My Philippine Budget

Iloilo house
I have been trying to post about my fun day trips, and multi-night mini vacations.  But people have asked about some of the more boring day to day life.  So I posted the other day about my visa extensions prices – but tried to keep it light hearted by showing how different the actual cost is compared to the posted price on the immigration website. The Philippines is nothing if not consistently inconsistent!   (visa extension http://wp.me/p2WjV0-5e) So today I will answer the most asked question “how much does it cost to live in the Philippines?”  That is easy… it depends on you.  First thing is what kind of house you want.  A western style house or condo will cost about western prices.  So if saving money is important… stay home.  If you have seen any of my videos you know I live in a simple 1 bedroom bamboo house.  I am about 16 kilometers out of Iloilo and the rent is p3,000 a month.  That was $75 when I got here, now $69, seven months later – yeah for better exchange rates! 
There is no way to really answer anything about your budget.  I can show you mine and let you know what it buys.  Some expats spend less (not many), most spend more.  But I still spend way more than the average Filipino.  I honestly don’t know how they do it… well my landlord does not have internet, cable tv, a refrigerator, or running water…  not an option for my retirement.  I don’t need a lot to live on though.  Back in the US I was a single dad making just under $40,000 a year.  On that I was buying a house, had 2 kids in private school, and we managed to take a spring break Disneyworld vacation 8 of the last 11 years (We skipped Orlando three times, once for Hawaii, once for San Diego, and once to stay home).  So living in a budget is something I learned pretty well. I learned it late in life, but I finally learned.
I give myself an p30,000 monthly living allowance.  It is tight, but manageable.  With the improved exchange over the last 7 months my disability check is now worth p2,400 more than it was in February 2013.  But I am trying to keep to my 30k peso allowance.  I have 2 retirements and Social Security coming later, but I want to learn how to not need that… and I don’t have any of it yet anyway so it is a moot point.  To keep it simple for me I transfer money from the US once a month and put it into either a dollar account or a peso account.  I try to play with it a little to maximize my exchange rate.  Once it finally makes it into my peso account I allow myself 3 visits to the ATM for p10,000 each visit (my banks daily max withdrawal).  If we take a trip of course we outspend that allowance.  So I was not sure how much  I was spending on daily living and trips.  So now I have separate accounts so I can keep track of it easier.
When we looked at this house, we liked the location.  Not too far from Iloilo – but not too close.  Also it is right down the path from her aunt, uncle, and cousins house.  But there was no CR (comfort room – bathroom).  The landlady said we could use the CR in her house.  That is not going to work well for me.  I told her unless we had a CR I could not rent the house.  So we made a list of improvements and repairs to make.  I would pay for them for rent credit.  We ended up spending about p18,000, almost $500 USD, or 6 months’ rent.  So after it was all agreed to we got the repairs done and a contract stating we had prepaid 6 months’ rent.  The biggest improvement was adding a CR.  There was a small slab with a broken toilet and no piping.  I have no idea how the previous resident used it (no walls).  We used the existing slab, added walls, roof, and septic tank, attached it to the house with a laundry room, and I insisted on a stand up shower and a sit down toilet – flushable.  No tabo for me (bucket).  Also had to put in a water tower and pump to get the water from the well.  So we now have running water into the bathroom sink, toilet, shower, and kitchen sink. We are living large! We also had all the nipa (thatch) replaced on the roof.  It is supposed to last about 5 years, I doubt it. And misc electrical repairs.
So in my budget I include rent but don’t actually pay any yet. 
For the month of July 2013 I made a database and kept track of every peso spent.  It was kind of a pain in the butt so I will not do it every month. Every time you use a trike, or a jeepney, eat out, buy a snack, everything was written down.  The month had some unusual expenses but most months do.  Melane took a trip home for p800.  We enrolled in PhilHealth and paid our quarterly dues for both of us.  We bought a table, mosquito netting for the bed, some clothes.  I even sent a box home for the kids.  Some touristy t-shirts and fun Filipino snack food but the postage was over p2,000!  I won’t be doing that very often ha ha.  But every month we seem to have something come up.  One month we bought 3 phones,  one month an Android tablet for Melane, or a bicycle for me.  So every month seems to have some big expense but has to stay in the p30,000 budget.  This was a busy month to track.
 I did not think of it until later but I should have included p2,000 for my visa extension.  I pay it every other month, not in July, and the price varies but p2,000 a month is a good estimate.  The p2,250 for the Post Office takes the place very well.
July 2013 Spending

Normal expenses
p3000 Rent
p940 wet market
p7219 Groceries
p1428  Jeepney/taxi
p722 Cignal satellite tv
p1267 Globe internet
p2200 electric
p60 water (Three 5 gallon jugs)
p128 Tanduay Ice (4 bottles)
p300 Phone Load (usually 500)
p4532 Jollibees/Mang Inasal/Andoks etc  OMG!
p1300 2 movies coke & popcorn for 3 people
p23096 Sub total
 
Unusual or quarterly expenses
p800 Trip home for girlfriend
p400 condoms
p1669 House wares (mosquito netting, table, glassware, pillows)
p800 Clothes (very unusual for her to buy clothes)
p910 Gas (1st tank lasted 5 months)
p960 Phil Health (1 quarter for 2 individuals)
p2250 Post Office (sent gifts to my kids $55!)
p7789 Sub total 
 
7789+23096=30885 total spent
 

     
As you can see I came in right at my budget.  Which is easy because I only withdraw p30,000 a month… it has to last.  But there is never much left over ha ha. 
Most of the expats I have talked to spend closer to 10-15 thousand pesos a month for housing.  A majority of the guys don’t want a bamboo house with no aircon.  With no aircon comes no windows, thus the need for mosquito netting over the bed.  Also with no aircon my electric bill is cheaper – but still too damn high!   I was surprised at how much we spent eating out.  The p4532 for Jollibees etc was all fast food joints, and is about $110, or about 15 meals for 3 people.  15 fast food stops in one month really surprised me. But every time we go into town for groceries we eat at Mang Inasal (grilled chicken unli rice).  And when we go into the city we tend to get a late breakfast and an early dinner so that would be 2 in a day.  I thought I drank more (only 4 bottles of Tanduay Ice – 330ml, looks like 12 or 16 ounce bottle).  The p950 for gas is the gas tank in the kitchen for our range (no oven).  Only refilled it once so far – it lasted 5 months.
I don’t often go to movies here but this summer had some fun ones.  Star Trek, Pacific Rim, Iron Man 3, After Earth, Percy Jackson – any action movie in English ha ha.  I go to a twice a month meetup with some expats at a bar and Melane & Rogena tend to go see a Tagalog movie when I do that.  So it is a pretty usual expense.  Movies are cheap over here!  Under $5 USD a person for the ticket, drink, and popcorn.  We did one 3D movie and it came with free drink & popcorn so was still the same price.
I have found some good grocery stores for foreigner food so sometimes I get carried away with salami, marmalade, lettuce, sausages, and other hard to find treats.  Those can get real expensive, real quick.  Eat as much local food as you can.  The produce at the grocery stores is surprisingly bad.  But the markets are cheap and plentiful.  I do splurge and buy our meat at the grocery store.  The unrefrigerated meat the market is a bit scary.  I don’t like seafood so she buys hers at the markets, but it is usually dried fish so refrigeration is  not an issue.
So to sum up.  I live comfortably on p30,000 a month (currently $697 USD).  Some guys spend less, most spend more.  Some spend more than I lived on in the US!  So it is really up to you to answer “how much”.  Next month is October, I have to renew my visa, we pay our quarterly PhilHealth, and Melane wants to go home for a visit so I think I will track every peso for October… oh joy…
 

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44 thoughts on “My Philippine Budget

  1. Citibank also offer fee free international transactions on some of their accounts. With internet banking you can easily transfer from any US account to the US Citibank account then use that card fee free. And like above many credit unions with small or non existent atm network offer free or refunded atm fees as an incentive to open an account.

  2. Tim,
    Thanks for your great posts.

    I plan on retiring to the Philippines in early 2018.
    We’ve alredy started building our house on Luzon island just north of Meriveles.
    Its a simple hollow-block, typical filipino style house.

    I know i am a spolied American, but as much as possible I want to live like the local Filipinos.

    I think we have most issues worked out or planned for.
    The one thing we cannot seem to figure out is a simple, inexpensive way to get money.

    My small retirement will be deposited into my local credit union.
    After we move to the Phippines, what is the best way to get the money from my credit union in America, to my bank account in the Philippines?

    Is it difficult to open an account in the Philippines?

    Thanks again,
    Austin

    1. I use USAA credit union in the US. I simply transfer money into savings and use the ATM to get it (for some reason the ATM here does not like my checking account). USAA gives a great exchange rate, and refunds the horrid ATM fee the banks charge for foreign cards ($5 per transaction). I used to use XOOM and Western Union but ended up liking the ATM with USAA better (better exchange rate and less fees). It is not too hard to open an account here, but I quit using mine over a year ago. It is a cash based economy and there is no real need for a bank account. I keep most of my money in the US.

  3. Well i am amazed with your stories……………….i am also trying to find my way…….retired been here since X-mas……………………………love it here in Roxas City………Boracay is nice but i can not afford there prices……………..I would like to keep in contact with you…………nice easy reading.lots of information………………….Keep it up…………….i also must learn to live on a budget of 1000 php per day……………….apart from the rent……………………….8000 per month.
    My advise i already can give to you and others……………………STAY AWAY FROM HOSPITALS……..insurance is a must……………..Thanks Buddy……cheers John

    1. Hi Tim,
      Hope all is well for you there in Iloilo. Have been back 3 weeks now, not happy, would rather be back there, but have to wait for our time next year.
      Pre back teaching, me back doing SFA mostly.
      Had a bad week phone battery gave up, computer gave up and cost 3k to fix, But they really have not fixed it properly. Windows 10 is a pain after upgrading from 7, I had trouble and it got worse, in the end screen was freezing constantly, .
      no wifi and trouble starting up. Now it is working but back with Windows 7 (copy) so not really happy.
      Yesterday got knocked off my bike by young idiot Thai kid, flying through intersection at high speed. Lots of gravel rash, muscle damage, back to hospital this mornin
      Hope all is well with you and the family. Had a great time with you when we met, look forward to doing it again sometime.
      R P

        1. Reality Tim it will be neither as Pre finally came out and told me she would be too far from her family and getting to see them is too complicated. She is also a new Grandmother so she wants to be close enough (but not too close) to see her grandson and others as they arrive.
          So it will be back to Luzon somewhere, still trying to find a suitable area.
          I would live in Dumaguete tomorrow as I really enjoyed it there. Really good infrastructure and a nice tow. I liked Iloilo, but did not think it was what we were looking for to retire, Pre agreed.
          We will go to Phils again in October when Pre is on school vacation but to check out Luzon areas, Central to Southern areas.

          1. That is not surprising. I got my wife to move to the other side of the island – but she will not move to another island. Such is life πŸ™‚

          2. In Luzon, Cabanatuan City is nice. Bit hustle and bustle but has everything you need and is central to so many daytrips. Even Manila is near enough. Biggest negative is lack of beach but they have some pools with cheap entry. Rent and food is cheap enough.

            Somewhere like Vigan would be awesome. Only ever visited there but it was so historic and peaceful but still had enough infrastructure to support retirement. Very quaint if that is what you are after. But a long hike from anywhere significant.

  4. I spent 3 months in Lapu-lapu as a test run of the Philippines. My budget wasn’t really a budget. 15,000 pesos for rent, electric, water, visa, phone. Then 1000 pesos a day for living expenses. Most days I didn’t need 1,000 pesos and saved the extra for island hopping. I ate out a lot but mostly at cheaper places like Jolibees, Mang inasal, Orange brutus, etc. One hour massage about twice a week was my splurge. I don’t pay bar fines or go out and party so this budget worked great for me. For a further breakdown: Rent 8,200 pesos ( studio apartment in a brand new place plus this is for the large room), electric ran me about 850 per month (I ran the aircon a couple times a month, the ex-gf ensured everything was unplugged before we left except frig and tv), Water averaged 40 pesos a month, Bottled water 60 per month. Visa runs about 1500 to 1700 per month average, a 500 peso phone load lasted me about month and a half, free wifi at the place.
    I rode public transport everywhere I went. I rode more trikes then a man my age (54) should. V-hires for trips into Cebu, taxi’s sometimes. I’ll be moving to the Philippines in 3 months and will get a new motorcycle or a used multi-cab to get around. My Filipina girlfriend is moving from Japan to Dumaguete and that is where I’ll be joining her (she has lived in Japan since she was little but has family in Dumaguete). If Dumaguete doesn’t work out then I plan on trying Iloilo next.
    My advice for someone is try it and see if it is for you or not. The culture shock can be overwhelming.

    Bill

    1. Hi Bill,
      I will be going to Dumaguete and iloilo in a few weeks to check both out for a final decision on my retirement location next year. Have done a good bit of research, Iloilo and they both appeal. Dumaguete traffic is a bit of a concern, but a good expat community which is important to me.
      Good luck with your move.

        1. Hi Tim,
          You beat me to it, was going to send you a Pm on pef. That would be great and look forward to seeing you. We will probably stay at Circle Inn Hotel, arrive 28th April. I will contact you again when I get to Phils and get a phone.
          Ron

  5. Hi Tim,
    that is a great expose for monthly expenses. You are very frugal, not sure I can get it down to that level. I admire how you have adapted to the ‘Filipino way’ there. I noted in your costings a rather hefty cost for Jeepneys etc. would you be better off with a motorcyle/side care, over the long term? I would transfer your spending on Jolliebee (hate their stuff) to a few bottles of wine and wonderful Filipino brandy.

    1. My wants a car, not sure if I do. We don’t usually use jeepneys that much – it was an odd month. We usually stay home more, which would be less on jeepneys, and less on eating out. I tried to track my spending for December 2015 but got frustrated after one week… trying to get my wife to do it too ha ha. Oh, and it is not a matter of being frugal – it is a matter of that is how much I have. I get to retire in 3 years and can’t wait! πŸ™‚

      1. Good morning Tim,
        Yes I understand. I have had to contend with a drop of 20% in the Oz $ and it makes a big hole in the budget. When I first came here 30 plus bht to $, now 24.5.
        I am 65 and on Aged Pension, since 60 was on the DSP (disability support pension) due to severe back condition.
        Don’t wish your life away Tim, I realised when I got there, that ‘retirement’ is not all that it is cracked up to be.
        What would the cost of a 2 br home in the outer suburbs where you are there. Got to say I like my comforts. I would like to be in a gated community, mainly because they have a pool and part of my medical treatment is swimming every day. I have no doubt that it the reason I am still walking around.
        Probably would not buy a car again there, but the bikes with the ‘side cars’ seem a good idea?
        How is the medical side of things there? Any decent doctors? I see that you have joined Phil Health, how does that work? I cannot marry Pre as she is already married and you know that divorce is a no no and way too expensive for us to consider. Would I still be able to join with here?
        Have a good day.
        Ron

      2. I joined PhilHealth as a single, tourist. It was p2,400 for the year. Now that we are married I am a dependent on her account, and for both of us it is p2,400 a year. Can’t beat that price πŸ™‚

        I looked at a couple subdivisions but they were out of my price range – like p3,000,000 a house. I built my house for just under p300,000. We have no pool but are 1 km from the beach (across the rice fields).

        Although I am not ‘retired’ I quit working 3 years ago and love it! I knew I was never meant to waste my life working ha ha …but later the retirement money is a good raise… or at least an inflation buffer.

        1. Thanks Tim, Yes that is about the price for something decent that I have seen on websites from Iloilo. Anything less seems rather inadequate. However, they seem to build those pillar two storey things that do nothing for me at all. Not to mention stairs become a problem for me. I like the bungalow style, but not many to choose from. You are nice and close to the beach, I think you mentioned before they are not much good? Are they polluted, I thought a good percentage of the beaches were nice and clean there, big cities excluded of course? You seem to have a nice easy and happy life there? Ron

          On Thu, Jan 21, 2016 at 7:42 AM, The Philippines Like A Native wrote:

          > Tukaram commented: “I joined PhilHealth as a single, tourist. It was > p2,400 for the year. Now that we are married I am a dependent on her > account, and for both of us it is p2,400 a year. Can’t beat that price πŸ™‚ I > looked at a couple subdivisions but they were out of m” >

          1. The beaches are so-so. it is not too polluted, so that is good, but the sand is the lumpy gray volcanic sand. I like the white, coral, sand on the North end of the island. You can go a couple hours North or South and get to some great beaches (North is better). Biggest problem is just the shape of the land here… the water, at low tide, is about knee deep on a foreigner for like 50 meter out… just flat. At high tide is gets to about 1 meter. None of the larger cities have good beaches, it seems. At least our water is cleaner than Subic πŸ™‚

          2. Yes Tim,
            The water at Subic is dreadful, bu the same at Pattaya and Jomtien. I went into the surf the other day at Jomtien and could not get out quick enough.
            Now drive 20 minutes down to Bang Saray and the water is quite good, but sand a bit the same. That does not worry me too much, as long as I can find a place to sit, watch the water and have a few beers or a glass of wine. Some nice seafood would be a bonus.
            I have a massage fairly regularly here for my back, found a good bloke at the temple down the road and he has made huge improvements in my back. Two hours for 300bht! I found it difficult to find a decent massage place when in Phils last, is it the same at Iloilo?

  6. It’s amazing how you’ve broken down your expenses and posted them here. I, too, spend that much when visiting the Philippines (I’m now based in Canada) but less if I don’t go out or eat fast food meals. You wouldn’t need to worry about your visa once you marry your fiancΓ©, I suppose? Anyway, enjoy Iloilo with the locals and your fellow expats. I’ve visited Iloilo and I like it. Good luck on your Philippine adventure. Stay safe.

      1. Thats funny cause I have lived in Bacolod for some 13 years now and if I give the money to mama we spend more, she never brings back any change it seems, haha.

  7. Hi, I’m interested in building a Bamboo home. Are there any bamboo construction courses in the Philippines that I could attend when I visit later this year? Or do you know any locals that I could pay to tech me for a few days? My requirements are a little different as I will build in Spain next year. Thankyou

  8. Aloha brother i am planning on moving their soon i am a retired Vet can you give me some advice i like to build a home for me and my GF something nice about 100 plus square meters any ideas.. thanks

    Dave

    1. First thing you have to keep in mind is that foreigners cannot own land. It can be in your girlfriend/wife name, but it is not yours. Which is why I have no current plans to build. Many expats overbuild. They build their dream castle for millions of pesos and if there is an emergency and they have to leave they can never recover their costs. If you build a hollow block house you can easily build for p80,000 ($1850 USD). That is a simple Filipino style house. The more “Western” comforts you add – of course the cost will go up (real plumbing ha ha). But that ain’t bad for a start! My fiance wants to add on a room at the family house in the Province for when we visit, and the total cost for material and labor is p10,000 ($230 USD). That is a 10×10 hollow block room addition.

  9. This is good information. Cute bamboo house. Thank you for sharing. Can youplease write about where expats hang out in iloilo. I am hoping to visit this year. Maybe we could hook up. Regards.

    1. I live a little ways outside the city so I don’t know where expats hang out. Twice a month (1st and 3rd Wednesday at 3 PM) we meet at Langford’s for drinks. It is near SM City mall. Other than that I don’t see many foreigners.

      1. Hello friend, how are you doing? I am 62 years old relying on a disability check which is only enough to live here in the Philippines. I am here for 4 months, i need some ideas if i can have my permanent residency based on my age and proof of income. Also i am interested in leasing a cheap land where in can build a 2 bedrooms nipa hut. Can you help me with these 2 issues please?
        My name is Serge

        1. I would not want to build on rented land… you will own nothing… As for permanent residency even I have not that yet, but there are a couple options. If married, a 13a visa (spouse visa) is the easiest. If single a Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) is a good option for permanent residency. Here is link to their website – kind of expensive depending on your situation.

          A tourist visa is very easy and what a lot of guys do. It is not permanent but easy – you can get 2 month or 6 month extensions (depending on what city) and you can stay for 3 years, just doing extensions. Leave the country and come right back in and start your 3 years over (a weekend in Hong Kong or Thailand is nice).
          http://www.pra.gov.ph/main/srrv_program?page=1

  10. I want to leave it up to Analyn to be the buyer of the food. she knows already I do not eat fish heads or eye balls, guts, or stomachs. I will eat what she cooks because I see she is healthier than I am and I told her she is the boss of the kitchen. air con is not an issue but we can always put in a window unit. I do want a cr with running water. I will plumb in an electric insta hot water heater because that is me.

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