Apr 24 2015

Retire for Less in Costa Rica Newsletter-Our Annual Cost of Living Issue for 2014

Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter

Paul and Gloria


In This Issue:



If you missed our last newsletter, you can read it here. Here is a glimpse of what’s inside:

  • Great News for Potential Investors in Costa Rican Certificates of Deposit!
  • Gardening in Costa Rica with Steve – Soil Solutions
  • Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, Quepos, Near San Isidro de General, & San Rafael de Heredia – March 2015


Our Annual Cost of Living Summary for 2014

It’s time, once again, for our annual cost of living summary. Some of you will find this interesting, but others, not so much. That’s okay— Just read the section below that describes your level of interest.

And, for the “I love numbers and details and I want to see it all” group:

Here’s a breakdown of what we spent by category to live for the entire year in Costa Rica, as well as the monthly averages. The next two columns show what we spent (total and monthly averages) including our three trips. We were on the road for more than two months out of the year so we wanted to show totals both with and without our expenses out of the country.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Some expense categories were not affected by our traveling; we had to pay them whether we were in Costa Rica or not:

  • rent
  • car-related expenses other than gasoline
  • the security system for the house
  • our Vonage VoIP phone
  • healthcare
  • pet care
  • some other miscellaneous expenses

As mentioned above, the categories that were most affected by our travels are:

  • groceries
  • meals out
  • transportation
  • entertainment & travel
  • miscellaneous (lots of souvenirs and gifts here)
  • bank fees

That being said, our goal is still to spend $2,000 or less each month to live in Costa Rica. If you look at the monthly averages for just Costa Rica spending, we fell well within that amount. But if you include our travels, we are about $500/month over that total. If you divide the total CR amount ($21,191.79) by only 10 months, it comes to $2,119/month, but using that as an average would err a bit on the high side (as we paid rent and most utilities for 12 months). Bottom line, we are extremely pleased with how we were able to live and travel for the money we spent.

Previous Years Spending

When you look at an overview of the last four years, we can generalize by saying that we spent about $100 more per month each year over the previous year:



2014COLTransportationOur Costa Rica monthly average for transportation is down from previous years because, again, we were traveling for more than two months without our car. Note that these expenses do not include our travels out of the country

Gas prices were pretty stable throughout most of 2014 (at about $5.50/gallon) and similar to the previous year.

Even though we have an old car, we have a reliable one, and an honest and reasonably priced mechanic. We’ve only had normal wear and tear maintenance on our 1996 Toyota 4-Runner.

Taxi and bus fares were minimal since we mostly use our car, but we do use public transportation at times, especially if we’re heading into San Jose for the day or when our car is in the shop.

Marchamo (annual registration and mandatory insurance) is one car-related expense that increases every year:


Rent, Phone, Utilities, & Housecleaning


Our electricity bill is quite low since we don’t have to pay for heat or air-conditioning. That’s one big reason we chose to live in the Central Valley. Another reason that it’s low is that we use bottled propane gas for both cooking and hot water. But even when you add the two together, our energy costs average only $69.61 per month (about $2 more per month than last year).

We have two cell phones and a Vonage phone. With Paul’s cell phone, we have a monthly contract and, though the bill fluctuates a bit from month to month, it’s usually about $20-$25 per month. My (Gloria’s) phone has a “pay-as-you-go” sim card and it probably costs me about $3 per month—I’m not a big phone talker and mostly use my phone to check in with Paul.

Our internet service is a high-speed wireless connection through a private company. ICE, the national electric and phone company, still (as of April 2015) does not provide service in our area. If one day they do, we could probably reduce our monthly cost for Internet. Though this is one of our larger expenses, we do watch television over the Internet which eliminates the need to buy a TV and pay for cable.

We include “housecleaning” in this category because it was included in our rent when we lived at the Cabinas, so it’s easier to compare that way. You’ll see that this included our payment of Workman’s Comp insurance, our share of our housekeeper’s monthly Caja payment, and her Christmas bonus, which is required by law. You can read an explanation of the law at this link:  http://www.crlaborlaw.com/espanol/christmasbonus.htm.


Amazingly, our healthcare expenses actually went down in 2014 by about $9/month when compared to 2013, and even lower than our expenditures in previous years. While we have aches and pains like everybody else, we’re both pretty healthy. We continue to use the Caja for most healthcare needs. You can read more about this in our article: “Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Join the Caja, Costa Rica’s National Medical System.”

Entertainment & Travel

As we mentioned above, the main chunk of spending in this category in 2014 was our three big trips out of the country, as well as a couple overnight trips within Costa Rica. But other than those expenses, this category includes things like book and magazine purchases, a subscription to Netflix, and an online subscription to the Baltimore Sun (our hometown newspaper) for Paul. I read a lot and, since purchasing my Kindle Fire a couple of years ago, I’ve found that I can keep my costs down by taking advantage of all the free books available.

Everything Else

There’s not much to point out in the other categories:

  • Meals Out – We still eat lunches at “Paul’s Famous $1 Restaurant” and usually have dinner at home, except for special occasions when we eat at nice restaurants, and when we travel.
  • Pets – We still have our two cats, Tori and Laura Chinchilla, so our main expenses are cat food, litter, and occasional vet visits.
  • Other Household Misc – This includes things like getting appliances repaired, our share of buying a new hot water heater, and batteries
  • Office Supplies/Copies/Postage – We broke out this category this year, which also includes our yearly post office box rental, printer ink and paper, and miscellaneous office supplies.
  • Personal Care/ClothingHair cuts and beard trims for Paul, hair cuts, color, and an occasional pedicure for Gloria, and clothes, mostly from Ropa Americana.
  • Miscellaneous – This and that, gifts and donations, anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere.
  • Bank Fees – No more stiff ATM fees for us since we opened a savings account here in Costa Rica and write checks to ourselves from our U.S. bank account. We did, however, incur ATM fees while traveling in Nicaragua and Mexico.

So, all in all, 2014 was another very good year for the Yeatmans. We’re frugal, and tend to live simply. We did a lot with the money we spent, both here in Costa Rica and while traveling in three other countries, and we feel really good about that. But even more important than what we spent in 2014 is that we tried to live each day with grateful hearts and that we did it together.

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Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Taking the Bus

Updated 4/12/15

Take the bus!  Well, there it is, my money saving tip of the month. Okay, okay, I’ll explain the savings and the side benefits, but first, you’ve got to leave the car at home. It should be easy, with regular gas currently over $5.00 per gallon.

You probably won’t believe this, but some people live in Costa Rica and never, never take the bus. Why?  Because they’ve got a car. If you have a car, it’s certainly more convenient and efficient.  You can do more, buy more, and go more places more quickly.  Almost by definition, you complicate your life, while taking a bus has the effect of un-complicating your life because you just can’t do as much.  Your life becomes more about the bus schedule, going to town, and getting the basics.

The buses in Costa Rica go everywhere and they’re cheap.  A bus ride from where we lived (Money Saving Tip #1) to our local town, 4 miles away, costs 38 cents per person each way, runs into San Ramon eight times per day, and returns nine times.  Our local bus runs between Rio Jesus and San Ramon.  Every town in this country of 4.8 million people, and just under 1.3 million cars, is connected by the national bus system. Our town has two bus stations, one for more local runs, and another that offers direct and indirect bus service to the airport, San Jose, and Puntarenas.  It costs a little over $2 for the direct runs, while the local service costs less.  Even the local one to La Fortuna (a three hour ride) costs only $2.00.

But what the buses really do is help you integrate into the culture — you mix with the locals, speak a little Spanish, walk some, save money, simplify (you automatically do less), and probably lower your blood pressure in the process.

As I said earlier, there are approximately 1.3 million cars in Costa Rica, and we have one of them. Even before coming to Costa Rica, we had planned on purchasing a car for our Retire for Less in Costa Rica Tours.  Our tours focus on rentals, rural tourism, and living in the culture, in order to show others how to save money and simplify.  We also do airport pickups and drop-offs.

It’s hard as “Norte Americanos” for us to give up the car.  For over 100 years, it’s been a big part of America’s culture and economy. Our first two months in Costa Rica, we didn’t have a car and I took the bus every day along with occasional taxis from town when loaded down with groceries.  I even had to walk about ¾ of a mile to get to the bus stop.  What do you think happened?  I lost 10 lbs. in 30 days.  But then we bought a car and darn if I didn’t gain those 10 lbs. back.  So…if you can, just leave the car home once in a while.  I guess this is one of those “do as I say but not as I do” things…however, when we lived at the cabinas, I really tried to take the bus more often, but where we live now isn’t on a bus route. If you would like more information on bus travel in Costa Rica, here are a couple of links to the bus & ferry schedules:


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 heaHCTOUR_008lth is just as important as physical, if not more so.”

We’ve lived in Costa Rica for over five 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!

EBAISStaffYou’ll learn:

  • If the Costa Rican healthcare system could meet your needsand 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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