Jan 10 2013

Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Just What You Need

In the States or Canada, don’t you usually save money when you buy in bulk? Not necessarily so, in Costa Rica. Interestingly, the “large economy size” of many products in Costa Rica can actually cost more per unit than buying the smaller size.

There are exceptions of course. Wal-Mart is here now, the king of marketers, and PriceSmart, which do offer quantity discounts. But for us, in each case, they are 45 minutes away by car and any savings are eaten up by the cost of gas to get there. Still, we go to these stores two to three times per year, when we are in the area or have multiple stops to make. Your average food store and pharmacy, however, will not offer these kinds of savings on quantity purchases.

Partial "blisters" of medications

So, what can you do to beat the system? Do as Ticos do and purchase smaller quantities. Get only what you need, be it the super-small size or just one or two pills for that really bad headache. No need to buy a bottle of pills or large package of anything when you can buy just what you need. It’s especially true in the pharmacies, where they’ll cut out as little as one pill from a “blister pack,” if that’s all you need. Commonly, they’ll ask you “how many do you want?” and when you ask the price, they quote you the price per pill.

You’ll save a little in the food stores, too, by buying smaller sizes in most cases. For instance, buying two single rolls of paper towels often cost less than a double-pack. You don’t need to buy a six-pack of soda or beer. Here, you can buy just one bottle or can in the supermarkets and liquor stores.

Remember, in Costa Rica, the large economy size might not be economical after all, so be sure to check the cost per unit before you put it into your shopping cart.

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