Mar 14 2014

Retire for Less Newsletter – March 14, 2014

Welcome to our Newsletter!

Gloria, Paul, & “Machito” – Yes, that’s a MONKEY on my head!


In This Issue:



Adventures of a Monkey Mama in Costa Rica

by Gloria


My “Machito hat”

I sit here at the computer with a baby howler monkey on my head. I’m at Howler Monkey/Spider Monkey R&R, monkey-sitting, while their full-time Monkey Mama Michele and Papa Paul are visiting family in the U.S. It’s just me, baby howler Machito (the one on my head), “little girl” howlers Marisol and Millette, “older girl” howler, Venecia and the “teen” spider monkeys, Lolita and Chiquito. Two sweet dogs complete the group: Magdalena, a Tico street dog and Tequila, a growing Golden Retriever pup. Paul will join us later today and at times throughout the 10 days, but will return home at night to take care of our cats and house.

It’s day three of 10 as I write this. And while every day has its own surprises, I’ve gotten into somewhat of a routine, though I am, by nature, not a morning person: 6:00am – let the dogs out to pee while I get their morning meal ready. 6:15am – pick up Machito who is, by now, exercising his powerful lungs and voice-box, demanding my attention…NOW! I hand-feed him some warmed up goat’s milk in a syringe and put him down for a nap so I can get the food ready for the rest of the monkeys – lettuce, fruits, sweet potatoes for the howlers; and for the spiders, fruits, garbanzo beans and, Chiquito’s favorite, sweet potato. I exchange the full dishes of food for their empties from last night, change their bedding for clean and dry ones, and pop the soiled ones into the laundry.


Machito ~3 months old

By now, Machito is waking from his too short, but peaceful, sleep and he will be with me, on me, or attached to me for the rest of the day until he goes to sleep when it gets dark…hopefully. The older monkeys get fed again between 4:00 and 5:00 pm, but Machito eats every few hours, whenever his tiny tummy gets empty. Sometimes, if I lose track of time, I realize he’s hungry because he’s sucking on my neck or the inside of my elbow, leaving behind little “monkey-hickeys.” He sucks my neck at other times, too — I think, because it comforts him. In the wild, he would be hanging on to his mother’s back or chest at all times, sucking milk from her nipples, which are located near her under-arms, whenever he is hungry. Like human babies, he also needs touch and warmth. Nothing comforts him like being held. Unlike a human baby, he is now chewing on my right ear…a common side-effect of having a monkey on your head. One day, hopefully, Machito and the other orphaned young howlers will join a nearby troop and return to the wild, but in the meantime, we care for them.


Machito & Venecia

Earlier today, I took a chair into the cage with Marisol and Millette, and sat with them. Machito was in my lap, clinging to a bright green Rainforest Café stuffed monkey which is his surrogate monkey mama when he’s not clinging to my hair or my arm. Marisol, who is developing more slowly than the others, is getting better and better at climbing the “trees” in their cage, and swinging from ropes or their bamboo swing. Millette, the younger of the two, has already passed her in weight and just loves to climb, swing, and hang upside down by her tail. The two of them play exuberantly together and, like human sisters, bicker with each other too. Machito watches every move they make, maybe trying to decide if he’s ready to let go of “mama” and try some of their stunts. They seem to love Machito, especially Marisol. She readily comes into my lap where Machito sits, puts her arm around his neck, and they both monkey-purr at each other.

Machito is also learning how to howl, something that male howler monkeys do with great gusto. Howler monkeys are the loudest animals in the world. In fact, their howls can be heard from three miles away. We often hear troops of them from our house nearby. When howler monkeys howl, their whole rib-cage expands and you can feel the vibration in their throats. When I do my best to imitate this sound from deep in my throat, Machito likes to nuzzle in my neck and howl back. I keep it up until I just have to stop and laugh. Here’s a video, with Monkey Mama Michele, so you can see it for yourself:

Stay tuned for more Adventures of a Monkey Mama in Costa Rica!

Related Articles:


Our February 2014 Costa Rica Cost of Living



Every month, for the past several years, we’ve posted our living expenses for the previous month. Some may feel it’s redundant at times, and it is. but WE WANT TO SHOW YOU THAT IT’S DOABLE. We show you ALL of our living expenses. We track everything, every month. We save over 30% of what it cost us to live in the States, and you can too. 

February was a month focused on car repairs. To get ready for an upcoming busy month of tours, Paul had some maintenance work done on our car throughout the month:

  • $4.70 – Fix nail hole leak in tire
  • $122.00 – replace rear brakes
  • $42.00 – oil change
  • $10.60 – fix squeaking front seat

The other higher-than-normal category was “entertainment and travel,” totaling $120.82. We had our normal monthly expenses for Netflix ($8.47) and a subscription to The Baltimore Sun online so Paul can keep up with both the Baltimore Orioles and Ravens ($13.96).

But the bulk of February’s entertainment and travel category ($96.40) was the result of a special beach day at the Pelican Hotel in Esterillos Este on the Pacific coast. More than 30 friends and acquaintances joined us for a day of swimming in the ocean, floating in the pool, lounging in hammocks, eating delicious food, and enjoying each other’s company. The hotel planned a barbecue lunch from which people could select a large hamburger, pulled pork sandwich, or chicken kabobs and two sides for $10 each, including beach and pool access and a changing room with shower. People came from many parts of the Central Valley, including Grecia, Atenas, Puriscal, and San Ramon, and some stayed the night. Because we organized the trip, the Pelican management offered Paul and me a free room for the night. So, the $96.40 included two lunches and one dinner for both of us, plus one piña colada. The meals, especially dinner Saturday night, were more than we normally spend, but after all, we were sitting in an open-air restaurant, ocean front, listening to the waves crashing to shore. Worth every penny.

As usual, to help put things into perspective, here are our expenses for the previous two months:













The next category up for a budget breakdown would be “pet care.” However, our pet care expenses are minimal. Most months they include just food and litter. Additionally, we take our two cats to the vet for regular care,as well as for emergencies. Since there’s not much more to say in a detailed budget breakdown, we’ve decided to rerun our article: Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Veterinarian, below, instead.

Related Articles:


Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Visiting the Veterinarian

vetA lot of Expats in Costa Rica have pets, and sometimes we need to take them to a veterinarian. In Costa Rica, the vet is a big money-saver when compared to the U.S. We’ve had cats in the States, and we always dreaded vet visits because they cost so much and were sometimes unexpected. The bill was never less than $100 for even routine things.

In Costa Rica, the vet is a great deal. There are a lot of them and they are very well trained. Some specialize in farm animals while others cater to domestic pets. Our vet, Dr. Aleona, is from Croatia. She works predominantly with dogs and cats. She’s a “one-man-band” and does all of the procedures herself.  And she always allows us to go into the exam/treatment room with our pet.

We have two cats: Tori and Laura Chinchilla (named after CRs current and first female president). And they go once in a while for needed shots and care. Recently our cat Tori stayed out late and when she returned, she was sluggish…just not her usual rambunctious self. What had happened to her in the jungle?  Did she get in a fight? Did she get bitten? We checked her over and couldn’t find anything wrong, but in the morning we took her to our vet, Dr. Aleona.  Sure enough, Tori had a fever and was in pain. Dr. Aleona gave her two injections — an antibiotic for the fever and something for the pain. She also gave us three anti-inflammatory pills to give to Tori over the next three nights, and sent us on our way, telling us to come back on Monday if Tori hadn’t improved. Price: 9,000 colones ($18.00)

A few days later, a very large abscess appeared on Tori’s hip, so off to the vet we went. Dr. Aleona said  that Tori was probably bitten by a snake or other reptile the previous week when she first showed symptoms and it took a while for the site to become infected and swollen.  It was serious. This required putting Tori to sleep, lancing the abscess, draining and cleaning the affected area, then injecting antibiotics and pain medicine. Price: 12,000 colones ($24.00)

We were shocked, pleasantly shocked. Actually, we couldn’t believe our ears…we looked at each other for a moment in amazement, then we paid our bill. In the U.S., we’d be looking at hundreds of dollars, so we saved a lot!

Two days later, we returned so Dr. Aleona could check Tori and give her injections of an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. Price: 2,000 colones ($4.00)

If you have a pet, don’t be afraid to bring it to Costa Rica. You’ll save at the vet’s. Those LARGE, unexpected vet bills will be a thing of the past.


Sad Reminders of the Uncertainty of Life

by Gloria

It’s been a sad week in our community of expats in Costa Rica. Two couples, both married late in life…two sudden deaths…two wives left alone. The first happened last week, at their home, just outside of San Ramón. He told his wife that he had a bad headache, sat down on the sofa, and died. The second happened just this morning, in his home in San Isidro de General. He went to sleep last night and never woke up. Each instance was made even more shocking as it happened twice in our circle of acquaintances in such a short period of time.

Beautiful messageWhile there are no words that can adequately express our sadness for the women left behind, to me, it’s also a wake-up call. It’s a reminder that, despite our full lives here in paradise, life itself is never promised for more than the present moment. It makes me want to run to Paul, hold him, and tell him I love him, again, and again, and again. It makes me want to fully live each day. Smell every flower, watch every sunrise and every sunset, tell each of my friends how much they mean to me.

And it’s scary, that the lives we love can be so abruptly changed and that the people we love can be taken from us so suddenly. What if it happens to me, to us? How do you find the courage to wake up every morning and put one foot in front of the other without your love, your partner, your soul-mate? But the reality is that it will happen, one day, to all of us.

There is nothing I can do to prevent this future sadness, or to ameliorate this current sadness of these two women. That’s the price of truly loving another person. But I can do something: Think loving thoughts. Banish the petty resentments, minor irritations, and hurt feelings that surface at times. Be grateful for the simple pleasures of sharing a meal, laughing at silly things (even the jokes you’ve heard a million times), tangling your feet up together in bed at night, and the privilege of comforting each other during the sad times. Pursue joy and beauty and life. And more than anything, appreciate every moment you have together with those you love.

Lastly, don’t wait to do the things you really want to do, especially if you are older. When Paul and I were deciding to move to Costa Rica, several friends experienced heart attacks and had by-pass surgery, all within a short period of time. This was, at the time, a reminder for us of the uncertainty of life. And it strengthened our determination to make the move to Costa Rica that we had dreamed of. If you have dreams, whether it’s to move overseas or something else, take a chance. Live your life, now, as fully and as lovingly as you can, because none of us are promised tomorrow.

Related Articles:


Monthly Weather Report for San Ramón, Atenas, Nuevo Arenal, & Playa Matapalo  – February 2014

You’ll notice that we are now showing rainfall and temperatures for four towns in Costa Rica. We welcome Lance Miller to our team. He will be reporting the rainfall and temperatures from Playa Matapalo on the Pacific Coast.

You can still click on the map to the right to enlarge it and check out the average rainfall for the towns you are interested in. Remember that the areas shaded in darker blue tend to be higher and also the places most expats choose to live.

Paul’s San Ramón Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • Lowest morning reading: 59 F on the 1st
  • Highest morning reading: 66 F on last day of the month, 28th
  • costa-rica-map_cropped4Zero rainfall entire month
  • Elevation is key to temperature in Costa Rica
  • Both elevation and topography can affect rain
  • Guanacaste area (Gold Coast): driest part of the country
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 110.95 inches in our area of San Ramón.

Lance T’s Atenas Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • 75 days and counting. Where we live near Atenas, this is the number of days from December 15 until the end of February without a measureable drop of rain.
  • Meanwhile, February 24 was the hottest day so far this year (87.6°F). But it was accompanied by a humidity of only 24%. According to the heat index formula used by the U.S. National Weather Service, this made for a “feels like” temperature less than the actual air temperature (84.5°F). Had the daytime humidity been 75% like one might sometimes find near the beaches, then the “feels like” temperature would have been near 100°F.
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 63.84 inches in our area of Atenas..

John’s Nuevo Arenal Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • February 2014 had the least amount of rainfall for any month since I began keeping records in 2011.
  • The dry weather has meant good hiking conditions and our guests have enjoyed the daily hike to the river that crosses our property.  Our great danes have searched in vain for fish because of the low water in the river.
  • Clean air, clean water, great community of friends & beautiful tropical surroundings…….what more could one want? We love Arenal – with views of Lake Arenal and Volcano Arenal.  It’s a dream come true for many!
  • Total rainfall in 2013 was 164.75 inches in our area of Nuevo Arenal.Matapalo map

Lance M’s Playa Matapalo Observations, Facts, & Tidbits:

  • Playa Matapalo is a small village, located between Quepos and Dominical on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.
  • The word Playa means beach.
  • Our home is a stone’s throw from the beach.
  • Playa Matapalo is 122 km. from the San Jose International Airport and 220 km. from Arenal.
  • The southern Pacific weather region receives approximately 150 inches of rain per year.

Click to enlarge.


Our San Ramón Weatherman, Paul Yeatman

Meteorology has been Paul’s lifelong hobby.  As a child, he devoured books about the weather and earth sciences vigorously. Later, he took a few college courses in meteorology, and still later, he served as a meteorologist for the U.S. Army in Vietnam.  Now, Paul gets to practice his avocation in Costa Rica, albeit on a very small scale with just temperature and rainfall data, probably the two most important factors regarding the weather. He wanted to include weather info on our website to help people decide where to live, although weather is just one of many factors to consider in determining where to relocate. Current weather data is from our current home at about 3,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón. Weather data prior to December 2012 is from our previous home at about 4,000 ft. elevation and 10 minutes outside the town of San Ramón.

Our Atenas Weatherman, Lance Turlock

Lance and his wife, Diana, moved to Costa Rica about 2 years ago after living 30+ years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (Vancouver and environs). They live in the Central Valley near the town of Atenas and are at an elevation of about 2700 feet. They have no need for air conditioning or heating. Overnight low temperatures are comfortably cool (low 60’s). Daytime highs can be relatively hot (high 80’s, low 90’s), but rarely uncomfortably hot.Lance started to keep track of daily temperatures and rainfall in order to have factual ammunition to help disabuse friends, relatives and acquaintances of any misconception that the weather must be like that of a tropical jungle.

Our Nuevo Arenal Weatherman, John Nicholas

After many visits to Costa Rica, John and Cathy Nicholas moved from New York to Costa Rica in 1991.  They chose Arenal for its sacred, majestic beauty, its lush wildlife, its relaxing lifestyle, and its proximity to activities and sites such as the Volcano Arenal and the beaches.  They own the B&B, Chalet Nicholas, which has been in operation since 1992. Temperatures and rainfall are measured at Chalet Nicholas which is located at approximately 2,200 ft. elevation and 1 mile west of the town of Nuevo Arenal.

Our Playa Mantapalo Weatherman, Lance Miller

I was born in a very small town in northwest Iowa and raised on a farm. When I was 18, I joined LanceMiller_smthe service, in which I spent 22 years before retiring in 1990. For the next twenty three years my family and I lived in south central Pa. After having a stroke in 2012, I was unable to work and that is when my wife and I began talking about retiring. Thanks to your newsletter and a website we found about San Isidro, we began looking at Costa Rica. We came down in March 2013 and looked around for a week. Went home, packed up, and moved here in April. We settled in a small village called Playa Matapalo. which is located between Quepos and Dominical. The word Playa means beach. It is so nice to lie in bed and listen to the ocean. Pura Vida.

We will continue the weather info next month.

Related Articles:


Featured Property: House with Rental Apartments-4BR-Lake & Volcano Views $150,000

Reference# Res-60

Flexible large home: 4 bedrooms, 3 baths


The  main living area of this versatile home  totals 1808 sq. ft. The total including the storage rooms and carport is 2346 sq. ft.

It is conveniently located only 20 min. from Tilaran and 1 ½ hours from the Liberia International Airport.






It has long lake and volcano views, especially important if used as a B&B. There are extra features like good restaurants and interesting Expat neighbors to enhance enjoyment of tropical life near the village of Sabalito at the northwestern end of Lake Arenal.

In addition to the 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, there is a Jacuzzi, a multi-purpose garden room/exercise room, two large storage rooms, strong room for valuables, large laundry room and a wide covered porch.

The half-acre property has beautiful tropical flowering plants and fruit trees including mango, orange, mandarin, banana,grapefruit, lemon, cas and coconut trees.

The home could easily be divided into three areas and thus could have two or three apartments for extra income.The present owners rent the second-floor apartment regularly by day, week or month.  Since it is only a few minutes from the windsurfing center on Lake Arenal, the apartment is especially desired during December through March windsurfing season.

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: