Utilites

I have been seeing on different pages about the cost of utilities here in Costa Rica.  Some people saying it is really high and then there are people like me who say it is really cheap.  It depends on a lot of factors.

How big is your house?

How many people are in your household?

Do you have an air conditioner?

Do you have a clothes dryer?

Do you have a dishwasher?

How big are your appliances?

Do you leave everything plugged in when you are not using it?

I have a small house, around 613 sq ft.  Most of the time it is just the two of us, but we do have lots of overnight company.  In December we had a guest that was here for almost the entire month, my electric bill was only $32.  We do not have an air conditioner, we use fans.  I do have a clothes dryer that I use when I do laundry.  My dishwasher is my husband.  He’s a good man.  Most of our other appliances are small, our refrigerator would be considered small by US standards; but it would be average for a small apartment.  The only things that are left plugged in all the time are the refrigerator, obviously, and the washer and dryer.  When I am not using something, it is unplugged.  The reason for that, even though it is turned off it will still draw on the electrical current.  At night, I even unplug the internet modem.  After all, I am asleep and we are not using it.  Why let it stay on and waste electricity and run up my bill?  If I am not in a room, the light is turned off.  In the evening I will turn on one patio light, that is too keep the bugs outside and not attracted to the light inside.  We use all energy saver light bulbs.

When I was in the States, I started this experiment, by unplugging things when I wasn’t using them.  My utility bill dropped drastically.  They say, in the States, that by just leaving your cell phone charger always plugged in is costing you about $7 a month; that’s $84 a year.  Think about all the other things you leave plugged in when not using.  I even unplug my TV, I don’t DVR anything.  The game consul is unplugged when not in use also, think about all those little lights on them that are always on.  It’s little things like this that run up your bill.  This is for everywhere, not just here.  Just some helpful advice for you all to help you save some money, no matter where you are at.

The great debate

There is a huge debate about the cost of living here in Costa Rica.  It has been going on for a while.  Yes, Costa Rica is the most expensive country in Central America.  There is no debate about that.  Costa Rica is also the safest country in Central America to live in.  That is a fact.  You can easily look these up.  The cost of living is going to vary greatly on where you live and how you want to live.  If you live in an area that has lots of tourists and expats, then it is going to be expensive.  If you come down here and think you are going to live the same as you did in the States, then it is not going to be any cheaper.  Products imported from the States are more here than they are there.  Import taxes and cost of shipping.  Cars are more expensive here also, but we do have a great public transportation system that is much cheaper than the US, and it is very reliable.  I have used the public transit for three and a half years now.  We are looking at getting a car because of my back problems; it can be difficult getting on and off the bus for me.  Gas prices are higher here than there too; but not as high as what they are in Europe.  Right now, gas is down to around $4 a gallon, it was $5.  I know in some European countries it can go as high as $11 a gallon; so please stop complaining.

The area I live in, isn’t too bad on the cost.  You can rent a 45 m2 house for around $100 a month.  Granted, it’s not a big house, but it is a house.  With all that money you are saving you can afford to do more things around the country.  Think about it.  Big house and stay home all the time, little house and travel.  My house is around 57 m2, that’s a little over 600 sq ft.  I like it, I have everything that I need here.I have heard some people saying their electric bill is around $100 a month.  Not sure what they are doing because mine is around $30 a month.  I don’t have A/C either.  I am very conscious about my electric bill.  I unplug everything if I am not using it.  I even unplug the modem at night, I’m not using it and leaving it on just wastes electricity.  The only things that stay plugged in when not in use is the washer and dryer.  Seriously, if you unplug stuff when you are not using it, your utility bill will go down because it still draws on the power even when off.  My water bill runs under $8 a month, we don’t have a sewage system in the area I live in so that cuts back on the cost.  All we have are holding tanks.  Now the internet.  I got a slower speed internet including my home phone for $30 a month.  I have no problem streaming movies on Netflix or watching videos on youtube.  Now, if you have several people at the same time trying to watch movies and videos I would recommend a faster speed.  For us, this is fine.

The cost of food.  It really depends on what you want to buy.  If you buy local brands it can be very reasonable.  Except diary products, they are expensive no matter what.  A half gallon of milk is around $2.  I get a big bag of local brand cereal for around $5.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are very cheap as long as they are not imported; all apples are imported.  You can get three pineapples on a road side stand for around $2.  Bananas are extremely cheap here as they grow everywhere, I even have some in my yard.  Also, we have the biggest carrots I have ever seen in my life here.  Don’t waste your time and money on buying the baby carrots that are already pealed and in a bag.  Buy a real fresh carrot and peal it yourself, it doesn’t take long to do.  On average when I go to the supermarket I spend around $100 a week, I will have to go through the week and get some milk because we do drink a lot of it, but that is for three people including a carton of cigarettes.  I plan my meals out before shopping and make a list, it really helps.

So the point being, if you come down here don’t expect to live like you did in the US.  This is a completely different lifestyle.  It is relaxing and very laid back.  You need to come down here with an open mind and an open heart.  Learn the ways of the locals and embrace it.  It will be worth it.  Leave your old life behind, it’s in the past.  If you have any questions about anything feel free to ask.

Pura Vida!

It’s a rainforest!

So many people forget that Costa Rica is a rainforest.  They see all the beautiful pictures online with the beautiful beaches, and easily forget that it is an actual rainforest.  It rains, and it rains a lot at times.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Costa Rica is extremely beautiful and the people are wonderful, friendly, and outgoing.  But it does rain.  It rains more in some parts of the country than others.  We have one area of the country that has been in a severe drought and they have even had to truck in water at times.  The area I live in, I think we got all of their rain this year plus ours.  There were times that I wanted to buy a kayak just to make it across the front yard.  Any place you live is going to have its draw backs.  I have lived through blizzards and tornadoes, and let’s not forget about the ice storms.  I have been through massive heat waves and droughts.  Here, we have rain and earthquakes.  I have some friends that live out by the beach, they have had so much rain this season they were stuck in their house for over a week.  The road to where they live was a mud hole and the only way to get in and out was on horseback.  But they do have a beautiful house, they have chickens, a dairy cow, a very nice garden, and there is still always something to do.  This is a completely different lifestyle than what you are used to in the US.  It’s very laid back and easy going, unless your driving.  That is a different matter all together.  People here don’t let the rain stop them from doing what they need to do.  I still see people on motorcycles riding in the rain.  I still see people outside working in the rain, it’s a part of life here.  In order for us to have all of this natural beauty here and all of the wildlife, we have to have the rain.  Without it, this beautiful country would not be this beautiful.  I live in one of the rainiest areas of Costa Rica and love it.  Do I get tired of the rain?  Sometimes.  But then it will clear up and it won’t rain for months.  Starting in April/May is when it starts raining again.  It’s not too bad during those months, just an afternoon shower here and there and not even every day.  July can be a bear, November is usually the worst where I live.  I have gone two weeks at a time without seeing the sun.  But then one day, it just stops.

I have had people tell me, that they knew people who moved down here and then moved back to the States because they were bored.  Well, I can probably guarantee you that they wanted to live the same lifestyle that they lived in the States.  It’s a completely different country.  You have to embrace the differences here.  Learn what the locals do for fun.  Find something here that interest you.  My husband and I love sitting on our patio bird watching.  Just today, we saw at least 10 different species of beautiful birds in under and hour.  We also had an iguana in our tree, something we don’t get often at our house.  I have learned a lot about myself since moving here, like I really love baking from scratch.  I also love to cook, I never had time for doing that in the States.  My Spanish still has a long way to go, but I am trying and the locals know that I am trying and they do try to help me out and laugh with me when I can’t pronounce a word.  There is one word that I have been trying to say for about a year and still can’t say it right.  There were a few people that started to get upset with my husband because he wasn’t learning Spanish.  Once I explained to them that he is half deaf, has tried to learn, but can’t hear it well enough to learn it, they understood.  Now they are very patient with him and do there best to communicate with him in other ways.  Lots of charades.  But there is almost always something to do, if you are willing to get out there and do it.  We live in a small town, about 8,000 people.  There are tourist things to do in our area, but we are not overrun with tourism.  This helps keep the cost of living down and still give you the local, true feel of the country.  I have friends that sell Avon and my neighbor sells Tupperware.  Tupperware is a blessing down here.  It’s a happy country here, I love being here.  Just a few weeks ago we got invited to our friends daughter’s graduation from primary school.  The daughter asked us to come, loved the ceremony.  The people down here will welcome you with open arms, as long as you keep an open mind.  Just remember, it is a rainforest.

Happy New Year

So, I am not really the partier anymore; I was in bed just after 11 last night.  Didn’t get to fall asleep though for a few hours.  I didn’t mind, after all I knew it was New Year’s and people would be up really late having fun.  When midnight hit here, the fireworks were going off like crazy, all the ambulances has their sirens going, and you could hear people yelling and having fun.  They actually have a truck that goes down the main road of our town and sets fireworks off the back of it, this way the whole town can see them.  Not really sure how safe this is though.  The dog did fine with the fireworks, my cats however…every time one would go off they would jump.  They stayed cuddled up next to me all night.  I can’t really remember the last time I went out on New Years.  I usually preferred to stay home.  I have lost too many friends to drunk drivers, why chance it.  If I did go somewhere, I was there all night.  I hope that this year brings everyone good fortune and happiness.  Happy New Year everyone!

The good with the bad

I know I haven’t been keeping up on this, and for that, I am sorry.  The hubby and I sat down one night and had a very long conversation about moving and staying here.  We really have it good here.  Great neighbors, great friends who are like family.  Why leave all that just to start over again?  I have a wonderful cleaning lady that comes twice a week and does a great job.  So, here we are.  It does feel like home here.  We have been here over three and a half years now, we love it.  We walk to town and people wave and say hello to us.  Even the bus drivers will honk and wave at us, they know us.  We still don’t have a car, but that is on our list of things to purchase.  For the past several years, everything has been going into the house.  We bought it and it was a shell.  It had walls and a roof, didn’t even have a ceiling.  It was a typical Tico house.  Paid $30,000 for it.  We did take out a mortgage on it, interest rates here are very high.  But it is establishing our credit for here.  We talked to our neighbor, he actually built this house, about adding on a second story.  No problem…almost.  Where I was originally going to put the stairs, not enough room to get the height needed.  So, I moved them to the outside patio.  Yup, that is my plan.  The patio is completely enclosed, we had all of that added on, so they will be secure.  Next problem.  I have indoor cats, how are they supposed to get up and down without going outside? Simple, cut a whole in the ceiling/floor and put in cat stairs.  I think my neighbor is going to end up hating me.  I know, I am a crazy cat lady, but hey, they are my kids.  Object of this whole thing is to create a large living room in the down stairs, keep one small bedroom and the small bathroom down stairs and then put in two large bedrooms upstairs with a large bathroom.  Oh, and I get a walk in closet! We would also have a nice balcony there, which would be great for bird watching. Tico houses are usually very small.  I would like to just to be able to move around my bedroom with having to move the fan out of the way.  Right now all the bedrooms and living room are a small 10×10, and that’s it.  But, it is home to me.  We are really hoping that this works out, it will require to take out a construction loan.  Hoping to refinance, get a lower interest rate and get the home improvement loan with it.  I know that when we get done the house will be worth more than twice what we paid for it.  Have to wait for the dry season to even think about this.  It has been raining like cats and dogs these past few months, but it is a rainforest.  Prettier days are coming, we have been seeing some of the seasonal birds return, like the Golden Hooded Tanager.  They are beautiful.  We have spent weeks griping about the rain, soon we will be complaining about the heat.  Isn’t that how it always works?

A few things you should know

Well, here I go again.  We have decided to stay here, and why not?  We have great neighbors, our house payment is under $300 a month, our utilities are around $40, water is about $7, phone and internet is $40,  and we love our community.  I have a great cleaning lady that now comes four days a week.  So, we have decided to do some traveling.  Thinking of going to Scotland next year, can’t wait!

Things to know about living in Costa Rica though.  It is a rainforest, which means rain.  It also means bugs.  Lots of bugs.  If you can’t handle them, don’t move here.  We live in a very rural community and pretty much right in the rainforest.  When it rains, ants head for dryer ground, which usually means in your house.  I have lots and lots of Tupperware.  Tupperware is pretty much a must.  I keep my sugar, coffee, flour, rice, bread, cereal, brown sugar, and so much more in them.  I have a small fortune in Tupperware now.  Even with my house being cleaned 4 days a week, they still come in.  It happens, you get used to it.  The only time I worry about them is when it is the entire colony on the move.  I have battled a few colonies and won!  Termites is the one of the other ones, those bastards can be destructive!  I freaking hate termites, I think more than ants just because of the damage I know they can do.  My house is concrete, but we have wood beams in the ceiling.  We do spray every so often as a preventative measure.  Something you always need to be on the look out for.  The last thing when it comes to bugs is cockroaches.  They thrive in this environment.  It is their natural habitat.  If you see one, it doesn’t mean that your house is dirty.  They happen, nothing you can do about them.  You will see one, just kill it.  Some of them fly also!  Like I said, my house gets thoroughly cleaned four days a week and when my cleaning lady is not here I am always wiping stuff down.  I have seen them here too.

One of the other weird things about Central America, is that you don’t put toilet paper in the toilet.  It goes in the garbage can.  I know it is like this in other countries also.  We don’t have the big septic systems like you do in the States.  This took a little getting used to.  It may seem gross to a lot of you, but it’s what we do here.  If you change out the bag every other day it doesn’t smell.

So, that is some of the things that we do go through here.  But I love it.  These things don’t happened everyday or every week, but they happen.  I have gone months at a time without seeing a colony of ants trying to move in, I have gone months at a time without seeing a cockroach.  But I know they are out there.  I also have two indoor cats that help keep on the look out for certain bugs. Also, don’t be alarmed if you here a laughing sound while you are taking a shower, it is just a gecko!  I have several that live in my ceiling, they eat bugs so I love them.  It was definitely something to get used to down here, but I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  My husband and I had a very long talk about things and we believe this is our best decision to stay here.  We have it great here, why give that up and start over, again?  It would be stupid.

I hope you enjoyed this little lesson from me.  If you have any questions, just ask.

New ad for the house 

 

So, I have been trying to figure out how to add the link to the ad on here, but haven’t had much luck.  I am not a full time blogger by any means.  lol  But I do have a new ad for it up, if you contact me on here I can send you the link.  It does have better pictures.  Tomorrow we have someone coming over to finish the ceiling for us and we just put in new light fixtures last month.  Oh, and I bought a new washer last month.  Remember, the house is fully furnished and we are asking $40,000.  It’s a great area with great people.  We are also a $500 finders fee to anyone who finds us a buyer.  This is payable once the sale is final of course.

Thanks.

 

 

Cost of living

People ask me all the time about the cost of living here.  I have to stop and think about it.  For my husband and I, we spend just under $1,200 a month on the two of us.  Keep in mind, we don’t own a car, so this includes our transportation in taxis and taking the bus.  We also smoke, that include the cost of our cigarettes.  Having residency here, we have to pay for our medical insurance.  This amount also includes our mortgage on the house.   There are something that are more expensive here than in the US.  Electronics for one, they have a very high import tax, but that helps with the social security program to help medical cost.  Insurance for the both of us per month is about $130.  This covers everything, prescriptions, x-rays, surgeries, and dental.  If it is something that you have to have, it will be covered.  If it is something that you don’t have to have, you can get it for a discount or go private and pay out of pocket.  Just recently I needed an ultrasound.  I didn’t feel like going all the way to the hospital to make an appointment, then have to go back again for the appointment.  I called a private clinic that is much closer to me.  I saw the doctor, spoke with him, had the ultrasound done, spoke with him some more, he gave me his recommendation to take back to my regular doctor, he spent about 45 minutes with me, and I was charged $80.  That included the cost of the ultrasound.  A few months ago we had our own water meter put in, finally.  Now we can accurately know our water bill, it is under $7 a month.  Our phone and internet are together and it is $40 a month, not bad really.  Lately, our utility bill has been a little on the high side, about $50 a month.  I have been using the clothes dryer a lot.  During the dry season it goes down.  We also run a fan during the day time and two at night, we do not have A/C.  We have satellite TV, which is $25 a month, which we are going to get rid of because we never watch it.  We do spend a lot on food, but I still cook like an American and bake a lot.  We also drink coffee twice a day.  What we spend a month also includes cat litter and food for two cats, I have to buy the high quality food because I have one cat with stomach issues, and we also have two dogs.  The cat food I buy is about $14 for a 3 pound bag, expensive I know, and I need about 3 bags a month.  I will say that fruits and veggies are cheap, pineapples are just over $1 each, sometimes you can get three for $2.  There are farmers markets every Friday, one in each town where you can pick them up even cheaper than at the store.  We do have a little fruit and veggie stand in town that is open everyday.  We get bananas for about $.05 each.  Plantains are around $.35 each.  My problem with grocery shopping is meat, I love meat.  I fix a chicken dish at least twice a week.  Chicken runs about $7 a kilo, which is around $3.50 a pound, but that is for boneless and skinless breast filet.  Ground beef is extremely lean, I sometimes have to add oil to the pan to brown it.  There is almost no fat at all.  To make hamburger patties I have to add an egg in it just so it will stay together.  Ground beef is around $6 a kilo, but it is much better than your ground chuck at 80/20; this stuff is more like 95/5.

So, if we didn’t have the pets and didn’t smoke, you could probably knock off at least $250.  That would put us at under $1,000 a month.  When we were in the States we were spending more than that on just rent.  So you see, it is possible to live on that.  This however does not include any additional expenses, entertainment.  We like to sit at home at night with each other and watch something on Netflix.  We go for walks together to town and look around and talk to people.  Enjoy the park and relax.  We have a lot of simple fun together.  We are like that little old couple you see sitting on the park bench watching the birds, talking and giggling with each other.  Our extra money lately has gone back into the house.  We bought all new light fixtures, had to buy a ladder to put them in, we also bought a brand new washer this month.  Which will be sold with the house, if they want it.  So, if you want to know anything else, just ask.  Hope you have a great day.

Why not to live at the beach

I always have people ask me, “Why don’t you live at the beach?”  It’s constant too, and it can get a little frustrating explaining it over and over.  So, I will put it out there for everyone to read about.  It’s pretty simple.  Everyone always thinks, oh you live in Costa Rica, you must love the beach and live by it.  You must spend all your time on the beach.  Well, I have lived here for three years and have been to the beach once since living here.  A beach is a beach, no matter what country you live in.  Yes, some are prettier than others; some are better for surfing, others better for snorkeling.   But there is so much more to Costa Rica than the beach.  My main reasons for not living there. Where ever you have more tourist, you have more crime.  Even if it is only petty theft, it happens more often.  Then, there is the flooding.  This is a rain forest, it rains a lot here, and in the “green” season, the beaches often get flooded due to the run off.  Then, if there is a big storm, you have the devastating waves that come in and flood everything.  Right now in one area there are a lot of people being evacuated due to the flooding.  In one lovely beach area, they are actually having water shortages.  Yes, you read that right, water shortages in a rain forest.  During the dry season these people get put on water hours and go 8-10 hours a day without running water.  There are just too many people there to supply the demand.  In a beautiful, very popular resort area, beach there s a huge drug and prostitution problem.  It is fine if you are staying confined to the resorts and not going out at night.  But who wants to do that?  Then, there is the constant sand.  I have enough of a hard time cleaning due to my back problems, I don’t need to be sweeping sand up every time I turn around.  So, that is why I don’t live by the beach.

Now, where I live is very inland.  I am surrounded by forest and animals.  I see the Great Green Macaws flying over my house, I see the Blue Morpho Butterfly fluttering through my yard.  I see toucans up close and so many other wonderful and beautiful birds full of color just from my patio.  I have also seen iguanas in my yard and basilisks.   The people in my town are amazing, friendly, helpful, and outgoing.  Today we were at the hardware store and asked about renting a pressure washer.  The owner said we could just use his and bring it back when we were done.  Got home and needed a wheel barrel, borrowed one from a neighbor, no problem.  People here are so laid back it’s almost unbelievable.  Then people ask me why I want to move.  I just want to see more of the world.  I love to travel and I want to see more.  So, if you know anyone who wants to buy a house here in La Virgen Costa Rica for $40,000 USD fully furnished, let me know.  I will be sad to go, but I will be happy to continue on our adventure.  There is a lot to do in our area, it is called Sarapiqui.  Still not completely discovered, but a lot to do.  Easy to get anywhere from here and a joy to come back to.  May you all have a wonderful day/night.  Pura Vida!

I know it’s been a while

I know it’s been a while since I have posted anything.  Sorry.  I have been busy with dogs.  About a month ago I had a very shy and thin dog show up at my house.  She was scared at first, but I manged to gain her trust.  I named her Grace.  She looks to be part shepherd and part black lab.  She is very sweet.  She got sick on us and I rushed her to the vet.  We had blood work done and an ultrasound.  Turns out she had three different infections, plus anemia and an extremely low blood platelet count.  She got lots of medicine and three different injections.  She is doing pretty good now.  She has put on some weight and looking good.  Well, a week ago, we have a small dog, part Chihuahua follow us home.  We tried to shoo her away, but when I woke up on a Sunday morning, there she was on my front porch.  She ended up attaching herself to my husband.  Turns out she is pregnant.  Now we have two cats, two dogs, and more on the way.  I do love animals.  But this got me thinking.  We live here in a rural area of the country, most people don’t make that much money, but most people have at least one dog.  It is difficult for them to afford basic veterinary care.  I am trying to start a non-profit organization to help low income families with this.  I want to help them get their pets spayed/neutered also.  We do have a serious dog population problem down here.  The thing is, I need help.  We live on a fixed income.  If you can’t donate, I do understand. All I ask is that you share the post for the donation site, please.  Grace is on the right and Peanut is on the left.

Thank you.

Cheri

http://www.gofundme.com/96tp1w

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