When we travel around Costa Rica, we would always ask the many expats or immigrants we meet this question. Why did you move to Costa Rica? These are the top reasons we heard:
- Great weather
- A peaceful country
- Lower cost of living
I think what many foreigners who are looking into Costa Rica as their new permanent hogar wonder about the most is number 3 – cost of living. Many factors play into what your cost of living is or will but it is perfectly possible to be living in Costa Rica on a budget comfortably and happily.
Many retirees move here because they can make their social security check stretch far longer and greater than in North America and to enjoy the more affordable medical care. Many of the non-retirees work online or open their own business. Just remember that you won’t be making anywhere close as you would in the States but it can balance out with a lower cost of living.
Living in Costa Rica On a Budget
*Please note that this post was written in 2015 when we were living in Playas del Coco. We no longer live there and our situation has changed a bit since then which I’m not going to write about but we hope this post can still be used for reference.*
Yeison and I live comfortably and happily in Guanacaste, Costa Rica for less than $2000 USD a month. To give you a detailed list of our costs of living, I’ll break it down by sections. This is a general overall list which will give you an idea of how much you will spend if you decide to live in Guanacaste with a lifestyle such as ours.
*Remember, we are two people who work from home with 1 very old car, no kids, no pets and we live simply. We are not retired and both work online full time.*
What do you want to read about first? Click the section to skip to it. All prices are in USD.
Monthly rent: $400 without utilities
We live in Las Palmas, a popular neighborhood in Playas del Coco. Our condo is a loft, meaning two stories with one bedroom and one bathroom but unlike other complexes, ours doesn’t have a pool, laundry or rancho. Our place was not really furnished so we bought nearly everything: bed, washing machine, couch, coffee table, tv set, dining table, chairs, curtains, etc. It did have some kitchen stuff like plates, cutlery and microwave.
Most of the condos in Coco and Ocotal are fully furnished. Our last place in Ocotal was $400 fully furnished but it was much further away from town. If you know the right people, you can find fully furnished condos in Las Palmas for $500 without utilities and includes parking, a guard, pool and laundry.
If you’re looking for a place to rent in Coco, it also depends on the time of year you are here. High season months of Dec-April are the busiest and most expensive.
If you’re coming in December/January/February, prepare yourself for high prices. Those are peak months so it’ll be difficult to find something around what we pay. Also keep in mind that we had a 1 year contract, long term contracts are cheaper than short term. You can pay up to $1000 a month even in low season for a condo for 1-3 months because it is short term.
We only use one AC because our upstairs one is old and doesn’t work very well. We turn the AC in the room on during the day while we are working and at night. We always turn off lights and AC and unplug things when not using them.
Electricity is more expensive here. I know some people who leave their two or three ACs on all day and night and their bill comes out to be three or four hundred dollars a month. Depending on what your standard of living is and your tolerance to heat, your electricity bill can get much higher than $70.
Our Internet provider is Tigo (the only one that works on our side of Las Palmas besides ICE) and we have 5 mb speed. We do not have cable. If we wanted cable, it would be $80 with the same speed of Internet as a package.
Yeison has a contract with ICE for around $25 a month for his iPhone and I have a prepaid SIM card that I normally spend about $10 a month with calls, text and data.
We usually do one big shopping trip every 10 days or so. For each big shopping trip we spend approximately $100-$150. I really enjoy cooking and baking. But Yeison and I buy as much Costa Rican/Central American brands as we can.
There are many things more expensive in Costa Rica and food is one of them in Playas del Coco, particularly meat. Depending on how big your family is or what you buy, your expenses can skyrocket past $400 a month easily.
Gas and Car Maintenance: $150
*Yeison and I work from home so we are not driving to and from work everyday. This cuts down on our gas expenses drastically.*
The only times we drive are at night to town, to Liberia which we go maybe once or twice a month and to the neighboring beaches. This keeps our gas costs way down. Yeison has a small four door sedan with a V4 engine so it doesn’t guzzle as much gas as opposed to a big car with a V8 engine.
Buying a car in Costa Rica is expensive and quite a bit of a process. Many people who move here don’t bother to buy one at all, or at least a brand new car.
Total cost so far: $1115
Just last month we had to get our car fixed and the total cost came out to $350 which included a new starter, brake pads, new hose, change of oil, fixed window, fixed trunk lock, a wash and clean and new shocks in the front. So this would be a big expense that is not a normal monthly cost for us.
Eating out: $150
Yeison and I don’t eat out too much, we go out on average maybe once a week, mostly to Subway (Yeison loves Subway) or Zi Lounge Bar. We normally spend around $25 for the two of us. If you like fine dining, you can end up spending a good several hundreds of dollars on restaurants a month since there usually isn’t anything less than $10 a plate, especially in Playas del Coco.
The rest comes from miscellaneous costs such as haircuts, insurance, website management, presents and medicines.
Like I mentioned earlier, certain times of the year will be more expenses such as December to pay for Christmas presents and Marchamo which is the yearly car tax. To give you an idea of the tax rate, Marchamo for our 1997 Daewoo is around $100 and Yeison’s brother’s Marchamo was around $1000 for a 2011 Suzuku Grand Vitara.
Yeison and I barely do any clothes shopping in Costa Rica. We usually buy clothes online and have our friends bring them from the States. Clothes is also expensive in Costa Rica so this could increase your expenses greatly if you go shopping often. Sometimes we’ll get a pair of flip flops or beach clothes when there is a sale.
That’s how we are living on a budget in Costa Rica
Yeison and I don’t live a luxurious life but we have a nice little condo and we’re close to the beach. Our car is not the nicest but it gets us from Point A to B. We live simply but still have fun going out with friends, throwing barbecues and going to different beaches nearby.
If you talk to other foreigners living in Costa Rica, you’ll notice monthly expenses vary a lot. It honestly depends on your lifestyle. Do you want an ocean view luxury home? A big car? Do you leave your air conditioning on all day? Or are you retired and just need the basics? It really depends!
When it comes down to it, it all depends on your standard of living in Costa Rica.
You don’t need to be making hundreds of thousands a year to have a be living in Costa Rica on a budget and many people have realized that which is why they move down here. Even if their pension is $1500 or $2000 a month, they can have a comfortable life living at the beach.
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