t’s been a little while since I wrote here on PhilFAQS, especially about Philippine Cost Of Living. For background and historical review, I’ve written a lot about Philippine cost of living in the past, a few examples:
Cost of Living Philippines 2009, Philippines Cost of Living 2010, Average Cost of Living Philippines, Expat Cost of Living Philippines, and for more on Philippine Cost of Living. Just read the "Related Articles" at the end of those referenced posts, or type-in Philippine Cost of Living in the search window right over to the right of where you are reading now.
No apologies, I’ve been busy with a lot of things, and even though I spend a lot of time as a senior citizen “Making money from the Internet”, this is not the place where I make my money.
Philippine Cost Of Living — Intro
I also have grown very tired and a little wary of articles about “Cost of living in the Philippines”. For one reason, because the Philippine cost of living depends much more upon the person paying for their own living here than on anything I say. Drop me in a stranger town here and drop two or three other people there along with me, and I guarantee that by the end of a few months, each of us will have spent a substantially different amount than the others.
The second reason I don’t like answering “ Philippine Cost of Living” questions is, people tend to believe what they read and what if I seriously understate something? They may be relying on something I say and I might be wrong … or perhaps I’m getting a really good deal on something and when they go to buy the same thing, they get taken to the cleaners. I like to write “off the cuff’ as much as possible and you really can’t do that if people are making life decisions based on what you write.
But, people ask, and people need to know something … so I’m going to address a couple of questions a recent email contact had in order to give him, and the others out there reading this, some Philippine Cost of Living ideas in September, 2011. (revised March, 2013)
Philippine Cost Of Living — Thoughts From Across the Seas
Here’s a few recent comments and my thoughts on them, to give you a little background:
I am currently working in Afghanistan, as a contractor. have put away a little bit of money away…
This is a good thing,and refreshing to hear. So many people write me and tell me stories that pretty much amount to this … I am at my wit’s end, I have burned through all my savings, broke, can’t pay the rent, facing foreclosures, etc., and I want to move to the Philippines.
Well, many of you don’t want t hear this, I am sure, but what sort of advisor would I be if I blew smoke up your backside and called it sunshine?
If you are broke, have no savings, especially if you are a foreigner, or even a Filipino who has not lived in the Philippines for a long time .. then do not come here. Period.
You are in between a rock and a hard place … and the Philippines can be a very hard place to live if you are poor … just ask the 80 million or so Filipinos who go to bed hungry every night … those who even have a bed, that is. Do not come here without something in the bank and an income … blow off this advice if you wish to, but you have been warned.
I am coming this Aug to get married,she currently works in Dubai, working pay check to pay check.
This is a very, very bad sign.
She’s probably making way, way more than she could ever make in the Philippines in her present OFW job, and she’s spending it all? The Philippines is NOT that cheap, my friend, believe me.
Here’s the deal … and listen up out there, those who are just skimming by. Facts of life.
You must, absolutely MUST be able to live within your means in today’s world … moving to the Philippines or not.
This is the number one problem facing the US right now. The government can’t live within its means and a huge percentage of the citizens can’t live within their means, either. people seem to believe that just because they have a blue passport that they don’t have to follow the simple laws of economics. Sad.
Know why there are so many mortgage foreclosures, for example? People ought ‘too much house". They used the attitude of "I deserve it, I worked hard".
So they bought. And then, of course, they needed two cars. And a master’s degree, and orthodontia for the kids, and the big screen TV and the tailgate parties and season tickets at the football stadiums, and … Well, never mind, you get the drift.
Live within your means (that means money left over at the end of the month) and learn to save at least 10% of all income … then come back here and read the rest. (and don’t tell me you can’t. You CAN, the question is if you WILL.)
I told her we could move back to the Philippines and most likely live off my retirement check, not much, $1300 a month she tells me we can live very comfortable off this.
Absolutely. Assuming you read and take to heart what I wrote in my comments above.
The power of living in the Philippines is the great flexibility in living costs. You can spend very, very little per month.
But you have to be disciplined and work at it … because you can also wind up spending way, way more than you’d spend living in, say, the US.
Many, even mundane US items, like say a jar of name brand spaghetti sauce, that most Americans would consider a component of a budget-priced family meal, will cost two or three times its US price.
You can live cheap, but you will very much need to live differently.
Also, if I may, a caution factor. You have both been living in an artificial environment for some time .. contract work overseas. If you ‘let yourself go’ in your new-found freedom and leisure time? Watch out.
… Just want your opinion, as I am 56 she is 35…
Well, that’s 21 years age difference (I am 18 years senior to my wife, by the way).
It’s certainly workable, but believe me it is going to make a difference in both your lives, especially in 10 or 15 years from now. When you’re 65 and eligible for Medicare and Social Security, she’s still going to be a vigorous 40 .. still at an age when all her family and friends are going to be badgering her about having children.
You’ll be too old in Philippine terms to even get a loan to refurbish a house or by a car … age discrimination is very much alive and well here in the Philippines.
Think this through, and more importantly, talk this through with her. Each couple has to make their own decisions.
One thing you also must think through, regarding Social Security, Medicare, etc. If you never take her to the US and she never becomes an American citizen, most of the benefits you have been paying for all your life just go to waste, she can’t access them.
My wife and I took the route of bringing her to the states and waiting out her time for citizenship. A pain, in some ways. But, on the other hand, we had wonderful times together, she has US work experience, and she has Blue Passport. We now would not trade our time in the US for anything.
If I were to kick-off tomorrow, she could go right back to the US and fit in, rather than working here for a pittance. Widows can’t collect a dime from the husband’s Social Security (even if they are US citizens) until they are 60 … that’s a long time to wait in some cases.
… I am just getting tired of work,would not mind doing some little repairs for people but nothing too much, enough for a couple beers a day so I am not bored … … I am not looking to make any kind of killing there, just enough work to kill the boredom and play golf..
Boredom is a Killer
Boredom (often coupled with alcoholism and/or skirt-chasing) is probably the number one issue men your age or my age need to face up to and have a plan for.
You need something sound to work toward, not some loose plan about ‘fixing things for people’. That won’t work. It’s illegal under most visas, and people tend to not fix things, anyway. Get your yourself something else in mind that does not require employment or a formal business here in the Philippines. This is not like the US where people will pay you a few bucks under the table to put in an electrical outlet, landscape their yard, change the starter on their car or whatever else you are thinking about.
I write often about making money while living in the Philippines, but not ‘from" the Philippines. Also there are hungry people here who might even kill for the price of a ‘few beers a day’ … they certainly wouldn’t hesitate to complain about a foreigner horning in on their meager income.
Plus, there’s a lot of things you think you know how to do that you don’t know how to do the "Filipino way". Plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc. are all done differently here, and nobody pays extra to have it done the "American"way.
You are not smart enough to "Out Filipino the Filipino" … a common foreigner misconception.
One last thought, re golf. There are places where you can find cheap golf … but not every where.
And unlike the US, where decent, tax-supported public courses are plentiful, any public, non-membership courses here tend to be very pricey. This is a country of the poor and the rich … the rich are very rich, the poor couldn’t afford to play golf even if it were free … so better be prepared to live in a higher lifestyle than the $1300 a month set if you plan on much golf. And anything involving golf equipment and "consumables"? Figure twice the US price. bring lots of Titleist balls, tees, shoes, gloves, etc. from the US, they are much cheaper there
… Just tell me I can live off this money. I do plan to buy someplace to live so we will not have any rent to pay….
Your last sentence gives me pause. You, yourself, can only by a condominium. You can’t buy a house and lot. You can, in cooperation with your wife, buy a home and have both your names on the title … that’s it, so far as your legal property investment opportunities.
Unlike the standard US "party line" which says it’s always cheaper to buy than rent, long-term, rents and property values are often skewed differently than in the US,. It’s often much cheaper to rent, even long-term than to try to buy in the Philippines. You might want to read more on that rent versus buy subject here.
Philippine Cost Of Living — Facts and Specifics
Here’s another interesting comment that recently came in. Food for further thought, especially about that perpetual "cost of living in the Philippines" question.
I too just stumbled on your blog. I’m a 56 yo American been living here in Bolinao (northern Luzon) for a year. now. Came here thinking I was starting an Uni business (sea urchin),lol, but realized not worth the time….
It’s easy (although maybe 20 times harder than starting a US business) to start a business in the Philippines.
The problem for many foreigners is, you wind up working way harder than in the 9 to 5 you used to hate back in the USA, yet making one fifth what your salary used to be. It’s hard as hell to have a really profitable business here, that’s for sure.
… I’ve stayed. I enjoy it here. Just live a simple life for now. House rental is cheaper than buying…
That’s the secret. Living simple. And, like many, you have found that renting versus buying is often much the cheaper way to go.
…Little tired of taking trikes and buses thinking of buying a van or SUV. Was surprised the costs are about 30% more than US. I got my license and I’ve driven here, using friends van. Its crazy but nice to have the freedom…
A car is not essential, but I bought one right away. I’ve had my own car for most of the past 50-plus years and I just wanted one. I don’t know by what yardstick you find costs 30% higher, though.
My Mitsubishi Adventure cost me about the Peso equivalent of $18,000 when I bought it, and license, insurance and such are laughingly cheaper than in the US. I’ve had the car 6 years now and had virtually no problems at all.
Driving, indeed is an adventure, and here in the Metro Manila area it can be a real pain, but better a car than no car for me. What I really need is a driver. When my wife and I get finished with our next building project I’ll have room for a driver, perhaps I’ll hire one than, just so I can sit in the back and read a book when we’re stuck in Manila traffic.
… I’ve looked at employment here but your right, not worth the pay you’d get. Same with businesses, not saying something’s not out there, I just haven’t thought of it yet …
I know. I always get a kick out of people who contact me about jobs like call center agents.
If they only thought through the night shift hours, holiday work, dress codes, and the taxes, they would realize just how far from American realities their thoughts really are.
Americans are so spoiled. We scream and holler about income tax, but the US has some of the cheapest individual tax rates in the world.
You get a job here, you’ll find out about taxes … and the fees just to keep your working permit valid, etc.
And then your work will be making cold calls to sell insurance, or handling complaints from US cell phone customers who are already livid because of some overcharge on their bill? Not me, Bubba.
If I ever needed a job I’d be on the next plane back to the US … get a great job with great benefits, like flipping burgers on the night-shift for McDonald’s. Pay and working conditions would be much better, too.
Think I am kidding? Working 40 hours a week in McDonalds at a typical McDonald’s wage, with two weeks vacation a year, will net you the dollar equivalent of about 52,000 pesos per month … easily twice what many skilled workers are making here in the Philippines …and they sure work more than 40 hours a week.
… I’ve got 28 years experience running hotels and could give a lot of advice from what I’ve seen here, lol but no ones beating down my door for help. …
Lord knows there are a LOT of hotels who could really use management help, but finding anyone who wants it … aye, that’s the problem.
…Even though I’m a newbie here I think I’ve learned a lot. Think simple, adjust to where you are and enjoy…
This is probably the best and most succinct piece of advice going on how to live in the Philippines. OMG, how complicated some people can make it out to be. They need to learn to breath, sit back, and not worry, worry, worry.
… I live on $1000 to $1200 a month if I want to spend more I do but try to budget. I could live comfortably on less too….
Don’t anyone kid themselves. It takes discipline to live here on those amounts. But it absolutely can be done.
The one thing many of you who are into long-term planning need to consider, though, is the continually falling US dollar. If any of you know how many pesos the US Dollar will buy in say, five years, good for you. I surely don’t.
In the 10 plus years I have been coming and going from the Philippines, the US Dollar/Peso rate has varied from a low of 40 to the dollar to as high as nearly 55. That means that for the mythical $1000 USD per month budget, we are talking P40,000 to P55,000 each month. The P15,000 difference is way more than the monthly budget of many Philippine families …it’s a huge variance in Peso terms. Will you be able to live if the US Dollar falls to P30 to the Dollar? Or P20? No one can guarantee the future.
… I’m not married so in a few more months I’ll have to leave the country for a day. Will probably go to Malaysia for a day or 2. Then start the visa thing over again. Not sure your knowledge on visas but I just heard that if you stay over 6 months you have to get an exit visa from immigration. Do you or anyone know if that’s true and what’s involved?…
Personally, I would much prefer Macau, especially if I had no particular reason to visit Malaysia. See my "Why I left the Philippines" articles (again, read the relayed article as well) for the skinny on exit clearance) (yes you do need one), tickets, etc. So anyone else want to share your advice, thoughts and concerns on the Philippine Cost Of Living?