Oct 25 2015

Our September 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2015_SeptEvery September, it’s the same story. It’s always a expensive month for us, mostly due to car expenses. So to those of you who are getting around by public transportation (bravo by the way), this is some of what you are missing.

Transportation – $502.37

September is our month for two big things: RITEVE (annual car inspection required for all vehicles) and our car insurance payment (for 6 months).

The insurance payment is easy. Every 6 months, we go to the INS office and pay our premium. For the options we have chosen, the cost of our car insurance for 6 months is $80,265.00 (about $152 USD). We have liability coverage, emergency road service, and coverage on anyone in our car or driving our car. We dropped collision coverage several years ago due to the high deductible and the fact that it only covers 60% after the deductible.


This is the Riteve location we go to in Puntarenas.

The RITEVE inspection itself isn’t expensive — less than $20. But, of course, since we want our car to pass the very detailed inspection, we have our mechanic go over the car and fix anything that needs fixing. This year, we knew we needed to have the master cylinder replaced as well as having some other regular maintenance done. Here’s the breakdown of what we spent on car repairs and maintenance and the actual RITEVE inspection:

  • Master cylinder: 20,000.00 colones ($37.80 USD)
  • Repair tail light: 8,000.00 colones ($15.12 USD)
  • Wheel balance & alignment: 9,000.00 colones ($17.01 USD)
  • Oil change/filter: 24,500.00 colones ($46.31 USD)
  • RITEVE : 9,930.00 colones ($18.77 USD)

Including our car insurance, these extra expenses accounted for 151,695 colones (about $287) out of our September transportation total of $502.37. The balance is made up our normal monthly expenses for gas, tolls, parking, and public transportation. So, all in all, our transportation expenses came in about $150 over our average spending in this category.

LasVegasLas Vegas – $124.67

You won’t see a category called “Las Vegas” in our spreadsheet. The individual expenses were actually allocated to the appropriate categories. But it is worth mentioning that we were traveling for 5 days in September to man a table at International Living’s “Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas” Conference. We got to talk to a lot of nice people about our lives in Costa Rica and tried to help them figure out if they might be happy here as well.

TraderJoesLVSince IL paid all of our travel expenses, there were 5 days during which our meals were covered. But you will notice that our “Groceries” category still came in right about at our monthly average of $350. This is because we more than made up the savings with a trip to Trader Joe’s, which was conveniently located in a shopping complex near the hotel. Shopping at Trader Joe’s is one of the few things we really miss about being back in the States. So what did we buy? Some of our favorite things: dark chocolate covered coffee beans, triple ginger snaps, AkMak crackers, bags of nuts, some dried figs, coconut oil, rice vinegar, and dark chocolate bars with hazelnuts. Mmmmm.

Here’s a breakdown of our Las Vegas expenses:

  • Cab ride to the mall: $10.00
  • Trader Joes: $69.21
  • Gifts: $33.49
  • Magazines (“National Geographic” for Paul and “Cooking Light” for me): $11.97

Groceries – $346.64

pequenomundoGroceries were right on budget. Other than our Trader Joe’s purchases, the only thing of note is a higher than normal spending for non-food items – 19% as compared to the normal 13%.  That’s mainly because we made one of our several per year stops at Pequeño Mundo. There is a new one close to the RITEVE location we go to near Puntarenas. It’s kind of a “dollar store” on steroids. We’ve bought things like dish detergent, scrubber sponges, picture frames, candles, car mats, mixing bowls, dishes, socks, cleaning products…the list goes on and on. It’s one of our favorite places to shop “for cheap” — of course, it’s only cheap if you buy what you need and don’t get tempted by everything else.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $837.06

Though it isn’t obvious, this is the category where we account for expenses related to our housekeeper. She comes once a week on Wednesdays for 4 hours each time. We also pay her Caja once every several months. We actually share this expense with the other couples for whom she cleans. In September, she came five times due to the way the Wednesdays fell on the calendar, plus it was our month to pay her Caja. So, these expenses led to a slightly higher total in this category. All other expenses were in line with normal spending.

Healthcare – $258.65

dentalPanoramcXrayIn addition to our normal healthcare expenses, September was a big dental care month for Gloria. I had panoramic digital dental x-rays, saw the dentist three times (though she only charged me for one time…yes, really), and purchased a couple of bottles of dental rinses she recommended.

Here’s the spending breakdown:

  • Digital panoramic dental xray: $37.81
  • Dental rinses: $22.08
  • Dentist: $18.94

What would these cost where you live?

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