Its a bit odd emailing you about this as your one of the few people I have seen referring to the fact everyone’s budget is different. I have to admit I bought into the possibilities of Living In The Philippines on $500 a month after reading in many places that people are already doing it but also others advising how easy it is to do.
I arrived with a fixed pension, I do have some assets back home but I have no plans on selling anything as I wanted to keep those assets for emergencies only such as heading back, unknown to me it seems that is likely to happen in the next few months. I originally rented a pension house and then moved to an apartment (not condo couldn’t afford one). Area wasn’t great and it often felt like I was living in a slum with the open sewers throwing up the smell of stale urine every time I went to the grocery store. Buying food I would say what food? most of the goods here are terrible and its shameful that monopolies even control the food market at all from Nestle shovelling their crap to the big malls stopping mass imported goods that would destroy their poor alternatives.
Sorry for being so down but this isn’t what I signed up for and I will say there is good food here as well but your not only going to have to pay for it but the prices are daylight robbery compared to back home. Add to that it costs more here and the quality is crap if here was a business somewhere else I am sure it would be shutdown on many grounds.
My $500 covers my rent, my food (mainly can’t get what I want and its depressing!) and all other bills but the issue here is I am not happy. I think you wrote somewhere $500 is the bare minimum and your right on the money as you can exist on it here but its not a good existence as well as the risk if I got ill I would need to sell stuff back home quickly to pay for it. Living In The Philippines on $500 is unrealistic unless your willing to make some severe changes if you do it for a few months I am sure its a like it or lump it scenario which won’t affect most people but long term would probably make most suicidal.
After I received your email I just wanted to post it here for others to see name has been removed for obvious reasons as well as the location from which you call home, as these bits of information don’t need to be shared and I respect people’s privacy. First thing I would like to point out is City living is always more expensive but also some of the wealthier people I know are even considering of moving out of the Cities and in recent months several have. Prices don’t make any sense with some people paying P20,000 just for electric in Makati for a box condo for example when I can run 3 apartments and a house with separate store including a chest top freezer,several fridges, air con etc for around P5,000. Its about location but also about what people feel comfortable with, when I went down to Negros I found the place clean,quiet,organised at the same time I am sure many people would complain its too quiet and that its too far from a major hospital, Its all about priorities because food down there is also better. Now the odd thing as it seems food is the main gripe about Living in the Philippines is that the Philippines does produce good quality food although most goes for export and the crap seems to end up in the malls. I have been looking at this from another angle which for me is heading to where the food is to see what is going on and is it possible to get the good stuff as your right we are being robbed price wise in the malls as no doubt farmers get crap payments from these guys as well.
Rental wise I would always take a short term initially like the Pension house you took but also try to negotiate a month to month rental if possible so that the things you discover later like the stench of urine you can look for somewhere else and it won’t take you more than a month or two to relocate. Watch on the deposit as most people treat it as non refundable i.e. expect you not to pay the last months rent or in many cases last 2 months trapping you there for 3 months try to negotiate a trial month as you don’t know the neighbourhood etc. always worth trying!
$500 was my bare minimum when I started getting asked about living in the Philippines but would advise even more now to reassess anyone’s expenses as inflation is driving prices up and the exchange rates are driving the Dollar down. $500 when I wrote that article was worth a lot more then than it is today, with the current trend I would recommend at least $1,200 a month to live reasonably and even then its down to the individual. We can live here on P35,000 a month as a family which is why I know its possible at the same time I do know others like the beer, cigarettes, girls etc. etc. same as some people are terrible with budgeting another reason they can’t manage.
Best advice I can give for you is to move out of the city and head more provincial or if your not prepared to do that you may be happier going home if you already own your property etc. there as at least your food bill will come down. Not sure it will be a better place to live people wise or weather, but we all have to make choices on what is best for us. Out in the provinces though you can reduce your rent,food costs,water and electric but would say get a mode of transport for yourself as I found in Negros that the buses stopped in the evenings which for me was too early as enjoying the city getting a ride back to where we were resulted in having to book a hotel overnight.