It is very possible for a single person to live comfortably here on around US$1,000 per month.
For a long time something has been on my mind…
I read the questions from people who really want to know what living in Costa Rica is like then I read the answers… There’s often a discussion about the ‘cost of living’ in Costa Rica and here is a good example of the problem we present to these people:
It is very possible for a single person to live comfortably here on around US$1,000 per month. I do live on US$1,000 per month and I spend a good bit of time at ‘Tex-Mex’, ‘Rock & Roll Pollo’, ‘Toro Negro’ and a few of the other bars and restaurants.
It is also very possible to be uncomfortable at US$3,000 per month. If you weren’t happy with your life somewhere else, you aren’t going to get happy by just changing your address.
In my humble opinion, Costa Rica is a ‘way of life’.
It is completely different than living in the US for instance. If you come here expecting the same things you had in the US or Canada, you may find them, but they will cost you dearly.
You see, Costa Rica is running 50 years or so behind, but running hard to catch up. It is doing a very good job of it too.
On the other hand, if you come here ready to accept Costa Rica and Ticos as they are, you are in for a delightful experience. Come to think of it, when you think back to your life in the “50s”, it wasn’t too bad, was it? That is kind of what Costa Rica is like today&
Myself? I spend a lot more time with Ticos than I do with Gringos. Why? Because, although it is very comfortable to be with Gringos, they are just like me. With Ticos I get into a very different world, their world. That is what I came down here to find and learn about. Rice and beans? It is called ‘Gallo Pinto’ and I love it. One of my Tico friends showed me how to make it right.
I have come to know his mother and other relatives who live on the side of Irazu Volcano. If I am not with him when he goes to visit them, they always send back a bag of home grown vegetables for his “Gringo Amigo”.
That is just a little bit of an idea of what you can find here, if you are willing to look. If you are not willing to reach out to Ticos, they won’t reach out to you.
Now, to get back to my original thought, I think people need to be told that what they read here is not “Gospel”. The few discussion groups you’ll read about are a collection of experiences, opinions, hopes, dreams, wishes, lies and God knows what! Living on US$1,000 per month. This was information I sought before moving to Costa Rica.
The only information I could find said that a couple could live on US$450 per month. It had to be ten year old information so I decided to keep a record of all of my expenditures. I probably missed a few but I was pretty careful to write everything down as I spent it.
At first glance at my monthly total I thought there was no way you could make it on US$1,000. My total was just over US$1,200 and that didn’t include rent. Then I looked at the figures a little closer…
A little over US$600 of those costs were what I would call exceptional costs. Items like US$100 for ARCR dues, which is money well spent. Three months of CAJA (state health insurance program) dues at US$37 per month.
Along with the doctors fees, which I consider very nominal, I also paid extra to have my taxi driver wait for me. That cost in the neighborhood of 1,000 colones per trip. At 428 colones to the US$1 – Check that out in any USA city.
Since I live in Santa Ana, I don’t consider that bad at all. After the exceptions that left an even US$594 per month.
Add to that my US$400 per month rent and you end up at something pretty close to US$994 per month. I went to school back in the fifties so those figures are probably right for that time period…
Now, there are a couple of adjustments that need to be made to those figures also. I have a heart condition and am just disabled enough to make riding buses difficult, so I take a taxi wherever I go.
I have made friends of a couple of ‘pirate taxi drivers’and they give me a good rate. In a normal month my transportation costs are less than US$100. I can’t afford to own a car for that and I get ‘chauffered’ wherever I go.
Also I need prescription drugs that add about US$100 to the above figure, but many people would not have that expense. Incidentally, I buy them through the mail from Canada and save about 60% off the cost.
My conclusion is this:
There is a more or less fixed block of US$400-$500 in expenses that you can’t do much to change. Housing costs on the other hand you can do a lot with by carefully choosing the place where you want to live.
My apartment by the way is on the outskirts of Santa Ana about 20 minutes West of San Jose. It’s part of a private home on about an acre of ground with more fruit trees than I can count.
That by the way helps a good bit on the grocery budget. Something is always in season. Transportation costs is another controllable item. I have to take a taxi, bus fare is cheap and the buses are very reliable, walking is free and I only wish I could participate.
Entertainment is another big variable. Eating at home is a whole lot cheaper than going to the ‘Tex-Mex’ restaurant or the ‘Rib Shack’. On the other hand if you are careful you can do that several times a month also.
In short, yes you can live in Costa Rica on US$1,000 per month… You just have to pay attention to what you spend your money on.
Joe Stastny is a US citizen.
Are you into beautiful Costa Rica?
All interesting things you want to know about Costa Rica are right here in our newsletter! Enter your email and press "subscribe" button.