Cost of Living in Philippines

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Our monthly expenses living near Iloilo City. We find that, with care, we can live fairly well in Iloilo City on about $2,000 per month.  We own or own home so no rent is included.  The main cost of living questions you need to adjust for are:

  • Prescription drugs and medical care.  A $2,000 per month budget may cover routine medical and dental care for a reasonably healthy couple.  Someone requiring expensive prescription drugs or expensive medical care needs to adjust the budget accordingly.  A reserve account to cover emergency medical expenses is a must.
  • Support you provide to your spouse’s Philippine family — routine and special such as medical emergencies.
  • Family size.
  • Dining out, entertainment
  • Expenses in ones home country.
  • Immigration fees.
  • Overseas travel.
  • Any installment payments such as for a motor vehicle.

Here’s our expenses for 2011 (in U.S. Dollars)

Auto 454.88
Bank Charge 80.74
Books, Magazines, Music 381.46
Clothing 388.12
Computer 1,150.68 (includes hardware)
Dining Out 715.77 (includes travel)
Entertainment 96.97
Family Help 5,795.32 (medical, education, funeral)
Gifts 105.82
Groceries 3,975.95
House Construction 1,425.41
House Furnishings 1,160.30
House Landscaping-Garden 456.46
House, Maintenance 523.77
Household 1,274.56 (includes generator)
Labor 698.79
Medical/Dental 7,124.75 (includes major surgery – about $5,000)
Photography 443.54 (includes camera)
Postage, Shipping 179.95
Rent 00.00 (own house)
Tax 219.06
Transportation 149.68
Travel 1,501.01
Bottled Water 175.15
Electricity house 1114.22
Garbage & Recycling 55.80
Generator fuel 39.41
Internet 411.18
Propane 95.11
Telephone 314.48

Total Utilities Utilities 2,205.35

Total 2011 Expenses  $31,000 (approximate)


Expenses were high due to completion and furnishing of new house, family medical (including major surgery) and funeral expenses.

Would be Philippine retirees often ask if they can live in the Philippines for $600 per month or $800 or $1000 per month.  The answer to all these is yes.  If you are healthy, can be happy living in a rural area, riding public transport, shopping in the public markets, avoid imported foods and can get along without air conditioning and maybe Internet access (if you’re reading this maybe you can’t), you can live on very little. is an interesting site offering cost of living and other quality of life comparisons for various locations around the world.  What’s especially interesting is that the information is supplied by persons living in the various communities.  You can log in and report on things such as the cost of a dozen eggs or a loaf of bread in your community, so that the information reports is localized, detailed and practical.  It’s worth a look.  Since it’s a relatively new site with limited data there are quirks.  For example it reports a lower crime rate (as reported by residents) in Manila than Iloilo City.  To us that’s laughable.


Comments (13) Write a comment

  1. This is still relevant info. However i want to add the importance of not getting involved in sponsoring of relatives and typical “Filipino” things. For example, an american friend and his filipina wife has his military pension of $2000 monthly, that should be plenty for them and their 3 kids but instead he cant afford even the occasional beer, he has to drink only the cheapest stuff, Tanduay Rhum, They dont even have a car or motorcycle, or generator or anything fancy, but their kids go to private school. So what happens if they have emergency expenses, like sickness or accident? Who knows, every peso is spent in advance, he is more poor than our filipino friends who have bad jobs, its easy to say “wow your salaries here in PH are so small, how can you manage?” but i rather ask, how come foreigners with good pensions can not manage? And expats in Thailand experience similar problems, and often the bigger circle of local family is the problem, and expensive and unnecessary luxury habits.


  2. Hi Bob.

    Our monthly expenses based on 2 people, are around Php: 30,000, were living on a bit of a budget but still allows for buying groceries in Iloilo (Robinsons normally) and utilities (Electricity 2700, Internet/Phone 999, Cignal 1250, Helper 1500, bottled water 300)
    Hope that helps to show the lower end of the cost of living in the Barangays.


    • Hi Ed,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s interesting that the expenses you list are pretty similar to ours. However we don’t have a full time helper or TV. So I looked to see why our expenses are higher. What stands out are support for our Philippine family which was $4,000 last year (we support Carol’s dad and were sending nieces to school), medical at $2,600 (both of us take prescription drugs) and $2,400 travel (I had a reunion with family and friends in Hong Kong plus trips to Manila). We are also a bit extravagant with our grocery shopping. That mostly my fault — buying too many imported foods. I’ll bet if you backed those things out of our spending, it would not be too different from yours.

      That’s the great thing about living in the Philippines. The cost of living is almost infinitely flexible and, in many respects, living on a budget brings you closer to life in the Philippines. When we lived in Iloilo City I always took jeepneys, even after we had a car. I enjoyed the jeepneys more than being sealed up in an air conditioned, tinted window SUV. A meal at Roberto’s can be a lot more fun than dining at the Day’s Hotel. Living on our 1,500SM lot with fence is quite different and more boring than lively, noisy, colorful and companionable life in the barrio. So, as long as you can afford medical care and other necessities, living with less certainly does not mean a lesser life!



    • Lei,

      There are so many other variables (medical, help to family) that we really can’t refine this estimate further. A single person could easily spend $2,000 per month or it could support a big family. For us, it’s a family size averaging three or four persons.



  3. Bob,
    Enjoying the site!
    I like that you mention the range of costs and included a breakdown of real expenses.
    One thing i did not see mentioned is cost of alcohol, swill, fun juice, etc. In the tropics, drinks just seem to have a much easier time going down. Is it included in the above or are you one who does not imbibe?


    • I only imbibe a little. I can never decide if alcohol should be
      listed under “entertainment” or “groceries”. I think I included it
      with groceries. Is there anywhere in the world where it’s cheaper to


      • Absolutely there are places with booze is cheaper, although much cheaper than say Thailand (in the top 10 most expensive places), PI prices are certainly more reasonable, yet still far behind in relative pesos, dollars or yen.

        Personally, cost of rent in Thailand (my reference point when comparing the two SE Asian countries and presently is driving me crazy as i search) is far cheaper. However, to go one step further, San Miguel is without a doubt, way better than anything coming out of the aforementioned Buddhist Kingdom. Laos being another story, but I’m getting sidetracked.

        According to a report April 2012 in economic terms (Purchasing Power Parity or PPP, as opposed to the Big Mac index) …..

        “There are 53 places that are more expensive, and 726 places that are less expensive for alcohol and or tobacco.”

        Manila overall was 307th out of 780 places.
        Other highlights:
        * Education: Only in 29 other metros, towns, etc. in the world have lower education costs than Manila.
        * Metro Healthcare is ‘mid-range’ on the list, with 421 places more expensive and 358 less expensive.
        * Groceries are more expensive in 91 places – pass the cheese – with 688 places ranked less expensive.

        Other categories where Manila ranked below 50% (or less expensive compared to other places), Personal Care items, Recreation and Culture, Furniture & Appliances, (and believe it or not) Communication with 640 more expensive places.

        cheers all


        • Once you manage to rent a place without your filipino friends taking a commission from the house owner its very cheap, i rented whole 2 story concrete house for less than 2000 just 25 minutes from Manila. Currently paying php 4000 monthly for a nice 2 bedroom townhouse with gated parking space. Before i learned about private commissions behind the foreigners backs i used to pay around 7000 for small apartments, and still i paid less than most other foreigners. Never accept help from friends or the auntie of your girlfriends in house matters, filipinos even earn commission on rent from other filipinos, they dont consider it to be problematic but understandably not talking loudly about it.


  4. Hi Bob,

    Is there anyway you could update the cost of living in ILOILO to reflect the 2010-2011 pricing, or has it stayed relatively the same?

    Thanks much!



  5. Yes, you can become a Philippine citizen after five years of residency and after having learned the local language. Lots of Filpinos are dual citizens. You’d have to check German law to see if you’d have an problems with your German/EU citizenship.


  6. Hello, I am going to apply tor the retiree visa too. But: is it not possible to become a Filipino? And keep your other nationality? Have u heard about it? Thanks. Bye


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