10 ways to maintain an inexpensive lifestyle and lower cost of living in Costa Rica:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Whether it’s a vendor or a tour company, most of the local people here are happy to help and are very friendly. If you feel like you’re being overcharged for something, ask a friend and that may be the case. You want to know that the prices you were being quoted are fair and reasonable.
2. When you shop for groceries, make sure your shopping at an inexpensive store. We have three major grocery stores here in and around Jaco, and one of them is the most expensive grocery store in the entire country. Take advantage of the local farmers market and you will save heaps of money every week.
3. Learn to cook some of the Costa Rica local foods. This will not only lower your cost of living… it will also be tons of fun. We are in a part of the world that has a plethora of amazing fruits and vegetables at our disposal around the clock, which promotes an alkaline diet and a much healthier lifestyle so you win twice! Whether you hire someone to help you cook, or you follow a recipe, cooking at your Costa Rica home can be much less expensive and healthier than going out.
4. When you do eat out, go to local sodas. A soda is a typical Costa Rican restaurant that serves fresh fish and rice and beans, and casados, which are basically blue plate specials and are very healthy and inexpensive! Again this is a way to stay healthy and spend less money so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
5. If you are a part time resident or just starting to explore, plan your trip in the green season. Our green season, or rainy season, lasts from about June or July until November. There are specials on hotels and rental cars, as well as specials on tours and sightseeing and basically any activity you can think of is less expensive this time of year. If you own a property in Jaco Beach or another tourist type area you can rent it out in the high season. This will also maximize your vacation rental income which could cover your cost for the year plus a little.
6. Before renting a big truck, 4 x 4, let’s be sure it’s necessary. Remember that the infrastructure here is always being improved and many many many roads are now paved and are easily accessible by way of small car into wheel drive. If you are in the parts of the country where a truck is a good idea, or in the rainy season, go for it but just be sure you need it…
7. Make sure the meter is running. Taxis are all over the place here, and generally speaking they are very reasonable, but many will leave the meter off and name a price off the top of their head. This is not protocol, so always make sure the meter is running so that you’re not overcharged!
8. When you travel, take the bus. The bus system here is fantastic and can get you anywhere in the entire country in a matter of hours. You get to see a little bit more this way because you’re not concentrating on driving, and also it’s extremely expensive! Bus schedules are available online and all over the place. You’ll feel more involved in the culture too and feel like a local!!!
9. Engage in outdoor activities during the day. Not only will hanging out at the beach and exercising, especially with water sports like surfing, improve your physical health, they are free! Tours cost money and spas cost money, but if you make your plans around being outside in nature on your own terms, you’re enjoying the best that we have to offer and leaving your wallet at home.
10. Buy real estate rather than rent. Although rents have gone up, especially in busy parts of the country, property taxes and insurance generally have not. Taxes on real estate here are only one quarter of 1%, or $250 a year for every $100,000 spent. This is obviously fantastic, and insurance policies are extremely competitive as well. Currently you can get great deals, and the market has just started to climb. This is a open door for great appreciation and the carrying cost extremely reasonable.
My name is Brian Friedman and I am a broker and consultant with RE/MAX here in Jaco Beach, Costa Rica. I have been here in Costa Rica for over 10 years and more than happy to lend my experience and help in anyway possible! I will look forward to hearing from you at any time and for any reason, no matter how small! Adios