Apr 28 2018

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – April 28, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 



Our March 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

March was a relatively quiet month for us. We had a beach day, invited friends over for dinner a couple of times, and did a few tours for potential expats. We also had higher than normal expenses in healthcare and groceries. More about that below.

Transportation – $206.14

March was a month where our car stayed in the garage most of the time. It’s one of the many advantages of living in town. We can walk most places and that cuts down substantially on the cost of gas and other related expenses. We only paid for one fill-up at the pumps in March ($52.85) and a few tolls.

The rest of the expense for the month was our car insurance through INS for six months. In Costa Rica, you insure the car, not each individual driver. Our car insurance, with full liability coverage as well as coverage for any additional drivers as well as passengers in our car and emergency road service, cost $146.23 for six months. That comes to less than $300 per year for our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner.

Groceries – $408.21 and Meals Out – $39.74

I definitely think that food prices are rising. In March, we didn’t make any trips to PriceSmart or AutoMercado. All of our expenses were local. We did have friends over for dinner a few times, but there really wasn’t any big reason for our grocery spending to be over $400 for the month. Maybe part of it is that it’s so convenient to run out to the store. There’s a “mini-super” less than half a block from our apartment, and several grocery stores within a few blocks. We are more apt to run out to pick up a few things than if we had to get into the car and drive 15 minutes into town.

Also, we ate most of our meals at home, only spending $39.74 on meals out for the month.

Healthcare – $456.37

We took care of some healthcare “maintenance” in March, with a full day of appointments in San Jose through MediSmart.

We each had appointments with a dermatologist. We saw the same doctor about 18 months ago and were returning for a follow-up check. She spent an hour with each of us and checked everything from our scalps to between our toes and everything in between.


Through MediSmart, the cost for each 1-hour appointment was 60% off the regular price and came to 18,000 colones (less than $32). The doctor also biopsied a tiny growth on Paul’s nose that she had been keeping tabs on. The cost for the biopsy was 20,000 colones (about $35) and we were promised the results in about 10 days by email. We actually received an email from the doctor six days later with positive results. Total cost was $36,000 colones ($63.53). There was also an additional expense of $33.91 for the scar prevention cream the doctor prescribed for Paul’s nose.

The same day as our dermatology appointments, I (Gloria) had appointments for lab work, a mammogram and ultrasound, and bone density scan, all ordered by my gynecologist the previous month. The mammogram and breast ultrasound cost a total of 30,000 colones and the lab work cost 106,349 colones, for a total of $240.63 USD. The cost of the bone density scan came to 24,921 colones ($44 USD).

You can read about our MediSmart experience in detail at this link.

The balance of our healthcare spending for March was for our Caja payment, our prorated annual MediSmart membership ($180 for the year, spread over 12 months, or $15/month), and a couple of supplements.

Rent/Phone/Utilities: $750.03

Tigo Web Ad

Rent for our two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the town of San Ramon is $550/month plus utilities. It came unfurnished and without appliances. Once we made all the needed purchases, however, our expenses in this category remain pretty stable. Our electricity bill goes up and down a bit, mostly depending on how many days there are in the month. The bill we paid in March was for the month of February so the bill was lower than normal at $44.18. Our Internet, with 8mgs through Tigo, came to $39.42 (19,500 colones) and our phone service totaled $46.01. The total for phone includes both of our cell phones as well as our Vonage line for calles to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Our one luxury is having our house cleaned every week. The total for housekeeping for March came to $70.42. This is for four hours a week at 10,000 colones each time.

Other Hardware/Household: $74.49

There’s a lot of this-and-that in this category — duct tape, dish rags, pants hangers, new curtains for our guest room ($19), and a new charging cable for my iPad (a whopping $36!)

Vet/Pet Supplies – $48.51

Our kitty, Laura, dozing on the couch

Our pet car expenses are usually pretty low. In March, we tried to upgrade our kitties’ food to a better brand (which we discovered they don’t really like) and bought them a new, large, litter box ($13.63).  They are such a big part of our lives and we want them to be happy and healthy. We will have to keep trying other cat foods until we find one that they enjoy.

Everything Else

There wasn’t much more of note in March. I got my hair cut and colored (10,000 colones or $17.61). We had a beach day at Playa Dona Ana ($5.72 for entrance fees and parking). We paid our NetFlix and Baltimore Sun subscriptions. That’s about it.

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:

Related Articles:


The Best Way to Live for Less in Costa Rica (or Anywhere), by Rob Evans

Recently, Greg Seymour gave me a great insight into living in Costa Rica. We were talking about expats’ obsession with the cost of living analysis, and Greg mentioned the best money saving idea he discovered was not to spend money. What? It took a little while to sink in, but eventually it made so much sense. Greg explained that without the convenience of a car or stores, he had less opportunity to spend money. Many of the articles about the cost of living in Costa Rica center on how much less is typically spent on healthcare, certain food items, and property tax. The cost analysis approach assumes expats are going to live the same lifestyle after moving to Costa Rica. So the cost of living articles line up the cost of eggs, a car, gas, etc. in Costa Rica and compare the unit price to the US price to demonstrate that living in Costa Rica is cheaper.


What Greg was telling me was the least expensive strategy was NOT to spend the money in the first place, which turned the cost of living discussion on its head. It is not the cost of the items, it’s is the change in lifestyle: when you don’t have a car and you rely on the bus, you don’t need to worry about the cost of gas, insurance, or inspection. If you rent, you don’t need to worry about property taxes, home insurance, or alarm costs. If you can only get to the store once a week, there is no pizza delivery, and Amazon cannot find your home, you limit the opportunity for instant gratification and impulse buying.

I mentioned to Greg that, in the States, we would go to the grocery store for food many times a week; to the drugstore for batteries, paper, ointments; and to a department store for storage needs to hold all the stuff we bought. At the end of the month, we would always be a few hundred dollars over budget from frequent less- than-$10 charges, buying “stuff we needed.” And when we started to move and began purging stuff and found all the pens, poster board, ointments, nail clippers, plastic crates, screws, picture hangers, poster board, expired super glues, and batteries that have accumulated over time, it finally hits me how much I spent (wasted) in small purchases over time.

Greg helped me see that if you cannot satisfy your consumer desires easily because you rely on a bus, you will find an alternative or you will realize you really don’t need it. For example, we often came home tired from work and would order a high-cost, high-calorie pizza; but now, living where we do in Costa Rica, going to get one (no bus after 4) or having one delivered are not options, which “saves” us $15 or more per week. Not being able to get to the hardware store or the storage store has “saved” us $20 per week. It is amazing how those “savings” add up over a month from just not spending the money in the first place.

CrackHouseSaving money by not spending it in the first place is something everyone could do in the US, but being habituated to the convenience of a car, multiple 7/24 stores, Amazon next-day delivery, and a consumer climate is hard to shake—it’s like trying to get off drugs while living in a crack house. Moving to Costa Rica can be like going into rehab. One day, Amazon drones may find me and offer to deliver, but not now.

When my father helped me open my first checking account, he told me the goal was to use up the deposit slip before the checks. Living here without a car and with limited access to impulse buying options has helped us achieve that goal of depositing more often than withdrawing. And we have discovered the best way to save money is not to spend it in the first place. Thanks Greg for the insight.

Bio: Rob and Jeni Evans moved to San Ramon from Raleigh, NC, in November 2014 after three years of unloading all they owed. Rob worked for IBM for 32 years and Jeni was an English teacher who homeschooled their children. Their goal now is to live fully and to see as much of Costa Rica as walking, buses, and taxis allow.

Related Articles:


Featured Property in Sarchi: Furnished 3BR 2BA Home Walking Distance to Town-$109,000

Property ID Number: 39634

Geographic Area: Grecia and Naranjo areas
Neighborhood: Sarchi
Bedrooms: 3
Full Baths: 2
Year Built: 2008
Construction (sq. ft.): 1260
Property Size: 223.27 Meters Squared or Hectares
Price: $109,000 USD


This fully furnished delightful Sarchi home for sale is located in a nice neighborhood just blocks from downtown Sarchi.

With a nice living room and dining and kitchen connected, you will feel right at home in this comfortable place. The kitchen is bright and has lots of counter space as well as cabinets and storage.

There are 3 bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms.  Lots of closet space and high ceilings make it the perfect size for a couple.

The entire property is fenced in and has a gate for a parking area.  There is also a huge outdoor covered patio area and laundry room that doubles as a workshop.

The views from the house are nice, they are to the South and you can see mountains, coffee farms and lights at night.

The location of this delightful Sarchi home for sale is what makes it exceptional.  Only blocks from the outdoor farmers market and a nice park with a public swimming pool.  Not to mention various soda’s and small restaurants, and a little store.  You don’t need a car at this house. Taxi rides to and from downtown are very cheap.

Sarchi is a small town between Grecia and Naranjo.  It is the best of all worlds as good shopping is nearby, and because its a small town banks, doctors and lawyers are not as busy.

Property ID Number: 39634

Click here for more photos and to contact the realtor for this property.

Click here to check out our other properties under $150,000 and read about what to do before you buy.


Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica


I’m so excited to announce that my new book, Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica is now available on Amazon.com! Here are a couple of my 5 star reviews:

“Outstanding. I have been looking for a book that would tell me where to buy certain items that are not available in the local Costa Rica stores and I found all of that and more. Information such as translation from English to Spanish and of course Spanish to English. This is helpful so when I am shopping I can find what I am looking for using the translation. There is a break down of measurements and substitutions that was helpful. I like the few recipes that are included, and can’t wait to try them. This is a great book with so much information to help you learn about cooking in Costa Rica. I love the layout of the book and the clear explanations, and its easy to locate what I am looking for without going through an entire book. Also the resources in the back have been super helpful. Thanks so much for the book.”

“Practical as well as scholarly, this is a must-have guide for any man or woman who commands a kitchen in Costa Rica. Wonderfully readable and quickly useable for whatever and whenever you may need to know all things culinary in Costa Rica. And if that were not enough, what an amazing tour guide for English-speaking lovers of food in a Spanish-speaking culture, where the recipes you know and have always loved can come alive in new and exciting ways. I just feel smarter having read it!”

When you move to a Spanish-speaking country, it can be daunting to stock your kitchen and cook meals when you don’t know what your ingredients are called in Spanish. And even when you know the Spanish translation, it can be a challenge at times to find what you are looking for.

You can download this practical, comprehenive guide and on-going reference tool on your smart phone or iPad so you have it with you whenever you shop. The table of contents is interactive, so you can easily click through to the meat section when you are at the butcher shop (carnicería) or to the dairy section when you are standing in front of the dairy case. Here’s what you will find inside:

  • A little bit about me, our life in Costa Rica, how and where we shop for groceries, what we spend, and some insights about grocery shopping in Costa Rica.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary, broken down into the following sections:
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Meat & Poultry
    • Fish & Seafood
    • Grains, Nuts, Seeds, & Baking Ingredients
    • Dairy & Eggs, Refrigerated & Frozen Foods
    • Beans, Canned & Prepared Foods
    • Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings
    • Condiments
    • Beverages
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English food dictionary in alphabetical order.
  • An English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary of things you find in the kitchen.
  • A Glossary of cooking terms and helpful adjectives to use when buying and cooking food, ordering in a restaurant, and reading recipes in Spanish.
  • Recipe substitutions for when you can’t find familiar ingredients here in Costa Rica.

Chipotle Beef Chili

  • Recipes which I have adapted to use with ingredients found in Costa Rica, plus some favorite recipes of other expat cooks in Costa Rica.
  • A U.S. Measure to Metric Conversion Guide for temperature, volume, weight, and length.
  • A resource section with links to expat cooking blogs, Facebook groups and pages, specialty products, and other food-related things.

Buy the print edition on Amazon.com

Buy the Kindle edition on Amazon.com

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for your iPad or computer at this link.


I hope you enjoy my book and find it useful!


Our Ultimate CR Healthcare Tour

We are proud to offer the Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica. When asked what he liked best about our healthcare tour, one of our guests wrote, “the wide variety of places we saw, the experts that Paul HCTOUR_030arranged for us to meet and talk with, and an emphasis on all aspects of health, not just doctors and hospitals. Mental health is just as important as physical, if not more so.”

HCTOUR_008David and Donna H. recently too our healthcare tour and had this to say on one of the expat Facebook groups: Donna and I just finished the medical tour that Paul and Gloria (Retire For Less in Costa Rica) offer. It was excellent! Two days of information and tours around hospitals and clinics as well as educational and cultural centers and even information on some of the banking. The tour is designed to introduce a new arrival to the Costa Rican system of health care that includes, not just the body but the whole person. I highly recommend this tour to anyone that is new, or relatively new in country, especially to the people that live in and around the central valley. Paul taylors the two days to the groups needs as far as their ability, including any and all physical limitations, and his own experience and contacts with the people at the various institutions makes this tour extremely personable and pleasurable. It is a really great opportunity to learn more about the health care and how you can tailor it to your own needs, and learn more about what is available to enhance your experience while living in Costa Rica.”

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over nine years and have used the Caja, Costa Rica’s public healthcare system extensively, as well as the private system, when needed. We’ve learned the system and have been referred up the ladder to see specialists in the maze that is the Caja system. Gloria’s even had surgery here.

Our blend of personal insights and on-the-ground experience combines to answer your questions about whether or not Costa Rica’s healthcare system could meet your individual needs.


But, while it is focused on healthcare, you will learn a lot more about living and retiring in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Most of the second day of the tour takes place in the town of San Ramón where we live and use the services. And you will come to our home that day to listen to two presentations.

Our tour is designed to save you both time and money, packing a lot of information into a short period of time. Our goal is to show you the possibilities and to try to demystify Costa Rica’s healthcare system. Our tour lasts two days and 1 night and includes lodging, transportation, meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

Sample Itinerary

You’ll visit:

  • At least two private hospitals in San Jose area
  • Hospital Mexico, the largest and best public hospital (they even do open heart surgeries there)HospitalMexico
  • An insurance broker for a presentation on the various supplemental health insurance options, including public, private, and international plans
  • A senior living retirement community
  • CPI language school for a presentation about how learning Spanish increases your options for healthcare and some basic medical Spanish.
  • Our local hospital here in San Ramón
  • A local EBAIS (community clinic)
  • The office of our dentist in San Ramón
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • A local feria (farmer’s market) where you will see the abundance of fresh food available.
  • The local Cruz Roja (Red Cross) to learn about their services and programs.
  • A health food store (macrobiotica), and more!


You’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needs and put your mind to rest, once and for all, about this sensitive subject.
  • About the public system and how it works, about the private healthcare system, and how you can use a combination of both to your advantage.
  • About the EBAIS – where healthcare starts in Costa Rica.
  • Approximately how much you would pay for Caja.
  • About medical tourism in Costa Rica.
  • About home health care in Costa Rica.

Prices: $650 for a couple, $550 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking a tour. Space is limited.

Related Articles:


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