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How to save money in Costa Rica

Hello everyone,

Did you plan your budget before your move to Costa Rica? If so, how did you go about it?

How do you save money in your day to day life? Do you find there are any areas where you can't cut costs?

Do you have any tips about saving money in Costa Rica? For example, getting the best deals on accommodation, grocery shopping and dining out, the best value transportation, etc..

Are there any apps or websites that have helped you to save money?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

Priscilla :

Hello everyone,

Did you plan your budget before your move to Costa Rica? If so, how did you go about it?

How do you save money in your day to day life? Do you find there are any areas where you can't cut costs?

Do you have any tips about saving money in Costa Rica? For example, getting the best deals on accommodation, grocery shopping and dining out, the best value transportation, etc..

Are there any apps or websites that have helped you to save money?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

To live in Costa Rica comfortably, and you need to live on a budget, I think the most important thing is to be debt free.  Obviously it all depends on your income and your lifestyle.  Prior to my making the move to CR I knew that if I eventually bought property I'd need to pay cash and then pay as I go on building the house.  I am just now, seven years after starting construction, finally completing the house.  But I don't owe anyone anything and that just makes life a whole lot easier.

Over time you can simply find ways to cut down on your everyday expenses.  Stores here do not compete as they do in North America.  (Again, seems to be a true lack of common sense here in every aspect of life.)  You can go to one pharmacy and get the price of a medication - literally go over one block to a different pharmacy and you will find as much as a $10 or more difference int he exact same medication. 

People enjoy going to the feria's, the open air markets. (Usually a weekly event in most towns.)  Do not assume that because they don't have a store front that it's going to be cheaper.  I compared seafood from the feria to the local produce store that we frequent.  The seafood at the local store was at least 20% cheaper. 

Grocery stores are the same way.  Just for fun, I compared prices at Maxi Pali and then at Auto Mercado.  Yes, Auto Mercado is a much nicer store, higher end, but when you compare the exact same items, Auto Mercado is as much as 30% higher.  This applies to just about anything - auto parts, moto parts, tires, etc., etc. 

I have found that Price Smart offers by far the best deals.  Not only in pricing but in the quality of the item that your purchasing.  And, they are one of the very, very few places here that don't ask fifty questions if you need to return an item.  Many stores here simply don't allow returns - for any reason.

- Expat Dave

I agree with everything Dave said above.

Owning your own home is the best way to save money and buying a nice home or property here is much cheaper than in the states for an equivalent property/house. Also building here is much cheaper. So building your own home or buying one here is the 1st step because though there are cheap rentals they aren't always easy to find and are sometimes not in the most desirable areas. Whereas you can find property and homes for sale at a good price in very desirable areas here.

Driving is expensive here as is owning a car. We own one but try not to drive it too often. That's one way to save money.
IF you live in a town where they have bus service and the bus goes near your home you could save a LOT by taking the bus. A taxi also can be cheaper than owning a car, even if you live a bit of a distance from town.

Shopping around for the best price is essential. To me it's a pain the butt to go to 3 different stores to shop for food etc but we do because one store has this item quite a bit cheaper and another store has that item quite a bit cheaper. Cheaper enough to make it worth the time and trouble if it's something you buy a lot of. So we'll buy these 8 items at this store and those 8 items at that store, etc. Wish it wasn't necessary but it is.

As Dave said sometimes one farmacia charges way more than another and you may find one that is ALWAYS or almost always cheaper than the others. Same with hardware stores and agro supplies.

ASKING TICOS IS A GOOD WAY TO FIND THE CHEAPEST STORES!

I used to shop at the feria thinking that farmers selling direct to customers HAS to be cheaper than stores, but it's not. Sometimes it is but not always. The local vege store has better prices, many times, than the feria. Or at least equal and more convenient, and similarly as fresh. One local store has "2nds" and "3rds" in vegetables and fruits and sometimes the 2nds and 3rds are just fine but quite a bit cheaper.

Women, stop using expensive creams and potions and use your own fresh aloe leaves with vit. E or coco oil mixed in etc. - make your own cheaper and better quality! Nothing is better than aloe.

IF you have a good reliable internet connection, you might find downloading programs from the net is cheaper than paying for them via cable tv service. Or Netflix might be enough for your entertainment needs. Depends on what you need to see and if you can get them without cable/satellite tv. We pay only for Netflix and internet, no cable.

We love pizza and it's one of the only "luxuries" we are willing to spend money on. It took us a while but we finally found a good AND cheap pizza place! Example: Pizza Hut : $20 for a large and "just okay". Urbana Pizza $12 for a large, get a free small one with it on Wednesdays and it's good! That's a big savings!  (One Urbana might not be as good as another, as with many chains...) And sometimes if a pizza is lacking something you can add your own ingredients to make it more to your liking if you get it to take home. Add fresh garlic or more onions or even more oregano or some of your own fresh sauce.

When you have a friend come from  the USA pay for them to bring you an extra suitcase full of stuff you order from Amazon! That's a big money saver because everything here is 50-75% more than on Amazon in the USA.. We'll pay $50 for my friend to bring a suitcase full of stuff for us, and we'll get better quality, stuff we cannot get here (certain brands or products they just don't have here), and we'll come out way ahead than if we bought equivalent items here.

At local stores ask for the cash discount! Many have that available but may not tell you until you ask.

Get that card, whatever it's called, for the Senior Discounts once you're 65 here. Someone here can explain more about that, I haven't got one yet but will soon.

Here is a the link to information on who and how you can get the Ciudadano de Oro ID card

A note if using fresh Aloe Vera leaves: cut off the prickly edges along with a narrow slice of the leaf,  before use, as that part is toxic...and can turn your skin, temporarily, a maroon colour.  :sosad:

Hey Kohlerias, that might explain the weird color of the palms of my hands. I noticed it only a couple days after cutting aloe but that may be the reason. I had no idea any part of the aloe was toxic!
Thanks also for the link to the Golden Citizen card.

If you cut a piece across the leaf, then 'dab' it on some paper towel, you can see a yellowish-brown coloured stain around the exterior and this is the part that is toxic.

Aloin  the toxic part.   :sick

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