Tico Economics 101

355437-59111-26Lately, a lot of foreign retirees have been complaining about the high cost of living here. No doubt about it, the cost of living has increased . However, those who received small pensions can still get by in Costa Rica if they do some of the things the locals do. “Al pueblo que fueres has lo que vieres” or “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Despite the average salary in Costa Rica being a little over $10,000 a year and the fact that many Costa Ricans earn under $500 per month you can understand how many of them learn to live frugally by doing some of the things listed below.

  1. Bartering or exchanging services is common here.
  2. Most people cook with gas cylinders which is cheaper than electricity. That way they have lower electric bills. However, be careful because there have been instances where defective cylinders have exploded and killed people.
  3. Most ticos keep the lights off in their homes during the day and keep their homes dimly lighted at night to reduce electric bills.
  4. Ticos buy most of their fruits and vegetables at the weekend farmers markets of ferias to get more for their money.
  5. They also buy used American clothing or frequent the stores around the Coca Cola district in San José to get rock bottom prices.
  6. In order to economize people take the bus which is still very affordable.
  7. If they do have a car and it needs fixing they do the car repairs themselves when possible.
  8. They also do their own home repairs and improvements like adding rooms and laying tile.
  9. When they go to the beach they make it a one- day excursion by traveling by bus and taking their own food instead of staying at hotels and eating in restaurants. During Semana Santa when it seems everyone goes to the beach many people do beach camping to cut down on expenses.
  10. Ticos will also use Internet cafes instead of buying a computer
  11. They use prepaid cell phone cards.
  12. Family members live together to cut down on expenses. Foreigners can look for roommates to rent an apartment or small house.
  13. Most locals eat in small dinners called sodas or at the Central Markets.
  14. When the locals go out drinking they frequent small tico-style establishments instead of touristy type places or expensive chains like TGIF.
  15. Instead of buying new shoes, handbags or other leather items they get their used items repaired.
  16. When ticos have a party the guests are often expected to bring food and drink instead of the host providing it. Guests often take their left over booze with them.
  17. There is a lot of free entertainment available. All one has to do is look in the newspaper.
  18. The ticos use the Caja or public health care system because it is very cheap and accessible. If you become a resident you can use it, too.
  19. Cost conscious Ticos shop at discount super markets like Pali and Maxi Bodega to get more for their money.
  20. They also avoid U.S. fast food chains like Burger King and Pizza Hut and eat at more affordable local establishments. However, Once in a while they will frequent a fast food restaurant.

I am sure that there are countless other ways to save money which I have over overlooked. The important thing is learn from the locals if you want to stretch your pension.

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