Philippine – US Cost Of Living Contrasts — 2017
I’ve written a lot on this subject. No doubt I’ll write more, as it’s one of the most frequently asked questions and topics of discussion, especially for those interested in retiring here in the Philippines.
Best Background Information
- 0.1 Best Background Information
- 0.2 How Do Things Compare?
- 0.3 The Philippines Is Cheaper
- 0.4 Is Cheap Always Better?
- 0.5 “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”
- 0.6 My Own Story, So Far:
- 0.7 Easy Peasy?
- 0.8 Bottom line:
- 0.9 A Contrary Opinion On Costs
- 0.10 Jim’s Cost Story
- 0.11 There’s No “Fixed” Cost of Living in Any Country
- 0.12 Housing Costs
- 0.13 Utilities Costs
- 0.14 Fuel For The Car
- 0.15 Fuel for the People
- 0.16 Internet and entertainment
- 0.17 Health Care
- 0.18 YMMV
- 0.19 All In All No Bad Surprises
- 1 Related Posts
- 2 Readers who viewed this page, also viewed:
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One of my best previous articles on this subject is here:
I’ve also recommend this site many times:
And this one as well:
Both these sites are up-to-date, down-to-earth and offer very similar cost data, all collected from people who are actually living in the cites being compared.
How Do Things Compare?
You can spend a lot of time on either of these sites … and you’ll learn something as well. Worthwhile.
As just one example, a snapshot taken 14 July, 2016 from Numbero.com
Consumer Prices in Manila are 45.93% lower than in Orlando, FL Consumer Prices Including Rent in Manila are 50.44% lower than in Orlando, FL Rent Prices in Manila are 60.41% lower than in Orlando, FL Restaurant Prices in Manila are 65.53% lower than in Orlando, FL Groceries Prices in Manila are 53.24% lower than in Orlando, FL Local Purchasing Power in Manila is 64.25% lower than in Orlando, FL
This seems to indicate that prices in Manila, the most expensive city to live in the Philippines, are at least 40% cheaper than similar costs in Orlando, Florida. I just picked Orlando at random, feel free to go to either of those sites and plug-in any city or other details you choose.
The Philippines Is Cheaper
And cheaper is always better, isn’t it?
“Where’s our big suitcases, Mabel, we’re moving tomorrow”!
Well just think over a few facts before you drag those suitcases out of the closet.
Is Cheap Always Better?
Remember some sage advice from our old friend Ben Franklin:
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”
You’ll certainly be able to find cheap places to live in the Philippines. Indeed, even in Manila, where people parrot an almost sing-song chant about “how expensive it is”.
There are 17 different municipalities which make up the Nation Capital region, also known as Metro Manila,and you can find cheap places to rent in most of them.
But the thing I urge those just thinking about a move to the Philippines to consider is, do you want to live cheap?
Or do you want to live well?
My Own Story, So Far:
I came to live permanently in the Philippines in 2006, with almost no cash, and about $40,000 in credit card and other “left-over” debt (most from a nasty divorce and attendant financial difficulties).
In 10 (going on 11) years I now have zero debt, (except for a mortgage on our custom home) which will be 100% paid off in the next 3 years.
My wife and I not only retired all the debt I carried forward into the new marriage, but we bought a car, new, paid that off, bought a residential lot (just outside Metro Manila proper), paid it off, and built a two-story home on the lot, completed to pretty much standard US specs … three bathrooms, central hot water system, low-power consumption airconditioning in the den and all bedrooms, etc.
Was it easy? Hell no … full credit goes to my lovely, smart, and money-savvy wife. But it sure feels good. And I doubt I could ever have made such financial progress if we had stayed in Colorado.
But how many “ordinary” Americans are ready to live as we did for nearly 10 years to “get this done”? Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t live in a hovel or a cardboard box under a bridge, but the little three-bed, one bath house we rented for P7,000 a month (under $150 USD a month) wouldn’t win any House Beautiful awards.
And we ate a LOT of rice and local fruits and vegetables from the local “wet market” or from food vendors that pass the house regularly.
You certainly CAN live very cheap in the Philippines.
But when I watch a steady diet of home renovation and home buying TV shows from the USA, I have the idea that a heck of a lot of Americans can’t (or won’t) live that cheap. How much it cost to live here is way more up to you than it is up to conditions in the Philippines.
A Contrary Opinion On Costs
Recently, a long-time reader, Jim (also a blogging colleague, see: TRICARE Overseas Philippines) sent me a very insightful and informative run down on his current living costs in Arizona. Jim lived many years in at least three different cities in the Philippines and recently he and his wife made the decision to move back from the Philippines to the USA.
I think you’ll find some of Jim’s cost figures and comments contrasting the USA costs with their previous Philippine costs very enlightening. Big tip of the blog hat to Jim.
Jim’s Cost Story
Dave, I was looking through some of the posts on your blog and viewed a couple that addressed the cost of living in the PH vs. the States and the general view was it was cheaper to live there and a few examples were given.
Before I decided to move back to the states I did an extensive comparison of the cost of living between where I lived at the time, Cebu City, and four locations in the states.
There’s No “Fixed” Cost of Living in Any Country
One point that one needs to understand up front is costs will vary by location in both the PH and the States.
Another point is what standard of living is one comparing between the two.
For example when considering a house to have similar amenities in both locations the cost would be similar; at least that was my conclusion after doing some comparisons.
In my case, after making a decent down payment on a VA loan, my monthly payments are about $50 more than what my rent was in Cebu. When one considers the tax advantage of the payments vs. rent the $50 goes away.
In the PH I cooled one room for about 12 hours a day. My average electric cost there ran about $65 a month.
Here I use much less a/c but when I do I cool the entire house and my average bill will run about the same. I do have additional cost for gas for heating about three months of the year which isn’t much but adds another $15 to my cost.
So on average I’m spending about $15 a month more to heat or cool my entire house vs. one room.
My house is about double the size of the one in Cebu and the yard 4-5 times bigger. I spend about $25 a month more for water here and another $25 for sewage where it was free there plus the bonus of smelling it. ;-).
Fuel For The Car
When I first arrived the cost of gas was about half the price in the PH but I don’t know how that compares today. Today a gallon of gas costs $1.94, some cheaper but this is the most common price this week. That comes to $0.51 a liter. You can do the math based on the current exchange rate and cost per liter there to determine which is more expensive. But I suspect it is cheaper here.
(Update on 24 Jan 2017, Regular unleaded in the metro Manila area is averaging $3.19USD per US gallon)
Fuel for the People
Let me talk about the cost of some food items. I’ve been called a liar about this on at least one forum but this is the truth and if you want I can provide a link to some local ads.
I do much of my shopping at the Commissary and much of what we buy is comparable in cost to the PH.
Exceptions are imported items we bought there which are cheaper here and imported items we buy here that are cheaper there.
Fish is cheaper there. However I routinely get some good deals on many meats. I can buy chicken hind quarters for $0.37 a pound, bone-in pork chops for $0.97 a pound.
About once a quarter I can get whole chickens at $0.47 a pound. About once a month country style pork ribs go for $1.27 a pound.
Internet and entertainment
My internet runs about the same as I paid there but I get 12Mbps and have had one outage in 8 months that lasted for 30 minutes. My TV runs about 50% more here.
Bottom line I spend just about the same here as I spent in the Philippines each month and I live in a much better and larger house, better appliances, reliable utilities etc.
Health care is much more expensive here but in many ways there are better services as well.
In addition as a retired military member on Medicare and TFL I pay absolutely nothing for my care so to me the care is better and cheaper.
Cris uses TRICARE Prime so I have an annual fee plus outpatient copays for her but we get what few meds she uses free from the AFB Pharmacy and under Prime all her lab and other ancillary work is free.
Between the two of us I would have to say the cost for both of us is slightly less or a wash.
The prices I quoted apply to Tucson only. I looked at Sierra Vista in AZ as well and the cost there would have come out about the same; it is just outside Ft. Huachuca.
I looked at Las Vegas and Albuquerque as well. Las Vegas would have been about 10 to 15 percent more expensive while Albuquerque would have been slightly less.
I looked at my old home town in CA where I grew up but the cost would have been about 40% higher and I would have had a much smaller house. So it really depends on the locations you want to compare and the life styles you want to live.
Just some additional feedback for what its worth.
Dave, An update on costs here. I indicated my average cost for electricity would run about $65 a month, the same as in the PH. In Cebu my hottest month would be just before the monsoon started.
In Cebu that month including cooling one room for only 12 hours a day ran me P5,500 or about $122 and I tried to keep the room at around 83 degrees.
June is typically the hottest month in Tucson before the monsoon gets underway in July and cools it off some. This June was the hottest June in about 25 years with days that broke records that went back to 1896 when the first records were kept.
In Tucson we cool the entire house 24/7 at about 1,400 SF and I keep the temp at 83 here also which is higher than most Americans keep theirs.
I just received my bill and it is $92. My expectation was June would run closer to $120 and July would run $110 with August at $100 before dropping off.
Given the June actual cost I have to say my average cost is going to be about $10 less than my average in the Philippines even with cooling the entire house 24/7.
All In All No Bad Surprises
Other costs have come in below my estimates as well. I originally allocated $80 a month for gas for the car.
Initially the price was low here at around $1.20 a gal so my actual cost was much less. But over the last couple of months the price has gone back up to $2.05 but even at that I’m spending less than $50.
Well, what else do you dear readers want to know about Philippine – US Cost Of Living Contrasts?