Staying True To Our Plan

by Fran Browne


When we decided to move to Costa Rica, Andy and I were both 58 years old, out of work and with little hope of regaining any form of meaningful employment and the thought of becoming a Walmart greeter was impossible to comprehend.  We realized, that at our current rate of spending, our savings would be depleted in about 7-8 years, just around the time we would be eligible for Medicare. 

Our decision to become expats in Costa Rica was not designed to be a forever decision but instead designed to be an adventure.  By renting, instead of buying a home, we were free to visit various parts of the country and then re-evaluate our position in life when we were eligible for Medicare. 

So far we are on target but our original plan of moving around the country has changed. We really like the Playa Hermosa area.  It completely fulfills our needs, for now. When Andy and I announced back in December we would be moving to a new house, many of the comments we received were encouraging and supportive.  However, a few comments were critical and accused us of living the “superior gringo lifestyle.”  One person actually wrote Andy and accused him of being one of those “fat cat gringos” he occasionally writes about.  Well, that got me thinking and prompted me to write this article.

Our first house was very modest and cost us $500 a month in rent.  Unfortunately our electric bills were sky high… $220. The second and third were equally as high making us think the house’s electrical system was bad.  Our bills should have been around $100.  That, coupled with the absolutely horrible mold, mildew and weather, in that particular micro-climate, forced us into looking for a better place to live.

When we first talked about Costa Rica as a possible retirement spot, I really wanted to live by the beach but thought it was not within our budget. But, through networking, we did manage to find a really nice place in Playa Hermosa.  Very affordable (by beach standards), we had a fenced yard, A/C and a swimming pool.  While we could not see the ocean, it was only a 5 minute walk.  

It looked as if we were getting back to our roots.  We were now becoming “beach people” and getting back to a life both Andy and I shared while growing up in Miami. 

I was still concerned about the costs, but the idea of living at the beach was my dream.  Yes we doubled our rent.  Electric was about the same but now we were running A/C and a pool pump.  General merchandise is more expensive at the beach and our overall cost of living increased from $2200 a month to $3200 a month, but the bottom line is our quality of life improved beyond our expectations.  When I stress about the cost’s here, Andy always reminds me of the $6500 a month we were spending back in the States. 

It’s now been two years and we can both say we love it here.  But the question that is now on the table is, “Is it time for a change?”  We like almost everything about our house and we enjoy hanging out with our Tico and Gringo friends.  However, there are a few things we would like to change.  For starters we need more room.  I am getting so tired of having to navigate around Andy’s cameras, computers, guitars and amplifiers.   I cannot listen to one more of his Skype conversation.  He needs his own room. We also want a house with a view of the ocean and one with windows that open.  I need some fresh air.  We figure, better ventilation will reduce our need for air conditioning, therefore lowering our electric bills.  

One day, while visiting with some friends, we learned that a house near us may be coming available as long term rental.  The house was located in an upscale, gated subdivision of Playa Hermosa, just a few minutes from where we currently live.  We assumed, because of its location, that any house in this area would rent for way more money that we were willing to pay.  But we decided, “What the hell… let’s check it out anyway.” 

When we got to the house, our jaws dropped.  This house had it all… all the space we needed, a great kitchen, 50’ lap pool and a killer view of the entire Playa Hermosa.  And to our surprise, it was only a couple hundred dollars more per month then where we were currently paying.  Andy estimates that we should be able to cut our electric bill by at least $100 a month.  I’m not as optimistic, but time will tell. 

Remember, Andy uses a lot of electric.  Sometimes I call him an electric whore, too many toys that are always on. This house is also within walking distance to the beach.  Although it has a small hill that will be a challenge, maybe in a few months my butt will be smaller.

Let's Cut To The Chase...

But now let me get to the point of this article… my dilemma.  We came here to save money.  Our videos and newsletter articles talk about living a better life while reducing our costs yet here we are, trying to live the “high life” in some upscale, gringo gated community.  I think the problem I am experiencing is with me, I am too concerned about what others may be thinking. 

As Andy keeps pointing out, we are doing exactly what we said we would do and are staying true to our strategy.  When we first arrived, we were able to reduce our expenses by 66%.  Moving to the beach increased our expenses but we are still saving 50%.  And even though we have increased our expenses once again, we are still in the 45% savings range.

Sometimes, I feel that we are not being true to ourselves by not living a more frugal life.  But you know what… this year we start drawing Social Security and will no longer be draining our nest egg.   So screw it… the funds are there, life is too short, let’s enjoy it while we can still move around on our own.  Maybe I should just listen to my youngest son’s words of wisdom, “You guys have worked your asses off for 40 years, now it’s time to just enjoy what you have… you deserve it."


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