Losing the glut

One of the reasons we moved to Costa Rica, was to live smaller – in a lot of ways.  We wanted to get out of the “more more more” mentality (more money, more material things…), and concentrate on more important things.  With us both quitting our jobs, of course this meant learning to live on less money as well.  I admit, I had concerns about this –  we were so used to just buying whatever we needed, and really – whatever we wanted.   I never looked at price tags.  Awful, I know…   After being that way for so long, could I  just “change”?

At the end of July, I sat Greg down for a serious conversation (which always scares him), and  told him I wanted us to try a budget for the month of August and see how little we could live on.  Lucky for me, Greg is ALL about saving money.  Granted, we could live on a lot less than we did, but we knew we wanted to go out to eat a few times with friends, and do a few other fun things, not really “deny” ourselves something if the opportunity arose.  So – here you have it, we budgeted $1,200.00 for the month of August, and this is what we itemized it on:

$550.00 – Rent (including water, electricity, wifi)
$320.00 – Groceries/Farmer’s Market
$40.00 – Bus
$40.00 – Yoga
$40.00 – House cleaner once a week (including 2 loads of laundry)
$20.00 – Cell phone minutes (Greg & I)
$190.00 – Extra
TOTAL:  $1,200.00

Brunch with our friends Emily & Chris (and their kiddo’s Henrick & Petra). Check out Emily’s blog: travelmother.com


Besides our normal activities, we also fit in the following from the “Extra” money above:

  • a few lunches out at soda’s (small café’s, eating typical costa rican food)
  • a Sunday brunch out with friends, plus shared taxi ride ———>>>>>
  • “guy time” (Greg & friend Mark went into town for lunch and a few beers one day)
  • a few baking items and other small purchases

At the end of the month, what we ACTUALLY spent was just a little bit under the $1200.00, and a few dollars got moved around from one category to another.  For instance, we only used $4.00 of the $20.00 we had set aside for our cell phones.  We just refilled our pay-as-you-go-minutes the other day at $2.00 each(!), and the minutes last us about a month & half.   We both kept our iPhone 4S’s, which we had unlocked after leaving the States, and then purchased local phone numbers that came with minutes and a sim card (at $2.00 each).   When our minutes get low – we just refill (which you can do most anywhere in town — the grocery store, bus stop, side of the road…).  For the internet/data – we just use the wifi when we are home or in a free wifi area in town.  So, when you compare $100 (my phone bill in the states) to $2, well, there’s no contest.  Also, the bus money ($40.00) got moved into the “extra” fund, as we kept using change we had laying around for the bus.

Overall, I feel we really didn’t deny ourselves too much this month, in fact, honestly – not at all.  We try to mainly buy fresh foods, and eat in most days.  I’ve been on a “homemade” kick lately, and honestly, am fantasizing about doing more.  It’s fun, I have the time, it saves money, tastes fresh, it’s a great sense of accomplishment, and my hubby loves it!  Here’s my first attempt – pizza crust from scratch (toppings:  tomato sauce, chicken, basil and mozzarella cheese).  This dough recipe made 2 pizzas, so covered us for 2 nights worth of dinner!


Pizza from scratch.

Also made my own bread the other day, and it turned out great too!   Actually, it was so good, that between myself & Greg (and a small chunk gifted to our sweet neighbors), it was devoured within a few minutes.  I think I mentioned that the bread from bakeries here, in general, is not like what I’m used to in the States.  It’s possible to find good bread (and we have), but it’s rare and a little pricey. Those who know me, know that baking desserts are usually my thing (not cooking real  “meal time” food…).  However, this has been really fun for me, making my own items from scratch, I feel like the pioneer woman (or…  pionero chica).  🙂


Bread from scratch.


Brunch at Isabel’s.


So – there you have it.  How to live on $1200/month in Grecia, Costa Rica.  Easy peasy.

That’s all for now folks!

Peace out – JenJen


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33 Responses to Losing the glut

  1. Buenos dias chica, earlier you posted that you allowed yourselves $2500 a month. nancy & I have a budget of $1500 a month and now you have verified that we can do what I had hoped. good job Pura Vida

    • Hola Jim – you must be thinking of when I was talking about the rentista residency requirements ($2500/month). We have never spent that much a month here… $1200 is a perfect budget for Greg & I, we felt we were watching our money, not splurging, but also didn’t deny ourselves anything – it worked great! Buen dia, Jim! 🙂

  2. I was a bit surprised by your budget of $40 a month for the bus. How much does the bus cost one way to town? Also, I don’t see any budget for taxis.

    • Wayne – I’m editing my reply to you. It costs 415 colones one way, for one person. We don’t ever take taxi’s (just the one time this month that we split with our friends). So for 2 people, 2 ways, 3 times a week, for 4 weeks = just under 20,000 colones ($40).

  3. A month in Playa Hermosa, CR has inspired me to live more frugally while I’m back in the States for a few months. I’ll be pulling cash from the ATM and hiding my credit card! Thanks for the tips, many of them can be applied here as well. 🙂

  4. A great read. You don’t say what type of house, cost of utilities, internet etc. We budget $2500/month but seldom make it. Unplanned things come up like Dentist for $400, new eye glasses for $275, surgery on dog (who died) $600 etc. We also had a big expense that was good. We got our cedulas this month for $1600 including the $1k balance to the atty. That also involved a night in a hotel in San Jose area for $80 plus food. Also we own a car which means $400/month for gas and I just had front end repairs from the bad roads for $1400 at the dealer. Also the Retvi, insurance, marchamo, etc. Every month it seems there is an unexpected expense. It would be the same in the US. We are now trying to set aside a misc. column in the budget to put away for those things. We do live very well on what averges out to about $3200/month here in Playa Hermosa. This is a tourist area with tourist prices and we may move back to San Ramon/Grecia/Atenas. My rent is $600 for a nice but not fancy 2 bedroom home, another $250 electric (A/C is a must here) and another $80 for cabletica with internet, $40/month for maid and another %$40 for the gardner. So the basic house runs just over $1k. Add $450 for food, $400 gas for car, $200 eating out $50 for CAJA and $200 for misc and you are at $2300 plus whatever suprises come up. I need you to manage my budget. Ps. We have lived in country over 3 years- 1 year in San Ramon and 2 at the beach in Playa Hermosa.

    • George – we are staying in a small apartment right now which includes everything in the rent (all utilities, internet, water, etc.). We do not have a car, so that very much helps our budget. We visited you last year (with Andy & Fran Brown) and your wife baked some awesome muffins for us! Your house is absolutely LOVELY! But I know your area there is more expensive in Playa Hermosa – that’s why we chose to start out in Grecia. Good to hear from you, and we hope to see you guys again some day! Take care! Jen

  5. Congratulations on your new life style! What a beautiful place you have chosen to relocate. Am really enjoying your blogs which are very interesting. Good luck with all your future adventures. Ann

  6. I have not seen photos of the two of you before you came to CR. All I know is every photos of you guys you look happier and happier. I was as encouraged by your budget. I just sold my house today in the states. Yea so my adventure begins finding a place here for me and my 3 fur balls. I am always happy, but need to get healthier. So may my photos get better and better as your are. Your husband looks thinner every time. You never needed to get thin, that is why I do not say you look thinner. You do look happy. CB

  7. We spend more than a third less a month in Tamarindo than we did in Canada. We haven’t changed our overall lifestyle that much at all: I work and have little kids so I have extra help at home and often have prepared (fresh) food. The kids are in private school and have extra-curricular activities, we drive a car, etc., but The majority of that difference comes from housing; the rest from overall cheaper housekeeping, activities, and (WAY) less stuff. Schooling for us is higher here because the boys were in public school in Canada.

    I wrote a post awhile back comparing our cost of living. It has changed a teeny bit, but it might be interesting for those with families or those interested in living near the beach.


    • We were in Tamarindo Saturday. It’s a good therapy drive from Playa Hermosa – about 45 minutes. Lunch at hotel Daria is always a treat. We have lived at the beach for over two years now and have our cedulas. We also lived in San Ramon for a year and we are going to take another look at Grecia, Alajuela, Atenas, etc. We want to find a place that does not have the terrible cold, rain, wind, and fog that we had in Los Angeles Sur, just outside San Ramon.

      • George, feel free to look us up if you are in Grecia. You and Kathy were very kind to give us your time when we toured with Frandy in 2012. Would love to show you around and share information that we have learned about Grecia.

        Greg – the Chicas husband.

        • Hi Greg, I remember you now. Frandy brings a lot of people through here. We look forward to seeing you guys in about 10 days when we will be house and dog sitting just north of San Ramon. Does Kathy have your email address off-site so we
          can plan?

          • Hi George – shoot, we are leaving Sept. 14th for a 2-week trip to the States… 🙁 I am friends with Kathy on Facebook, so she can always reach me that way.

  8. I loved reading about your monthly budget. Question for you: I noticed you spend $40 a month for buses. Does anyone ever ride bikes? I would think a bicycle with a basket would be good for getting around and more convenient than waiting for a bus.

    My husband and I are planning to spend a month in CR next July to check it out. We both have internet-based businesses so we would continue to work if we moved there.

    I love your blog. Great job!


    • Thank you Suzanne!! Well, where we live – it’s very very hilly – in the hills up from Grecia along a “ridge” as they call it (not quite a mountain, but an extreme hill for sure)… also the road up to our place is “tight” and the drivers can be aggressive sometimes (pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here). So, to answer your question – no, we do not see a lot of bikes here, and we do not wish to bike here… (for safety reasons). However, there ARE quite a few professional looking cyclists that train here. I’m sure it might be different in other areas of the country. Thanks for reading!

  9. Jen, Love reading your blogs! This one confirms what we’ve been finding out during our trial run over these past almost 6 months living here. We plan to make our permanent move to the Grecia area next year after the arrival of our grandson (due the end of October), but we wanted to be sure that it would be cost effective living on Mark’s retirement income here before doing so. We are comfortably within the range of the $12-1500 per month we hoped we could live on. We didn’tt really set a bufpdget, but Mark began keeping track of what we spent on a spreadsheet, and we are amazed at how well we are doing. It is wonderful to be living in a Paradise-type environment among such a sweet people, and still be able to enjoy life without splurging or denying ourselves some of the simple pleasures we like most, such as dinner with friends like you and Greg, lunch at the sodas occasionally, wine, beer, coffee liquors, and my new found love, (thanks to you Jen):Yoga classes! We can even afford to treat ourselves to an hour massage each for less than $100 from time to time. In fact, while we were here from first week in May to the end of June, we each had an hour massage, pedicures for both of us, and I, Jeanie, had a manicure —all for less than $100!!! It truly is Pura Vida! Thanx for the encouraging blog Jen. Keep ‘me coming! Jeanie and Mark

    • Thanks so much for reading & commenting Jeanie! It is truly great how much we can do here for so “little”. We enjoy the occasional lunches, dinners & yoga classes! 🙂

  10. My daughter and I moved here for the same reason you did and others 5 years ago… and have lived all over the country…..the difference between us and most expats is we live with a Tico, long story… But we live, family of 3, on about $1250.00 per month. We do not have a car, ride bikes, bus, taxis and eat better, healthier food than in USA…when sending a child to private school that will Barlow the budget, but with homeschooling very possible even in the beach towns….. Excluding most emergencies..but for us ..living in a nice area, hot water / ac (about $200 p month) no housekeeper or gardener needed.live in small condo 2 blocks from beach…

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