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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

How to get by on a shoestring in Costa Rica: The story of Banana Bread Steve

A while back I met Steve, who had lived in Hawaii for many years. He moved to Costa Rica because Hawaii had become very expensive and he wanted to make his early retirement “nest egg” go further. Steve had always been used to living frugally and in the process amassed a few hundred thousand dollars.

Within a few months of moving here, Steve invested his life savings in two high interest -yielding investment schemes with the idea of doubling his money in a few years. This was his game plan, but unfortunately both of his investments went “belly up.” Steve was left with only a few thousand dollars to his name. As we mentioned Steve had mastered the art of living on very little money but had never been faced without having resources while living abroad.

Steve knew that he would not be able to draw his pension for four more years. So, he thought of returning to the States to work and then moving back to Costa Rica when he got back on his feet. However, he became involved with a nice Costa Rican woman and had also fallen deeply in love with the country.

His close friends provided him with a place to live for free, but he still had to find a way to generate an income. Fortunately, Steve was born tinkerer and blessed with the ability to repair almost anything. So, he ended up doing odd jobs in exchange for small sums of money and food.

After a while, he figured that the only way he could continue to live in Costa Rica was to start a small business. Steve had one big problem: no money with which to finance his venture. His pride kept him for asking for a loan from friends. He started to look at small business and do research on the Internet.

Lo and behold, it did not take him long to come up with a good idea. He came across an online recipe for banana bread and his business was born. He then purchased a mixing machine and convection oven and began to turn out his product.  

Steve sold his homemade banana bread to tourists, Costa Ricans and his many friends in the city of Heredia for about three years

Unfortunately, Steve’s luck ran out and he passed away just after starting to collect his Social Security checks. Steve was a born survivor. All of his friends and customers admired him for his perseverance despite having to live on a shoestring for many years.

Besides being called Banana Bread Steve, he also had another nickname. Since he had lived most of his life in Hawaii, he always wore flip flop sandals, thus earning the name chancletas (sandals in Spanish).

Expats who resided in San José at the time remember another gringo who fell on hard times and sold banana bread, too. His nickname was “Banana Bread Bruce.”

The moral of this story is not to relocate to Costa Rica with limited resources or make investments that seem too good to be true as Steve did.

Christopher Howard is a Costa Rican citizen who conducts monthly relocation tours see: He has also authored guidebooks about the country :

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