Living in the Philippines on $500 per Month

By Rhiannon Davies Published on 15th April 2009 .

Let’s face it 500 bucks isn’t a vast amount of money, at the time of writing and with the current exchange rate it’s around £340 - so is it possible to live abroad anywhere on that amount of cash per month, or are we talking cardboard boxes under flyovers?

Well you can live in the Philippines on $500 per month and here’s how.

First thing you’re going to need to sort out is your accommodation.  Obviously there are plenty of houses for rent throughout the Philippines, but a small house in Manila might set you back up to $360 (£240) per month - which is going to eat into our budget quite a bit.  So, if you want to be living in the Philippines on $500 per month or less you need to be getting away from the capital city.

Apartments in Cebu, one of the most developed provinces in the Philippines, can start from around $150 (£103) per month.  Not that Cebu is particularly off the beaten track.  Cebu city boasts 5 star hotels, casinos, shopping malls, golf courses and nearby sandy beaches.  If you’re prepared to take cost savings further you can rent a room in a house.

A room with a shared bathroom in a location like Damaguete City in the province of Negros Oriental, can be had for as little as $60 (£41) per month.  But don’t think you’ll be living in a flea infested backward city at this price!  Damaguete City is one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines and known as the “university town” as it has 7 universities and colleges. 

Home to around 115,000 people, the city also offers nearby whale and dolphin watching, excellent beaches and is fast becoming a prime location for those wanting to retire in the Philippines as it has a large number of medical clinics, good city amenities, as well as a laid back lifestyle. 

So we can tick off housing.  Accommodation is cheap enough to allow you to live for less than $500 per month in the Philippines.

Next it is on to groceries, if we are living in a rented room we have around $440 (£303) of our $500 budget left.  Starting with the essentials, a pack of cigarettes will set you back around $0.80 (£0.55) and a 1/3 of a litre of San Miguel beer $0.50 (£0.34).  So to live a typical expat lifestyle and feed a 20 a day habit with 4 bottles of beer each night costs around $40 (£27) per month.  We are down to $400 (£270).

Next, on to the secondary products such as food!  Lets say you use half a litre of milk per day, 3 litres of bottled water per day, breakfast on two boiled eggs, buy a kilo of rice every 3 days and usually eat out every lunch time and evening at a local roadside stall - something like sizzling pork cheeks or Tapsilog (beef fried rice and eggs), and you obviously get through a kilo of coffee a week, average costs for a month would run to around $350 (£240).  So a months worth of groceries plus accommodation costs would still allow you to live on less than $500 per month in the Philippines.

We’re now down to the final $50 (£35).  A 5 kilometre taxi ride costs around $1.64 (£1.13) so you can either go on a 152 kilometre taxi ride with the rest of your money or splash out $40 (£27) on a Brazilian wax and head for the beach…walking.

You can see from the above figures that it is possible to live on less than $500 per month in the Philippines.  Obviously you won’t be saving an awful lot of your cash, but then, the sun’s going to be shining and the beach is free!

Rhiannon Davies's photo

Rhiannon Davies

Rhiannon is the Publishing Director at Shelter Offshore. With extensive experience as a technical author, Rhiannon's expat life began in Frankfurt with Deutsche Bank. Later as a freelance writer she was able to realise her ambition of living in some of the World's most beautiful locations.

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