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!