Voluntary Simplicity: Living Well on Less Money in Costa Rica

For those of you not familiar with the term “voluntary simplicity,” it is a lifestyle made popular in the book Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence, a New York Times bestseller written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez in 1992 and updated in 2008.

“Dominguez, who died in 1997, left his Wall Street job as a technical analyst in 1969, when he was 31, and began living off the investment income from a $70,000 nest egg—about $6,000 to $9,000 a year. He and Robin devoted their lives to teaching people how to change the relationship they have with money and live well on less. Many of those who followed the program saw their spending reduced 20 to 25 percent in six months, says Robin, while some “super-savers” cut expenses 60 to 80 percent.  Your Money or Your Life became the bible of the so-called voluntary simplicity movement, which had started in the 1960s and has roots in frugality, environmentalism, social justice and spirituality.”

Most costarican shop for their fruits and vegetables at the weekend farmer’s markets which are held all over the country.
Most costarican shop for their fruits and vegetables at the weekend farmer’s markets which are held all over the country.

Now hard times are hitting older Americans directly in their wallets. With the nation’s jobless rate spiking at 8.1 percent and likely to continue rising, nearly 5.6 percent of workers 55 and older are unemployed, and many are struggling to find jobs. Those on fixed incomes have seen their retirement savings shrink by 30 to 40 percent in the market meltdown. No wonder the country is in a belt-tightening mood, with consumer spending down to the lowest levels in decades.

One possible solution to the economic woes is to move offshore to a country like Costa Rica, the world’s #1 retirement haven. Most Costa Ricans have been practicing voluntary simplicity all of their lives. Because of their limited earning power they are forced to live with less. Most shop for their fruits and vegetables at the weekend farmer’s markets which are held all over the country. Many buy their clothes at used clothing stores which import their merchandise form the United States. Furthermore, they pay virtually nothing for utilities because heat and air conditioning are not necessary in many parts of the country.  A lot of the locals don’t own cars and take public transportation which is dirt cheap. Costa Ricans often live with other family members with everyone contributing their share to household expenses.  They do all of this and still enjoy a great quality of life for far less money than most Americans.

The people here also take advantage of the government’s “cradle to grave health care system” . The cost is usually under $30 per month. You would be hard-pressed to find health insurance in the States for less than a few hundred dollars per month. Costa Rica also has one of the highest longevity rates in the world and boasts a large number of centenarians.

Much of what I mention above are suggestions made in Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence . By moving to Costa Rica people can live well. The average local makes around $400 per month. A pension from the States combined with trying to live like the Costa Ricans  can enable you to live very well for a lot less than you would spend at home.

On my monthly relocation/retirement tours I show people how they can live well in Costa Rica without sacrificing their present lifestyle. In fact, they will have much better lifestyle and be happier here.

If you enjoy my blog, please share it with your friends. I hope to see you on one of my tours!
To learn more about living in Costa Rica sign up for one of Christopher Howard's award-winning Relocation/Retirement tours. For all of the details see: www.liveincostarica.com
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