Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Costa Rica costs

The first day back after vacation is always rough. I just wanted to be at the beach or the pool....all day I kept looking at the clock and thinking, Oh, it's 10:30 in Costa Rica. I would be at the pool, or playing with the kitties, or anything other than shivering at my computer desk listening to the pouring rain. And then Peanut found out that his department got cut in half while we were gone. Luckily they didn't fire him in absentia, and his job seems safe for now but ugh.


Here are the costs we incurred on our fabulous sunny beach vacation:
Airfare: $1366.16
Other transportation costs: $90
Departure tax: $52.58
Postcards and stamps: $4
Food: $133

Total: $1645.74

Airfare was the killer--nearly $700 a ticket. I'd been watching the ticket prices for nearly three months and saw no variation at all. I really wanted to go when the weather here was bad and before their rainy season starts, so finally we just picked a date and bought tickets.

Other transportation was also a little more expensive than I expected. We took very early morning flights both ways, so we took a car service from our apartment to the airport. Then in Costa Rica we took a shuttle from the airport to the town my brother lives in, which is $18 per person each way. We didn't really have another choice though. We were also surprised that you have to pay a departure tax of about $26 per person to leave the country (you pay it at a bank and show your receipt at the airport).

I don't buy souvenirs, so I just got a couple of postcards and some stamps to send them to people who like stuff like that. I later found out that there is no post office in my brother's town, despite a sign for one, and no mailboxes anywhere and no box at the airport either. So I brought the postcards home with me and will mail them from here I guess.

Food was our only other expense. We stayed at my brother's condo and for fun, we went to the pool or beach or watched the condo kittens attack each other. We went out for about half our meals and cooked the other half. Grocery prices are roughly equivalent, except for peanut butter which is about $7 for a tiny jar. Restaurant prices were about the same as New York, too, although drinks were a bit cheaper.

We had saved about $1800 for our sunny beach vacation, so we came in under budget, and will keep saving for another trip in a year or so.

Other thoughts
Costa Rica is a stunningly beautiful country--volcanos, jungle/forest, beaches. My brother lives in a tourist town, so I didn't see a whole lot of stark poverty, although I'm sure it's there. Everything seemed a lot simpler--one thing that stuck out was that when a billboard expired but no one had purchased the space for the next time period, someone just painted over any logos or phone numbers, but otherwise left the images up. I guess that's a way to save money. Also, aside from tourist shopping like surf and souvenir shops and a few supermercados (which I found equivalent to a convenience store in the states, only with more staple food products), there wasn't a lot of commerce in this town. My brother and his girlfriend complained about the difficulty when they moved there of finding basics like a garbage can. There's really nothing like a Target or even a general housewares store that I saw.

Another example of the simplicity is that the airport doesn't have walls on all sides. A lot of the churches didn't either, and the restaurants were all open to the beach or the sky, so people just went barefoot or shirtless and it was awesome. I like things not being all top-collar-buttoned and sterile.

All the places we went took American dollars, and I finally figure out the conversion the day before we left. The colones money system is similar to ours in that there's a base unit: the colone. It's just that where we have cents and dollars, they just have colones, so you wind up with common things costing thousands of colones. 1000 colones (the smallest bill) is two bucks. Many people spoke English as well, although I tried to speak in Spanish whenever possible. I noticed an improvement, and I even dreamed in Spanish one night.

My other parting vacation thoughts are that I suck at taking pictures. I didn't take nearly enough, I didn't take any of our hosts, and I didn't take any of their apartment or their fabulous pool. I got lots of the condo kitties, which we were trying to socialize so that they can find homes. I'm so glad we got our engagement photos done, because otherwise I'd have almost nothing of the fun times we had there. I guess that's good though--I spent the entire vacation really in the moment enjoying the now instead of trying to document for later enjoyment.

In short, I loved this trip. I hope to go back again. And because I have to, here are the gatitos.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Costa Rica

Seeing places like this is one of the biggest reasons I am trying to be really financially set later in life. So I can MOVE here and go to the pool in the morning and the beach in the afternoon.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ciao for now!

I have this post half-written in my head about wedding planning and money and what all is going on and I just cannot find the time to actually write it!

And now I'm out of time, because we leave for Costa Rica in five hours--yes, that's 3 a.m. local time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Credit Card

I got a new credit card in the mail yesterday. It's a corporate American Express card, something that comes with my new job title. I'll incur expenses occasionally to regularly, and up till now I've just been floating them from my checking account. They've been small, so it wasn't a huge deal.
I was debating whether or not to get the corporate card--it is tied to my social security number and credit, after all--but I finally decided that in the event that I have to make a large purchase or there's a dispute, I don't want my personal funds tied up. I know that I'm responsible enough to keep the bill paid on time, and since I used to handle my boss's expenses, I know that the company pays AmEx in a very timely manner (three days from T&E submission, usually). It's also an interesting chance to test out the free True Credit monitoring service I got as part of a class action lawsuit against Transunion. I've been getting their emails every month but not a single thing has changed, so now there will be something to see!
It's weird to see it in my wallet, though. Actually, I'm not sure I want to keep it in my wallet. That's one more thing to keep track of if it gets lost or stolen. But neither my desk nor my office have locks, so I don't want to just leave it at work, either. I think I'll probably email it to myself (in code) and leave the card itself at home. Most of the purchases I make are online, and the ones that need a physical card for I will usually know about in advance. I think.
If you have a corporate card, what do you do?

Hello out there?

Do I have any readers left? I've been silent for over two weeks! Shameful.
Well, at least I have some good excuses. I've been swamped at work with a #1 New York Times bestselling book (yay!). I've been taken out for tea by a fancy author. I've been extremely productive and want to keep it up.
I've also been working on my graduate thesis. My 2-3 page outline was ten pages. My final proposal was due last week and the first five consecutive pages and final bibliography are due next week.
I performed at a Purim party, which made me realize that I might be getting a bit long in the tooth to be dancing the night away. It took me a couple days to recover from that!
Oh, and then there's that whole wedding planning thing. Honestly, that's taken up more than its fair share of my time and energy, particularly when you understand that nothing's really gotten done. No date, no location, no theme, no colors, no dress, no cake, no food, no flowers, no music, no budget.
Wedding planning is very tricky when you've got divorced parents, grandparents who don't travel, important relatives who live in three states (not including the one whereyou and your fiance live), and you're not too sure on the whole wedding concept anyway.
At any rate, I think we're making strides and I'll do a proper update soon.