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.
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.
An interesting discussion seems to have come up here about living in the Philippines on $770 USD per month. A reader on another venue asked me my opinion as to him living here in the Philippines on US $770 a month and my response was, “well, not knowing how many people you are talking about, your ‘money smarts’ in general or the level of convenience you call ‘normal’ or ‘modest’ in your life, it might be problematical.
Some great comments from reader Paul and others have kind if pointed out to me that the fellow is not as far off the mark with a $770 income as my first reaction might indicate. If you look at some of the articles I have written on the cost of living in the Philippines in 2009 and deduct the amounts I spend on car maintenance and savings (which a number of folks have told me they don’t think should be included), my wife and I are living a pretty decent lifestyle on close to $770 a month, USD.
I was reminded recently that perhaps I ought to be a little more ‘slack’ on what I thought was adequate or ‘safe enough’ buy a post from a blogging associate of mine what has nothing to do with the Philippines directly, but really pointed out just how bad things are getting in the US … we Americans living in the Philippines are pretty isolated from what’s going on back home, it seems.
The reason I chose to take note of my friend Don’s blog is because I have seen so much hand-wr9inging over dramatization on my rare glimpses of US media that I was automatically tuning things out. But Don is a down-to-earth guy like me, with no political or economic axe to grind, and like me a long-time Federal employee living on a comfortable pension … the kind that Federal workers don’t get any more. I’ll excerpt a couple paragraph’s from Don’s blog, you ought to read the whole thing as well, if you want some interesting views on what might be wrong or right back there in the US of A:
211 – No, that isn’t tonight’s numbers for the lottery. It’s a new telephone number, along the lines of 411 for information. 211 is for information also. It’s run by United Way of Georgia and is for information on how to survive poverty in Georgia.
I was riding around looking for something to photograph (I’m still struggling with digital photography) and I was listening to WPBA — Atlanta’s Public Radio station. They had a program on about Georgia’s mortgage crisis. Georgia’s economy is in the dumps too but the mortgage problem is among the worst in the country. As the program said, Georgia is a “non-traditional” State when it comes to bankruptcy. In short, banks have had their way with the State regulators. Good for mortgage companies. Bad for consumers. And — as it turns out — bad for Georgia. Who would have thunk it ?
Anyway, if you find yourself in the ranks of the newly poor, take note. This service was started just for you. It turns out that a lot of people are entering poverty for the first time and they don’t know where to turn. They don’t know who to call for help when they lose their job and can’t pay their mortgage. That, of course, ruins their credit rating which means no one will rent them an apartment. Hopefully they won’t get sick too because I’m sure they lost their health insurance at work (or can’t afford to pay it if they’ve lost their house.) …
Wow is about all I can say. As mentioned, Don is no alarmist. His article made me realize just how many things I have to be thankful for living here in the Philippines:
- … they lose their job: Don’t have to worry about that, I work for myself and I don’t need a job. I can not be laid off or fired, and I don’t have to go to any particular work location or be at anyone’s beck and call, except for that of the livestock on or nascent farm. Pigs are much easier to deal with than people.
- … can’t pay their mortgage: Ain’t got one of those either. Don’t intend to have one. I sold out of the real estate bubble in the US in 2005. Anyone who couldn’t see it coming could not read a high school text book on economics. I feel sorry for those who have hung on, thinking that a home is an investment. It is a beast and a burden, pure and simple. I rent a perfectly adequate 3 bedroom house here in the outskirts of Manila for about $146 USD per month (there are more houses available at those sort of rates as well), tell me why I would want to go back into the abyss of debt, hoping property values will climb and make me rich? No thinks.
- … ruins their credit rating: Ain’t got one of those, either. Well, yes of course I do, but it means absolutely nothing here in the Philippines. Philippine banking secrecy laws are stronger even than Switzerland’s and there is no sharing of information. I don’t know what my FICO score was in 2006 when I moved here, and I have no idea what it is today … why on earth should I care? I have no debt. I pay cash. Highly recommended.
- … no one will rent them an apartment: See the comment above. Here renting an apartment involves convincing the landlord you have a source of income and will pay him. First month, last month and one month security deposit is the norm. Period. Many rental deals and other debt arrangements here are handled with post dated checks (really they are “pre-dated” checks, but why be a stickler for the meaning of words … it’s Filipino English and we are, after all, living in the Philippines) … you write a year’s worth of checks, written for the correct payment dates in future months and the landlord deposits them as time passes. I don’t care for the practice itself, and since I have no Philippine checking account the point is moot. I hand my landlord’s agent 7 PhP 1,000 notes on the fifth of every month, he hands me back a receipt with a smile and that is that.
- … lost their health insurance at work: Well my wife and I are blessed with good health, but it is inevitable that we are going to have medical bills sooner or later. I had an excellent health insurance program based on my Federal employment (I can’t believe how hard people in the US are fighting to keep from getting under a decently run government plan, but the health care lobby certainly is still a huge force engaged in picking America’s pockets … hope you wake up from the dream someday soon.) Anyway, I sad I ‘had’ the plan but technically it is in ‘suspended status’ right now … in case something happens that I might have to go back to the US. In the meantime, I pay cash. Medical care is cheap. My plan would cost $169 USD a month this year, way more than my rent, and I pay so little for doctor’s visits now I have no need. There is also government health insurance here for Filipinos and their spouses that runs about $2 USD per month, and commercial plans from familiar carriers like Blue Cross (Philippines) that are very cheap for the options that cover care in the Philippine sonly.
All in all, as I said, my wife (who is also a US citizen … we are living in the Philippines by choice, not because of immigration issues) and I have a lot to be thankful for. And when I look at our bank accounts this year versus what the balances were three years ago, we have even more to be thankful for.
Sounds like things are much worse than I thought back in the USA … moving to the Philippines to make a ’soft landing’ may not turn
out to be your best choice, but I certainly think you ought to give it serious, objective consideration. There’s a lot more available here than a silly ‘211’ number.