Live In The Philippines On $770 Dollars A Month?

It’s Thursday again, time, as always for some Philippine living questions and answers.  Recently I had a reader pop this question out to me .. can I live in the Philippines for $770 a month?  Hmm interesting question.  And quite easy to answer:  Yes, No or Maybe.

“Come on Dave, that’s not a helpful answer” I can hear many of you saying.  True, but it is about the only definitive answer I can give.

Mr. Franklin - El Señor Franklin
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tetsumo

I’ve written dozens and dozens of articles on the cost of living here in the Philippines … even including exact details of what my wife and I spend, specifically.  That gives one set of real and true figures.  You can read more in this “What Things Cost in the Philippines” article, as a starting point. (Hint:  Read the related articles listed at the end of the blog post … they actually do lead to further information ;-)).

But what my wife and I spend to live life pretty much the way we want to has very little to do with how much another couple chooses to spend.  Just the simplest and most basic needs, like shelter can vary a lot.

We pay about $140 USD a month, just outside Metro Manila (by just outside, I mean a 24 peso Jeepney ride to the LRT/MRT, and thus anywhere in the main areas of Manila for less than a US dollar.).

I know of couples who lived for months on the Subic Special Economic Zone (the former Subic Bay US Navy base) for $90 a month … a single room in former US Navy bachelor officer quarters …  and they were very comfortable there while they waited out a legal matter they had to come to fruition.

There are high-end condos almost within site of where we live that routinely rent for $1,800 to $2,000 USD per month … and the renters who are living in them seem to be happy with the deal they made … certainly I won’t say a word against them … if they are happy, I am happy.



Hmm … $90 USD per month, $2,000 USD per month, how can you make a price out of that?

The short answer is, you really can’t.  What you who are reading this want for yourself and your family (and how much you are willing to pay) is undoubtedly different from the very next ‘you’ who reads these words, as well as what I want for myself and my family.  Asking me to tell you what you need to spend is a bit like asking me how long is a piece of string … it depends.

Another thing which ‘depends’ a lot is if the person asking the %770 question is married or single, and if married, if the spouse is Filipino or Former Filipino.  I could live here very nicely as a single man .. but I sure couldn’t live as cheaply as I do thanks to the diligent efforts, top quality Filipino education and downright ‘street smarts’ of my dear wife.

In summary I’d say this to the $770 USD question on living in the Philippines:

Yes, you certainly can.  Millions and millions of Filipinos live here for less than the equivalent of $770 USD per year for goodness sake.

But the question you would have to ask yourself is, would you have the guts to do so, personally?  This is a hard country to be poor in … people who are poor in US terms, on welfare or unemployment or Food Stamps (wow, what a concept they would be in the Philippines) are rich in Philippine terms … only you can figure that out for yourself.

And as a piece of unsolicited advice, why on earth would you want to live … anywhere … on only $770 USD per month?  Get yourself into the portable income club … I write a lot on earning an income online and many other people do as well … here’s one guy who has been earning his income online for years whom I know well I recommend.

In my opinion, $770 USD per month is living way, way too “close to the bone” in any country … I’d suggest you make yourself a better income, no matter where you choose to live.  Belive me, you’ll be glad you did.



Comments

  1. Paul Thompson says

    Could you live on $750.00 a month? Sure you could, a lot deprnds on your life style, can you go native? Up the road from me is a new apartment complex (4 units) they range from $30.00 to $50.00 a month. Fancy no! Clean and neat, yes. Can you eat local food 3 meals a day? Go with out a car? Remember a good paying local job is about P8,000.00 a month. $750.00 a month is approx. 33,000.00 pesos (depending on the rate), So yes you’re doing well. And knowing that with $750.00 a month in the states, you would be homeless. I say if your reader is of a mind to, he’ll live OK here. I do know a few Americans here tht live on the same amount or less and they seem content.

    • says

      Fully concur, Paul. An wxoweiwbcwd call center worker in metro Manila makes only around P20K per month, including bonus for shift work and weekend work. A teacher in an exclusive private school, with a master’s degree can expect about P18K to start. A taxi or Jeepney driver can ecpect to clear about P500 a day,P 10K/P15K per month depending on how many days he works. My local electrician (with a trade school degree and soem years expereince with the local electric company, in other words he doesn’t just call himself and electrician, he actually knows somehting)n usual gets P800 a day 9when he can find work).

      So can a foreigner live of P33k or so a month? Absolutely. The question most Americans have to ask is not ‘can’ they, but ‘will’ they, and that is the rub.

      regarding places to stay, here’s some arricles I wrote about a local investor, tearing down crap houses and building decent, livable aprtments … with parking spots, even, almost unheard of (and unneeded by many). These places (and I have been in them, they are well uilt, completelys adequate for anyone to live in) are always rented at P8k to P12k per month. http://philfaqs.com/live-there/it-can-be-done/

      But my comment still holds … why on earth, as a relativekly young man, would someone ‘surrender’ to living on $770 a month? And then look forward to the (hoped for) benefit of Social Security as a plan for life for the next 16 years? Doesn’t make good financial nor health sense to me .. for some reason many seem to have the idea that work and earning are evil and something to be avoided … earning for yourself keeps you yong as well as more affluent.

    • says

      Well the question was originally posed by someone who had that much income available in the first place. But earning $770 USD per month is not hard at all. Doesn’t matter if you are in the Philippines or not.

      I don’t beleive in the nonsense that is being broadcast so often about the ‘Worls Economic Crisis’. Especially in the Philippines. Remittances from OFW’s are up significantly over last year, Yhe Philippine’s GDP is higher than it hass bene in years, second highest in Asia. When I get the Sunday Manila Times the ‘help wanted’ section is just bulging with jobs. The Philippines is not saddled with the mess of sub-prime mortgages and no credit available that is hampering the USA. The ‘world economic crisis’ her ein the Philippines is very much based on a person’r outlook.

      I go to Zambales almost weekly now, my wife and I are getting ready to build a home. You have to plan ahgead because there is so much building, investment and jobs that you can’t get people to perform services right away, they are all busy.

      I realize when I talk this way to my Filipino readers, some get the attitude, “Easy for him to say, because he’s a rich American, they have all the luck, etc., blah, blah, blah.” It’s a myth, oure and simple.

      Since you are an online person, go get in touch with Carl Ocab (www.carlocab.com) or my good friend Abe Orlandres (www.yugatech.com) and take a look at how they make mney, as Filipinos, right here in the Philippines. I can assure you both of them make substantially more than $770 USD per month, right at their keyboard. It can be done, I assure you,my friend.

  2. says

    Hey Dave, we’ve been asked this similar question too (living as sailors) – I have the same answer as you – just added one more –

    “Yes, No, Maybe , None of the Above” :)

    Hey just noticed your disappearance in another website. Missed you there!! Hope you and Mita all the best regards.

    • says

      So true, Ellen, so true.

      Thanks for the kind words about my absence elsewhere. Just felt I didn’t have the time or the emotional investment to keep up with LiP. Bob and I are still the best of friends, and probably will do many things together in the future … bt those columns, and the answers to comments and issues that arise just didn’t fit in my plans right now. I am allegedly retired … but I now have less time that when I had a ‘real’ job.

      Come to think of it, I know someone who was going to go and sail the world and now has more things to keep her busy, by far, than when she worked in a reguklar job … funny how thta happens, isn’t it? ;-) Mita sends her regards too, and the boys still ask me at least once a week, when are we going back to Davao.

  3. says

    Love reading your Blog, one of the best with great information on the PI. I am retired US Military living in Phuket, Thailand, been living here since 2003. We travel to Subic Freeport almost every month, wonderful place. Like you, I also enjoy working on my own online, it also pays the rent and more.
    Keep up the good work.

    Sincerely,

    Keith

    Retired USN
    .-= Keith´s last blog ..Cafe’ del Sol – Thai – Italian Restaurant – Phuket Kata Beach =-.

    • says

      Hi Keith,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I lived in Thailand two years myself (up country) and my Filipino wife used to work in Bangkok for a while. We both like Thailand, it’s always been a place we could use as an escape capsule if we needed to. Let me now next time you are coming to Subic, maybe we’ll have acup of coffee or an SMB .. we’ll be spending more and more time up Zambales way as our farm plans materialize.

  4. Robin Haskins says

    I am thinking about moving my wife and family to the Philippines in a few years. One way I should be able to do this is my job here in Alaska. It is a seasonal job and requires me to work about 4 months during the summer months. I know there are a lot of jobs up here in the summer and if Americans are wanting a way to be able to live most of the year in the Philippines, 4 months in Alaska would give you a decent income. I would say most up here can make $15,000 to $20,000 in one summer. Many jobs provide housing and some include food. I do not think it would be unreasonable to expect to take home $10,000 to $12,000 your first summer up. I have heard many of the tour bus drivers can live on their tips and bank their whole paycheck. That makes for a pretty good 8 months back in the Phils. Also, a lot of the jobs up here are fun as everyone seems to be happy in AK during the summer.

    Thank you for this website, I am learning a lot from it.

    Take care, Robin

    • says

      Thank you, Robin. Your part-time in Alaska strategy should work very well. It’s not unheard of here in the Philippines at all. As you probably already know, OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers), those who go outside the country to work and ‘remit’ to their families here are the lifeblood of the Philippines these days.

      But I know of more than one OAW (Overseas American Worker) too. Fellows who work cannery jobs in Alaska or touristy-related work … there’s a big demand for workers ‘in the season’ in Alaska, and since many of those jobs require actual physical labor, a lot of Americans I know won’t apply for them.

      I’ve been chuckling since I published Get a Job … no comments. My feeling from a lot of inquires over the years is, a lot of people want a ‘job’, but ‘work’? Not so many.

  5. Valerie says

    Agree that making a living on any income is relative. It’s how you want to live that will make the difference. I know of a few families who lived on average about $270/month on a single income. Some have successfully sent their children to college too. If the question was “can I live decently on $770?”…my answer would be yes, if you’re single…and maybe if you are married with 1 child. But again this is relative to your lifestyle. At $770, you cannot afford to dine out everyday, buy items on a whim or have household help. But live frugally, you may even end up with some money for savings. I would like to share a realistic estimate on actual cost of living for those who want an idea. I’ve been keeping our family budget so I have a basic idea on the actual costs. These costs will be based where I actually live, that is east of Metro Manila, within the metro area. Biggest chunk of your budget will go to accomodations, food and utilities, and your child if you have one. Rent for a decent 2-3 bedroom single detached house will set you off about P8,000 ($178); 3 full/square meals about P9,000 ($200); power/electricity about P1,700 ($38) if you use the A/C a few times in a month; water – P250 ($5.50); phone with broadband internet- P1,000 ($22); Destiny Cable P500 ($11); Purified drinking water P600 ($13) or less depending on consumption; budget P3000 ($67) for your child every month (this will either go to milk/diapers or school tuition if of school age); if you are commuting to/from work – P2,000 ($44) + lunch money P2,000 ($44). Non-food groceries maybe about P2,000 ($44). The rest you spend for leisure or non-work transportation. Take away some of those you don’t need (like cheaper accomodation, no cable or internet, bring lunch to work etc.) you can actually live on less that $770. So if you are single, you should be able to live in that income. But if you want to live more comfortably, you will probably need about P50,000 ($1,100) to support a family of 4.

    • says

      Thank you Valerie. Very useful information and so much of it tracks very closely with my own, from my home just north of the Manila metroplex. For those who aren’t quite familiar with the usage of the word here, in the Philippines, “commute” specifically means to travel between home and work or home and school via public transportation. I don’t know what the right term is for ‘commuting” between home and work via private car as we typically use it in the US … because I don’t know of anyone who does.

  6. says

    Hello,
    I’m a single American woman in my 40’s. When my kids are old enough I would like to live in the Philippines. I will be divorcing my husband and will not be looking for another man. I will get a small retirement from my job later, and will receive about $1600.00 a month in spousal support. What is your thoughts on a woman living by herself. What areas would be best for somone like myself to live.

    • says

      Hi Katie,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting here at PhilFAQS. Although your questions are more rare than many of the male-oriented ones I get, you are certainly not the first woman who has asked me about living in the Philippines on your own.

      There’s certainly no reason your plan won’t work. A woman living on her own in the Philippines is a bit of a curiousity … but so is a man … and ‘every’ foreigner is a bit of a curiosity to some extent … it goes with the territory.

      I can only give an opinion, but my opinion is, it’s much safer to live here on your own than in most Ameriucan urban areas … and rape and violent crimes against owmen are, I think, much less common here than in most US urban areas.

      If you live in major metro areas here, like Baguio, Manila, cebu, Davao, there’s basically no problem in finding decent accommodations, getting around by public transpo or with your own car, shopping, paying bills, all the general things you have to do to live anywhere.

      The big problem with living here single, male or female, is, what’s your plan for what you will do all day? I love it here becuase I am continually busy with family things. If I were living alone, I don’t know how well I’d like it. But I am sure you have some thoughts in that area, so press on with planning things and by all means, come for an extended stay before you make a final decison.

  7. Shabbir says

    Hi Philly,

    How much does it cost to send your kid to a good high school?
    How is their English?
    Besides Condos and stuff where can I invest?
    How much is the bank interest rate?
    Can I file for SRRV from my country or do I need to visit Philippines?

    Shabbir Ahsan
    Bangladesh

    P.S. How are you?

    • says

      Shabbir (ID 5788) »

      Q: How much does it cost to send your kid to a good high school?
      A: Hard to say. From a few hundred to thousands and thousands of Pesos per month. There are thousands and thousands of high schools, defining which one is a ‘good high school’ is beyond my scope. One thing a foreigner should consider, though, is, most schools considered “good” will be Catholic and spend a significant percentage of instructional time teaching Catholic dogma. The idea of separation of church and state is given lip service here, but the real meaning is neither practiced nor understood. In a few areas you may find Islamic high schools, but I don’t live near/have much knowledge in this area.

      Q: How is their English?
      A: How is whose English? Bengali’s in the Philippines? I don’t know any. Australians in the Philippines? Bloody awful, mate, I can barely understand them most of the time. Semi-literate American bloggers like me? Enough to make their English teachers want to cry. Filipinos? Anything from non-existent to perfect grammar and pronunciation. I am being a bit of a wise-ass here, I know, but mainly it’s to prove a point … I don’t live in an ‘us versus them’ world. To ask about ‘them’ in their own country sounds to me as the old Puka shaib style of colonial class discrimination.

      Q: Besides Condos and stuff where can I invest?
      A: Well, I don’t know what ‘stuff’ you mean. If it’s legal, you can invest in most anyhting you want, with the exception of land ownership and independent business ownership … except in the various Freeport Zones, where a foreigner can own a buisness, 100%.

      Q: How much is the bank interest rate?
      A: For deposits? Very low, as it is virtually everywhere in the world these days. I’d go directly to bank sites for that info, Google is your friend.

      Q: Can I file for SRRV from my country or do I need to visit Philippines?
      A: You can apply for an SRRV from any country. See http://www.pra.gov.ph/main/srrv_program?page=1 for details.

      Shabbir Ahsan
      Bangladesh

      P.S. How are you?
      I’m just fine, thanks, and you?

      • Shabbir Ahsan says

        Dear Philly,

        Honestly, I half expected you’d answer my question and you really caught me beautifully surprised. If you could earn a dollar per answer you would give Bill Gates a run for his money. Nonetheless, this is a kind of digital charity you are doing.

        Thank You.

        1. How is traffic in Philippines, especially in Surigaon?
        2. How much does it take to own and operate a car?
        3. How long does it take to get SRRV approved?
        4. How is crime rate? Do people own a gun? Can SRRV own guns?
        5. Can I invite you for a lunch/dinner in Bangladesh?

        I am so moved by your gesture.

        Shabbir Ahsan

        • says

          Shabbir Ahsan (ID 5798) » You half expected I’d answer your questions? Why? Have I neglected you in the past?

          Here’s your current crop:

          1. How is traffic in Philippines, especially in Surigaon?
          A: Surigaon? I looked that up and it’s a city in India. My guess is the traffic if bad there. You likely meant Surigao. I know about as much about Surigaon as I do about Surigao. Both are along way away from me. However, traffic in the Philippines is pretty much the same … bad in cites, peaceful and sparse outside cites. And pretty much localized. Very few people drive long distances, so in many wys the traffic is quite localized.

          2. How much does it take to own and operate a car?
          A: This is another of those “now long is a piece of string” questions. You cna drive a cheap car very cheaply, you can drive an expensive car and spend a fortune. There are a lot of cheap cars here. New cars that are comparable to, say US cars … Ford, Chevy and such, seem to cost pretty much what they cost in the US, give or take. Importing a car is prohibitively expensive, Internally, road tax (registration) is pretty cheap, insurance is cheap, gas is … well, whatever it is everywhere else, goes up and down like yo yo, but mainly up.

          3. How long does it take to get SRRV approved?
          A: Only a week or two from what I have been told. See the PRA website … it’s always better to go to the source.

          4. How is crime rate? Do people own a gun? Can SRRV own guns?
          A: I think the crime rate is of little worry to me. But law and order are not what you would expect in more developed countries. And many people in the Philippines are desperately poor … so there will always be problems. Many people own guns. Foreigners are not allowed to own guns. I’m sure many do have them, though.

          5. Can I invite you for a lunch/dinner in Bangladesh?
          A: Of course you can, but don’t expect me to accept/show up any time soon. I have a whole list of foreign travel commitments which I am doing little or nothing to satisfy … I don’t leave the Philippines very often, and your kind invitation will have to go at the far end of the queue. Thank you, though.

  8. Shabbir Ahsan says

    Shabbir Once Again!

    Are you a US Army vet?

    I was trained with US Engineers in Ft Leonardwood, MO for my Engineer Officers Advanced Course. I am a Gulf War vet myself as well as a UN Peacekeeper!

    Just have retired from Bangladesh Army!

    • says

      Shabbir Ahsan (ID 5799) » I’m retired from the US Air Force. The Philippines is a great place for retired servicemen from any country, in my book. But, of course, you have to have enough to live on comfortably.

  9. Shabbir Ahsan says

    Dear Philly,

    Thanks for your informative post. I seriously owe you a lunch and dinner.

    As I could get, you are teaching English in Philippines. Anything else?

    Why is it that “The Philippines is a great place for retired servicemen from any country”?

    I know I am burning you with questions but I am counting on your generosity.

    Thank You.

    • says

      Shabbir Ahsan (ID 5805) » No, I don’t teach English in the Philippines. But I do write about it often, because it’s a perfect opportunity for native English-speakers … there are, without exaggeration, billions of people in the world who want to learn.

      But bear in mind, I don’t mean teaching English _to_ Filipinos. A great many Filipinos already know English, and if they want to learn, there’s plenty qualified teachers here to teach them. MY idea is to teach to other countries/people of the world, while you live 98and earn the money) here in the Philippines.

      As to anyhting else, I do a lot of other things online that make money. The easy way to answer the ‘what’ is, “sell things”. It’s a billion-dollar market. Read my http://www.retiredpay.com for more info.

      It’s a good place for military retirees (in my view) becuase there are a number of military service organizations, social groups, etc., many of which are open to veterans of all countries.

      Be well

  10. Ric says

    Philly,
    Great site! Thank you. My fiancee needs an annulment. It appears to be a laborious and expensive process!
    If you have any insight on this it would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Ric

    • says

      @ ==> Ric: Thanks for writing in.

      The only insight I have is yes, it is expensive and takes along time. You need a good attorney, one who can show a track record of successful annulment cases, not somebody’s cousin who works cheap because he’s family.

      Not much else I can say, it’s a horribly archaic and anti-human rights setup, but it’s the way the peole of the Philippines seem to want it, and it is their country, not mine. Godspeed.

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