A reoccurring question about Costa Rica from those considering moving, retiring or buying a second/vacation home in the area is, “What is the Costa Rica cost of living?”
Yes you can still live in Costa Rica for $700 a month … but it’s up to you!
Below are two monthly budgets shared by native U.S. citizens that now live in Costa Rica. These budgets where posted online via contributions to the Costa Rica Living discussion group. As you will see, there is a wide divide between what each contributor considers a comfortable lifestyle … which of course, greatly effects the final ‘cost of living’.
This is a budget for two people, living in 3 bedroom house in a mostly-safe San José neighborhood, enjoying a very nice, middle-class lifestyle. We shop at the feria (farmer’s market) and have a housekeeper come in once weekly for 5 hours.” -Erin (as posted 07/22/08 on Costa Rica Living)
FYI: The following costs were given in the Costa Rica currency of the colon. Exchange rate on date of posting: ¢546 colónes = $1 USD
Electricity: ¢21.000 [revised]
Internet [high-speed]: ¢20.000
Cable TV: ¢15.000
Cell Phones (2 lines): ¢12.000
House Cleaning: ¢20.000
Entertainment & Restaurants: ¢75.000
Sub-total using public transportation: ¢482.000 (approximately $883.00/month)
Another Costa Rica Living contributor added that Health Insurance available through the Costa Rica “CAJA” medical system runs ¢28.000 for 2 people over 55 (CAJA medical insurance features; No Exclusions due to Pre-existing Conditions, No Deductibles, No Co-pays, No Out-of-Pocket Expenses and most Prescribed Medications at No Additional Costs).
Sub-total using public transportation with full medical coverage: ¢510.000 (approx. $934.00/month)
Owning a car substantially increases your cost of living, for just the gas alone. Fixed costs for a 2 year old vehicle with full coverage car insurance were reported at ¢330.000 colónes for 6 months + the annual “marchamo” registration of ¢308.000 colónes. Current gas costs for light local driving is approximated at ¢50.000 monthly and oil changes every 3,000 miles go for about ¢16.000 colónes.
Grand Total – Costa Rica “Comfortable” Cost of Living with automobile & healthcare: ¢646.000 (approx. $1,183.00/month)
“How about … the upper middle end of middle class in Costa Rica? … The budget below is for two people living in a 3 bed 3.5 bath home with a pool and Jacuzzi. I have not included entertainment outside the home … I have however included “Legal expenses” in my budget. It is a fact that if you own anything in Costa Rica you are going to need a lawyer for everything… ” -The Consul (as posted 07/22/08 on Costa Rica Living)
House Mortgage: $1,400.00*
Condo [Association] Fee: $190.00
Auto Insurance: $125.00
Private Health Insurance: $125.00
INS Insurance: $28.00
Health Maintenance: $150.00
Auto Fuel: $400.00
Auto Maintenance: $75.00
House Keeper [full time]: $293.58
House phone: $31.00
Cell Phone: $15.00
Grand Total – Costa Rica “Upper Middle Suburb” Cost of Living: ¢2.118.060,75 (approx. $3,886.35/month)
So there you have it … some are Costa Rica “middle-class” at $935/month and some “upper middle end of middle class” at $1,000/week.
My own experience in Costa Rica closely resembles the $1,200.00/month example for two people with an automobile and CAJA health insurance. My costs include private bilingual primary school for my son but exclude major purchases that are likely one-time or limited in recurrence such as household items, automobiles, etc.
When you consider most native Costa Rica households ‘comfortably’ exist on $700 or less in total monthly income, you know those that are able to spend greater than $1,000/month are doing O.K.
Bottom Line: Costs of living continue to rise world wide, but there is no greater origin of the final costs than a person’s individual lifestyle. Happiness is choices and the ability to pay for them in the place that you want to live ;o)
*Many ex-pats own their homes and automobiles outright having paid cash at the time of purchase by various means (ie: equity from previous or existing U.S. homes, investment accounts, etc.). Leaving many retirees or relocated persons with no monthly house or car payments. If this were the case in both of the above examples, the costs of living assuming each have car expenses would be $844/month & $2,500/month respectively.