As the government imposes new taxes and utility rates go up, more and more expats complain about prices.
A quick trip through a supermarket shows products priced two or three times of what they cost in the United States.
Filling the tank of a vehicle can be a $100 experience with gasoline at more than $5 a U.S. gallon.
Some expats who came with the impression that life would be cheaper in Costa Rica are considering relocating.
Those pensionados who gained residency with a $600 a month income under the prior immigration law are being hammered.
But there is an option that has been used repeatedly during tough times. And that is doing it yourself. Today there are extensive articles and videos on the Internet designed to help viewers beat high prices.
A.M. Costa Rica columnist Jo Stuart advocates public transportation and shopping at the weekly open-air markets, the ferias. But not all the options can be found there.
There is a long tradition in Anglo-American history of growing food and recycling discards when times get tough. The works of Henry David Thoreau promoting simple livng is known to most readers. Anyone old enough to remember the Great Depression understands these techniques. Then there was World War II when loose lips sank ships and those who stayed behind turned to home gardens and perhaps a few chickens. These individuals would be in their 70s and 80s now.
After the war there was a migration to the cities and urban life, so the number of persons growing up learning handy ways on a farm declined.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s a back to the land movement, perhaps generated by hippies, brought renewed interest on low-cost ways of self-sufficiency. The old standard, the 1943 book“The Have More Plan,” was reprinted and circulated. This is still available today either in paper or as a free ebook download.
Ed and Carolyn Robinson’s wartime outline of a mini-farm is correctly called a classic.
The year 1968 saw the birth of “The Whole Earth Catalogue,” the uninitiate’s guide to self-sufficiency and rural gadgets.
Two years later, John and Jane Shuttleworth came out with the monthly Mother Earth News four months before the first Earth Day. Not only did the magazine give detailed instructions on such skills as beekeeping, small motor repair and raising chickens, it also fanned the flames of the growing ecological movement. The anti-government survivalist movement picked up on the trend.
Expats frequently are warned that buying First
World products is a budget buster. But they did not come to Costa Rica to be condemned to a diet of rice and beans.
A trip through supermarkets that are approaching monopoly status can be frightening: $8 for a box of breakfast cereal, $2 cans of beer, $7 blocks of cheese, a $3 loaf of bread, $6 cans of soup and $10 for six frozen sausages.
Plenty of expats already have found their farm home and are busy raising their own foods and livestock. For those who have not done so, YouTube is a treasure of cost-saving ideas.
Detergent is cheap to make with easily available chemicals. Manufacturers add some perfume and bright packages. Then they advertise heavily and slap on a high price. Dozens of YourTube videos show how to make $240 worth of liquid detergent for about $9. And the process is not that hard. The main ingredient is a bar of soap.
A BBC series even instructs viewers on using natural products to replace expensive drugs. Countless videos have tips on low-cost meals. Then there is the video showing how to make three cases of beer for about $7. There are similar videos on wine making, although some of the ingredients might have to be bootlegged into the country. A country so full of fruit would seem to be a great place to experiment.
Expats can search these videos to learn a new skill, sewing, for example, and trade their free time for home-made products. How about a hair-cutting tutorial? Internet searches can amplify what appears on the videos
There even are dozens of videos cataloged under the general term of saving money. Plus there are segments that can put viewers into a home craft business.