As I am wont to say (for numerous reasons), life is cheap in the Philippines. Some might even go on to say ridiculously cheap. I haven’t put together a monthly expenses report in quite a while. In fact, the last one I did seems to have been back in June of 2016! And since this is June of 2019, what better time to see if anything has changed when it comes to the cost of living in the Philippines.
Short answer is…. not really.
OK, we’re done here…
HOW EXPENSIVE IS THE PHILIPPINES?
This is still one of the most often asked questions that I receive. And – as noted previously – it all really depends on what you want and are willing to spend. Survival on $300 a month is doable if you can survive on roadside carinderia food (or dried fish and rice) and don’t mind living in a nipa hut. Conversely, if you want to live is a three bedroom duplex condominium in the high roller neighborhoods of Manila, eat imported steak and potatoes everyday and party til the sun comes up, you are looking more at $4,000 USD a month. I am sort of in the lower middle of those two extremes. I like my secure, concrete rented home, my air conditioning (it’s hot in the Philippines!), my 52 inch LED TV, my PS4, eating out at decent restaurants and going on trips. I have a simple Honda Click 125i that is my only source of transportation, have a gym membership and don’t spend any money on helpers or anything like that.
WHAT IS EXPENSIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES
Groceries imported from other countries are expensive ($3 yogurt, anyone?), especially if you are a fan of beef. Electricity rates are also up there, with the cost per KWh being about twice that of the United States (.25 cents here vs. .12 in the US). Gasoline is also generally more expensive here at $3.86 a gallon ($1.05/liter – not an issue if you are driving a scooter that gets 90 miles per gallon). If you want to go out to eat at an American-based chain like TGIF, that is going to run you about the same amount of money as in the United States (which seems like a LOT here). Finally, buying ‘branded’ electronics like Onkyo, Denon, Bose, Apple and the like are also going to be more expensive in the Philippines.
WHAT IS CHEAP IN THE PHILIPPINES?
Rent and labor continue to be the big savers in the Philippines. Prospective expats can expect to pay between $160-$400 for mid- to higher-end apartment or house rentals. (Similarly SIZED condominiums are more expensive.) Labor costs are also low, so getting landscaping, housework, auto/bike repairs or electronic costs much less that what you would pay in the West. Maids, for example, can be had for about $60 a month. Local vegetables are also cheap, especially at the local markets. And in a case of you get what you pay for, a number of really cheap, tier-three Chinese goods can be had at local China-shops. They might break within a week or two, but the stuff is so inexpensive, you probably won’t notice. Finally, the cost of smaller (less than 220 CC) motorbikes/scooters is a lot less than what you would find in your home country. If a scooter cost as much in the Philippines as it did in the United States, everyone would still be tooling around on horse carts and carabao.
THE BREAKDOWN $1 USD = 52 PHILIPPINE PESOS
Fiber Internet $56
Visa Fees $59
Cigarettes Quit (buying)
Dry Goods $45
SpaghettiFest $42 (Donated to event)
Eating Out $195
Rent: Has only gone up $36 over the past five years. Landlord is fair and has treated me well. He also likes having a Kano tenant as the rent is always paid (his words, not mine).
Fiber: Although pricey, I am very happy with our PLDT fiber optic internet. If you are a new subscriber, be sure to get the 25 MB instead of the 50 MB. You will save 1,000 pesos a month and won’t notice the difference.
Gym: I belong to P&E Fitness across from the Capital building. Nothing fancy, but it works for me.
Visa: Just came back so starting anew. One month renewal after first free 30 days is about sixty bucks. After this, I can do two-month renewals for about a dollar a day.
Cigarettes: I quit on April 10th. I have slipped a few times this week after getting off the patch but I am still doing good. If you do smoke, it’s getting close to $2 a pack for ‘branded’ cigarettes like Marlboro and Winston.
Phones: The SMART Mega250 gives you unlimited texting to all networks for thirty days and three hours of calls to other SMART numbers for around five bucks a month. Call quality sucks in the Philippines (connection and constant background noise), so I only text. Works for me. (SMART GigaSurf449 is also good with unlimited texts all networks, unlimited calls to SMART/TNT/Sun, 1 GB/day of video streaming and 2 GB/month of open access data for about 9 dollars a month.)
Groceries: Gotta eat, man. This is for groceries purchased at Hypermart and Robinsons and for my weekly excursions to the Daro Produce Market.
Dry Goods: Dishes, pots, laundry detergent, towels, cookware, string, bulbs and anything else you can’t eat.
Eating Out: Dumaguete has some good restaurants. My favorites are Soban for Korean, Lord Byrons for ribs and burgers, Halang-Halang for smoking hot Szechuan, Café Racer for its awesome aircon and comfort food and – of course – Esturya for pizza. Eating out isn’t that expensive. Splitting a pizza for dinner costs $7, splitting a jeyuk bokkeum (spicy pork stir fry) at Soban is all the same and entrees at Byrons and Halang are about $3 to $5 each. It’s actually a lot easier and just as cheap to eat out in the Philippines as it is to go shopping, cook and then have to clean up your mess.
Laundry: Laundry at Gentle Bubble is same-day machine service. And since they call me “Need,” I always say “Ate, I Neeed my laundry washed. Five kilos is around 3 dollars washed, dried and folded.
‘Pink House’ came to me unfurnished. Not being a total Viking, I had to get some stuff to furnish it. Buying bed frames, chairs, futon, dressers, hot water heater, air conditioners, sheets, towels, and the like cost about $3,200 in 2013. I also bought a new YBR125 for $1,500, a 47 inch LED TV for $500 and a desktop computer system for about $820.
TRACKED MONTHLY LIVING EXPENSES
July 2014 1,058
Aug 2014 940
Sep 2014 1,160
Oct 2014 1,113
Nov 2014 1,183
Dec 2014 1,198
Jan 2015 1,059
Feb 2015 1,193
Sept 2015 1,113
Oct 2015 794
Jan 2016 958
June 2016 826
June 2019 906