk art from countries all over the world.

2016-DecDecember 2016

Transportation – $402.85

December is the month when everyone who owns a car must pay the MarchamoThe Marchamo is a combination of yearly registration, taxes, and mandatory basic liability insurance. For our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner, our cost was $187.34 (102,194 colones), actually going down for the first time in a couple of years as you can see in the graphic below.


The deadline to pay the marchamo, as well as any unpaid parking tickets, was Dec. 31st. The Tico Times reported that drivers who neglected to pay the marchamo on time have “had their license plates confiscated and been handed fines. Each fine for not having the marchamo sticker posted on your car’s windshield costs ?51,000 (just under $100).” Additionally, after December 31st, payments accrue both interest and late payment penalties. Take-away? Pay your marchamo on time!

Groceries – $401.86

In December, my sister came for a visit, plus we had friends over to celebrate Christmas at our house, so our grocery budget was up a bit higher than normal. A trip to PriceSmart always inflates our monthly grocery bill with purchases of nuts, cheeses, olives, and other goodies.

Pumpkin-Crumble-BarsEven though we were in the middle of packing for our move, we managed to decorate our little Christmas tree and cobble together a tasty meal of chicken mole over rice and pumpkin crumble, our new favorite dessert. It was our 5th and last Christmas celebration on our porch at the rental house in Magallanes and we made it special, as always.

Entertainment/Travel – $34.68

Monkeys at Playa Dona Ana

Monkeys at Playa Doña Ana

During my sister’s visit, we had a beach day with friends at Playa Doña Ana, our go-to beach. It has secure parking (1,000 colones per car), picnic tables, BBQ grills available, bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms, lots of shady trees with monkeys in them (most of the time), a beautiful view, warm waters, and even a restaurant (though it’s not always open during the week). Entrance fees are 1,500 colones/person and only 750 colones/adult 65 and over. You can check out the location and get directions on Google Maps by searching for “Playa Doña Ana.” There’s a Maxi Pali grocery store two miles before the beach (coming from Rt. 1) which is a great place to buy food and/or drinks. You can cook on the grills or bring something ready to eat. Everyone brings their own food though there is a lot of sharing going on!



We also went to Zoo Ave, a 35 acre nature park located in La Garita. Zoo Ave has the largest collection of bird species in Latin America, along with many other animals. One of the main attractions is “Grecia,” the toucan whose beak was broken when attacked by a group of teens, and who was later fitted with a 3D printed prosthetic beak. Zoo Ave uses Grecia’s story to educate against animal cruelty.

“Grecia” before her prosthesis

Another highlight for me is seeing the peacocks roaming around the grounds. If you are lucky, you can see the males display their plumes and strut their stuff.


Entrance fees for Zoo Ave were 5900 colones for me and 4000 colones for Paul with his Ciudadanos de Oro (golden citizens) card, a total of about $18 USD.

Meals Out  – $120.54

Since we were on the go during so much of the month, we ate a lot more lunches out that we normally would. We also had dinner one night at the new Thai restaurant in San Ramón, Savory A La Thai Tailandesa. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. And the young couple who own it are delightful. Check it out if you get to San Ramón.


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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