Recently a Cost Of Living in the Philippines “can I live on $xxxx USD a month questions came in that was very thought provoking and had much more thought behind it.
It’s going to take some amount of research and time to answer this gentleman’s question the right way, and there are a LOT of you folks out there just drifting by who ought to read this anyway. I can tell you, since so many folks come by with questions on “Cost of Living in the Philippines” or “Retirement Costs, Philippines” you would find it well worth the time it will take to read through this. You’ll learn something, I guarantee. You see the headline is a sort of a joke, with a moral attached.
So many visitors come buy having searched for cost of living questions .. even the Live in the Philippines for $770 USD a month” questions, and seem to expect a one sentence answer.
It’s just not that simple.
Read a Little and End the Cost of Living Confusion
- 0.1 Read a Little and End the Cost of Living Confusion
- 0.2 So Here’s The Cost of Living Question
- 0.3 One thought is, just Default on Those Loans
- 0.4 But I HAVE To Pay or They’ll Garnish My Benefits
- 0.5 Economy-Birding in the Philippines
- 0.6 Economy Birding Philippines — A Mini Retirement Plan — Part 2
- 0.7 Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse
- 0.8 Can a Single Man Live Here in the Philippines, Affordably?
- 0.9 Onward Travel Tickets and Tourist Visa Extensions
- 0.10 Why Is A Year Important If I Can Really Stay Longer?
- 1 Related Posts
- 2 Readers who viewed this page, also viewed:
- 3 Share this Article:
One reason I recommend this article is the complete and utter confusion that comes up time and time again regarding tourist visas, how long they last, how they get renewed, how to satisfy the onward travel requirements, etc.
One would think there was already enough written on this, but in fact I run into people nearly every day who either never got sent to the right place or got sent to some buddy in a bar who spouted off some wise guy answer that was _Wrong_.
I’m not all that smart, and I have no illusions as to my writing ability, but the one thing I can assure you is, I know what I am talking about … 7 years living full-time in the Philippines, and I will tell it to you as it is, not the way someone imagines you want to hear it.
So Here’s The Cost of Living Question
Here’s what this fellow today had to say. I have removed his name and changed some of his figures a bit to avoid any invasion of privacy, but I can assure you it is close enough, for sure.
Let me add my 5tandard Disclaimer here, I am NOT a lawyer, this is NOT legal or financial planning advice in any way, and I guarantee absolutely no results if you follow my advice or if you chose not to. One man’s opinion is all, and I may talk straight in the interests of brevity, do not construe that as ‘beating up’ the reader or failing to take him seriously. There’s lot of ground to cover and we’re all adults, so don’t take offence where no offence is meant, OK?
1. I am at this moment living on approximately $800 dollars a month because I am paying student loans and other credit. I cannot get away from them, especially since I am on Social Security and the loans are federally guaranteed, and I want the other credit to continue in case of an emergency …
OK, understood. And for sure one is always generally advised to pay one’s bills.
However, if you’re of Social Security age and are only earning $800 in Social Security benefits you may seriously want to consider if living the “normal” life which got you into the mess so far, is the best path to take.
One thought is, just Default on Those Loans
You are not going to live very “high on the hog” anywhere in the world on $800 USD per month, and at age 65, you should be out of debt and trying to make yourself comfortable for your remaining years, not working like a hamster in a cage paying off debts that are already a dead and gone issue.
You surely will not live comfortably and safely in the Philippines on $800 a month. You CAN live here for $800 USD a month, but it’s doubtful that you’ll like it very much. And you are going to have nothing left over to cover contingencies, like getting sick. Scary indeed.
Start putting your life in order in other ways with the money you’ll save.
But I HAVE To Pay or They’ll Garnish My Benefits
Yes you can have your Social Security entitlements garnished for this debt, but in your case, only in a very limited sense:
“…The government can take some federal benefit payments (including Social Security retirement benefits and Social Security disability benefits, but not Supplemental Security Income) as reimbursement for student loans.
The government cannot take any amount that would leave you with benefits less than $9,000 per year or $750 per month. And, it cannot take more than 15% of your total benefit.
For example, if Doug receives monthly federal benefits in the amount of $900, the government may take either $150 (the amount of Doug’s $900 benefit that is over $750) or $135 (15% of Doug’s total benefit of $900), whichever is less. So, in this case, the government can take only $135 each month.…” See more how much they can actually take from your Social Security.”
I’ve written several times about similar situations here as well, try:
And especially my thoughts on why a “Credit Rating” is way less of a consideration than most Americans think, especially if you live in the Philippines. Credit Rating FICO Scores are useless here in the Philippines.
Make Them An Offer They Can’t Refuse
If I were in your situation, I’d write to the creditor and say:
I hereby make one-time only good faith offer. I am broke, only have this much income and I offer you $50 a month on this loan if you “take a haircut” and reduce my loan by 50%. Your alternative is, I stop payments next month and you can “eat” the entire loan.
What could they say? No?
You’re already outside the USA and your FICO score means absolutely nothing. It’s worth thinking about.
… In about a year or two, if I continue to pay my bills well I will have more cash flow, but how much I would have depends entirely on how the economy deals with my SS. In two years I might still have a maximum of $10xx.
As I said I am budgeting fairly well, but I am not living in the U.S.. Yes my, so called, fabulous U.S., has programs for the "poor", but it normally seems a person has to be from a different planet to get into any of those programs.
I am a Vietnam era vet and non-service connected disabled (due to disagreeable VA). Still, I can tell you honestly that there are close to a million vets living on the streets just in California. I will stay away from getting into that though or I will be here forever! …
Nevertheless, I am living in a Central
American country and have lived in Mexico, but I am practically afraid to ever leave my apartment to go anywhere. Things are becoming almost as bad if not worse than Colombia. So I am looking for a place that is somewhat safer but still cost effective….
Now this is in answer to my previous advice, don’t come to the Philippines if you are poor, because here we here lack the myriad of “safety net” programs available in the US, It seems my reader has thought this through. If he’s making an informed decision, no problem, I can live with that.
Regarding safety, I feel way safer here in the Philippines than I did living in the US, I feel I am quite safe here, as always, YMMV (Google is our friend)
…Then there is also, the fact that I am by myself. I have had girlfriends, but down here they all practically demand to be taken to the U.S. and I cannot do that. So there goes the other issue. A woman! A good woman! I have been talking to a reasonably good looking Filipina for a while now and she wants me to be with her in the Philippines. She supposedly understands that I do not have enough to sponsor anyone to live with me in the U.S., and says she will be happy being with me in the Philippines. She speaks English fluently which is more than I can say for most Latinas and that is a BIG plus for me. For the most part, I feel like I could not ask for more, so to speak. …
Yes. Your message started off with the tone I have heard so many times before … “they” are all looking for a green Card.
The actual truth of the matter, rather than the racist bar chatter, is that many upstanding and honest Filipino women are NOT swooning over going to the US. You just have to look, and possibly you have already found a good one.
Press on with that if it makes sense to you.
Just don’t do what I know some guys have in your position =… marry solely for the sake of getting a Philippine Visa. It could be the most expensive piece of paper you ever buy in your life.
If the relationship is real, go for it. But if it’s a ‘marriage of convenience’, watch out.
Can a Single Man Live Here in the Philippines, Affordably?
Which segue leads us nicely into the heart of the matter here, costs to stay legally in the Philippines.
2. The idea I got from researching, seems to imply that I have to be a sort of lifetime tourist. Mainly because, while my pension is suitable for an SRRV I do not have $10,000 dollars to put in a bank or to buy property. At the same time, I do not want to come in there and marry someone JUST for visa purposes. So I am a tourist and that is OK, but I am confused by the visa issues. …
You’re right in the sense that at your stage of the game staying on a tourist visa may be the best option. Although one of the reasons I suggested the possibility of just defaulting on those student loans is, how long would it take to save $10,000 if you were not paying those loans off?
One thing a lot of guys neglect regarding the SRRV investment type visa is that the $10K USD does not have to sit useless or to by an overpriced condo. It can be used to lease a home and property.
When the reply is, but I don’t have $10,000, a thought is, save it, make it or steal it (oh, better not do that, LoL), because you need a house to live in anyway. Worth a thought,. (but not the stealing part, perhaps). I understand when people say they don’t have money, but they have to get it sooner or later, living isn’t free, anywhere.
…I am trying to figure the least expensive way to deal with those visa issues. I could go to a Philippine Consulate here in Honduras, but upon calling them they only seem to speak Spanish and I prefer English for clarity. In any case, It appears that I can get a 6 month, 9 month, or 12 month tourist visa from a Philippine Embassy or Consulate, but the 9 and 12 month ones are multi-exit visas. I have not been able to understand the multi-exit aspect of those visas. Does that mean I HAVE to leave and return 1 or more times during the 12 months or does that mean I am just able to leave and return when I wish. I have never had that kind of visa before. …
This is a continual problem of understanding, and many seem to get hung up on this. You are reading the rules right. You get 59 days of stay as a tourist, period. The longer term visas allow you to enter and leave the Philippines freely during that time, BUT NEVER MORE THAN 59 DAYS Each visit. Just forget what people thing the law says, what I said is what it says, period.
…I have also read that I can stay in the Philippines for 18 months without leaving until the 18 months. The only thing I have interpreted is that shortly before whatever primary visa I have expires I have to repeatedly renew with a 59 day tourist visa until the 18 months is accumulated. This is where the money issue I am confused about starts to occur….
So there is no need to buy one of these longer-term visas, because you can stay for up to 18 months (24 actually) by extending the initial visa 2 months at a time for total of 16 months of stay at any Bureau of Immigration office, and ten up to 24 month total time by requesting further extension from the Director of Immigration in the main office in Manila. There is at least one good reason you don’t want to stay more than a year at a time, but that’s a detail. You certainly can stay 16 month plus.
Also since this original post was published, the Philippine BI now allows a tourist to extend his or her Tourist Visa for six months at a time, not just two months. Costs run about the same but the expanse and hassle of going to the Immigration Office every two months is cut down to only one trip every six months.
We are supposed to have a plane ticket for coming and leaving as soon as we first enter the Philippines. No airline will allow me to change dates on my ticket every time I want to extend my tourist visa. So now I feel like a child who has never traveled, but I am very confused! It seems like I have to buy a new plane ticket every time I want to renew my visa and if I have to do that every 59 days or even every 6 months (round trip each time), that would certainly be a lot more than even $5 dollars a day.
So how do I deal with the visa routine and not have to buy perhaps 3 to 8 round trip plane tickets during an 18 month stay in the Philippines?
Also, what is the best (cheapest) tourist visa routine? Would the 12 month multi-exit visa allow me to stay for a year without leaving and how would i get around the plane ticket problem?
OK, part of the issue here is valid, and part of it is making assumptions and using logic. You are overthinking. Logic and Philippine immigration law do not often coincide.
Onward Travel Tickets and Tourist Visa Extensions
Option One: “Show Ticket”
Keep it simple. You need “onward travel” for you initial visit to the Philippines. For this you can go to a supplier like Cebu Pacific airlines in the Philippines … they sell online … and buy a ticket out of the Philippines in less than 59 days after you plan to arrive. Any international location will do, you are not ever going to use this ticket, it’s only for show. Typically you can buy a ticket several months out to a location like Macau for well under a thousand Pesos … it’s usually cheaper t
o buy a ticket leaving from Clark … doesn’t matter if you are not going to be living near Clark, you aren’t going there anyway.
Now this ‘show’ ticket will allow you boarding of your “real” flight to the Philippines and entry into the country for arrival number one.
59 days later you extend your tourist visa for 2 more months. You do NOT need to show any airline ticket for this.
Repeat the extension procedure 5 more times and your departure date will now be one year after your arrival date.
This is what I mentioned in my last mail when I said the procedure will cost about $2 to $3 a day when averaged over a year.
Under this option you just throw the “show ticket” away, amortizing the very small cost over the days you are going to be living here in the Philippines. I have factored that cost in when I say your costs will be under $3 per day for a year’s stay.
Option Two: Full Fare Refundable Ticket:
Major “Name Brand” airlines still happily sell full fare fully refundable tickets. Let’s use United as an example. I just flew from Guam to the Philippines on United airlines. The cheapest discount fare I found was about $200. But right on their website I was offered a an option for a full fare, fully changeable and refundable for about $700 USD.
“But wouldn’t I be crazy to buy a $700 ticket when a $200 ticket would do?
Crazy like a fox, I say. because if I had need an onward travel ticket to board my flight and to check in to the Philippines through Immigration at Manila, I could have bought a full fare ticket just before I departed, shown that ticket whenever I needed to, and then turned it in to United’s office in Manila for a full refund.
If you buy a ticket like that on a credit card, you normally have 20 or 30 days “grace period” before you have to pay a single dollar. Get the ticket turned in and the charge on your card reversed before the end of the grace period and the total cost for this entire option is zero. Can’t beat that with a stick.
Why Is A Year Important If I Can Really Stay Longer?
At 12 months you have a decision point. Leave at the expiration of your 12th month or stay on for 4 more months.
Seems simpler to stay, but bear in mind that after you have been “in country” more than a year you will have to pay Tourist Tax for departure, More than P3,000.
US citizens do not pay this tax for stays of up to one year.
That tourist tax is as much or nearly as much as your air fare out, so you might want to consider leaving every year and letting the avoided travel tax pay part of your airfare.
Buy yourself a round trip ticket to, say, Macau and also a one way out of the Philippines. depart. Enjoy a night in a totally different culture and environment.
Next morning return to the Philippines and start the yearly procedure over again,
Complicated? Maybe so, but it’s a legal, doable way to accomplish a goal.
Hope this has helped some … and for those with easier, better, cheaper methods, feel free to comment.
(Note this reader also had a couple quite cogent medical and insurance question, but this article is already near book length … we’ll do those questions another day, OK?)