How Much Does It Cost An Expat To Live In The Philippines?

How Much Does It Cost An Expat To Live In The Philippines?

other articles like this one:
Cost of market items and produce
Cost of certain appliances

UPDATE 5-6-2020

I cannot tell yet what if any long-term COL impact COVID-19 will have in the Philippines. I have not noticed anything yet. Will lack of demand drag prices down or will lack of supply pull prices up? Too early to say.

Cost Of Living In The Philippines

Below I have provided a general estimate of the monthly and yearly cost of living for our family of three.

The costs shown do not include housing or vehicle expenses, as we own our house and land and we do not have a vehicle.

We do not have water and sewer expenses because we have our own septic and well.

The miscellaneous expense of 120,000PHP per year is to cover the unexpected.

Vehicle expense would add another 80,000PHP per year: 25,000 for insurance & LTO (Land Transportation Office), 25,000PHP for fuel and 30,000 for maintenance. Add another 50,000 per year for depreciation for a total of 130,000PHP for a one year vehicle sub-total cost of ownership.

What you spend on gas will depend on your habits. For us it would be the perhaps $300-$400 USD (15,000-20,000PHP) for about 2,000 miles per year bringing the sub-total-cost-of-ownership to 130,000-150,000PHP. This is for a sedan or a used vehicle that might cost under about 1 million PHP.

Let's add in 25,000PHP x 12 for rent.

This brings the yearly total cost of living to about 1,008,400PHP or $19,392.

The Philhealth cost you see there is for your Filipino citizen spouse and children only. Add in 17,000 PHP (15,000 PHP if you have an SSRV) for your non-citizen Philhealth coverage. 

I also did not add in travel or entertainment.

Of course you could live much cheaper depending upon your lifestyle.

More Information On Buying A Vehicle

The 130,000-150,000PHP I mentioned above as the annual cost of owning a vehicle is a low end figure. It can always get much higher. There are many things for you to consider before you undertake to purchase a vehicle in the Philippines. 

Do you really need a car in the Philippines? We live in a somewhat remote rural area. We have lived here for a decade with no car. Public transport works well for us. There are two ambulance services that we can use and we have used one of them a couple of times. I think they do a much better job transporting us than we would be could have in an emergency situation. We use public transport jeepneys, tricycles, vans and buses for all of our needs and we rarely experience any issues. We have had many hired drivers over the years and I have seen their bad experiences getting sideswiped in traffic or having their vehicle struck by some unknown person in the parking lot. I do not envy those problems. 

You will have no problems with accessing public transportation in the cities. Of course my interpretation of "no problems" may be very different from yours. The biggest problem that you might have is inconvenience in waiting for a ride. But I think that totaling your vehicle or being responsible for an accident where you damage your vehicle, other people's property and also injure other parties is a pretty big inconvenience.

Public transport does come with security concerns, but no more than owning your own vehicle. They are just a bit different. 

Two things that your own vehicle can gain for you are privacy and freedom to come and go at your leisure.

With that in mind, consider that your cost of ownership could turn into multiple millions of pesos in a moment of time with one wrong move. 

So, do you really need to buy a vehicle in the Philippines?

Inflation And Exchange Rate Can Destroy An Expat's Budget

Fluctuations in the exchange rate. The rate has been as low as 39PHP to the dollar since I have lived in the Philippines. At 39PHP the 1,008,400 would cost $25,856. That is a $6500 increase from where it is now (33%)!


The most often overlooked budget gotcha: inflation. A quick way to estimate where your cost of living might be in the future is to use the "rule of 70."  The rule of 70 just means that you take the nominal annual rate of inflation and divide it into 70. The quotient is the approximate number of years that it will take your current cost of living to double.  If we make 5% our rate of inflation we find that in about 14 years our current 1 million PHP budget could become 2 million PHP or about $40,000 at the current exchange rate.

That should concern anyone who thinks that they have just enough to retire to the Philippines right now with their current fixed income. 

If your income cannot at least keep pace with inflation, then you might be in trouble when you are too old to do anything about it.

Inflation has not been as bad as 5% overall per year since I have lived here, but I don't want anyone throwing caution to the wind because I stated something here that makes you think that you do not need to worry about inflation as much as you should. The Philippines is entering a period of rapid development and that means one thing: everything will cost more and more.
Think about that.

Cost Of Groceries

You can get just about anything in the Philippine that you can get in the US. Even in a relatively remote place, like where we live we are still able to find great Western style groceries.

Just a few examples of the typical items you can find in grocery stores in the Philippines:

This 330ml bottle of Tabasco costs about 460PHP ($9). That is about 50% higher than what you might pay for this item in the US.

The Kraft cheddar cheese shown in the photo above is listed on my receipt as 500g, but the box says 440g. That is about 2oz difference. 440g is just shy of one pound. It costs 195PHP ($3.75) and it is worth its weight in gold.

The Koko Krunch used to be 187PHP, but it recently increased to 205PHP because of new taxes on sugary items.

The macaroni is a great value at 102PHP for a kilo.

The White King flour runs 96PHP for a kilo and it is also a jewel of an item. We use it to make tortillas for fajitas.

From the left, the Ram corn costs 33PHP.

The Clara Ole blueberry jam is a fantastic product that makes life more enjoyable and is a good value at 121PHP.

The red beans and diced tomatoes are both imported from Italy and each costs 47PHP.

The calamansi sauce  is another item that recently went up about 50% to 64PHP.

The nata de coco on the far right costs 48PHP.

The canned fish in the forefront is priced at 36PHP.

Back left is another of my favorite items. When we lived in the US our family went through gallons of vitamin D whole milk every week. We had a tough time finding a suitable replacement when we arrived in the Philippines. Alaska Fresh milk is a UHT product. I keep a few dozen of these in stock at any given time, because the stores have a tough time keeping it on the shelves. 

This particular item is sourced from three different countries: Thailand, New Zealand and Australia. The taste varies slightly between them. For about the last year the only one that I have seen is the Thailand variant. 

All I can say is that I love this milk. There is no regular old homogenized milk available where we are and this Alaska UHT product is a pretty good replacement. It is far and above the next best product. It costs 78PHP per liter, which at 52 PHP per dollar makes the cost about $5.77 per gallon.

Nescafe coffee 100g @ 75PHP.

Clara Ole chunky tomato with three cheese sauce is another great product @ 124PHP for a one kilo bag.

Front left is a bag of Robinson's store brand peppercorns. This product is priced at 30PHP. I can fill the empty McCormick bottle twice at one fourth the price.

The Nestea packet is another item that has increased due to the sugar tax almost doubling @ 17PHP.

The Magnolia cage free brown eggs are another of our favorites. They cost 88PHP for this package of 7 eggs.

If you live in the Philippines, then one thing that you cannot live without is coconut oil.  We burn through a 1.85 liter bottle like the one above every month. This item costs 230PHP.

Whole chicken runs about 185PHP per kilo, while cubed pork is higher at 250PHP per kilo for adobo cut. Ground beef tends to be more expensive at around 370PHP per kilo, about $3.40 per pound.

There you have an idea of what things cost in the Philippines.

I will post more like this in the future.


Anonymous said...

it was 32 to the dollar in 1998 when i first moved there

Anonymous said...

Everything seems to be going up right now. Just hope the exchange rate does not go down.

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