The question “How much money do I need to live in the Philippines?” is one I get often. This is a question that often comes in email and is a question better asked in public so that it will help others. Of course, there is no one answer fits all for this question. I require more money than many do because of my medical bills. Still, the cost of living in the Philippines is much lower than it was in the USA for me. Some say it is higher, I don’t see how it could be. Some things do cost more. The cost of services and housing is where you will likely have the biggest savings.

How Much Do I Need To Live Comfortably in the Philippines?

This is the real question people want answered. Once again though it goes back to the list of things you need to account for. That’s just a short list. Just what comes to mind at the moment.`

The cost of living in the Philippines is much lower than any other place that I know of. I’m sure there are some cheaper places but you might have to live in a land where they still occasionally eat each other.

What someone needs to get by on in the Philippines varies a great deal. Here is a list of ten factors that can effect how much you need to live in the Philippines:

  • Do you have medical bills?
  • Do you like to party?
  • Do you drink a lot?
  • What are your eating habits?
  • Do you need air conditioning?
  • Do you require modern housing?
  • Am I going to get married in the Philippines?
  • What is the current US dollar to Philippine Peso currency exchange rate?
  • What about your clothing cost in the Philippines?
  • Can I be happy living as a Filipino does?


Medical Cost in the Philippines

Medical bills are very low here. Still, if you get seriously ill, that’s going to be very costly. At the moment, I just hope and pray my health does not get a lot worse. The cost of my medication fell from over a $1000 a month to less than $200 on average. I was able to find cheaper substitutes though. Brand names, if available, will cost about the same and usually a small amount more.

The Cost of Going Out in the Philippines

Do you like to party? You shouldn’t be asking the question of how much money do I need to live in the Philippines if that is high onPhilippine Eatery your list. Living cheaply is not really a priority. It cost less to party here than it does in Western nations. A lot less too. A friend of mine was complaining about the high cost of drinks at a luxury hotel in Cebu City today. They spent about $25 on four drinks. You could spend that on four drinks in the USA in the 80’s. That’s a lot here. I don’t go out and drink very often. The last time I did, I took about five women and spent $20 and we stayed until 2am.  Then the place closed.  So, it is much cheaper here but this was a non air conditioned disco in Bogo City.

Seems a lot of foreigners living in the Philippines sit around and drink all day long. Hey, its your live and your girlfriend that has to put up with it. I don’t even know what a beer cost any more. It has been a while since I have had one. I would guess about P60 and I’m allowing for inflation. That is for a good beer.

Food Cost in the Philippines

Going out to eat in the Philippines can be as costly here as in the USA. It depends on where you go. I can go to the BBQ by the bay in Bogo City for about three bucks. And that’s for two people. Its an open air eatery and it can be quite hot. Usually though it is not too bad there. Pizza Hut in Cebu City will cost about what it cost in the USA. There is a fast food chain that is very popular here. The name of it is Jollibee’s.  It is much cheaper than McDonald’s in the USA. They offer the same kinds of things. It’s far less healthy but taste a lot better. Now they do have Filipino style items. You can even order a spam sandwich.  Nearly all the American fast food chains are here. They are a little more expensive than Jollibee but not a lot more.  They are generally cheaper than the USA.

Lechon Manok Cheap FoodIf you go to eateries owned by Filipinos,  you can save a lot of money. I find food to be much cheaper. A friend of mind finds it to be more expensive. He also goes to the most expensive place in Cebu City that I know of to buy it. He pays more for an uncooked chicken than I do for fully cooked Lechon Manok.

Your Electric Bill in the Philippines

If you need air conditioning or air con as it is called here, then your electric cost are going to go way up. I have six people living in my home. It is a large home. I only have an air con in one room. My electric bill is 10,900p this month. That’s over $200.  With air con you can do it for less but not a lot less. Maybe $150. I keep the temperature in my bedroom at around 27C during the day. It will cool down to around 25C at night. That is about 80F during the day and 77F at night. That’s a lot warmer than I use to set my central air in the in the USA. I’ve seen many articles claiming that the Philippines has the highest electric rate in the world. I can’t confirm that but it must be close.

Housing Cost in the Philippines

Housing can be had cheaply in the Philippines. My home has 10 rooms and I live half a mile from the beach. Its not a beach I would goExpat Home in Philippines swimming in but the kids do it everyday. You’ll see men wading out to their bancas (boats) as well. It isn’t a modern home at all. I pay less than $280 a month for it. Try that I the USA.  My home is pictured to the right.

If you want a modern home, with modern windows you are going to pay a lot more. Still, the cost will be much lower than in the USA. When I first got here I was paying P30,000 for an apartment which I would never pay now. It was pretty basic, but new and modern. No pool or anything and it included my electricity bill too.

I’ve seen decent but small places for as low as P7,500 but usually the minimum will be P10,000 and that’s very small. You should probably think in the range of P12,000 to P25,000 but you can spend much more if that is what you want to do. The picture below and to the left is a typical Filipino home. It is not a nipa hut.

Are you going to get Married?

Typical Filipino HomeIf you get married your cost for immigration will be less. And you can work or have a business in the Philippines. The cost of feeding, clothing, medical bills and other personal cost are going to outweigh the benefit of that. Still, it is cheaper than living with someone as then you still have to pay the visa extension fees of around $75 every other month. There are some months though where the cost is much higher. If you don’t get married, you must leave the Philippines for three days every 16 months in general.

Exchange Rate

The amount of the US dollar to Philippine peso exchange rate will also have a significant impact on your funds. If you have income from another country, the same will hold true.  I have seen the dollar as high as P50 to 1USD since I have lived here. Most of the time though. The dollar to Philippine peso rate of exchange has been below P45 to 1. It seems like it has been at P40 to $1 for a year now. I could be wrong, as it really pushes living off my pension to the limit.

The Cost of Clothing in the Philippines

If you are small enough to buy your clothes in the Philippines you’ll be lucky.  In some areas, you may be able to find clothing for a larger frame. It probably will not be in Cebu. You might find that around the old Clark Air Force base near Angeles City. You can also likely find that in Manila.

I get my clothes made for me. I get them made at a very low cost. For around $1o, I can get a shirt made and that includes the cost of material. You’re only other option would be to order from Amazon and have it shipped here. Sometimes, Jessie has found second hand clothes for me. They are just fine though some of it has been ugly in my opinion.

Can You Live as a Filipino Lives?

If you can do that, you can live here for a few hundred dollars a month. Many Filipinos make less than $300 a month. I would guess that most live on less than $500 a month. If you can live in a nipa hut you can do that for less than $150 a month. You can get a home that is a bit nicer than a nipa hut for that amount. A nipa hut is made out of bamboo.

You will also need to eat a lot of rice and dried fish. The dried fish smells bad when cooking it. It taste fine. I could eat a lot of that andExpat Living in the Philippines still be hungry. I did eat a lot of it the first month I was here. I even tried noodles but it made me gag. I can’t live like a Filipino. You’ll need to forget hot water. Many Filipino don’t have running water in their homes. I think at $500 a month, you can live here but you will need to live like a Filipino or a bit better. Most don’t have that much money. Some have a lot more than that. There are plenty of rich Filipinos. You won’t be living like them. I don’t live like them.  I probably live like middle class but I don’t have a car.

Some things cost more here. Electronics is one that people complain about a lot.  And they complain with good reason. A Canon 7D cost $1000 more here than I can get it in the USA. Some of that cost is a high tax on electronics here. I don’t think all of it is that though. You can get a cheap cell phone but if you want a quality Android or iPhone you are going to be paying a premium price for it. Though, the prices are not as bad as cameras are.

So what is the bottom line. What do I recommend as the minimum? I would say the minimum you will need to live in the Philippines and retain any kind of a Western life style is $1000 a month. I can’t do it on that any more. I could when I first got here but prices have gone up enough now that I can’t. You’ll still have to cut your standard of living. Now you have the best answer I can give to “How much do I need to live in the Philippines.”

By Rusty Ferguson

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