Obviously, everyone’s budget is going to be different based on their monthly expenses and on how much income they have coming in each month. Some will be living on a fixed income whereas others will have some good months and some bad. I happen to fit into the latter category.
Your budget categories in the Philippines will probably be extremely similar to back home with the only real difference being maintaining your visa.
Originally, I had intended on posting screenshots of my bills. Then, I realized there is personal information on there, that I do not wish to share with the general public. However, I am going to attempt to keep my monthly budgetary items up-to-date on this page. It is important to remember that my situation here is going to be different from yours.
I used to live in a one family two bedroom house in a gated community in Cavite. Living in Cavite means that my housing expenses are much lower than living in Manila. I do not own my home, so I have to rent. My old lease stipulated that I am responsible for most repairs and the monthly home owner’s association dues. The monthly rental fee was 5,000 pesos per month and the dues were 200 per month.
As I said, I USED TO live… I have since moved. Jenn and I split up back in February 2016 and I had been living with a friend, who was renting a two bedroom townhouse in Bacoor, Cavite. The rent on this townhouse was 8,500 pesos per month, but it was considerably nicer than my old house and the master bedroom has a full bathroom with a second full bathroom downstairs. In December 2016, I took over the house when my roommate (and his girlfriend) moved to Manila.
In September 2917, I moved again. I stayed in Bacoor, but the new house was closer to SM Bacoor, so the rent increased to 13,000 per month + 500 pesos for security and dues. Another added expense was the fact that the water was more than double what I paid at the other townhouse. You can read all about the water issues in my blog article about why my neighbors all started drilling water wells on their property.
Just like anywhere else in the world, living in a city, like Manila or Cebu City is obviously going to cost you more. Even living in a nice house in Angeles City is probably going to cost you 10,000 pesos or more per month. Just go give you an idea of prices, in 2006 a penthouse in Makati Prime Tower, on the corner of Burgos and Kalayaan, costed 99,000 pesos per month and that was with the discount we were offered for knowing the owner. A one bedroom apartment in that same building was around 15,000, I believe.
In my old house I had a Globe Broadband (wired) DSL (5MbpS) with landline. Usually, the phone and internet connection is under 2,000 pesos, combined. However, now I have a PLDT (wired) DSL (9 MbpS) with landline and now we pay 3,100 pesos. PLDT does offer more speed for less money, but we do not have a monthly data cap, so I think it is worth it.
In my old house, we had two computers, a refrigerator, three 18″ fans, two 16″ fans, a 27″ CRT television, and most of my lights are LED bulbs with a few CFL’s. One computer is on from 12 PM (noon) until around 3 AM (sometimes a bit later). The other computer is my children’s and they use it periodically throughout the day. The bathroom (CR) light is on all night, because I put my seedlings (I am starting a container garden) in there at night, for the light and the warmth. The garage or the porch light is also on all night for security purposes and for our dog who usually spends the night in the garage.
For some reason, energy prices here fluctuate pretty wildly. One month I might have gotten a bill for 2,500 pesos and the next month it might jump to more than 3,000 pesos.
However, living here there are usually two 16″ fans and one 18″ fan going all day. The 18″ fan (mine) usually runs 24 hours a day, but the two 16’s get turned off at night when the air conditioner in my roommate’s bedroom gets turned on. I know that may sound backwards, but electricity is considerably cheaper at night than it is during the day. We also have a full size refrigerator, two desktop PC’s and a laptop. Most of the lights in the house are CFL bulbs, but a few have been upgraded to LED’s. My roommate’s girlfriend has a thing about keeping the lights on as much as possible, so there is almost always a light (or three) on during the day. The electricity bill is usually somewhere around 5,000+ pesos per month.
In my old house we did laundry everyday, plus the dishes and three adults and my two small children showered. The bill is usually pretty close to the same each month. The base bill was usually under 400 pesos, but once they added on their taxes and charges it normally jumped up to around 450-500. When we get to the hot season, it was normally higher because we fill the kiddie pool once or twice a week.
It is roughly the same in this house, if not a bit higher. We have three adults (two male Americans and a Filipina) who shower, do dishes and laundry. We have a brand new washing machine and they will do a few loads of laundry once every week or two. I tend to do mine about as often, but sometimes more if I am going out often.
Cable / Satellite TV
We did not have either of these in my old house. The TV had an antenna on the roof to pick up local broadcast channels. Anything beyond that we can get off YouTube, iflix (which is very cheap and is a pretty decent service), etc.. Cable TV, although available in Cavite, is not available where I lived in the Paliparan, Dasmariñas. I would have had to settle for Cignal (brand name) satellite service. However, I just did not see the need. Here, in Bacoor, we have Sky Cable. The internet available through Sky Cable is horrible, however. So, don’t bother with it. To put this simply, if you don’t watch a lot of TV or if your budget doesn’t allow for it, do not bother with getting cable or satellite.
We used to own a motorcycle, but when we finally paid it off (in full) I decided to sell it because, at the time, the price of fuel was just way too high. It would probably be a lot more economical now, with the low oil prices, but there is also a safety issue. Like many Filipinos do, I kept catching Jenn taking my children for a ride on it. I am very uncomfortable with this because none of them wore helmets. So, I put an end to that and now we get around via jeepneys and we have a tricycle (trike) service that we can call.
Most of the places we go on the jeepney costs only 8 pesos (per person) one way. Beyond that first zone it costs 15 pesos. Sometimes, I choose to pay for the kids so they can sit, but there have been times where I put one of them (usually my youngest) on my lap. If the jeep is fairly empty, I won’t pay for them and I just let them sit on the bench seat and shift them to my lap if the jeepney fills up.
We know this guy who we call when we need a trike ride. He gives us a flat monthly rate for when he takes my daughter to school and picks her up after. If we are going somewhere, we are charged based on the distance traveled. In my experience, most tricycle drivers are pretty honest about the cost of a ride and they are also pretty helpful. A lot of them will help you carry your groceries from their trike to your front door, without being asked to do so. I usually try to tip them an extra 5 pesos for the help, but there have been times when I had no coins and they didn’t say a word. This is a stark contrast from taxi drivers in Manila who are quite unscrupulous and have no qualms about asking for, or even demanding, a tip.
We generally have a wide ranging diet. Jenn is an absolutely amazing cook. She can cook traditional Filipino dishes and plenty of American ones, as well. She is really good with Italian food, which is great for me because that’s what I grew up on. She experiments with her meals quite a bit, as well. Anyway, with such a broad diet our grocery list tends to change from week to week. Jenn’s mother is here almost every day (more on that later), so Jenn gives her money the day before and her mother goes to the wet market early in the morning to get our food, as well. This is great for us, because prices there tend to be much cheaper than the prices at the grocery stores.
Now that I have moved to Bacoor, I visit SM Bacoor’s Hypermart pretty regularly. I will try to incorporate those prices below, when I can.
Meat and Fish
I will say that I am not particularly crazy about the meats and fish at the wet markets, especially as the day wears on. Early in the morning, things tend to be fresh. As the day progresses, that meat and fish has been sitting out in the heat with little to no ice to keep it cool and fresh. The flies are buzzing all over and you will see the vendors with their streamer sticks or makeshift fan things to keep the flies away. It’s all quite disconcerting to see this and know that if left to their own devices many Filipina/Filipinos will buy that meat/fish and try to feed it to you. I personally check the meat, fish and produce that comes into my house.
At the grocery stores, like Hypermart, Robinson’s Supermarket, Rustan’s, Savemore, etc… the meat and fish selection is usually acceptable. They let you fill the bag yourself or they will do it for you if you tell them how much you want in kilograms. (For those of you from the US, 1 Kilogram is equal to 2.2 Pounds). Not only that, but in some supermarkets you can even watch them butcher the meat, which is nice because you know it is freshly cut. They also butcher meat in front of you at the wet market, but the meat has also been sitting out for a while, as well.
Produce – Fruits and Vegetables
The fruits and vegetables tend to be decent, if not a little small and sometimes un-ripened. This is especially true of tomatoes and I’ve complained about that so many times that Jenn no longer buys tomatoes at the markets. She will only buy those in the grocery stores, along with lettuce and a few other items that I insist on quality for. This tends to get expensive, but I am very frugal. This is why I have decided to grow vegetables in a small garden. For example, I have been growing tomatoes and a few other things like some basil, garlic, etc…
Fruits, in particular, tend to be pretty good. I can’t recall a time when I got a bad piece of fruit. Certain fruits are a bit expensive, but others tend to be reasonably priced. Fuji apples, from a street vendors, can go for around two for 20-25 pesos. The smaller ones are about 10 pesos each. Strawberries and grapes are almost always going to be a bit pricey. Bananas are interesting. Dole bananas are obviously the most expensive, but the large bunches of no brand bananas are upwards of 150 pesos in SM Hypermart. I can buy the same bananas (quality, number and size) for 90 pesos from a vendor in a market. The same goes for oranges. Buy them from a street vendor for a discount, although I have noticed that oranges in the Philippines tend to be a hit or miss affair.
Vegetables tend to come in cycles. For a few weeks they are large and ripe and then suddenly they are small and not as ripe, yet the price is the exact same as when they are large and ripe. At least that is what I have noticed in SM Bacoor’s Hypermart.
Household items & supplies
Just about anything you can find in a US or European grocery store can be found in a grocery store in the Philippines. As stated above, many items can be found even cheaper from a street vendor or the various markets that Filipinos frequent. However, I caution you, that the quality will almost certainly be lower and there is a risk that the items are stolen. Another thing to consider is that you will almost certainly be charged the “foreigner tax“, so if you have a Filipina maid or girlfriend/boyfriend, let him/her buy them for you.