Oct 14 2016

Our September 2016 Costa Rica Cost of Living

2016-septWe knew that September was going to be an expensive month for us. It always is. It’s the month when we take our car to RITEVE for the annual inspection and when we renew our car insurance for 6 months. But this September, we also had some other big expenses in the area of healthcare and telephone. Here are the highlights of our September 2016 spending:

Groceries – $304.67

Our grocery expenses came in lower than average, despite a visit to PriceSmart. Here’s what we bought and a breakdown of what everything cost:


I’m sure it would have cost less in the States, but I feel like we got a lot for our money. The blueberries, nuts, olive oils and vinegar will last us a couple of months at least.

Transportation – $539.32


The RITEVE location in Puntarenas where we go.

As I mentioned above, we we took our car to RITEVE, Costa Rica’s mandatory annual inspection. 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. In the weeks before the inspection, we had our mechanic replace eight bushings & a tension bar in order to fix a bad squeak.

Then off we confidently went to RIVETE. We were shocked that our car failed the inspection. Turns out the idleing was too fast (though it had been fine earlier in the day) and our back brakes needed to be replaced (even though we had them replaced just the year before). Neither Paul nor our mechanic even suspected that the brakes were low, so finding out during the inspection turned out to be a blessing. Paul went back to our mechanic to have both things fixed, then returned to RITEVE on the last day of the month. (They actually give you 30 days to have the repairs made and to do the follow-up inspection, but we wanted to have it done before leaving for Mexico.)

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent:

  • Replace eight bushings & a tension bar – $146.75
  • RITEVE (1st inspection) – $18.22
  • RITEVE (2nd inspection) – $9.11
  • Replace rear brakes and adjust idling – $66.42
  • Brake fluid – $9.54

September was also time to renew our car insurance. The insurance payment is easy. Every 6 months, we go to the INS office and pay our premium. We have found them to be courteous and helpful, though it definitely helps to speak some Spanish. 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 time around, our payment increased by about $20 since we took the advice of the INS agent and increased our liability coverage. Total cost for 6 months: $170.09.

Healthcare – $416.06

If you’ve been reading our recent newsletters, you know we joined MediSmart, a membership discount plan on services at Hospital Metropolitano in San Jose. You can read all about it here.

MediSmart2016_logoWe used the plan for the first time in September. Both of us went to see a dermatologist. The MediSmart office not only made the appointments for us, they confirmed it by email with the doctor’s name, photo, and location of her office. Then they sent reminders to us, even calling us the day before.

Our appointments were on the same day and Doctor Maria spent about an hour with each one of us. She did a thorough examination of our bodies, from our scalps down to the spaces between our toes. She was wonderful and even spoke some English. She took photos of one bump on Paul and one on me, in order to compare them, to see if they grow over the next 6 months or so.

Since we were enrolled in MediSmart, we got a 60% discount off of the regular cost. We only spent 18,000 colones each (about $33). We were thrilled with the price but even more pleased about our time with Dr. Maria.

On the same day, I (Gloria) also had an appointment with the holistic doctor I am seeing for some digestion issues. We were with her for over an hour. The charge for the visit was 35,000 colones (about $64).

doterrabottlesThe other item of note was our first purchase of essential oils. This is one area of natural healthcare we are just learning about and are finding it to be expensive. We buy doTerra essential oils, which I can order online and have sent to our post office box here in San Ramon. The cost of this first order was $84.34. We are going to give them a try to see whether or not they will be as helpful to us as they seem to be for some folks.

Other than these items, our healthcare expenses, like usual, included our monthly Caja payment, one prescription medication, vitamins and other supplements.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $1,172.58

The last category we will dig into is rent, phone, and utilities. Rent and utilities actually stayed constant with other months, though electricity is running a bit higher (about $65) since we’re deep into the rainy season. We run our ceiling fans more to keep the air circulating and prevent mildew, and also use the drier instead of hanging our clothes on the line to dry.

Happy Birthday Paul!

Happy Birthday Paul!

But the two items which cost more than normal in September were phone and housekeeping. Here’s why.

First off, Paul’s birthday was September 19th. I won’t tell you how old he is, but it was a significant one! So, for his birthday, we got him a new smartphone. He wanted a Samsung 5 but we found that they are no longer available here, at least in San Ramon. So we looked at other models and settled on Huawei P8 which was the closest comparable phone within our budget.

huaweip8We have learned to buy our phones in Costa Rica instead of (less expensively) in the States and having someone bring them down to us. The reason is that phones purchased in the U.S. are not covered by warranty in Costa Rica. Paul’s first smartphone, which we purchased here in CR, stopped working about a month after purchase and, when they couldn’t repair it, the store gave Paul a brand new phone. So, for us, buying a phone with a warranty really makes sense.

The Huawei has a different look and feel than his old Samsung Grand Prime, so there’s a bit of a learning curve. But he will be a pro soon. And I winkinherited his old phone since my old smartphone just hasn’t been as smart since it fell into a toilet at the airport six months ago.

The cost of Paul’s phone was 172,000 colones, plus an extra 10,000 colones to buy him a case and me a new case for his old phone. Total cost in dollars: $334.00.

The other item of note in this category is housekeeping. You might remember that we have a lady clean our house every week for four hours on Wednesdays. She does a great job and it makes life so much easier for us. There are three other couples who use her services and we take turns paying her Caja (national health plan), which covers her as well as her two children. September was our month to pay, so our housekeeping total increased by $39 as a result of this expense.

That’s it for September. 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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