I’m constantly hearing from tourists and my friends who visit that they are surprised at how expensive Costa Rica is. Most of my expat friends agree too, Costa Rica is not cheap. I would say food and drinks are definitely inline with US prices, and housing, depending on where you’re from, might be about the same. I would compare it to the cost of living in Portland, Oregon (at least for the Tamarindo area).

Let’s call food, drinks and housing equal — so how then is it cheaper for me to live on Costa Rica? Here are my top money saving ways. With these simple five changes, I save more than $10,000 a year living in Costa Rica.

Hair: In the US, my six-week routine of highlights, cut and a blowout would cost me about $400 a pop. Throw in a few more blowouts a month for important work meetings and special events and my hair bill was looking more like a car bill. In Costa Rica, hair services are much cheaper but I’ve also cut back on the highlights to protect my hair from the sun and saltwater.

US Yearly Total: $3,600

Costa Rica Yearly Total: $500

Savings: $3,100


Nails: Back in the 9-5 world perfectly manicured nails were essential. I would typically spend about $15-20 a week. In Costa Rica, the wear and tear from the ocean makes it impossible for polish to stay on longer than a day so I’ve cut manicures out all together.

US Yearly Total: $936

Costa Rica Yearly Total: $0

Savings: $936


A photo posted by Lamise (@lamise) on

Fitness: In the States I paid almost $300 a month to be a member at a regular gym as well as a fancy yoga studio. I love being active and would never cut this expense intentionally (health is one thing you SHOULD spend money on) but now in Costa Rica, I have so many ways to stay fit for free. Beach volleyball, running on the beach, beach yoga – basically anything on the beach!

US Yearly Total: $3,480

Costa Rica Yearly Total: $0

Savings: $3,480

Spray Tans: Summer spray tans are super important when you’re stuck in an office building all day and trying to look good for the few weekend “play” hours you have. Costa Rica = endless summer = natural tan all year

US Yearly Total: $560

Costa Rica Yearly Total: $0

Savings: $560


A photo posted by Mr. Grigor’s (@mrgrigors) on

Starbucks: I am definitely guilty of the two fancy coffees a day routine. Any excuse to get out of the office for a few minutes. I’d probably spend about $8-10 a day. Here the coffee culture is different – no long menus, no lingering around and no AC. You can find great Costa Rican coffee that you can brew at home, which is more of the thing to do here.

US Yearly Total: $2,920

Costa Rica Yearly Total: $520

Savings: $2,400

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