One of the mental shifts we had to do when we moved to Costa Rica, was move from the “buy anything you want/do anything you want” mentality to being more frugal. How did we do this?
Well, for starters, when Greg & I both quit our jobs at the same time, bam(!) – all income was immediately eliminated. So, with our DINKS status (dual income no kids) being totally taken away (well, at least the DI part), we didn’t have much choice but to revamp our entire budget. Hey, we were revamping our entire life anyway by moving from the States to Costa Rica, so it was as good a time as any to change up our budget and lifestyle. Here’s what we did, and how we did it.
1. LET GO of all brand names and all other unnecessary stuff (they don’t really mean anything, do they?).
Alas… this was probably more for me than Greg. Bye-bye True Religion and 7 For All Mankind jeans (lots of these)… Bye-bye Coach purses (even more of these)… Bye-bye unnecessary jewelry (oh Cartier watch, I do miss thee!)… you get the point. Garage sales, Craig’s List, Neighborhood New Groups were all involved.
The good news was, that once Greg & I decided we were doing this “thing” – quitting our jobs in order to retire early to Costa Rica – it really wasn’t that difficult to part with these material ”things”. Seriously. I know some of you may find it hard to believe – especially for me. But after we made our life decision, it was easy to look ahead to the future, and once I committed to this decision – I was fully committed. Greg – well he was committed a long time ago (certifiably, of course). Also, some of these items happened to bring in some good money, which of course, we promptly added to our “Costa Rica Savings Account”.
2. NEXT – let go of even bigger things.
This meant our house. Our furniture. Our cars… This really wasn’t that difficult either. We were dedicated to beginning our new life in Costa Rica, and we decided not to take any of these things with us – we were not interested in shipping anything to Costa Rica (for us, because we would have had less than a pallet, shipping costs and duty taxes made this option not worth it to us). There were a couple pieces of furniture my Dad made for me (he was an amazing wood-worker, among many other things!) – and these are being stored (or used) at my Mom’s house. She’s definitely using a cool set of Starbuck’s coffee mugs (ah, another brand name) Greg gave to me for Valentine’s Day one year, and the cool modern wine rack/butcher block table my Dad made me – this makes me happy that Mom is using these things.
There was one bigger thing that was hard for me – my beloved Yamaha grand piano. It’s not that it was just a piano. Or a grand piano. Or a Yamaha. The biggest deal to me – was – it seemed like it was made for me. Me plus it together made some beautiful music. It’s like it knew me. I know this all sounds pretty cheesy, but that’s really how I felt – it had the most gorgeous deep tones, and I loved the weight and touch of the keys. We had already decided we weren’t shipping anything, especially a huge grand piano (really, something would probably happen to it in transport anyway). So – selling it was pretty hard, but we did find a sweet, young family – with three(!) beautiful daughters – all who played, and all who were EXCITED about it. I couldn’t ask for a better place for my piano. So – it was a heartbreaking day, for sure, when my baby was taken apart, packed up and moved out, but I took comfort in the future life it would have with those 3 beautiful girls…
Once most of the furniture was sold, we sold our house, moved into a rental for a while, and then moved in with Greg’s folks for the last 2-3 weeks before our move.
!!INSERT EXCLAMATION MARK!! –— At this point, let’s take a look at our budget. WOW. No mortgage, no home owners association fees, no car payments, no maid service, no pest control, and thanks to my Mom & Dad #2 – no rent or utilities for a few weeks. We still both had our cell phones and local service at this point, and we were still going out to eat with friends a lot (you think we’d say ‘no’ to farewell dinners?), but our “money out” was severely diminished.
3. Make the move.
After arriving in Costa Rica, we knew we would have to operate on cash only for some time – until we got a bank account opened, and who knew how long that would take (turned out to take 8 months and 5 trips to the bank). I had not lived on “cash only” for a very long time – in Dallas, we used our debit cards, checks, or credit card, for almost everything.
So, once we arrived in Costa Rica, I got some envelopes out and went to town on our new “cash budget”. Yep, I love doing budgets and spreadsheets and planning and organizing stuff… Greg – not so much… I mean – he loves that I do the budget and organize things, and he’s good at talking with me about the budgets I propose, and loves the idea of saving money and living thrifty… but frankly, I was quite worried about him actually living day-to-day on our new “frugal budget”.
So, here we are – living on cash, still (well, colones, actually). Even though we do have a bank account now, we like the cash/envelope/jen-budget way. It’s super easy, I just took 8 envelopes, labeled them, and put a specific amount of cash in them at the beginning of each month.
Here’s what we have envelopes for:Rent Utilities – wifi, water, electricity Bus – going into town 3x a week Maid – every 2 weeks Yoga – Jen, once a week Cell phones – see below * Food – groceries/farmer’s market Extra – includes a meal out once a week
* Both Greg & I kept our iPhones when we moved here (both – 4S’s), and had our agreements in the States terminated and our phones unlocked once we moved to Costa Rica. Once we got here, we got a sim card for our phones that included “pay as you go” minutes. Now – we just get our phones refilled with minutes, about once a month for $2. Yes – $2 lasts me a month, but I must note, that I do NOT talk on my phone that much, only for a short call here and there. So my phone bill went from $100 with AT&T in the States to $2 here. My internet service also works on my phone here most places I go (lots of places have free wifi in town). And the internet doesn’t seem to take from my pay-as-you-go minutes, or if it does, does it very slowly and affordably.
Now a days, our Dallas lifestyle seems very far away, even though actually it was just a little over 8 months ago. It’s crazy to think that we now spend a quarter (yes, a quarter!) of the money we spent on “things” in Dallas. And we’re HAPPIER now. Go figure. Just goes to show, that we can be “richer” with less money. How? Because to me, happiness is worth much more.
So the other day Greg did our taxes for last year (fabulous husband that he is) and at the end of the day, proudly proclaimed we were getting money back! Woooo hoooo!
I immediately started envisioning saving the money and paying our rent for a while, or saving it for the health care payments that are just around the corner for us, when Greg interrupted my thoughts:
“Hey Jen – maybe we can put it towards one of those old jeep-like Land Cruisers! Or we could put it towards a trip – let’s go to the beach and stay at an all inclusive!”
Ciao!! — Jen