Cost of Living in the Philippines – Another Update!

How Much Does It Cost To Live In The Philippines!

I was sitting here contemplating whether I even felt like putting out a post today. Then I happened upon a Yahoo News Article that painted a rather bleak picture to anyone in the western world aspiring to live or retire in the Philippines (P120k monthly needed…) . If anyone currently sitting on the decision fence were to see this, they could easily resign themselves to a life of drudgery where they live currently. In other words, if it was necessary to have this exaggerated level of income to live comfortably here, then why would anyone subject themselves to live a life in poverty abroad, when they can easily do it at home?

It’s Not One Size Fits All.

Every once in a while, information runs astray like an askal dog… off in any which direction. Many of the online Philippines and expat forums are always full of chatter on this topic, and sometimes full of arguments, about how much it takes to live in the Philippines. Some guys that offer up certain amounts about the cost of living may be fairly accurate while others might be swimming in a Red Horse brew. How do you sort through it all? You can’t really. And it wasn’t all that complicated, the new Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte promises to strengthen the Peso against foreign currencies during his first year in office! There are so many variables and if you took the time to try to figure it all out, you would more than likely miss the retirement boat altogether. Yes, there is that much information to sort through. If you have read any of my previous articles over the years that pertain to cost of living in the Philippines, you will know that I address the subject of “How Much” from an individual’s own perspective. It is entirely up to the individual, based upon their own expectations of a certain living standard, enjoying that standard of living in the Philippines, and their ability to fund that lifestyle. The lifestyles of expats living in the Philippines are as varied as that found anywhere else in the world, from living as squatters to living in large 5 bedroom homes with swimming pool and a view. Lifestyles here are extremely income dependent.

Survivor Philippines

Thrive or Survive in the Philippines – It’s up to you!

Time For an Update!

It is difficult to know how any foreigner coming to the Philippines to live, expects to live. Many aspiring expats contact me through this blog or my YouTube channel and comment on my lifestyle. “You have it made!” some will say… and without any knowledge of how we got here and how we sustain ourselves. I have tried to spell it out in several previous articles about retiring to the Philippines through Researching & Planning, and all that still holds true. I know now that trying to explain to someone how much it will cost them to live here is just an exercise in futility. While the current exchange rates are favoring the USD (June 2016), things are not going so well for the Aussie Dollar or the British Pound. Other currency holders will just have to work on their own conversions. Because there are so many variables that can dictate the level of one’s lifestyle here, I will address the cost to live here with the most basic of costs…

  • Housing – varies tremendously with locale. Provincial living can be a bargain while living in Cebu or Manila can be very expensive. Whether you build, buy or rent also will determine your monthly outflow. (Note foreigners cannot own land here, but you can lease and build or purchase in your spouses name).
  • Food – Probably the most stable cost across the Philippines with little variance is food, with the big exception of imported foods. If you can eat like a Filipino or simple Asian dishes, you can really stretch out your budget. If you eat nothing but pizza, cheeseburgers, fish & chips with Yorkshire pudding for all your meals, it is going to cost more than you know! (and I have to ask why are you moving here in the first place?)
  • Transportation – Another flexible cost. While taking public transportation here can be inexpensive (and sometimes inconvenient), it can cost ever more depending on where you live in relation to your everyday conveniences. Living out in the province, transportation can add up quickly and destroy one’s budget. Having your own simple transportation like a scooter or trike can provide you with more convenience and flexibility and maybe save you some money. If you want to drive your own car, pick-up or large SUV, expect to shell out the funds for fuel, maintenance and other operating costs.
  • Medical – Here is where I cannot begin to help out. While simple Dr.’s office visits can be considered a bargain, more serious health issues should be tied to insurance plans. There are many plans available here (and some that are import-able) to fit individual and family needs and that may be particular to each individuals own health profile or regimen. Additionally, because medical and prescription drugs [availability and expenses] can vary from location to location, this will require extensive individual research. I know some guys that complain that they cannot get the prescriptions they need locally and in some cases, are required to travel to gain access to medicines.

All other living costs can be categorized and determined by wants and needs (note the big difference in these two), from child care expenses to education, and clothing allowances to travel. Do you need aircon 24/7 or just while sleeping? Do you have a hobby that needs funding. Recreation needs? Nightlife? Is your GF or wife a spendthrift, or is she good with money management. Now, throw in some cultural and family expectations! More money will be needed!!!!

You need Peso-nality to be comfortable.

 

The Real Deal:

My wife and I built our home here over the course of about 6 years (while still working in the U.S.) and once we arrived here, we completed it and moved in. We have no monthly housing costs other than utilities (electric, water, cable, internet, and cell phones). Our entire house is air-conditioned with hot water in two CR’s and the kitchen sink, we use a microwave oven, other appliances and a washing machine. Our electric bill averages P11,000 per month which is close to what we were paying in the U.S. (elec, water, sewer, sanitation) before our retirement, and is by far, our biggest expense. Other monthly fixed bills are as follows:

  • Water – P700 (we have a lawn and garden and wash our car)
  • Gas (for cooking) P400
  • Cable – P320 (paid annually which gives us 10% discount)
  • Internet – P1,500 (and it sucks)
  • Phone loads – Her-P500; Me-P50-100 (I rarely use my phone).

We own a new car and a motorcycle (no payments). While we are not on a Filipino meal budget, we also do not eat out a lot. We enjoy some western foods and my wife likes to BBQ and cooks hybrid meals that we both enjoy at home. We do not have a night life, we are daytime peeps. We like to go to the beach (we live next to one) and we do some traveling on occasion. We do a little shopping and we work at home and around the yard to stay busy (we have NO domestic helpers at this time). We enjoy going to fiestas, visiting with friends, and relaxing at home with a few beers (and a little wine now and then). We we get things done by ourselves, according to our own standards, and it keeps us busy in a good way. We have seen very little inflation over the last three years. Life is good, because we planned it this way. You can too!

Travel First, Then Locate!

The best and most honest advice myself and other expats will give you – Come for a visit, stay a while, spend your money, collect some data (okay, a lot of data), go back home, and then start over! Start over with your research, your goals, your desires and expectations, your planning, and your budget. And if you don’t have an income to support all of the above, then don’t do it until you do! There are always those individuals who think they can do it on very little income, or those who think they can start a business or make money online AFTER they arrive. They are the ones who eventually wind up returning home with their tail between their legs… broke. There is an old saying that goes: “The way to make a small fortune in the Philippines is by starting with a big one!” That is for sure the best advice anyone can give.

Check out some of my other articles on Retiring, Moving to, and Living in the Philippines to gain a better understanding of what it takes to live in paradise!

Try this one: The Simple Life, or is it?

Evening at the beach

Life can be good… when you plan for it!

Also, please SUBSCRIBE to my Retired in Samar YouTube channel for my latest videos! Don’t forget to hit the SUBSCRIBE link!

 

 

 

 

 

 

34 thoughts on “Cost of Living in the Philippines – Another Update!

  1. How big was your house before if the electricity bill was about the same? Or maybe the rate in province is higher in Manila. My bill is about 16k a month – and we use 2-3 aircons per night and I have total 3 fridges. I would have thought that my bill is high but now it seems low.

    • We had an 1850sf home in the U.S. with central hvac, but our bill also included water, sewer, and sanitation (trash collection). Our bill here is slightly more, but then again, it is year round almost homogeneous conditions we are dealing with. I’m not complaining too much because of the comfort we enjoy.

      • Then I understand. I don’t aircon the house 24/7 – and aircon living room/kitchen not even every week. Then the difference is ok. Keep up the good work with the blog. Greetings from rainy Manila.

        • Kalle, we actually run the AC about 14-18 hours per day (between two units). The house is insulated so that helps it to stay cool. It’s not really the coolness we are after, it is the low humidity which helps to preserve things. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I tell anyone (that listens) that most guys think about this wrong. Instead of worry about how much it takes to live in the Philippines or anywhere else, you’re better off determining how much you will have and budgeting accordingly. Have $1000-1500/month and want to live in Makati – no way. You’ll need to live modestly in the provinces.

    Was a bit surprised at your electric bill. That amount is equal to my current electric + gas bill. I assume you are running those aircons a lot.

    • Dave, you are almost spot on with the costs of living in the province. like I mentioned, the entire house is Aircon’d… all day, everyday. The benefits? 1) Comfort. 2) Extended food storage- spices, sugar, flour, etc., we keep a pantry full of food and it lasts because of low humidity. 3) Easier on the ref to keep thing cold. 4) No mosquitoes because we keep the house closed up. 5) Improved sanity!

  3. Your lack of rent or house payment is clearly a huge benefit. Would a “domestic helper” be your biggest expense if you were to hire one?

    • We could hire one at a cost of about P4,000 per month, but we choose not to at this time. Electricity and food would still be our biggest expenses.

  4. Nice article randy planning is the biggest thing you could do before moving to the Philippines. Like you we have been working on this move for years. For us having a house built and furnished before a move was very important. We are scheduled to close on the sell of our house her in the states on the first of August. Still working on my 13A visa hopfully it will all be completed buy the end of July.
    After closing on the house we will be packing up the last of are kitchen in BB boxes shipping them out. selling our truck. Then rent a vehicle load it with a bunch of articles for my wife sister drive to oak harbor Washington. And Depart from there the end of August.
    Now that we have plans laid out I give myself about 1 to 5 odds that it will go smooth hahahah.
    By the way for anyone looking at moving to the Philippines I would suggest that they should read threw your blog and dave’s blog.

  5. best article I ever read in this subject Randy…..
    I’ve noticed that you modified your kayak, why is that?

  6. another good article Randy.

    Right now, my wife is in Dumaguete visiting friends before she heads back to Calbayog, According to her and her friends in Dumaguete, not counting on housing rental (try own their own home), they spend on an average of $350 (US) per month on gas/water/electric/cable/internet/phone and 1 live in helper, which includes paying the Phil-Health for domestic help. The also spend between $300 – $500 (US) on food, depending on how often they eat out, and about another $100 (US) on others, such as movies and visiting places.

    Total cost is under $1K (US) per month, and my wife was looking at a few nice rental homes around $750 (US), and a few apartments under $500 (US).

    I don’t know where this person is staying and how much the are partying, but spending P120k monthly sounds like they are living the High Life.

    • Thanks for the kudos Rich! $350USD for all that is quite reasonable in my opinion. Ours would add up to a little more because of our air conditioning costs. We probably spend more than that on food just for the two of us and a few family guests every month. Dumaguete sounds high in the rent department though!

  7. When I lived in the PI (Philippine Islands) my income was about $1200, I very rarely wanted for cash. I did not live like most foreigners though. I did not have a house I paid $80,000 for or a new car. I had a used truck (drop side, Toyota) and a motorcycle. I lived most of the time at the leisure of Filipino acquaintances, mostly for “free”. It is too easy to show up at some far away place and start making acquaintances, “loan” an old woman some cash for permission to make a “native” house on her lot, “buy” a power meter, “tabo” your water and live very simply. I liked to farm and great stretches of marginal, depleted, land can be used for simply adding fertilizer and sharing in the harvest. No need for aircon, fan is sufficient. A trip to the beach at 6AM gets some of the best fish you ever ate dirt cheap. Veggies are cheap everyplace.
    Entertainment always costs cash though. Mostly I read or went to internet cafes daily. I gardened. nights I sang with the locals. Once a week or so I visited the local expat group and remembered what it was like to tell a joke in English and have the guys get it. I loved adventure! wondering looking for actual undisturbed jungle ( I never found it), I swam in some really nice rivers above small villages, spent days with people in one room shacks 6 miles by foot from any serviceable road, lived in 100% Muslim communities for months where Abu, MINLF and several others ruled, courted lots of women, owned a small banca for a while, lived on a beach in a one room shack made from drift materials, ran a logging operation, trucked vegetables for a while, like THAT! I never did anything longer than it was fun, for about 20 years.
    It is impossible to know what it will cost you to live in the PI as it is impossible to know the opportunities you will find valuable for a pass time. It is impossible to see what you are buying today and think that what is offered in the PI is what is available there, electric service is not what you get in the US, Internet, food safety, health care, police enforcement, justice system, fair pricing, the quality of consumer goods, work ethic, all are vastly different than those things described abroad.
    I may insult Filipinos describing my experiences, I may sound like I hated my time there, but this is not accurate. I played 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 20 years. An ya, I miss it. I loved my time there.

  8. When I lived in the PI (Philippine Islands) my income was about $1200, I very rarely wanted for cash. I did not live like most foreigners though. I did not have a house I paid $80,000 for or a new car. I had a used truck (drop side, Toyota) and a motorcycle. I lived most of the time at the leisure of Filipino acquaintances, mostly for “free”. It is too easy to show up at some far away place and start making acquaintances, “loan” an old woman some cash for permission to make a “native” house on her lot, “buy” a power meter, “tabo” your water and live very simply. I liked to farm and great stretches of marginal, depleted, land can be used for simply adding fertilizer and sharing in the harvest. No need for aircon, fan is sufficient. A trip to the beach at 6AM gets some of the best fish you ever ate dirt cheap. Veggies are cheap everyplace.
    Entertainment always costs cash though. Mostly I read or went to internet cafes daily. I gardened. nights I sang with the locals. Once a week or so I visited the local expat group and remembered what it was like to tell a joke in English and have the guys get it. I loved adventure! wondering looking for actual undisturbed jungle ( I never found it), I swam in some really nice rivers above small villages, spent days with people in one room shacks 6 miles by foot from any serviceable road, lived in 100% Muslim communities for months where Abu, MINLF and several others ruled, courted lots of women, owned a small banca for a while, lived on a beach in a one room shack made from drift materials, ran a logging operation, trucked vegetables for a while, like THAT! I never did anything longer than it was fun, for about 20 years.
    It is impossible to know what it will cost you to live in the PI as it is impossible to know the opportunities you will find valuable for a pass time. It is impossible to see what you are buying today and think that what is offered in the PI is what is available there, electric service is not what you get in the US, Internet, food safety, health care, police enforcement, justice system, fair pricing, the quality of consumer goods, work ethic, all are vastly different than those things described abroad.
    I may insult Filipinos describing my experiences, I may sound like I hated my time there, but this is not accurate. I played 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 20 years. An ya, I miss it. I loved my time there.

    • Some things you can replace like electricity, sanitation and water. Other things you cannot replace like memories. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Will be retiring to the Phil in just over a year with my asawa…between SSI and 401k I will have around 2k per month…plan to live comfortably but not lavishly…part western part pinoy…lol..she is tighter than bark on a tree when it comes to money…looking for my own simple life…

    • You can live very comfortably on 2k per month… unless you need a penthouse in Makati! In the province, you will live well! Where do you intend on settling, if I may ask?

      • At this time we are planning on setting down in Dumaguete ..Judith is from Cebu..

        • I have never been to Dumaguete, but I hear it offers more than some places. They have a substantial expat population there.

    • I think the best advise I can give you is go slowly. You did not develop your asset base in the USA(?) in a day, do not think you can replace all those items quickly. Take a year to buy a car, do not buy a house unless it is the most important thing to you. Even appliances take time to acquire.
      But the most important advise is that, never take anything to the Philippines that you can’t walk away from and still do OK.
      In my estimation the turning point for most guys who say ” I will retire and finish my life in the Philippines” is at 12 years or so, very few indeed last longer than 20 years. What changes? Health issues ( it is one thing to say you will die in the Philippines and something quite different to face long term perhaps painful or depilating illness and suffering when you know there is “free” or low cost cure where you came from), get tired of the bullshit (most things are just a little or a lot harder in the Philippines), have children (or wives) who need to be educated where they plan to work(when you are gone), it gets too costly visiting family, friends and hobbies you thought you would not miss before when planning, and/or you tired of being a perpetual outsider. I know in your heart that today you feel that retirement in the Philippines is clearly the best choice, but a guy who has been there and done that, is telling you that things change for a vastly larger percentage of guys who started out like you than is represented on any web site about retiring. This website is a good example, he has been in the Philippines 4 years, that is nothing! At four years I had not even figured out that for a foreigner, every place is as dangerous as the next, because safety in anyplace in the Philippines depends on who you know, so Filipinos feel safe working their local contacts and afraid where they have no local contacts. This is why you hear always ” it is safe here, but don’t go there (Mindanao) and then you go “there” and they tell you the same thing about where you just left.
      The hardest thing to do long term is keep busy, developing a hobby can be very costly. You know you are at the beginning of the end when you hear yourself say ” I think I will start a small business to keep busy”. We foreigners seem to think that we have special knowledge acquired by living where things work, ignoring that Filipinos are VERY smart, that the look, the feel, the business climate, are the result of careful prolonged examination of life/culture/laws in the Philippines by very smart people who had access to capital. I never tired of trying to answer the perpetual question “If intelligence is spread fairly evenly across the globe, why does this place think and do what everybody else does in life, so differently?” and spent days, weeks and sometimes years looking for answers (my hobby). Far and away most foreigners spend their time inside of walled compounds most of the time, TV is in a foreign language!
      Keep your options open. Keep your life savings out of the country. You will not be able to sell your stuff for anywhere near what you paid for it if you try to leave.
      Take this advise from a guy who lived there 20 years and loved almost all of it. Who went to a expat group at least once a week in the 30+ communities I lived in at one time or another. Who today has gout, Leukemia and an ulcer. Who has a wife and 3 kids (all born in the Philippines) who he loves and realizes that their future is where they will want to earn their livings where the pay is the highest. Who really wants to go back and relive my time in the Philippines but simply can’t. You think it is hard to start from scratch in the Philippines, try it in the USA with a wife and 3 kids.

  10. We visited Dumaguete for a few days to look around and visit with some YouTube expats that I had been following…after stepping off the ferry I immediately felt at home…maybe due to the large number of expats living there, I was no longer an object of curiosity for the locals …I think it offers a lot for me at this time…something in the middle western/philippine…

    • I thought Dumagete was expensive. You have to go quite a ways south to get to where land prices are reasonable. I don’t think going north you can ever find low cost land. ( or low cost beer)
      Yes I saw a lot of expats there, but they were mostly in a mindset different than I was (beach/beer thinking).
      You thinking that your presence will not be unusual is probably not accurate.
      I cannot recommend strongly enough living in a place for years before committing assets that are very hard to replace.
      I lived in Cebu City 3 years and I hated it (hot, dirty, dangerous, expensive).
      Some of my favorite places were Dipolog (live south, east or southeast of town 20 klm) Great fruit and fish cheap, below the typhoon belt, low humidity, a very pretty place, cleaner than most, many expats, good shopping, an airport, fast ferry, small town feel. Another was CDO (live 30klm south of town) good public transportation, an airport, good shopping, great public market, not far to get out of town (for peace and quiet).
      A lot is to be said for living P500 from her relatives.

    • But, with a larger expat community comes some higher prices and cost of housing. An abundance of expats, IMHO, do not raise ones quality of life – less stress does! After several years here, we have done without many western products and have adjusted with no problem. We have found it rather easy to live without a grocery baskets of imported goods. Think small steps! lol

  11. Yes I understand…but it will be a good place to start…then who knows…

  12. Maybe I will be retired then and we can meet up and have a beer…I’m planning on seeing a lot of the PI..Samar might be a nice stop…lol

  13. Here is my 2 cents: I live just south of “retired” in Gandara, Samar Province: my wife looked and laughed at “retireds” budget (great website, btw) which, as he said widely varies from person to person and it should also be pointed out Philippinos have very large families so any retirement age man like me is likely to find a philippina with several kids, as I did -she has 1 sister and 5 brothers and 128 cousins- but I knew that going in. There is 7 kids here and 3 other adults. We built our own house, very cheap by California standards, so no rent. We have only our bedroom air-con but we still pay p4,000-5,000 a month for electricity, which is off many hours for the dozens of “brownouts (blackouts)” each month. Outrageous. Part of the problem is Philippinos don’t understand turning a light off when you leave a room AND THEY SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON! After 2 years of complaining they are turning more lights off and mostly sleep in the dark. Drinking water: p1,500 a month. Cable: p600 a month (the more you pay, the more channels you get; I need my Fox Sports, no ESPN here) ; Internet also p1,500 a month AND IT’S A NIGHTMARE, I paid less in the U.S. and it was high speed with no data restrictions, DO NOT MOVE HERE IF you need state-of–the-art internet! Cooking gas p700; phone loads p700. Food costs, philippine style, p5,000 a week for all those people, a pretty good deal. Transportation dirt cheap. I would stress what “retired” has already said: 1st live here temporarily for several months, it is VERY different than the U.S., medications, especially over-the-counter is a real problem. If you are rich and can afford Cebu or Manila, it’s not so drastic, especially if you can find an expat colony, which I haven’t. You’d be surprised how much you are used to American slang, cultural references, etc, I end up talking to the air or the TV a a lot. I find very few philippinos outside of tourist places can speak english, though most can understand you. Culture is different -Kathniel, Janine, Lizquen, etc. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m complaining a lot, I just found out living in the Philippines is harder than I expected and living here isn’t for sissies, you need to be prepared to give up a lot. If you can, as some have, then indeed you can have a good or even great life! I was a lonely, childless widower only child before I came here and I wouldn’t give up my step children and step nieces and nephews for all the tea in China. They call me “daddy” and treat me like a a king, which certainly wasn’t happening in America!. I’m just trying to write what I would have wanted to read if I was still living in the U.S. and thinking of moving here. Sorry this was so long.

  14. Here are my costs: Note that Philippine families can be large, my wife has 5 brothers, 1 sister and 128 cousins. I lose count after 40 people during the holidays…anyway, here there are 5 assorted children and 4 adults, we built a modest house, only a room a/c. Electricity is p4-5,000 month, partly because Philippinos don’t turn the lights off when they leave a room and sleep with the lights on! And that is with dozens of “brownouts” (blackouts) a month. Water is p1,500, cable p600 -the more you pay, the more channels you get- Internet also p1,500, which I paid in the U.S. except it’s slow and has VERY limited data, unlike my unlimited high speed internet in the U.S. It’s a nightmare. Gas p700. Wife’s phone load: p700. Transportation dirt cheap but not meant for 6ft foreigners, lol. Food costs reasonable, as retired said, if you eat like a Philippine, which I do. Jolibee, the national fast food chain, same prices as U.S., I only go on special occasions. As the man said, 1st try to stay here a few months to see if living in the Philippines is for you; it is VERY different, different language -I have found Philippines in the provinces understand some english but don’t speak it- different culture, some things, especially medicines, harder to get than at home, horrible internet, constant power outages, dirty bathrooms and other things we take for granted in America. Of course, if you are rich and can live in Manila or Cebu your quality of life will be much better (just like in America!). I came for love, a devoted wife, my step children and nieces and nephews treat me like a king, which after my wife died -we had no children- was exactly what I needed! Her family is also extremely polite and accommodating. I just want others still in America, etc, to count the costs before retiring here. Flip-flops and shorts 365 days a year 🙂

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