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Setting a Budget; CR Cost of Living Comparison

Costa Rica News – So many people are looking to make their hard earned dollars go further and are moving out of their home countries living abroad.  One of the areas drawing a large number of expats is Central America.  Most people do not have the ability to live themselves in the various countries before choosing one to call home.  The biggest question that people looking to move overseas asks “What is it going to cost me to live there?”

One of our readers submitted this to us today and it has incredible information about the cost of living in costa rica cost of living 1Panama, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Tricia lived in multiple places and these were her findings.

Before you go peeking at our expense chart below, I need to make a few statements:

* This is OUR full disclosure cost breakdown of everything we spent money on based on the way WE live our lives.

* Our goal for a total monthly budget is $1,800 for living expenses ONLY.  Our income is higher but this amount is what we wanted to see if we could live with so that the extra could be set aside for savings toward further traveling.

* Our monthly rental goal with ALL utilities including WiFi is $800. We rented many different types of property from 1 bedroom/1 bathroom to 2 bedroom/2 bathroom; from 425 square feet to 1,200 square feet; high rise to apartment attached to a house, to single family home; from in town to rural to ocean front. We know we paid higher rents because it was only for one month. We also know that when we’re ready to rent for a year, our monthly rate will either decrease substantially or we will get a lot more for our money. Thus, keeping the rent within our budgeted goal.

* Phone costs are averaged based on what we actually spent over a 3 month period including initial purchase of SIM card, minutes, and data for both of us and any subsequent purchases of minutes/data. NOTE: we have only been Ecuador for 5 weeks and the line item shows the average of what we’ve purchased to date with 1.5 months remaining. We own our own unlocked iPhones.

* As we must be out and about much more than we would if we lived long term somewhere, we are eating out more than our “normal” 6-7 times, and are out socializing and meeting people to get a truer feel for each area. Thus, the dollars in meals below reflects eating out on average between 15-20 times a month and the “drinks only” will eventually be incorporated into our Entertainment budget. Where we ate was either typical fare or moderate priced. On a rare occasion, we went out for a special meal that was still well below US prices.

* We have NO car so there is nothing in this budget to indicate each countries cost of gas, which varies considerably at the moment.

* Currently, we are self-insured and pay everything out of pocket.  So only the true consistent item of Dental Cleaning was included and averaged over each 3 months (every 3 months for me; every 6 months for Mike)  We do have traveler’s insurance for catastrophic until we establish residency somewhere. Once residency established, a budget line item for medical/dental/vision will be made.

* Our meals at home became very simple and consistent. So that with what we bought at the grocery store being pretty similar in each location.  Groceries include wine & beer.  I don’t get into what’s more or less expensive in each country because it becomes a moot point when looking at the overall grocery budget.  Same for the cost of wine & beer in local establishments.

* Our One-Time Expenses are just that. Medical included my annual female checkups, swimmer’s ear in CR for Mike, and a banged up shoulder in Salinas, EC for Mike.  In my blog posts I breakdown the costs for each expenditure at the time we had to make them and won’t do that again here.  You may go back and read my blog posts for those individual occurrences. Dental included my new partial (1 every 15 years) and a new cap & veneer for Mike’s 2 front teeth. Tours included our actual time being a tourist but we will not be doing those on a consistent basis but will incorporate those costs in entertainment. Hotels & Transportation is the cost incurred while getting to and from an airport or when taking a side trip which has occurred every 3 months and will not be part of our usual agenda once we live somewhere full time.

See Full Detailed Cost of Living Comparison Here

So, with all of the above said, you can see, for actual day to day living expenses we spent a total of $5,521 in costa rica cost of living 2Panama for an average monthly of $1,840; a total of $5,387 in Costa Rica for an average of $1,796. And, so far, Salinas, EC is showing it was quite expensive.

A few specific clarifications to help you understand the spending patterns:

*Gorgona, PA: Our apartment had a death trap of a kitchen, so we ate out often (25x). Thus, there is no separate amount in Drinks Only because we always had our drinks where we ate.

*Tronadora, CR: We have nothing in Entertainment because all of our Entertainment was actually “free”. We would go with friends to the Tabacon hot spring river with drinks & snacks and sit for hours in the steam for FREE! We also did not get any “medicinal” massages that we love so much that are included as Entertainment in other locations.

*Grecia: Here too when we went out for drinks, we ate.

*Salinas: Can’t put a finger on it as to why groceries were so much more except that everything was always just a bit more. A dollar here, a dollar there. Wine & beer were definitely more for actually less quality.

Each location presented its own challenges from awkward housing with deficient kitchens (the term “fully furnished” is very loosely used), too few choices for eating out, to too remote of a location. In ALL cases, we are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt based on the data we accumulated, that we could make the necessary adjustments to keep within our desired budget of $1,800/month including medical once we are established and NOT diminish our lifestyle.

By Tricia Lyman

Any comments or questions can be emailed to Tricia directly at [email protected] or visit her blog at http://www.lymantricia.blogspot.com/

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