I am writing this article to clear up some misconceptions about the cost of living here. A lot of tourists and people who are thinking moving here complain about the prices while visiting the country. Like most other countries when you stay in hotels while on vacation, rent cars and hang out in other touristy places you usually pay top dollar. While on vacation most people splurge by spending more money than they usually do. This is not the case when you move here.
Once you are settled and know the ins and outs and behave like the locals you can live affordably. You’ll know where to buy bargain fruits and vegetables like at the weekend farmers markets. By eating in sodas (small restaurants) like the locals you will be able to have a meal for a couple of dollars. Taking public transportation can also save money.
In previous articles on this blog I have detailed how you can retire on budgets from $1500 to $4000 per month and live very well. Here are two sample budgets that paint a realistic picture of how affordable it I to retire in Costa Rica.
How to live for as little as $1500 per month in Costa Rica
At the request of one of the clients on my monthly Retirement/Relocation Tours, I wrote an article about how a couple can live well on $3000 to $4000 per month. In it I broke down the costs using a typical budget and proved it was possible. But what about the single person with a limited budget?
A single person can live cheaply in Costa Rica. I know a couple of single men and women in the Heredia area who have mastered the art of living on less than $1500 monthly. They don’t live in luxury nor do they live like paupers. Typically, they do not own an automobile and rely exclusively on public transportation which is very affordable. They don’t own a home and rent small apartments. They do part of their shopping at the local weekend farmer’s markets where they can stock up on a lot of fruits and vegetables like many Costa Ricans do. Some buy their clothes at second-hand stores. When they eat out they tend to eat breakfast and lunch one of the small cafes or Sodas in Heredia’s Central Market. They go to bargain matinees and seek other inexpensive forms of entertainment. For health care they belong to the Caja or public health care system which costs them $50 dollars or less for complete health coverage. They use an Internet cafés at less than a dollar an hour instead of owning a computer.
Most of these people are very happy with their simple lifestyle which they could never have in the States for the same price. When you take into consideration that most Costa Ricans earn far less than $1000 monthly and get by easily you can see that with $1500 monthly you will be able to live well. In States or Canada a person would be below the poverty line with that income. I have actually met retired foreigners who live in less than $1000 per month and seem to live well.
On my monthly retirement tours I give people additional advice and methods on how they can live affordably in Costa Rica. After almost 30 years of living here, I know how live well and save money.
Here is an example of a budget for a single person who has no more than $1500.
Rent $200 to $300
Electricity and water $20
Cable TV $25
Monthly Transportation $50
Monthly public health insurance (medicines included) $50
Entertainment $100 -$150
How to Live Like a King or Queen on $3,000 or $4,000 a Month
When you read the title of this article you will probably think that it is impossible to live so cheaply and so well. This especially true if you reside in an expensive area of the U.S. like California. You could probably scrape by on a few thousand dollars a month up north but you certainly wouldn’t be living in luxury.
Let’s see why the title of this article is true. A couple who owns a $150,000 home (three bedrooms and three baths) free and clear and has a car will probably have the following monthly expenses in Costa Rica.
Private medical insurance $200
Dental care $50 per month
A part time maid $100 to $150
Part time gardener $30
Beauty parlor $75
Food including inexpensive fruits and vegetables form a
Farmer’s market and many imported American products $500 per month
Entertainment (movies, socializing) $200- $300
Dinning out a couple of times a week $300
Private gym $50 – $100 per couple
Country Club (after you pay initial fees) $100 to $200 per month
Car insurance for a relatively new car $100
Utilities (water and electricity) $100
Telephone (using Vonage or Skype for long distance) $75-$100
High speed Internet $50
Cable or satellite TV $50
Car repairs $50
Garbage $40 per year
Property taxes on your $150,000 home $20 per month
Misc. expenses $300
Other possible expenses
Travel to U.S. or other countries $3000-$5000 or more per year
Really your lifestyle determines what you will spend here. You can choose to spend a lot more money if you are a high roller or yuppie type or substantially less if you wish to live modestly. I know single people who live for less than $1000 per month and others who have expensive tastes who spend what they would in the States. Nevertheless, you can live very well on the budget above. I should know because I have lived here almost 30 years and buy and do everything I want for under $4,000 monthly.