Dec 05 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – December 6, 2014

Welcome to our Newsletter!

Paul and Gloria

Paul and Gloria

In This Issue:


Announcing the 12 Days of Costa Rica Blog Tour — and we’re part of it!

The 12 Days of Costa Rica Blog Tour is being hosted by the Family Freedom Project and features some of their favorite Costa Rica bloggers, authors and photographers, including us!

Starting on December 11th, when you visit the Blog Tour website, you will be able to check out the great Costa Rica content for 12 days in a row. Our post will appear on Day 4 (December 14th). If you miss a day, don’t worry; on December 22nd, all of the content will be available on the same webpage.

Want to share our love of Costa Rica? Grab the badge from the sidebar and share it!



Our November 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living Expenses

2014_NovFinally, a relatively normal month of living expenses in Costa Rica — no traveling, no car repairs, and we stayed pretty close to home. After being away most of the month of October, it was good to be back home, cooking our own meals and sleeping in our own bed.

Meals Out

Our “Meals Out” category was a bit higher than normal. I’m happy to say that we celebrated our 11-year wedding anniversary and went to dinner at Lira, one of our favorite restaurants. They have a new menu with lots of new dishes — and higher prices as well. But dinner for two cost us 25,762 colones (just under $50) — We each had a steak entree and we shared a salad and a dessert, with our beverage of choice (water).


Our healthcare expenses were a bit elevated as it was time for us both to go to the dentist. We were each in with the dentist for about 45 minutes for thorough exams and cleanings — all performed by our dentist, not a technician. The price? A “whopping” 18,000 colones each (about $34) for a total of $68 for the two of us.

Other Household Expenses

SlowCookerAnd despite “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” the only thing out of the ordinary that we purchased was a new slow cooker — after owning the last one for over 10 years, the crock broke so it had to be replaced. Prices ranged from about 24,000 colones (about $45) for a 5-6 quart slow cooker to 31,590 colones (just under $60) for the 8-quart Hamilton Beach model that I chose — about double the cost we would have paid in the States. But hey, we don’t live in the U.S. any more. I consider the higher prices on imported items here in Costa Rica just something we have to work into our budget, when necessary. And when unnecessary, we choose local products instead or just do without. That’s one way we are able to “retire for less.”

Speaking of “Black Friday,” seeing Viernes Negro or Fin de Semana Negra signs and arches of black balloons is getting more and more common here. With credit more available, Costa Rican’s are buying more than ever.

Related Articles:




In the Mailbag

Our newsletters and posts generate lots of discussion, on our website, in emails, and on facebook. Here are some of the comments, with helpful information and questions, from our readers:


As a follow-up to both our article about selling our house in Baltimore and shipping 13 boxes to Costa Rica, and last newsletter’s “In the Mailbag” follow-up about shipping, Salli wrote:

Thank you for your great newsletters which have a lot of wonderful information.

This is the company that we used to move 18 plastic (Lowes) tote bins, 27 gal, to CR:

Air Cargo Operations



Toll Free Tel: 877-597-0258 Ext. 118 or 102

Toll Free Fax: 877-597-0259

Serving Wholesale Logistics Since 1991

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Member of FCBA, TIA, TIACA

IMPORTANT: All Charges are subject to weight & measure verification.

Visit our website:

They have a contact there named Betty Torres and they take everything through customs. I numbered each bin, wrote an inventory for each as Betty wants this to get the bins out of Customs. The Bins had handles on them and each was duct taped.

We downloaded the paperwork that needed to be taped to each bin before it was picked up at our home in Florida.The bins were loaded onto a pallet & then shrink wrapped as one load.

I packed the bins so there was no rattling when shifted. I used a lot of towels, sheets, eco-felt, clothes and crammed little items in the corners, down the sides so there was absolutely no room for shifting.

Some of the bins were beat up but a lot were in great shape and we now use them for water catchment, cow manure is in one and soil in another. One was given to our neighbor, Marta. A few in the garage. We have found uses for all of them. One is at the chicken coop for feed/etc.

My only regret is that we did not add 2 more & bring down some items that we ended up buying here.

Such is life. Pura Vida.

Salli & John”


And regarding obtaining permanent residency in Costa Rica, Scott M. passed on some really helpful info for all us us going through this process:

This month’s newsletter was excellent as usual, Paul and Gloria. Just one observation about the “comments from readers” section regarding Residency:

Linda and I found out that when the Migración online status application reflects that your resolucion is “Pending firma”, that you can personally go down to the Migración office (must be there before 10 AM according to the La Uruca Migración official), and go to the regular noticias/”status inquiry clerk” and ask that they pull your file and go ahead and sign your application while you wait.

Linda was able to do that with her application and after a wait of an hour or so, they pulled the file, the official signed the resolucion and handed it over to us. Avoided several months of waiting for them to sign and fax the resolucion as experienced in my (Scott’s) case. We advised some other expats of our experience and they reported that the process worked the same for them — saved them some delay also.

Don’t know if others have had similar experience as ours, but thought it might be worth passing along.

Scott M.”


Our posts about our October trip to Nicaragua generated a couple of questions from our readers. First, blaster_d asked:

All great “background” information. Real world type info that is much appreciated.

Did you partially go to Nicaragua to re-new your visa? How do you get around the 60 day visa requirement?

Does a temporary residency eliminate the requirement to leave Costa Rica periodically?

Is it possible to get a “permanent” residence status from the CR government should one decide to stay permanently?

Thanks for sharing your experiences to many!”

Hi blaster_d,

Glad you liked our article. We did not go to Nicaragua on a “border run” as it’s called when you renew your tourist visa by leaving the country and visiting Nicaragua or Panama. We are legal residents in Costa Rica so we are exempt from having to leave the country. Our status is currently as temporary residents but we have applied to be converted to permanent residents and should hear back in the coming months. Here’s a link to our article about that topic: But either way, as a legal resident, one does not need to leave the country periodically.

And from Don and Nan:

One thing that I have observed while traveling are the people. So, what are the people like? Not the ones that are polite as you are doing business with, but the ones on the street. Are they smiling, seem happy, clean, healthy looking? It is well and fine to move someplace to save some money, but you will be living with these people, so how are the people?

Thanks for your articles.”

Hi Don and Nan,

We agree completely that the well-being and happiness of the people are hugely important when choosing a place to live. And while saving money is important, that should never be the main factor when making such a big decision.

That being said, we found the people in Nicaragua to be much like the Ticos — very warm, friendly, and helpful. We also didn’t feel any anti-American sentiment which was surprising to us, considering the U.S’s. role in their history.

In general, the people get by with much less in Nicaragua, and they do what they need to do to earn money and survive. They are very resourceful. There were very few beggars on the streets that we could see. The people seemed to have pride in their appearance and the appearance of their towns as we saw very little trash in the streets. And most people we talked with feel safe and grateful that their country is on the up-swing. We were told on more than one occasion that the people are tired of war and violence and just want to live peaceful lives. We felt very safe there as well.

Thanks for such a great question

And on Facebook…

Paul posted our article about our monthly costs for rent, phone and utilities, which account for about 40% of our monthly cost of living. Lisa C. was nice enough to share her costs for the same items and allow us to post them here:

Here’s my two cents on living expenses here. I have a one bedroom new apartment about 5 minutes north of Tamarindo in the mountains. I don’t have an alarm system other than my loud dog. I found the graph noting Internet connection to be quite high. Tiga charges me only $20 a month plus another $25 for cable TV…that is the standard rate for most cable companies here. I took the graph above and inserted my own expenses in red.”


Thanks Lisa!

And Gloria’s article with 9 Tips to Find Your “Perfect Place” in Costa Rica generated lots of comments:

From Mary R. M.:

Jajaj:-) Lance and I often “pinch” ourselves because we are living a dream we often talked about:-) living a simpler life in a healthier country, making ourselves part of the local community. Today we head to feria for our volunteer work with PAWs. Lance will do our shopping with locals who will recognize him, call both of us by name, and have things set aside for us. The butcher will recommend his favorites to us, based on previous purchases. What a great way to spend our day:-) This was something I rarely encountered in Maryland or Pennsylvania. And all of this is with a smile and a hug:-)”

From Marty M.:

I move from the US to beautiful Costa Rica. I live in Nicoya, Costa Rica. It is a province, too. In this part of the country the culture is so very rich. There are traditions here that they’re the only ones who celebrate them in the country. I love everything about Nicoya. Tropical fruits galore. Currently, I am renting a house with a tropical fruit and vegetable garden. We have papayas, coconuts, star fruits, nonis, pineapples, ginger, mangos, lemons, oranges, banana datils, guinios, guayabas, guanabanas, and fruits I have never heard of. It isn’t touristy and I live close to the jungles and beaches (Gringolandia).”

And finally, from Nik:

I live in Heredia, near Barva, and I love it. Would like to get a bit higher up into the chillier climate, maybe San Rafael or Sacramento. I’ve lived in San Ramon, Curridabat, Jaco, Escazu, and then all over Heredia… definitely Heredia has been my favorite place, though I can’t really pin down why I like it so much. Least favorite place was Escazu.”


Retire for Less Goes to Nicaragua – Spotlight on Estelí

After our 24 day trip to Nicaragua in October, we have lots of things to share with you about our experiences. So, for a while, our newsletters will include a section of info, videos, stories, and photos about Nicaragua. Hope you enjoy learning more about our neighboring country to the north.

First off, some basic facts about Nicaragua, from Wikipedia:

map_of_nicaraguaNicaragua is the least densely populated nation in Central America, with a demographic similar in size to its smaller neighbors. It is located about midway between Mexico and Colombia, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Nicaragua ranges from the Caribbean Sea on the nation’s east coast, and the Pacific Ocean bordering the west. Nicaragua also possesses a series of islands and cays located in the Caribbean Sea.

Nicaragua’s name is derived from Nicarao, the name of the Nahuatl-speaking tribe which inhabited the shores of Lake Nicaragua before the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and the Spanish word ‘Agua’, meaning water, due to the presence of the large Lake Cocibolca (or Lake Nicaragua) and Lake Managua (or Lake Xolotlán), as well as lagoons and rivers in the region.”

We spent most of our time in Nicaragua in the northern highlands towns of Matagalpa and Estelí. We were in Estelí, Nicaragua for two weeks to study at Spanish School NicaraguaAs we explored the city by bus, taxi, and on foot, we saw beautiful murals, most  painted, others done in mosaics, and some which added recycled items like soda bottle caps and beer can tabs

We’ve put together the following video of the murals we saw on our trip – I’m sure there are many more that we missed. You may want to watch it through once, then again, pausing it to look more closely at individual murals. If you look closely at the murals, you can learn a lot about the people of Nicaragua – their values, culture, and especially their attitudes about war and peace.

Sandinista heroes, Sandino, Guevara, and Fonseca

Sandinista heroes, Sandino, Guevara, and Fonseca

Estelí was a Sandinista stronghold during the war, so it’s natural that many of the murals depict scenes of the revolution, including images of their heroes: Gen. César Augusto Sandino, Carlos Fonseca, founder of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in the early 1960s, and even Che Guevara who provided inspiration. Paul and I knew very little about Nicaragua’s history and revolution before our visit, so we thought we’d provide some of the history here for those of you who are interested.

1912-25 – US establishes military bases.

1927-33 – Guerrillas led by Augusto Cesar Sandino campaign against US military presence.

1934 – Sandino assassinated on the orders of the National Guard commander, General Anastasio Somoza Garcia.

In the second decade of the twentieth century U.S. Marines were intervening in Nicaragua. They were sent by the government of the United States to intimidate and control the local political parties – involved in a civil war at that time – in order to ensure that the presidential seat would be occupied by a submissive Nicaraguan leader who would cooperate with the voracious exploitation of Nicaragua by the United States. This strategy worked well for the U.S., the strongest country in the world, until a general – small in physical size but gigantic when it came to patriotic conscience – started to fight back. With the support of an army of peasants this general showed the world that he was not permitting the exploitation of his free, sovereign country. This general was Augusto C. Sandino, general of the free men, hero of Las Segovias.”


Sandino and his “small and crazy army”, as the Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral called it, fought US marines in the mountains of the Segovias, the northern part of the country. His tactics where so effective that even though they were outnumbered and even though the Marines were technologically superior, Sandinos army was never eliminated by foreign soldiers. The Marines finally left the country, leaving behind a Nicaraguan army that was then known as the National Guard (“Guardia Nacional”), led by a national military man trained in the United States: Anastacio Somoza García, known as “Tacho”.

After the marines retreated, Sandino wanted to negotiate peace and let the life of his soldiers turn back to normal. He was called by the president José María Moncada and by Somoza to negotiate. Sadly, Sandino was betrayed, captured and executed. Even nowadays, the place where the body of this hero is buried remains unknown.”


1937 – General Somoza elected president, heralding the start of a 44-year-long dictatorship by his family.

1956 – General Somoza assassinated, but is succeeded as president by his son, Luis Somoza Debayle.

1961 – Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) founded.

1967 – Luis Somoza dies and is succeeded as president by his brother, Anastasio Somoza.

HeroesEven though his father had acquired various real estate properties, businesses and industries that then became his and his family’s patrimony, Somoza Debayle continued to indiscriminately collect more and more wealth. At the end of 1972, when a devastated earthquake hit Managua, a big part of foreign aid brought to Nicaragua was deviated to the dictator’s warehouse. This aid was commercialized and auctions put in place for the reconstruction of the city (paid by public money and international aid) were won by Somoza’s businesses and their allies.

The social distress was increasing, but the National Guard could strongly submit any public declaration by torturing and executing political opponents and people from the general population…

The strong subjection of Nicaragua and its population to the wishes of Somoza and his private army resulted in the creation of a military movement in 1962 that intended to defeat the dictatorship. The movement was named after Sandino and this is how the “Sandinista National Liberation Front” (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional –FSLN) was born, founded by a group of intellectuals and volunteers led by the young Carlos Fonseca.


The flag of Nicaragua was officially adopted on August 27, 1971 (first adopted on September 4, 1908).

The flag of Nicaragua was officially adopted on August 27, 1971 (first adopted on September 4, 1908).

1972 – Managua is devastated by an earthquake that kills between 5,000 and 10,000 people.

1978 – Assassination of the leader of the opposition Democratic Liberation Union, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, triggers general strike and brings together moderates and the FSLN in a united front to oust Somoza.

1979 – Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) military offensive ends with the ouster of Somoza.

1980 – Somoza assassinated in Paraguay; FSLN government led by Daniel Ortega nationalises and turns into cooperatives lands held by the Somoza family.

1982 – US-sponsored attacks by Contra rebels based in Honduras begin; state of emergency declared. US-backed Contra rebels fought 10-year rebellion against Sandinistas.

1984 – Daniel Ortega elected president; US mines Nicaraguan harbours and is condemned by the World Court for doing so.

1987-88 – Nicaraguan leadership signs peace agreement and subsequently holds talks with Contra; hurricane leaves 180,000 people homeless.

Timeline Source:

On a lighter note, we really enjoyed getting to know the town of Estelí. It’s largely rural once you get out of the downtown area. And you never know what you’ll see along the road. Here’s a short little video shot from our taxi that will make you smile!

Related Articles:


Looking for the Monthly Weather Report??

Never fear, not only will the monthly weather report (for December) be published in our next newsletter. We want to announce that we’ve added another town and meteorologist. But if you want to find out where and who, don’t miss our next newsletter in about 10 days. For now…it’s a secret! 

Related Articles:


Community Action Alliance – December 2014 Newsletter

In our town of San Ramón, we are lucky to have the Community Action Alliance, ”an organization of expats and Costa Ricans in the greater San Ramón area, volunteering together for community enrichment…It enables members to realize a personal opportunity to redefine and recreate their lives.” The Alliance has volunteer opportunities available in many areas.

To read about what’s happening with the Community Action Alliance, click on the graphic below. You will be able to read the latest newsletter (December 2014), subscribe to receive future newsletters, as well as read past issues.



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 June’s 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 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.

HCTOUR_004 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 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.

Related Articles:


Featured Property: 3br,1ba Home Near Nuevo Arenal Park And Boat Launch $129,000


Property Reference: Ref # 13


3 Bedrooms, 1 Bath


Large yard

Located just a minute or so from Nuevo Arenal’s beautiful waterfront park and concrete easy boat launch.





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.


Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube

You can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter, so please “like” us on Facebook“follow” us on Twitter, and watch and share our videos on YouTube.


What’s New on the Website

Check out our newest posts on

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.