June 2019 Total Living Expenses in the Philippines

Sunsets are Free in the Philippines


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…

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. 

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.

Fifty Shades of Priceless

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. 

Sunrises are free


Rent                    $192
Electricity            $69      
Fiber Internet      $56       
Gym                    $23
Water                   $3
Visa Fees             $59  
Cigarettes            Quit (buying)
Phones                 $5          
Dry Goods            $45          
Laundry                $9
Gas                       $24  
SpaghettiFest      $42 (Donated to event)
Eating Out            $195
Groceries             $94
Unaccounted       $91
       TOTAL       $906

Soban Korean Restaurant

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.

Brigette’s Puppy Breath is Free

‘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.

First Motor in the Philippines – Yamaha YBR125


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

    Average   $977


  1. Very good breakdown and description of what you need for a comfortable life there in Dumaguete.
    Here in Thailand, you can probably add on 30% – 50% for most things except rent (which is same or cheaper depending), electricity, which is cheaper, and internet which is also a bit cheaper but (so I am told) much higher speed.
    I am going to try the Philippines for a few months soon, as apart from the costs, my opinion is that Filipino people are more open and welcoming to foreigners – or aliens as we are called here in Thailand !

  2. Thanks Ned.
    Always appreciate your posts. You and Bud keep us well informed.
    I’m married to a Pinay and within the next few years we will relocating o Duma to spend more with her daughter and family.
    Looking forward to having coffee or a beer with you.
    Take care and be safe.

  3. When you arrived it was the rage for most vloggers to make the budget videos. Now they are mostly a thing of the past. Great for the occasional update though.

    You get what you pay for and I would say it is well worth the bargain there. Keep living the dream!

  4. Always good info Ned. We’ll be moving back Spring 2020 to process adoption 2 nieces to later return WA state. WISH it’s Duma as had been watching and reading all your stuff, as well as others for few yrs…sounds perfect location, or as perfect as RP can be, but we’ll have to do Antipolo or Sta Rosa areas for girls’ schooling to best prep for US, And to get suitable services for our moderately autistic 4 y.o. son. Imagine our expenses will be in that $3500 range. Plan to visit Duma area and explore all the great places you have featured and hope to someday meet you and others, like Bud and Dave there. Cheers!

  5. Ned, always great getting info from you. We (My Filipina S.O.) and I have been in the states now for 5 years but moving back to Ilocos Norte in a few months. Tired of spending all of our money here in the States. I am also retiring from my career in Education Technology and we need to get back to the Phils. Your numbers are pretty right on. For sure living out in the Province is significantly cheaper than Manila. We actually get by on about $700 – $800 a month as we shop at the open market, especially for the night market, instead of Robinsons. Typically we go to Robinsons about once a month maybe less. The seafood, chicken, eggs, etc. and veggies are fresher at the open market where all the venders bring their stuff. We actually keep an apartment there in Ilocos Norte since the rent is so cheap ($170/month) even though we are not there. Her family keeps it inhabited on a regular basis and keeps it clean for us. On a different topic, did you have any trouble sending your electronics, purchased in the US from your most recent trip, back to the Phils via balikbyan boxes?? We were reading the “official” instructions for sending “B” boxes and they say no computers or electronics. Any tricks to that? We are planning on sending 4 or so boxes back ahead of us and I have a bit of electronics and computers that I would like to send over. Thanks for your informative Vlog and info. Once we are back in the PH and if you ever find yourself in the Laoag City area, stop in.

    1. I had no issues brining seven laptops and six Samsung S9’s in my checked in luggage. The BB box has not yet arrived so I don’t know yet. The shipper said they have been having no issues with electronics or anything else. The BB box has a laser printer and six more laptops in it, so we will have to see. (It’s all used stuff, though.)

      1. Thanks Ned! We are getting ready to send 3 Jumbo BB boxes by FOREX. Was going to use Atlas, but the cost was more than FOREX. (Going to Ilocos Norte) I am also planning to send my printer and a computer, so hope all goes well, for you as well as me. Most of what is going in the boxes is clothes, wife’s shoes and purses.

        As far as expenses goes, we watch TV Patrol and from what we have seen, we are not that worried about the fluctuation of food prices. Our rent has not changed in 8 years there. We will be building a house in the next couple of years and pretty sure that labor has not changed much either.

  6. After following you sens 15 and moving here in 17 it’s ben fun to see you and your life style. I have been with the same woman since 16 and I have been in heaven. There is 20 years difference in us she well be 50 years old she makes me feel so much younger. Tops 1500 usd if we do a trip 1000 usd most of the time

  7. One of the problems most expats experience, and don’t plan for, is a medical emergency. Nobody plans to have a heart attack, or a stroke, but, face it, most of expats are older guys, and even healthy, athletic guys can have a heart attack. It would be cool for you to do a video segment on that aspect of living in the Phils. The hospitals all want cash, and they prefer for you to be paid in full before discharge. I had a surgery in Cebu, so I have some experience with their medical system. It was a private hospital, and I got excellent care. I just had to pay 150,000 pesos before I could leave. PhilHealth is more of a discount card than anything. I think I saved about 30,000 pesos by using PhilHealth. Anyway, everyone looks at how cheap everything is, but they don’t plan for medical emergencies. Honestly, I’d suggest having at least 1 million pesos in the bank saved up for medical expenses. If you’re married, save twice that amount. Also, depending on your blood type, it can be very difficult to get blood for transfusion in the Philippines, and, yes, you have to pay for the blood. The Philippines is a beautiful country with an amazing culture, but it is a third world country. There are some harsh realities that can come to bite you in the ass if you aren’t prepared for them.

    Great info, as always, Ned. Your channel really helped me make the transition to the Philippines, and the info probably saved me a lot of heartburn while I was there. Cheers!

    1. EXCELLENT point and thanks for adding that. These are only my Philippines expenses – I don’t include my budget for health insurance in the US. If ya don’t mind, I will probably insert what you posted here directly in the book.

  8. Thanks for another great article.
    Congrats on the smoking 🙂
    Hope you keep enjoying life in Dumaguete.

  9. The lifestyle in the Philippines is very much a slow paced life from what I have seen unlike the rat race in the United States. I’m still planning to move to the Philippines several years from now and I’m gathering information to prepare myself for such a big move. Do you game online on your PS4? If so, add me OrDeR66-lorddevi

    I do enjoy watching your videos on youtube and they are very informative. I have seen several Youtuber’s who have given a wealth of knowledge about living in the Philippines.

    1. Thanks, Devin. You are right – it is slow, sometimes painfully so. I don’t do a whole lot of online gaming as the lag in the Philippines is simply to high for twitch shooters. Yeah, it is 50 MB fiber optic, but it still uses the Philippines homebrewed backbone which results in pings of 175-270 MS to servers in the United States. Still looking forward to Borderlands 3, though.

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