Cost of Living in Cebu, Philippines

This is a topic that often creates arguments purely because people have very different lifestyles. Its supposed to be taking generally on “OUR” cost of living so you can compare yours and get an idea of how much you think your costs would be here. The costs will be quoted in Pesos as the exchange rates are fluctuating like mad for over six months now where the prices have stayed pretty much fixed here.
Food Expenditure :-
This one is likely to be where people vary drastically one person to another. Reason being depends on your love for food back home as there is a fair stock of imported goods which can be expensive and are generally found in “International” sections of the bigger supermarkets. Generally the cost for us is around P8,000 a month which is for me my wife April and our daughter Zoei. There are a lot of localised foods and I would recommend trying to convert some of your taste buds to local market trends as it will save you a lot of money in the long run. There is also price matching which is worth doing because things like vegetables are often brought in from Thailand. Getting smaller local tomatoes is a lot cheaper and advise working that way on most food stocks. Unlike the UK where “local” means expensive due to costs involved local produce here appears to have less taxes and although not the same quality (e.g. size) they pretty much taste the same.
Using the wet markets which generally have meat,fish and vegetable stocks you can save a fair bit of money in comparison to supermarket pricing. General we have a mix of both as often the fruit is cheaper at the wet market as buying a good size cut of watermelon costs around P15.00
If in the Philippines alone it may actually work out cheaper to eat out. You can find many big chain restaurants doing meals for less than P100 so works out cheaper than cooking yourself. As well as socially your likely to meet new people. These meals vary from McDonalds to some localised dishes such as Sweet and sour pork, with some vegetables and rice.
Alcohol is very cheap here with a San Mig Pilsner (330ml) costing around P22 or a bottle of Tanduay rum that is 12 year matured for less than P150. Imported beers wines and spirits cost more than the local brands but generally are still cheaper or on par with UK prices.
Electricity is expensive in the Philippines infact per KW/H it is the second or third highest in the world. Currently there have been price hikes happening that are seeing significant costs rise. Our electricity at home moved from P1,600 a month to P2,600 within a month yet I have actually reduced our usage? The climate is warm here which does mean your using a lot of cooling equipment 24/7 but at the same time you haven’t got a gas heating bill that you would have in the UK. So although electric costs are up the gas bill is zero except for cooking. The other issue is comparing electric costs is difficult when you first move here because the first issue is you haven’t climatised your going to run more A/C than you really need and often a lot colder than you should be. You should be looking at around 19 – 21 degrees on a unit as this is generally a good ambient temperature. Also getting used to not running the A/C during the day time has a drastic affect on your electric bill.
There are other major factors that affect your bill as well such as location. We live in the provinces which are generally cheaper per KW/H. Cebu and Makati also have different rates to each other. Pretty much town to town there are different bills and there are different companies operating.
I would estimate for a 1 bedroom apartment around P2000/P3000 if you work on those figures it should fall somewhere in between monthly. P1000 may seem a huge variant but that is actually YOU using your A/C and how much changes the bill by 1/3rd (for one a/c unit).
The other issue is brown outs or as we call it in the UK power cuts in certain areas they have been experiencing upto 5 a day. We have had 4 in around 7 months and not more than a few hours at a time. The other issue with this is the electric companies actually charge you for the breakdown with extra charges.. Which I couldn’t see happening anywhere else in the world where you charge a customer for poor service.
LPG Gas:-
Most households in the Philippines use LPG cylinders for cooking. There is no piped gas that I know of. Most houses appear to have the gas tank inside the home yet this won’t actually pass with the local engineer if building a house for example as it should be stored externally. Infact I have even seen cookers for sale with an added storage facility inside the cooker for the tank which to me seems a little crazy because not only could the tank leak and cause an explosion your actually sealing the unit into a space for gas build up. Ideally you want the tank external in a small cage with some cover. So it won’t be stolen but at the same time if it leaks the gas can escape.
Gas refills vary in price month to month but generally one tank lasts us three months and cost P600 they will deliver for free and a free standing twin gas burner can be bought from P500 upwards. Purchasing your first tank will cost you around P1,500 (deposit)
Water – Tap & Drinking:
Water is readily available in our location and generally we have deep well water. This is used for showering and general washing up etc. Which is free, the last few months though we experienced a drought that left us borrowing a hose from a neighbour to fill our external tank every day. That has cost us P400 per month for the last couple of months but the rains have also arrived so no doubt it will be back down to free within a few weeks. You can get mains supply and that is what cost us P400 a month, pressure is fairly good but still need an external tank as often they shut the water off at night. Which is great when you arrive back from being out to find you can’t shower. So if you don’t have a tank its worth buying one or at least a bucket you can load up with water and scoop.
Drinking water we buy three large drums (the same as you find in UK offices) for P100 delivered. Generally we get through maybe 3-5 of those a month. Yours may be more expensive or cheaper I am swapping back to water after recently noticing I have been getting a sweet tooth for fizzy drinks. I would advise getting a water chiller as you can have cold water 24/7 because its the fact I often forget to stick a cold bottle of water in the fridge that I keep drinking cold fizzy drinks.
Telephone Services:-
There are various networks and various services in Cebu there is PLDT, Globe and ISLACOM. We have a PLDT wireless line which is a landline but using a wireless network. Which may sound a bit odd but basically usage wise its just like carrying a mobile phone but its local calls are free and National and international are turned off. That costs around P600 per month although you do sometimes get line static its fairly reliable. We also have mobile phones which are topped up similar to the UK but as I use mainly the internet my costs are literally P30 a month if that since I don’t text many people.
Internet wise we us
e smartbro canopy which is elgedly “upto” 1mb but more often than not its lucky to reach 750kbs. Not great but we have very rarely been disconnected. We did request wired PLDT lines for the internet cafe to find out they weren’t doing it in the area so then ordered a second smartbro canopy for it to find out a month later they called us and asked if we wanted a landline now that its on promotion (too late we just signed an 18 month contract!). The Smartbro internet costs us P999 a month.
Television Options:
You have the option of cable, satellite and the 5 domestic free broadcast channels. I chose satellite TV as cable was not available to me when my house was built and the local channels are very limited in their content. The satellite service here is called DREAM TV and is similar to SKY in the UK, albeit a very cut down version.
Dream offers around 40 channels for 890Php monthly. Look at their web site to see what they offer Dream TV. I do not think they offer great value for money and would seriously only use their service if cable is not available (personal opinion).
Satellite & Cable TV give you access to a wealth of mainly American tv shows but there is a small amount of English programming with shows like "The Kumars", "The Office", "Little Britain". You also gain access to a number of news channels including BBC World, so keeping up with developments around the world is not a problem.
Domestic Staff:
A big luxury in the Philippines is being able to employ staff cheaply. We for example had a gardener in the last few days landscaping the garden. But we also have a laundry woman every week and a Nanny for Zoei. The Nanny is live in where the other various people that do work for us we ask when needed. The cost of laundry washing for example for a full day costs P250.00 plus the soaps etc. A nanny you can find for less than P2,000 a month who will be there 24/7 although Sunday is often “day off” to allow live in staff to go to church. Although even then they are generally at the house afterwards/before as often they are literally an island away from home and family.
Appliances from the UK:
Voltage supply in the Philippines is 220v which means your UK appliances will work. However there is a frequency difference as the UK is 50hz and Philippines 60hz. I haven’t seen this affect any of my own equipment but would advise checking with a manufacturer on your equipment as this may result in things like motors running slightly faster. You can also buy regulators in most malls and hardware stores which may assist in reducing the risk of electrical spike damage for appliances. They are fairly cheap and would no doubt assist in keeping expensive bits of equipment alive. Same as buying a UPS system for a computer as a backup as generally as well as letting your computer shut down safely they are also fused to protect the system.
General expenditure budget for our family of three :-
We are currently looking at P25,000 all in which will increase with time (my wife April is pregnant). Which will result in schooling being added in the next few years which will of course add at least another P10,000 for 2 kids but also the extra costs of rides too and from school etc. etc. As well as moving from our current 1 bedroom house to buying one with a mortgage which will increase our costs by another P15,000 per month.
Why don’t I give a long list of various expenses? To be honest it wouldn’t be worth it because my lifestyle and location is going to slightly differ from yours which means so will costs. Electricity may be cheaper here but I may spend more on transportation than you would because of being further away from the city. I do believe that a single person or a couple can survive easily on P25,000 with a slightly provincial life. Or if in the city it may still be comparable as everything is on your doorstep except for the “rental” because Condo rental and expenses can often be high in comparison to provincial. But don’t get me wrong Provincial doesn’t mean I live in a Nipa hut in the middle of the jungle. I live in a town with a population of over 100,000 have several beach resorts nearby (within 5 mins ride). I have a market on my doorstep, several malls nearby and I am 25-30 mins from central Cebu. We are outside of the concrete jungle but at the same time we have all the facilities within reach. Unless you want to live on the beach or want to go to the malls everyday I would advise doing the same. Its slightly out on a limb but at the same time the benefits out way the negatives.

6 comments for “Cost of Living in Cebu, Philippines

  1. Andrew Swarbrick
    June 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    If only those costs were mine hahaha, i live in makati which means the cost of living is much much higher i would estimate we spend about 150k month at the moment about 45 k for the condo rental, 18k on electricty, food is more like 15 k just for me and my kid then water we go through 5 gallon tubs a week, general going out is not cheap either, schooling for kids can vary form a little as 3.k a month for the cheaper private schools up to thew 500k a quarter for someof the internatino schools here. Generaly spoeaking city living is so much more expensive but it does have its good points like you can get any kind of takeaway food 24/7 the internet is fast and relaiable, secutiy is considerably better here as well. I guess its horses for courses realy i perosnaly coultn live in a province i like to vist but living there no chnace i would die of bordom within a month. Im just to used to the city to want to live in the province but hell to each their own!

  2. Jason Thompson
    June 30, 2010 at 2:36 am

    Good post(s) Matt. Thanks for the info. I use the smartbro internet when I'm there as well. As long as you can get a 75% signal or better on a 3G connection it is pretty decent. I think I was getting around 900kbps. I wonder if Globe is any better? Next time I visit I'll give them a try since my modem is not carrier specific.



  3. Tropicalpenpals
    June 30, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I find Smartbro reliable but in the UK we have 2 x 13mb connections so going to less than 1mb is a severe change lol.. but the smartbro handles pretty much everything i want it to do without too much problems.

  4. Tropicalpenpals
    June 30, 2010 at 10:36 am

    We don't have all the luxury living that you do Andrew 😉 lol.. Im half in the city half provincial so got best of both worlds.

  5. Tropicalpenpals
    June 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Being single makes a huge difference on the expenses because if you do meet a nice girl you will find your cost of living virtually doubles as your partner moves up to your way of life and although used to surviving on P2000 a month on food budget or less suddenly she eats as much if not more than you

  6. Ofoo45
    June 30, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I spend only about 25k per month. In Manila! That includes the two main expenditures – accommodation and food. Single. I use Sun Wireless Broadband, I recommend. Live in a nice condo. Eat in food courts every day, seems to be cheaper than cooking at home, you can get sth decent for 50-100 pesos.