In the United States, I was lower middle class (or something along those lines). Here in the Philippines, however, I am a Peso multi-millionaire!!
Then again, its 45 pesos to the dollar right now…..
In ninety days, I have spent approximately $10, 500 USD. Hoo-wah, big spender! It seems like a lot, but it factors in the purchase of a brand new Yamaha YBR 125G ($1,500) and my Mitsubishi Pajero ($6,000). Doing the math, it appears as if I am running a monthly budget of about $1,000 USD. Not too shabby. You might have heard that foreign currency goes a long ways here in the Philippines. If you did, you heard right. My monthly spending budget is about $1,500, and I haven’t come close to that. Keep in mind also that I have been overspending on rent (15K pesos or $350) as I am staying at Dumaguete Studio Apartments, a lovely accommodation that is overpriced but absolutely perfect for a newly arrived expat noob like myself. [Typically, expats are paying anywhere from 6K-10K pesos per month for rent (about $135 to $230 USD) for nice apartments or even entire houses. ]. Another unexpected expense was the 6K pesos ($135) I had to pay for antibiotics for the near-septic infection I got from a sea urchin “attack.”
My little Pajero
Electricity is more expensive than it is in the US. My monthly electric here has been about 3.5K pesos or $70 USD – and that is with aircon running at night because I am a wuss when trying to sleep in humid air.
Food here is dirt cheap. I like Filipino food, and my daily food costs are around 700 pesos or fifteen bucks. I eat out all the time at carinderias, which are local roadside places that are typically frequented more by Filipinos than by expat ‘kanos.” Usually, I get a cup of rice, some vegetables, and meat entrée for approximately 75 pesos ($1.70). Also like the Filipinos, I tend to eat smaller but more numerous meals throughout the day which seems to work well in a hot and humid environment. I also purchase eggs from a local farm for approximately 6 pesos each (about $1.60 per dozen) and attend the local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. The only time food is actually expensive here is when you are taking a date out for a night on the town. Still, the cost is rather relative, as it only costs between 800 and 1200 pesos for a yummy meal for two($17-25).
Chicken Pa’a – Mang Inasal Resto – 110 Pesos
Partially consumed escabeche – So yummy!!! 200 pesos
Gift of dried fish from my girlfriend – couldn’t eat it but it was free!
The most expensive food item I purchased here was at Thank God it’s Fridays (TGIF) in Cebu City, where I wolfed down a Jack Daniels cheeseburger which cost me 800 pesos or approximately $18 USD. The giant meal also sent me in to a vicious food coma. 🙂
TGIF Cebu – Jack Daniels Burger
The cost of labor is also remarkably cheap. A visit to a doctor cost approximately 200 pesos ($4.50). Labor for getting your car repaired is approximately 100 pesos ($2) per hour. I just recently had the fuel pump on my Mitsubishi Pajero completely rebuilt and only costs 5000 pesos ($112). Not too shabby.
The cost of gasoline is little more expensive than the United States. Strangely enough, or more likely logically enough, the price of diesel is cheaper than gasoline. Thsi actually makes sese, as it is cheaper to refine than it is gasoline. Again, this is in contrast to the cost of fuel in the United States. Right now gasoline costs 55 pesos per liter and diesel fuel costs 47 pesos per liter. A lot of the vehicles in the Philippines run on diesel due to these cost savings and better overall mileage per tank of gas. The Pajero I have is a manual diesel and gets approximately 40 miles to the gallon.
Going out on adventures around the islands is also pretty cheap. The five hour bus-ferry-bus trip from Dumaguete to the second biggest city in the Phils, Cebu, set me back around 750 pesos ($15). You can enter beach resorts for about a 100-400 peso “consumable” fee. (Consumable simply means that you apply the cost of entry to lunch or dinner at the resorts restaurant – a pretty good deal!).
Marine Sanctuary at Dauin is pretty durn cheap.
If you are an expat, you are subject to what is called the “skin tax” or “long-nose tax.” That is, you will be typically charged more while shopping at some places (smaller stores, restos, etc.) than a native Filipino will be charged. When shopping at flea markets, my girl tells me to go hide somewhere so she can barter with the merchants. (Now that I think about it, she actually tells me to go away quite a bit……) Shopping around for apartments, house rentals or cars can also incur skin taxes. The most blatant example can be seen in such as the fees collected at public places such as Twin Lakes park, which charges natives 10 pesos and foreigners 100 pesos. Not a big deal, really.
Fee Schedule – Twin Lakes, Negros Oriental
There is a SERIOUS cost savings to living in the Philippines. I am single however and have been sold that the cost of raising children here can add exponentially to your living budget. Make sense, but I have no immediate plans on starting a family. There are numerous websites and forums offering estimates on how much it cost to live in the Philippines. Basically what it comes down to are your expectations and what you are willing to pay for Western “luxuries” like high-speed Internet, massive “western” homes, the newest car and the latest electronic doodads. If you are willing to live simply but still comfortably you can expect to pay approximately $1000 plus per month on your living expenses. To really live like the proverbial king, you’re looking more at about $3000 per month.
Note: An interesting site to look at cost of living comparisons is www.numbeo.com. Just plug in the Philippines and compare it to the US or other developed nation. The difference is staggering.
Note2: This is my first time utilizing a foreign currency. When I first came to the Philippines I was unaccustomed to using their notes and or three occasions where I passed too much money to the cashier. In all three instances the cashier stated that I had overpaid and gave me back the extra bills. So when I hear fellow ex-pats complaining about the corruption and dishonesty in this country, I take it with more than a few grains of salt.
My better half.