Jun 17 2017

Retire for Less in Costa Rica – June 17, 2017

Welcome to our Retire For Less In Costa Rica Newsletter

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue: 






Our May 2017 Costa Rica Cost of Living

In May, we were happy to see another month well below our goal of $2,000. We came in at $1,853.32, with no major purchases to outfit our new apartment in town.

Transportation – $286.46

We had some car repairs done to our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner in May which came to $214.76. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Replace bearings and seals: $154.14
  • Add oil: $8.36
  • Fix oil leak: $52.26

We spent $4.44 on taxis and $67.26 on gas, parking, & tolls. We continue to use about one tankful of gas per month, now that we’re living in town. We can walk to many places we go or we can grab a taxi which is both quick and inexpensive. It’s great to be able to leave our car parked in the garage for days on end.

Groceries – $329.00

Our grocery bill seems to be back to normal again this month. Hopefully, those $500 months are behind us.

Of the $329 total for May, 89% was for actual food and 11% went to non-food purchases like paper products, dish soap, and flowers.

Of the 31 days in May, we purchased grocery items on 20 of them. We definitely run out to the store more often since living in town since everything is so convenient.

While we’re talking about groceries, I have some exciting news! I’ve been working on a book for years and it’s in the final formatting and editing stage. It’s called, “Cooking in Costa Rica: An Expat’s Guide to Buying Groceries, Cooking, and Eating in Costa Rica.”

It’s a food guide and on-going reference tool for when you are shopping for groceries and cooking both familiar and new foods in Costa Rica. It will be released as a Kindle book, so you can download it on your smart phone or iPad and take it with you whenever you shop. A paperback book will be available as well in the coming months.

The book includes an English/Spanish and Spanish/English dictionary of foods, cooking terms, and things you find in the kitchen, as well as recipe substitutions, a U.S. measure to metric conversion guide, food and cooking related resources, and a bonus section of recipes from other Costa Rica bloggers and cooks. I will be sharing more info about the book and how you can get your copy in the next newsletter, so stay tuned!

Meals Out – $106.22

Of the $106.22 we spent on meals out in May, almost $60 of it was for lunches out. The main reason is that we made several trips to Alajuela and San Jose which meant meals on the go. Of all the meals we had in sodas and restaurants, the only one that was memorable was dinner at Savory a la Thai in San Ramón, which is fast becoming our favorite restaurant here. You should definitely check it out if you are in the area!

Healthcare – $182.31

Paul had quite a few medical appointments in May: blood tests, an ultrasound, a colonoscopy, and a follow-up appointment with his gastroenterologist. However, since we did it all through the Caja, it didn’t cost us anything outside of our monthly Caja payment of $50.

The rest of the healthcare expenses for the month went towards supplements and colonoscopy prep products.

This is the first month we aren’t showing a MediSmart payment. Our year with MediSmart ended as of May 15th and we haven’t renewed yet. Since we are heading to Mexico soon, we will wait to renew until we return.

Rent/Phone/Utilities – $785.77

Here’s the breakdown:

Our electricity remains a bit higher than we would like but I attribute it to having to use the dryer on laundry days, plus having electric hot water heaters in our apartment. Our last rental in the country had outdoor clothes lines and propane hot water. City living, unfortunately, doesn’t allow for hanging our clothes outside to dry.

Our housecleaning expense is a bit higher since our housekeeper cleans every week on Wednesday mornings and there were five Wednesdays in the month of May.

We purchased one propane tank refill in May for 6,800 colones (a bit over $12 USD).

Personal Care & Clothing – $69.01

Since we’ve been living in town, it’s a lot easier to stop in the Ropa Americanas on a regular basis. There must be at least a half dozen of these stores within five blocks of our house. That means more clothing purchases because, after all, who can resist a bargain? We can find gently worn shirts, dresses, and pants at prices between $1.75 and $5.00. Our general rule is that for every new item we purchase, one already in our closet gets given away or discarded. I have to admit, I don’t always follow that rule! If you don’t know about Ropa Americanas, you can read all about them at this link.

I had my regular hair cut and color at the salon near our apartment. Total cost was 10,000 colones ($18).

We also had a friend who was visiting bring us some toiletries we ordered from Amazon.com which accounted for about $26 of the total spent in this category.

Pets – $13.66

Our kitties, Tori and Laura, remain healthy so the only expense here was for cat food. We switched a while back to Wiskas which is readily available here. They seem to like all the flavors so we switch it up for them from time to time.

Entertainment – $11.58

I guess we made our own entertainment in May as we spent less than $12! This was for our monthly NetFlix bill, plus a 3 month trial subscription to Spotify. Paul loves his music!

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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‘Tis the Season…for Mold and Mildew

The rainy season is here in full-force, after starting about a month early this year. So it’s time to reprint our article on righting mold and mildew. Here goes…

While we love living in the tropics, there are challenges, especially during the rainy season, when we get over 100 inches of rain each year. While the moisture in the air is great for our skin, it can lead to mold and mildew in our home. Because we love having our doors and windows wide open, and because we want to minimize our usage of electricity, we’ve chosen not to run a dehumidifier, though others do. To use a dehumidifier, you would need to keep the doors and windows closed and we really love the fresh air. Instead, here are some of the actions we’ve taken to minimize the problem in our house.

  • Paint the walls with an anti-fungal paint. When we lived at the Cabinas, we picked the colors and bought the paint, and Cesar, the manager of the cabinas, painted all of the interior walls of our cabina with “anti-hongo” (anti-fungus) paint. The result was a brighter cabina that’s more resistant to mold and mildew.
  • Improve drainage and coat the foundation and tiles with a sealant. Our cabina was at the bottom of a hill, so when heavy rains would fall, water would seep in through the foundation. The property manager here at the cabinas improved the drainage and applied a sealant to both the outside and inside of the back of our cabina where we were having the problem. Since then, no water seepage and a drier cabina.
  • Increase air flow. We keep our doors and windows open most of the day for good cross-ventilation (and because we like it!) Of course, once the rain starts coming down heavy or the fog starts to roll in, it’s time to close the windows to keep additional moisture from coming in the house. You can also run fans to increase air flow. We benefit by the smart design of the folks who built our rental house — they even thought of windows or other openings in the closets to increase air flow!
  • Buy anti-mildew mattress and pillow covers. This was important for us because we were both breaking out in hives due to mildew when we lived at 4,000 ft. elevation. I found a great source online at National Allergy Supply.
  • Install lights in your closets. We bought a few inexpensive lights and either put them directly into our closets or clamped them on the closet doors. This small step, surprisingly, goes a long way to prevent mildew from taking hold on your clothes.
  • Hang out your clothes on sunny mornings. The combo of sun and gentle breezes combine to stop mildew in its tracks before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, you have no other choice but to launder them.
  • Keep a supply of white vinegar on hand in a spray bottle. If you see the beginnings of mold on leather chairs, belts, and other surfaces, spray them with straight white vinegar and wipe them down with a soft cloth or paper towels. Once you’ve removed all the mold, treat leather surfaces with a leather conditioner. We do this at least once a year with our Costa Rica  rocking chairs.
  • To minimize waste, buy items like flour, salt, sugar, spices, etc. in small packages and, as much as possible, store them in your refrigerator. Don’t store items in cardboard boxes (pasta, oatmeal, etc.) in your cupboards for long periods, even if they are in plastic zipper bags. It’s amazing how easily moisture can get into sealed plastic containers.

There has been a lot written about fighting mold and mildew as well as dealing with allergic reactions. Here are some links that we found helpful:

AM Costa Rica Article on Fighting Mold & Mildew






Retire for Less Goes to Mexico, Again

If you’ve been reading our newsletter for a while, you know that we have spent a month in Mexico every year for the past four years. This year, we are trying an experiment. We have rented a house in the city of Oaxaca, our favorite town in Mexico, for about five months. Every since Paul attended University in Mexico, he has had the dream of living there again for an extended period of time. And me, well, I love it there too.

Costa Rica will remain our home. We love it here and have no intention of moving to Mexico full time. But, how cool would it be to live in two countries (and neither of them are the U.S.)! Oaxaca is known for it’s incredible cuisine, indigenous crafts, art, music, and dance. Costa Rica is known for it’s spectacular physical beauty and it’s warm people. This gives us the best of both worlds.

It’s a big step. Since we don’t own a home in either country, we are basically setting up a household in each. We are keeping our apartment in San Ramon year-round and have rented a three bedroom house in Oaxaca. Friends of ours will be staying in our San Ramon apartment while we are gone and will take care of paying the bills and caring for our cats. They will also have use of our car.

We won’t have a car in Mexico, so we will experience day-to-day life without one, relying on public transportation. But buses, taxis, and collectivos are readily available and inexpensive.

We will continue to track our expenses both here in Costa Rica and in Mexico and will report them on a monthly basis, as usual. And while we are in Mexico, we will continue our monthly Retire for Less in Costa Rica newsletter. We have many helpful articles planned, including such topics as banking in Costa Rica, and end of life topics like death, burial, cremation, and body donation. So stay tuned!

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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 for lunch 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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