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
p940 wet market
p722 Cignal satellite tv
p1267 Globe internet
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
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…