Living In Atenas Like the Yeatmans Live in San Ramon

Yeatmans did a glowing report on retiring to Costa Rica.

But like so many reports on the life of Pura Vida, it was poorly researched and too general to be much more than a puff piece that could have been written by the Pura Vida Chief Marketing Officer.

I like it here, don’t get me wrong, but the reporter should have done more research than to just quote Paul Yeatman, a real estate agent, a couple of tour guides and magazine that touts living overseas.

The Yeatmans have done a great job of selling their theory that you can live in Costa Rica for less than $2000 a month, and they seem to document this with numbers. The name of the blog is, so the numbers serve their purpose.

I don’t know Paul and Gloria Yeatman, but I’m gonna attack their numbers anyway and make some personal assumptions about them based on their annual outlay.

Here’s their expense accounting for 2012.



And here is my category-by-category reaction. (Note: I am not saying they are wrong or I am right… just my reaction based strictly on the numbers above.)

Overall, they are living a simple, modest life. Nothing wrong with that, we do too!

Groceries: They eat simply. Paul said in the story that they have stopped buying as much “gringo food” as they used to. (They don’t shop as much in the food stores that carry U.S. brand names.) One of them (or both) likes to cook and spend time in the kitchen preparing meals I’m guessing. (Ready-prepared foods like we enjoyed in the U.S. are expensive – there is no such things as a “quick meal” in Costa Rica.) The Yeatmans don’t drink much. Booze ain’t cheap.

Transportation: They have one car and use public transportation regularly.  $100 a week seems right. Figure $60 a week for fuel and the rest is for car repairs and taxes..

Meals out: They don’t eat out much. In Atenas, a meal in the evening at a restaurant (not a soda) will run $20 for two. That’s no booze, no dessert at an average place. So two people eating once a week in a restaurant is $80 a month. A few breakfasts and lunches during the month at the much cheaper sodas and a cocktail here and there will cause that $100 will grow by 50% easily.

So far in 2013 we have come down in our spending over the two previous years, partly to offset other expenditures for the new house.

Most retired people like to eat out for the social aspects.

Health Care: They are young(er) and healthy.

Among those expats were Gloria and Paul Yeatman, ages 56 and 66, respectively, who moved to Costa Rica 4½ years ago.

The Yeatmans probably also got their health care by becoming members of ARCR, which gave them a discounted group rate to belong to the nationalized health care. This is no longer available and rates have increased markedly. That fact and one ongoing health problem – or one surgery – or a dental problem – can drive their $175 a month expenses to double or triple their current outlay.

Reminder: I don’t know the Yeatmans, but in reading their blog, I think I would. This is just my reaction to their expenses and how it relates to our life. Nobody is wrong here!!!

Pets: They have one cat that apparently is healthy. We have three dogs. I think their numbers look about right. We probably spend $25/month per animal and our dogs are approaching “senior” status.

Rent/Phone/Utilities: They live modestly. We do too. But they are getting a helluva deal on rent! Our electricity runs about $120 per month, phones (two cell phones and a landline) run about $25/month, and internet is $60. (Internet could be less if they are using ICE – the government controlled utility service.) That puts their rent at somewhere around $500 per month. THAT is a great deal. Unrealistic for Atenas.

Other Household Misc. No issues here.

Personal Care/Clothing: Mr. and Mrs. Yeatman don’t get massages or pedicures every month. And they dress like most of the full-time gringo residents, very casually. Paul mentioned in the story at MarketWatch that he just got new glasses. Me too, I paid $100 for everything.

Entertainment/Travel: They don’t have the need/desire to return to U.S. OR their numbers will jump significantly for 2013… they spent $1500 on a trip to Mexico thus doubling their entire expense number for 2012.

We have just returned from a 3 week trip to Mexico and are just starting to get caught up. (posted June 9, 2013 and documented at the blog.)

$1500 for a three week trip? I am impressed. One trip by one person to the US will cost $600 in airfare alone. They spent $600 in 2012 and $76/ month last year. And that doesn’t figure in other entertainment expenses. This is unrealistic. Paul admits they don’t travel in Costa Rica as much as they used too. And the Yeatmans want readers to believe than they took a three-week trip to Mexico? Something doesn’t compute.

Miscellaneous: no issues here.

If you want to read about the Yeatman life in detail, they it at their blog and newsletter. 

Retire for Less in Costa Rica? Absolutely. Live on $2000 or less a month? Absolutely. The Yeatmans are doing it in San Ramon and people are doing it in Atenas.

This is just my impressions about trying to keep up (or down) with the Yeatmans. As those of us who talk with others who want to retire cheaply… your mileage may vary, meaning how you live is different than how we live. We’re not wrong, just different.



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Living In Atenas Like the Yeatmans Live in San Ramon — 11 Comments

  1. They spoke @ a conference while in Mexico,so were reimbursed for some of their expenses. Their June newsletter gives the breakdown. And, yes, rents are cheaper in San Ramon.

  2. Hi Jo Anne, thanks for commenting and adding important information to the discussion, especially about rents in San Ramon.

  3. You were pretty accurate in your assumptions about our lifestyle based on our budget. You are right, we are “living a simple, modest life”and are happy doing so. There are a few exceptions we would like to clarify.

    • We did not join the Caja through ARCR; we went into our local CCSS office in San Ramon once we had our paperwork documenting that everything needed for our pensionado request had been submitted and accepted by Migracion. Of course, the law was different then. When we filed for residency, the requirement was only $600/month guaranteed income, so the monthly Caja payments were based on this lower amount. And joining the Caja was also optional at that time. Now, I believe, that it is required and that the payments are based on 13% of your declared income for residency.

    • We have two cats and no dogs. You’re right, they cost a lot less to maintain than several dogs would cost. To keep within out budget, we probably would never have a large dog because of the associated expenses to care for it.

    • We do eat simply – lots of fruit, vegetables, home baked bread, and a minimum of processed foods. There are not a lot of frills on our grocery bills. I cook dinner most nights and we eat at home, with an occasional dinner out. And no, we don’t drink much, though I like a nice glass of cabernet sometimes.

    • We are pretty healthy, though things do crop up once in a while. I had surgery here through the Caja back in 2009 and our only out-of-pocket expenses came to about $100 for some testing that we did privately. Like many people in Costa Rica, both Ticos and Expats, we use a mix of public and private healthcare to meet our needs and have been very pleased. We also have, and recommend that others also have, a cash reserve fund, just in case something big comes up that we need to take care of privately.

    • The expenses shown for our Mexico trip only included out our-of-pocket expenses. In our July 25th newsletter , in our article “Vacation the Retire for Less Way “ we explain that the majority of our airfare, as well as hotel and meals for the first leg of our trip (5 days), were covered by another party. We break down our costs in the article. You will see that for the remaining 12 days of our time in Mexico, we stayed in less expensive hotels and took public transportation whenever possible:

    To those thinking about moving here, I want to point out that how much you are able to live on in Costa Rica is entirely up to you – where you choose to live, they type of house and utilities you buy/rent, the food you eat and how much of it is imported, the extent to which you like to eat out, drink alcohol, smoke, entertain, travel back to the U.S. or Canada, etc. etc. It’s NOT a cheap place to live, but we have made choices where we are able to live a great life – albeit to our standard of living – for less than $24,000/year. In other words, we’re living within our means, and loving every minute.

    • Hi Gloria,
      I do appreciate you taking time to respond and elaborate on your expenses. Thank you. I am curious about your CAJA surgery: I’ve heard the stories about people having to wait years to get surgery. If that’s too personal, don’t respond. But I will make the assumption that it was of an emergency nature.

      And your wrap-up last paragraph is well put.

      Hope our paths cross someday.

  4. I know Paul and Gloria and have enjoyed some great times with them at Dona Ana in the past. Their lifestyle seems to suit them well and I applaud their ability to down-size in keeping with both their income/budget as well as the local culture. It really IS a matter of letting your expectations of life become more about “quality” and less about “quantity.”

    • Hi Kat,
      Thanks for commenting. I too applaud their ability to live on $2000 a month. And agree that quality always trumps quantity.

  5. We rented the house Paul and Gloria are in for six months while we re-built (heavy sigh) our own house nearby. The rent was $550 a month for a fully furnished, three bedroom, two bath house with a magnificent view and total privacy. Our electricity bill was consistently $26 a month, plus or minus a couple of dollars. However, we never ran the dishwasher, and used the dryer infrequently (and usually after 7:00 PM when the rates dropped). What the Yeatmans are doing is very do-able in San Ramon.

  6. Hello Michele,
    Glad to have your comments. That is a great price for the home you describe. How long ago was that? before Yeatmans? which puts it 4-5 years ago?

    But $26/month for electricity? Our tico neighbors bill runs $45 a month. (I know because we get their bill and they get ours!) Wow, shows me how much electricity has risen.

    Dishwasher? You have a dishwasher? Nice. We don’t. And like you we use the dryer only when absolutely necessary.

    • Hola again, We rented the house from July 2011 through January of 2012. The Yeatmans have been in it since this past December (2012). Perhaps the electricity was so low because the hot water in the house is propane? We used a tank about every four weeks at $16 a pop. Still, nothing compared to energy costs in most parts of the United States. Now that we’re in our own house our electric bill is much higher…about $130 a month. But we have a wildlife rehabilitation center, so I run the washer and dryer at least twice a day, and the dishwasher once a day (for sterilization purposes), plus we have two large refrigerators (one for the rehab center).