Nov 05 2018

Our September 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

Our plan was to spend September in Oaxaca, Mexico as we do most years, but Paul’s surgery to remove his right kidney in August caused us to delay our plans. We spent the month in Costa Rica as Paul recuperated and began to get his strength back.

Transportation – $389.36

Our expenses for gasoline and tolls for September were minimal ($85.15) as we mostly stayed close to home. However, September is always an expensive month for transportation overall.

Every March and September we pay our car insurance for six months. We have full liability coverage but no collision coverage as body work is very reasonable in Costa Rica and our car is old. Our insurance for six months comes to $143.79. In Costa Rica, one insures the car, not the individual drivers, so that is all we pay for either of us to drive our car. Also, this amount also provides coverage for anyone else who drives our car, as well as additional liability coverage for anyone riding in our car.

September is also the month for our annual visit to Riteve, Costa Rica’s mandatory car inspection program. Prior to our appointment, which we make online, Paul takes our car to Gilberto, our mechanic, to check it over and make any necessary repairs. This year, he had to replace the rear brake shoes at a total cost of $95.37 for parts and labor. Later in the month, it was time for an oil change, costing $41.77 for our Toyota 4-Runner.

We go to the location in Puntarenas which is about 45 minutes away from our home in San Ramon as there is rarely much of a wait there. The cost for the Riteve inspection went up this year, from less than 10,000 colones to 13,405 colones ($23.29 USD).

All this comes to a total of $304.22 for car repair and maintenance, including the Riteve inspection and car insurance for six months.

Groceries – $436.14

Our September grocery bill came in about $85 higher than normal. We had a couple of house guests during the month, one for the entire month and the other for one week. Though they contributed to the groceries and we ate out a few times, our grocery expenses were still higher than if it had been just Paul and me. As mentioned above, we stayed pretty close to home as Paul was recovering so we ate most meals en casa.

Another out-of-the-ordinary expense in September was the purchase of some specialty products — almond flour, coconut flour, and erythritol (a low carb sugar replacement) — which we were able to buy from an expat who was moving back to the U.S. I have been looking at various anti-cancer diets and the keto/low carb diet is one we have been considering.

Our total grocery spending for September, 93% ($405.78) was for food and only 7% ($30.36) was for non-food items.

Meals Out – $85.57

For $85.57, we were able to eat dinner out three times, lunch once, and snacks once.

Paul’s birthday was on September 19th so we went with friends to Rancho Mirador Restaurant for a lovely meal. Rancho Mirador is also a hotel and casino in the hills above Naranjo. You can even see it from the PanAmerican Highway. The food was very good and the surroundings were pleasant as we sat outside on the patio. Total cost for Paul and me was $31.34.

Healthcare – $391.65

Of the total above, we spent $119.30 on supplements and medications, including a supplement order from Vitacost online. Though they don’t deliver to Costa Rica, we order from them when a friend can bring our items to Costa Rica in their luggage. 

The remaining $272.52 went towards doctor visits and health coverage, including our monthly Caja payment and the monthly pro-rated amount for our MediSmart plan. In September, Paul also had some tests done as a follow-up to his surgery. He had a kidney function test at J&M labs for 10,000 colones ($17.83), a 4G ultrasound for 35,000 colones ($63.73), and additional blood work for 10,000 colones ($17.42). He received all of the results within 24 hours of the tests. A few days later, he had an appointment with his urologist as a follow-up to his surgery. We wanted to make sure everything was okay before getting on a plane to Mexico the following week. Since we could not get a follow-up appointment in the public system with the surgeon before we left the country, we decided to make an appointment with his urologist, who happens to be the head of urology at the public hospital where the surgery was performed. We saw her privately through MediSmart and the discounted rate for the visit cost cost us 18,000 colones ($31.30). She reviewed Paul’s test results and gave us the all-clear for our trip, though she wants to do some follow-up tests when we return to Costa Rica in December.

We also both had dental visits to have our teeth cleaned in December (22,000 colones or $39.22 for the cleaning), plus I had two massages to treat some back pain. I found a great massage therapist who does deep tissue massage and a bit of chiropractic adjustment. The massages cost 12,000 colones ($21.39) each. I am looking forward to getting another one when we get back in December!

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $734.71

Our expenses in this category were back to normal in September:

We didn’t need to buy propane (for cooking on our gas stove) in September. A tank usually lasts us about 3 months, so this expense is minimal.

Our one indulgence continues to be having our house cleaned every week. Since we both hate to clean, and since it employs our long-time housekeeper, Flor, we gladly pay this expense every month.

Personal Care and Clothing – $26.02

In anticipation of our trip to Mexico the end of the month (and also in the name of normal self-maintenance) we both had hair appoinements — a haircut for Paul (2500 colones or $4.46) and a cut and color for me (10,000 colones or $17.83). I also bought a pair of pants, like new, at MegaRopa for 2,800 colones ($4.99).

Vet/Pet Supplies – $121.30

September was an expensive month for pet care. We brought both our kitties, Tori and Laura, to the vet for their annual checkup and shots. The cost for the exams and shots (rabies and anti-parasites) for both kitties came to 19,000 colones ($33.87) a big difference than what we were used to paying in the States. Seems I never left the vet office for less than $100, and that was with only one cat.

We found out that Laura had a urinary tract infection so we switched their food to Science Diet Urinary Care Formula at 13,000 colones ($23.17) per bag. We also stocked up on Fresh Step kitty litter at PriceSmart, buying two 42 lb. bags for a total of $34.29. I was glad to see that Fresh Step did away with the extra packaging of four separate bags within the large bag and went back to giving us more litter instead of more packaging.

Entertainment – $18.00

September was a relatively quiet month for us as Paul recuperated. We watched a lot of Netflix ($11.65 for our monthly subscription) and Paul read the Baltimore Sun online ($1 for his monthly subscription). I also bought a paperback book about storytelling for $5.35. A quick note about Netflix — though we subscribed to Netflix while in the States, while in Latin America we only have access to Netflix out of Mexico. Not all of the programming available in the States is available in Costa Rica or Mexico. It used to be that we could access U.S. Netflix with a VPN connection but after continued problems with the VPN, we discontinued it and just watch Mexican Netflix. It’s more than enough for us as we are extremely out of touch with current movies and television coming from the States.

Services – $14.26

Generally, services in Costa Rica are inexpensive. In September, we had three shirts and a pair of pants ironed for Paul and two blouses ironed for me, at a total cost of 3,000 colones ($5.35). I also had our tailor hem the new pants I bought at MegaRopa for 1,000 colones ($1.78). Paul also had the batteries replace for three watches at 4,000 colones ($7.13).

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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