Dec 11 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – December 11, 2015

Welcome to our Retire For Less In CostaRica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

 In This Issue:


Our November 2015 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2015_NovWhen I look back at our spending over the last three months, we haven’t done a very good job at staying under $2,000/month. August was the last month we came in below budget, spending only $1626.96. And I have a feeling that December will also come in higher than we’d like, with Christmas gifts and other holiday spending. It will be interesting to see our end-of-the-year monthly averages for 2015. But for now, let’s look a bit closer at our November spending.

Some categories came in under our average spending. For once, the “Transportation” category was low. There were no unexpected expenses and all of our car repairs had been taken care of the previous months. Our “Rent/Phone/Utilities” category was also a bit lower. We only used one tank of propane (for cooking and heating water) and our housekeeper didn’t work one week. Also, as we mentioned in a previous column, our monthly Vonage bill has been decreased from about $31 to less than $18.

FreshStepIn November, we enjoyed a visit from Gloria’s sister, so to stock up on goodies and other things, we took trips to PriceSmart and Pequeño Mundo in Alajuela. At PriceSmart, we bought things that we can’t get locally, like feta cheese, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, and big bags of nuts. We also bought two 42 lb. bags of Fresh Step Litter for our kitties. And at Pequeño Mundo, we bought a supply of candles, some cleaning products, and a few other household items.

packmuleThen there were the items that we can’t buy in Costa Rica, coupled with a visitor from the States. Can you say “pack mule?” Once you are living in Costa Rica, you discover that many of the products you like or need aren’t available here, or are a lot more expensive. So when a friend or relative is coming to visit, it’s a great opportunity to have them bring you your specialty items in their luggage. There are almost never customs duties on them that way. And, it’s possible to bring personal care products in your luggage that just aren’t sold in Costa Rica, things that you couldn’t have shipped in, even if you were willing to pay the postage and duties. Lots of vitamins and supplements fall into this category.

Mostly because of our muled-down purchases, our expenses were higher in several categories, including Healthcare ($239.82) and Personal Care/Clothing ($172.47). PrintOne of the main purchases was a supply of probiotics for Gloria. We bought three different kinds, enough to last several months. This is one type of supplement we have not been able to find in Costa Rica, though we have found one product that the doctor said to take for just three days. We also bought some other good quality personal care products for which we haven’t found suitable substitutes in Costa Rica.

Another reason that our healthcare expenses were higher than normal is that Paul and I both had dental appointments in November. Each of us spent almost an hour with the dentist and the cost for both of us (cleaning and exam) was only $68.05.

We also purchased new clip-on sunglasses that are sized to fit Paul’s normal glasses. This is the third time we’ve ordered from this company and we have always been satisfied.

r_bayless_homeGloria’s sister also “muled down” an indulgence item. You may remember that we love visiting Mexico, especially Oaxaca, and Gloria loves to take cooking classes when we are there. We are big fans of Rick Bayless’ “Mexico, One Plate at a Time” series on PBS and had previously purchased the DVDs from three of his 10 seasons. He not only shares recipes and cooking tips, he also features aspects of the culture in various parts of Mexico. We decided to splurge and buy the rest of the DVDs in the set, so now we have all 10 seasons. We have already started watching them and are enjoying them immensely. It was definitely a “want,” not a “need,” but I guess we will just consider them our Christmas presents to ourselves!

Entertainment and Dining Out


Gloria’s sister, Toni, at Sanctuario de Lapas

We had a lot of fun with Gloria’s sister, Toni, during her recent visit. One of the places we went was to the Macaw Sanctuary at El Manantial in Aranjuez de Puntarenas. They are a Costa Rican wildlife conservation charity working to save and protect endangered species from extinction. The main focus of the project is the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) and the Great Green Macaw (Ara Ambiguus), who once flew freely in many areas of Costa Rica.

The Sanctuary also protects  many mammals, including tapirs, marmoset monkeys, and the troupe of spider monkeys Gloria worked with at the former “Spider Monkey R&R.”



Though we had to look at them through their cage instead of close-up as Gloria was used to, they looked great, though it was difficult to get good photos. And baby Dorita has grown and is living in the same cage as the older spider monkeys. Often, she can be seen holding on to Anita, the oldest female, who has adopted her as a surrogate mother.


Scarlet Macaws

Macaw Sanctuary at El Manantial is a great place to visit and is very affordable. Tourists pay $20 per person, however because we are legal residents, we paid only $10 per person.

The Sanctuary operates under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment Energy and Telecommunication (MINAET) and in accordance with the wildlife conservation laws of Costa Rica.

We also drove to Esterillos Este for the day and had lunch at the Pelicano Hotel, esterillosbeachlocated right on the beach. We had a great meal and enjoyed the beach for several hours before heading back to San Ramon. Lunch for Paul and I came to $24.60.

Accounting for the spending in our “Miscellaneous” category, we donated some money towards the annual Magallanes Children’s Christmas Party, organized each year by our friends Dave & Doris Scott. It was a great time for all, with lots of kids’ food (hot dogs, pizza, cake and ice cream), a clown, and, of course, Santa Claus. Every child received reindeer antlers, an age-appropriate gift, and a chance to win something in a raffle. There were also games, face painting, and Christmas music. Here are some of the pics from the party, including me in my Cocinero Navideñia (Christmas cook) outfit.


A little one receiving her gift from Santa


Willi Pitoreta, a famous Costa Rican clown-entertainer with lots of energy!


Group picture with the kids wearing their reindeer antlers.


Hugging Santa, with one child more interested in having his picture taken.


Me in my Cocinero Navideñia (Christmas cook) outfit

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:


8 Reasons Why Your Property in Costa Rica Has Not Sold in 7 Years

(This article originally appeared in The Tico Times Real Estate Section. Used with permission of the author.)

by Ivo Henfling

A home-seller recently sent me an email saying, “Could you please list my property in Costa Rica? I need to sell and move on, but it’s been listed for seven years now.”

In some countries and cities, a property listing might be on the market for a week or even less. In Costa Rica, I have seen properties sit on the market for seven years or even more. Why is that?

There are many reasons for a property to sit on the market for years, but the simple answer is “because Costa Rica is different.” If you list your property and it’s actively being marketed and it still doesn’t sell, you can either sit on it for another 210 years and your great-grandkids will get stuck with it, or you can get serious, read the eight reasons below and do something about it.

1. Have you asked the realtors in your area for the reasons your property hasn’t sold and then followed their advice? Probably not! Listen to the suggestions the local realtors can give you, and I mean this. They should all be able to give you good ideas, if they still want to talk to you.

2. Is your property priced to sell? Probably not! I sometimes get sellers, after trying to sell their property for a long time, who ask me to raise the asking price. Hey, if it didn’t sell for a low price, let’s try for a high price, right? It makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course not. You should do the exact opposite and lower the price and if it doesn’t sell, lower it again. Repeat this process until it sells. If you’re waiting for the next boom, then take it off the market and don’t try to keep it listed at a ridiculously high price it will never sell at. You’re wasting everyone’s time and effort.

3. Ask the realtors to take exceptional photos. Realtors are not photographers and so poor listing photos are not unusual. Good photos help sell a property. Few realtors in Costa Rica will pay for a professional photographer to come in and make your house look like that is the property everyone has been looking to buy. Hire that professional photographer yourself and you’ll be able to recover the money when your property is sold. And you can hand them out to all the listing agents, and post them on your Tico Times FSBO advertisement, on social network sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter as well as in Costa Rica forums such as CostaRicaLiving and CostaRicaCentralValley.

4. Your property shows terribly, there is no curb appeal at all, the front gate is falling off its hinges, the lawn looks like it’s not been groomed for 6 months and you need a haircut yourself too. Clean up, find some paint, get rid of the dog poop, and clean the cigar smell out of the house. Get the wall-to-wall carpet professionally cleaned and paint the front door. Get a new hinge for that front gate and cut your hair as well as the lawn. Make the property look picture-perfect at all times!

5. Maybe you scare the buyers off because your follow them and your realtor during the whole showing? You’re trying to take over the showing from the realtor? You talk too much? You smell bad? Please disappear when your realtor shows the property. Figure out how to let him/her in or have the maid do it, but please… disappear. Go walk the dog, get that haircut, I don’t care WHAT you do, but make yourself scarce and let the realtor do the job.

6. Your property listing has been sitting on the market for a long time, and buyers already recognize the photos that have been there for a long time. And most of them look horrible anyway. Get new photos, as I suggested, and ask the realtors to totally re-do the listing as if they were listing it for the first time. Ask a friend who writes well to help write the description of the property and ask the real estate agents to use that description. Tell your writer friend all the reasons you bought the house and why it’s such a great house that anyone would want to buy it. Turn your property into a hot listing. If you can’t find any incredible amenities and pros about your property, you’re in trouble and you should create new reasons so the first buyer who walks in there says, “Wow, I really love this place, this is paradise!”

7. You never make it possible to show the property, you always have more important things to do. You tell the realtor “please don’t come before 11:00 a.m. because I can’t make the beds before the showing.” Or you have to go to the hairdresser. This weekend you’ll be out of town and next weekend you have that barbecue at Uncle Ben’s house. And when you’re out of town, you always lock the master bedroom, where your valuables are, so the buyers can’t get in and cannot see the most important bedroom and bathroom of the house. Or you tell the realtor, “The best day to show is on Thursdays from 2:00 to 3:00, if it doesn’t rain.” Make your property available to show, at all times.

8. You have listed your property exclusively with different realtors in your area at different times and they won’t do more than put it on their website and wait for the phone to ring. Have you signed up with the best realtors in the market to promote your listing? Have they made a real effort marketing your property? Have you asked them what else needs to be done to sell your property? Or maybe you should list it as an open listing and they can all work to sell your property in record time?

The eight reasons I just gave you are not necessarily in a specific order, and it’s possible your property in Costa Rica hasn’t sold for only one or two of these reasons. Help yourself and help your listing agents, have a serious look at your property listing and the list of reasons above. Then act on it!

Ivo Henfling is a Dutch national, a resident of Costa Rica since 1980 and a Costa Rican real estate broker for over 20 years. He is the founder of GoDutch Realty, which covers several locations in the Central Valley, including Escazú, Santa Ana, Atenas, Cariari and Grecia. You can contact Ivo at (506) 2289-5125 / 8834-4515 or at


Featured Property: San Ramon-Brand New Cozy 3 BR 2BA House $90,000

SF1405-Charming-new-3BR3BA-house-for-sale-or-rent2Property ID: SF1405

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 2

Home: 95 m2

Lot Size: 3500 m2

Year Built: 2015


Perfect 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with everything you need and nothing you don’t. This new house for sale or rent in San Ramon Costa Rica is just right for folks who want to be a little away from it all in terms of traffic, but just 20 minutes from San Ramon centro with all its shops, main hospital and major grocery stores. Set in a beautifully manicured 50 acre organic coffee farm, with walking trails throughout, streams, and few neighbors, save the owners and a few other folks who will be building their homes down the road here in a few years.

Newly built with easy maintenance tile floors, 9 foot high wood ceilings, small kitchen with white marble counters and hand carved shelving. The main room is an open floor plan – spacious with room for a formal eating area, kitchen island or breakfast bar, large living room area, and lots of natural light.

The largest bedroom has an ensuite bathroom, with handpainted tiles, and could easily hold a queen sized bed and some other small furniture. The 2 smaller guest rooms share a bath that is also the bathroom for the main living area. Each has a set of built in closets, nice big windows, and enough room for a double bed and some small furniture.

Off the back of the house is a wonderful little porch with utility sink and W/D hookup. There is also ample room for a woodworking area, painting studio, any hobby you can think of, and has a back door to the yard. Internet is already installed and turned on, hot water throughout, private septic and municipal water.

This is a great little house for an incredible price.




Being sold for $90,000 or rented fully furnished for $550/month. Available in February, 2016.

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

Though we recommend you rent, rent, rent when you move to Costa Rica, we realize that some folks will still choose to buy, either early on or after they’ve been here for a while. We recommend purchasing properties under $150,000 because they are both easier to buy and easier to sell. Though we are not realtors, we work with trusted realtors who have many other properties in this price range available. The homes we feature are just a sample of the properties the realtors we work with have, both above and below $150,000.

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


Our Ultimate Healthcare Tour of Costa Rica

Our newest tour is 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_008

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over six and a half 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 for lunch that day to listen to two of our featured speakers. 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)
  • A local private medical and dental clinic
  • A local Seguro Social office where you would sign up for the Caja (national healthcare coverage)
  • A pharmacy
  • 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.

Introductory prices: $550 for a couple, $450 for a single.
Please contact us if you are interested in booking this tour. Space is limited.

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