Feb 26 2018

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – February 26, 2018

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 



Our January 2018 Costa Rica Cost of Living

In January, our spending was back to normal, totaling $1,826.57 for the month. Here’s the breakdown:

Transportation – $72.74

No car repairs this month and only one fill-up totaling $54.66 for our Toyota 4-Runner, plus $11.48 to top off our oil. We also had some miscellaneous tolls and parking fees.

Groceries – $495.25

Another high month for groceries. Of the total amount, we spent 86% on food ($426.48) and 14% on non-food items ($68.77). I’m not exactly sure why. I can’t blame it on excessive PriceSmart visits (we did go once) or holiday entertaining. Are food prices rising or are we just spending more liberally? Time will tell and then we will tell you too.

Meals Out – $55.81

A typical casado

Our January spending on meals out is more like normal for us. For $55.81, we had five lunches out and two snacks.

When we eat out, we try not to frequent pricey restaurants. Eating out in Costa Rica is not usually a bargain, unless you eat at sodas (small, usually family-run, eateries serving traditional Costa Rican fare like casados and gallo pinto.

When we were in San Jose on the last day of the month, we ate at a Caribbean restaurant there and spent almost $20 for lunch.

Health Care – $127.33

For $127.33, we paid our monthly Caja, Paul went to the dentist for a regular cleaning, and we paid for some probiotics that a friend picked up for me in the States.

This amount also includes our pro-rated Medi-Smart membership fee which was $180 for the year, paid last month. For those who aren’t familiar with the plan, Hospital Metropolitano’s MediSmart is basically a discount plan, offering 40% to 80% off of everything from appointments with specialists like dermatologists and gynecologists to X-Rays, lab work, and even hospital rooms and operating room time. We have some appointments through Medi-Smart in the coming months, so we will report on the services and costs in future newsletters.

Rent, Phone, and Utilities – $821.08

Here’s the breakdown for this category:

Rent, Utilities, & Housecleaning – January 2018

Rent, internet, phone, and electricity spending was normal. Our overall spending in this category was slightly higher than normal for two reasons: We purchased a tank of propane which we only need to do every 2-3 months. Also, there were five Wednesdays in January; that means five cleaning days instead of four, so our housecleaning expenses were 25% higher than normal.

Personal Care & Clothing – $57.44

Socks and a shirt for Paul, sunglasses for me, and $35 of toiletries “muled in” from the States — nothing too exciting. Ropa Americana is still our first choice for good quality, inexpensive clothing and since we live in town, we frequent the many ropa americans here. If you aren’t familiar with these stores, you can read Paul’s article about them at this link.

Entertainment – $25.42

White-faced monkeys at Playa Doña Ana

In addition to our NetFlix payment of $11.65 and Paul’s subscription to the Baltimore Sun Online ($7.96), we also had our first beach day of the season at Playa Doña Ana. For a full day at the beach, it costs us entrance fees of 1,500 colones for me, 750 colones for Paul since he’s over 65, and 1,000 colones to park in their secure lot — a total of less than $6 USD, including all the monkey-watching you want!

Office Supplies/Postage – $31.71

January was time for us to renew our post-office box in San Ramón. The price went up again this year to 16,000 colones (about $28 USD). Since we share the box, and therefor the cost, with a friend, our share of the fee came to $14.14. Here’s a link to “Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Rent a Post Office Box” for more details.

Additional expenses in this category included $14.02 for a black printer cartridge and $3.55 to ship a case for my new Huawei P10 Plus from a store in San Jose.

Other Expenses of Note

Tori and Laura sleeping

A trip to PriceSmart always means stocking up on Fresh Step Kitty Litter for Tori and Laura, our two cats; that plus cat food brought our pet care expenses to $33.01 for the month.

We spent $37.24 in the “Other Hardware/Household” category for some new drinking glasses and some purchases ($25.98) from TIPS in Alajuela. If you aren’t familiar with TIPS, it’s a great place for all of your cooking and baking needs. I needed a new oven thermometer and kitchen timer, and wanted a silicone baking pad (notice the terms “wanted” and “needed!”) With my love of cooking and baking, I could go crazy in this store, but I try to restrain myself. Just click on the image to the right to visit their website. It’s in Spanish, but there’s always Google translate.

Related Articles:


17 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Move to Costa Rica

Recently, after one of our 5-hour San Ramon tours, our client, Steve F. said that we were not balanced enough, that we tried to sell Costa Rica and San Ramon. Granted, it wasn’t our usual tour since the only time they had available was a Sunday, so almost everything was closed. But still we had an opportunity to hook up with George Lundquist’s Costa Rica Retire on Social Security tour group for three stops. At one stop, we listened to a presentation by Mike Styles of the Community Action Alliance regarding volunteering, integration, and community involvement. At the time, it seemed like a good tour to me. And I thought that, over time, we had written about many negatives of Costa Rica – crime, inflation, etc. It isn’t our fault we love it here and want to spread the joy. But these folks were referred to us and they weren’t readers of our website, they didn’t know us. So, his comments got me to thinking. What are the negatives for some people about Costa Rica and San Ramon? Here are a few I’ve come up with:

  • Costa Rica is expensive – certainly, it’s the most expensive country in Central American and one of the most expensive in Latin America (though we still save 33% over our U.S. cost of living).
  • Crime Rate – It’s true, the law is weak and they often let lawbreakers off the hook (the murder rate has been increasing, to 12.1 per 100,000 in 2017). Costa Rica also has one of the highest rates per capita for robberies/buglaries in Latin America.
  • We even have double-yellow lines and reflectors now!

    The roads aren’t as good as other countries, including Nicaragua and Panama. True, but the infrastructure, roads included, has improved a lot during the 9 years we’ve been here.

  • The towns aren’t cobble-stoned or Colonial looking.
  • It’s not different enough, with little indigenous influence like Mexico and Ecuador.
  • It’s not paradise (gosh, I hate that word).
  • They speak another language, and I might have to learn some. It’s not like Belize which is English-speaking.
  • Gas is over $5 per gallon.
  • Less is not more – no matter how you sugar-coat it.
  • The bureaucracy will drive you crazy. They do things differently down here.
  • The people here can’t think out of the box – no wonder Costa Rica is a third world country.
  • Everything is substandard compared to the U.S. Can’t they do anything right?
  • It’s too cool in San Ramon – this isn’t “spring-like weather” where I come from.
  • There are too many Ticos in San Ramon and not enough expats.
  • Hey, where are the zip lines and waterfalls?
  • Where are all the expat hangouts?
  • There’s no beach here, and where’s the air conditioning?

There you have it, many of the reasons you should consider elsewhere. I sincerely hope this clarifies your point Steve F. You’re right. I’ll be more balanced from now on…but I still love it here.

Related Articles:


Featured Property in Lake Arenal: Bali Style Bungalow with Lake View-$125,000

Listing ID# RS1700441

Location: Puerto San Luis, Arenal, Tilarán, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Listing Type: Residential Sale
Bed/Baths: 2/1
Location Type: Mountain
View Type: Lake View
Total Lot Size: 384.36 m² (4,137.20 sq ft)
Total Living Area: 100.00 m² (1,076.39 sq ft)


Cozy 2 bedrooms, one bath Bali Style Bungalow with loft for an office offers all the amenities for a full-time residence or vacation rental investment if one is not ready to retire at this time. Walk to the water and also within walking distance to several very good restaurants in the area as well as public transportation to the Municipal Hub of the Lake Arenal area, Tilaran only 4 miles from this location. Gated community for security, quiet surroundings, high-speed internet.


Listing ID# RS1700441

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.

The Kindle version is available now 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 am in the final stages of setting up the print version of the book and I will let you know as soon as it is published. In the meantime, you can buy the Kindle version through 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_008

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over eight 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.

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