With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it may be tempting to make online purchases, but will the savings be worth it once taxes are applied?

It’s no secret that the cost of living is higher here in Costa Rica than anywhere else in the region. That unfortunate number climbs even higher the closer you live to the Americanized, expatriate centers like Escazu and Tamarindo.

Nevertheless, many locals and foreigners feel that any extra charge for food, gas or electronics is nothing in comparison to the country’s numerous benefits. According to Viva Tropical, a renowned travel blog that has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal among other top news sources:

[quote_box_center]Sure you can find cheaper places to live, some even awfully close by.  But Costa Rica offers so much more. In Costa Rica, you get a well-educated strong middle class population who are friendly and welcoming to outsiders.  You get low crime and political stability.  And, dare we forget to mention, you get one of the most amazingly beautiful settings on the entire planet.[/quote_box_center]

So, once the decision has been made to live in pura vida paradise, the question becomes how to to manage these costs.

Import Taxes

The “buy local” fad may have started with just a few ecologically and economically minded people, but the ideology is an old political concept. By and large is in countries’ best interest to keep business within borders, and one of the ways to encourage this is through import taxes and trade tariffs.

This becomes a problem for consumers, however, when comparable products are not produced within their country. Such is the case for Costa Rica where imported microwaves are taxed at 38%, imported fridges at 81% and nearly all other electrical home appliances at 50%. Other import rates for common goods not easily found by Costa Rican producers:

  • Computers, cell phones, cameras — 13%
  • Batteries for computers, cell phones, cameras — 42%
  • TVs — 50%

Makes you think twice about those “great deals” you found online.

Buy Local

Of course there are stores here in Costa Rica that have imported these products at wholesale rates (many from China, fewer from the U.S.) and have paid the associated fees for you. These locations support the local economy by providing jobs for a country which is currently suffering from a whopping 10.1% unemployment.

Furthermore, by purchasing on Costa Rican soil, customers won’t pay the sometimes outrageous costs of international shipping, and while travelers are allowed to carry up to $500 in their suitcase, many of the items worth importing are too bulky to be convenient.

Finally, the convenience of shopping in a real store and being able to take your product home that day is invaluable.

Bottom Line

Before you hit send, make sure to do the math. The hidden costs of importing and international shipping can actually exceed the price paid for that particular item — not to mention the stress of shipment tracking and the unavoidable possibility of damage during travel.

To learn more about local options near you, contact [email protected].

[quote_box_center]Outlet USA ImportsOutlet USA is a Costa Rican importer of U.S. goods located in both La Sabana and Heredia. Since they purchase as wholesale, outlet prices they are able to pass those savings along and sell at rates comparable to the States.

Click here to access a 15% off coupon for your next purchase.[/quote_box_center]