here we go with another installment in the ongoing expat guide to Philippines —Philippine Cost of Living telenovela.
You can read more cost articles starting here: Philippine Cost Of Living 2013 Thoughts
As Always My Readers (God bless ’em) really write this blog for me.
I had a great comment recently from reader “Joe” who still lives in the USA but has a close relative that he supports right here in Luzon … Meycauayan, Bulacan.
We’re both technically “in the province” but essentially we are close enough to see the city skyline of Manila. Probably 5 km from the legal city boundary of the National Capital Region (NCR), what many people mean when they say Manila.
Joe visits here often, and since he’s basically paying all the bills has a very first hand knowledge of what things cost here on a month by month basis.
2015 Philippine Cost of Living in the Shadow of Metro Manila:
An update on housing costs of sorts.
That wonderful two bedroom two bath apt we rent in sunny Meycauayan is still at the high price of 4000 pesos per month. At today’s Xoom rate that’s 184 dollars.
As you know it’s quite adequate and roomy for most purposes.
Electric with no air con is at 2-3k most months depending on water use and fan numbers if visitors are around etc..
Subdivision well Water is FREE except for the electric used to pump it into the tank.
If we use NAWASA (a commercial water company very much like having city water in the USA. It’s even under pressure and flows into the house on it’s own. Wow)
NAWASA use is a small amount and not a budget factor at all. NAWASA is not used except when the main well supply has pumping problems.
Our relative is still living quite well on a normal “stipend” of 650 USD dollars per month and still gets to “splurge” once in a while.
(and by the way this includes having an older van to drive, gas, routine maintenance and such)
Now the picture above represents pretty fairly the middle unit of the “Three Door”, two story town house building “Joe” is talking about here. At P4,000 a month he’s getting a repeatable but still quite exceptional deal. Lately many units like this have popped up around the area and P8000 (or ~ $180 a month) or P10,000 (or $225 a month) or even P12,000 (or $270 a month) is more common.
Making Some Conservative Adjustments
So let’s “pad” Joe’s figures to make them a little closer to what I feel you, the prospective new resident would have to pay to live here in our friendly little “twin” towns of Meycuayuan or Marilao
Rent: As I said I don’t think it likely you can just roll into town and find a unit like this for P4,000 these days. But, say P10,000? Should be no problem.
Water: In many other subdivisions in our area you’ll have to pay for water from a subdivision deep well, water storage tank and distribution system. That’s how my water works. At most? P600 per month. I personally don’t drink this water, it’s strictly for other domestic use such as bathing, clothes washing, toilet flushing and such. I buy 22 stage filtered drinking water (commonly called mineral water)
Mineral Water: in our area. Again, you text, the “water guy” arrives with a fresh bottle in minutes. P25 for 5 gallons, delivered. Figure for a family of three with 2 thirsty dogs as well … about P500 a month, max.
Electric: You would be more than safe in figuring P3,000 a month without air (which wouldn’t suit me) adding about P1000 a month per air conditioner you plan to install and run ,say 8 or 10 hours per day.
Cooking Gas: Although you could have an electric stove, most houses around here, including mine, use bottled gas for cooking (small cylinders, delivered to your door). Hard to even set a monthly figure on this because in our household a P700 cylinder usually lasts a month or two, I’m always forgetting when it was we bought the last refill when the current one runs out. No problem if it runs out when you’re cooking dinner, a quick text and the “gas man” will be at your door with a freshly filled cylinder in minutes, 24-7.
So what am I up to here? About P 15,500 or $ 385 USD per month for all basics. And I am talking real world prices here at today’s rates, not some pie in the sky estimates.
Phone: I have a conventional landline phone, it’s bundled with my Internet service. It’s not cheap but I like having it because my wife has a lot of family here in the local area and all local calls are free. In my case the phone/DSL service runs about P3800 ($85 USD ) per month. But there is absolutely no need for this.
A cell phone with Internet access costs from well under $50 USD, there is no need for a monthly cell phone plan, just pay as you go. Various 27 – 7 Internet services start as low as P 999 ($22 USD ) per month, and this includes the option of various Wi-Fi Internet sharing “gadgets” that would let you run as many as 4 phone or computers off the same device. No need for a monthly cell plan, ever.
Various cable plans are available, depending on where you live. Typically a basic plan will start at P499 ($11 USD) per month.
I haven’t mentioned transportation yet, because next to food, this is the biggest variable I can think of. To live in a basic house like this and use public transportation, monthly transportation costs would be very low.
You can walk to local stores and our own local Palaengke (wet market) or \you can use a tricycle … P10 to P30 for basically anywhere you want to go.
If you want a more “US Supermarket” type shopping situation, a P30 tricycle fare is all you need. Likewise, local doctor’s offices, hospital, etc.
If you want to travel into Metro Manila for bigger stores and such, take a Jeepney (they pass within walking distance, 24-7, for P28. The end of the route is at the LRT or MRT, which can take you the length and breadth of the Metro for less than P20.
If you want a more comfortable seat and air conditioning, FX vans leave from the local mall and other nearby terminals, fare P45.
There are basically no taxis in these provincial towns.
I hadn’t intended to write even this much on the subject, mainly because I am so tired, even frustrated by folks who seem to have no other question in mind except cost. Cost is perhaps the very least important issue to consider. It’s cheap here. Can be very, very cheap. It’s as simple as that.
Much more important are the questions very few people ever ask me about … not “is the living cheap” but instead “can I personally adapt to living there”?
And that my friends is way, way, way more important to than the ever present “How much is …”?
You Are In Control
The most important variable in the “How much does it cost to live in the Philippines” question is you, the person reading these words right now. This is the fact that a great many of my readers seem to have difficulty in getting their head around. Aside from the “basics”, like a roof over your head, an indoor toilet to poop in, basic utilities, minimal transportations needs and such, which I have already told you are very cheap indeed., it will be you. yourself and your family which will govern what your own personal “Cost of Living in the Philippines will be.
Let me close this out by sending you to read an article from two of my blogging colleagues who call themselves “Digital Nomads”. They have been on the road now for more than a year, living in 11 different cities all around the world, in just their first 12 months. The article is well worth the read:
But just in case you don’t want to read it, I’ll give you the bottom line. The most striking thing they have found in mire than a year as “nomads” is the fact that their costs have been so similar in every city from places varying as much as big European cities to the backwoods of Thailand. Surprised me, surprised even them.
There’s an old saying: “Wherever you go, there you are”. One could also say, “Wherever you go, there’s your own cost of living.” In other words, more than any other factor, you make your own Philippine Cost of Living.