Why Many Expats Can Not Live on 800 USD Month in Philippines

This explains why many expats can not live on 800 USD Month in Philippines, but others can and do. While I explain this, I will show you videos of the Philippines. We are here now during the Coronavirus stay at home order in Dumaguete, Philippines.

This is Dan of the Vagabond Awake Youtube Channel. I travel the world and write reports about the best retire cheap in paradise locations. You can find my reports here on Vagabond Buddha. I have been to 65 countries so far.

I shared a video on my Youtube Channel Yesterday called, “Retired in Philippines 800 USD Month Interview.”

A man named Robert commented, “Didn’t even watch your video … you are only existing not living,” as follows.

I responded as follows:

My intention for this video and post is to explain why Robert is unable to live in the Philippines for less than 1800 USD per month. If you are like Robert, you will also be unable to live in the Philippines for less than 1800 per month.

If you have any of these habits, you may want to just stay at home if you don’t have 1800 USD to spend.

Since I don’t know Robert personally, I will be describing a generic example of an ex-pat living in the Philippines that needs 1800 USD per month to live here. Our generic Robert will likely have one or more of the following habits that will keep his budget in the 1800 USD range.

The actual Robert above may not have any of these habits. I am just talking about the generic Roberts that I have met all over the world, that are unable to live on budgets that any middle class local could live on.

After I describe each of these budget-busting habits, I will give an example way to behave differently so you can get the benefits of the behavior without busting your budget. As I discuss these bad habits, I will refer back to another video I made called, “Top 10 Mistakes Made During International Retirement.”

Trying to Recreate Your Old Life in New Country (Top 10 Mistakes at 8:27):


Back Home: On Thursday through Sunday evenings, when he is back in the states, Generic Robert (GR) enjoys meeting his friends out to socialize. They don’t get super drunk or anything, they just have a few beers and watch sports and a restaurant in the neighborhood. They usually have dinner before they head home.

USA Costs: Beers $7, dinner $8 (4 meals week) $60 week, $240 month

Ex-pat Restaurants: When Generic Robert got to the Philippines, the local restaurants served food he had never seen at home. He didn’t know what to order. But it wasn’t a problem because he found a few restaurants where he saw other ex-pats. (Top 10 Mistakes at 11:19) He saw things listed on the menu that sounded like home. But when he tried them, they didn’t really taste like home. But he kept going back because he missed his home food even though this wasn’t quite like home.

Ex-pat Costs: Beers $3, dinner $6 (4 meals week) $36 week, $144 Month

Local Restaurants: Local Joe likes to cook because he can control the quality of his food. So he only goes to his favorite local restaurant once or twice a week. He has gotten to know the local foods and even has a favorite dish that he orders when he eats in local restaurants with other locals for $1.50 USD. Local Joe has a few beers at home after his meal, or at a local friend’s house. Beers in the store are 60 cents USD.

Philippine Costs: Beers $1.20, dinner $1.50, 2 nights, $5.40 week, $21.60 Month

Local Joe Restaurant Savings: 144.00-21.60 = $122.40


Back Home: On Thursday and Saturday nights, Generic Robert (GR) likes to head to one of his favorite bars in town and have a few drinks. Thursday is date night so he brings his girlfriend with him if he is dating someone. GR likes beer but his girlfriend likes drinks with straws in them. Depending on whether they go to a pool hall or a live music venue the drink prices vary. They usually have 3 drinks each and head home. Beers $4, Umbrella drinks $6.

Saturday is guys night. So GR and a few friends go watch some live music, shot some pool, or watch the ladies at a dance club. GR usually has about three drinks and usually ends up buying a few umbrella drinks for new lady friends.

USA Costs:

Thursdays: 3 drinks each ($4 + $6), $30 week, $120 Month

Saturdays: Beers $4 x 3, Umbrella $6 x2, $24 week, $96 Month

Total Bar Per Month: $216

Expat Bar: Generic Robert never really found a local bar he felt at home in. He did meet some ex-pats that told him about an ex-pat bar that has beautiful local women hanging out there. He loved all the eye candy and couldn’t believe how cheap the beers were compared to home. So he had no qualms about hanging out there 3 or 4 nights of the week. Plus, he found ex-pats there and they could talk about how things were different here from home. (Top 10 Mistakes at 11:19) He enjoyed learning about the local culture and problems from other ex-pats that had been here longer. The beers were so cheap he usually had 4 or 5. So he would go to various ex-pat bars three or four nights per week. Generic Robert bought beers for a few of the new local girls here met in the ex-pat bars. Beers cost $1.50 each. This is where Generic Robert meets girls.

Expat Costs:

Night: GR Beers 4, bar girls 3, $10.50

4 nights per week: $42

4 weeks per month: $169 USD.

Local Behavior: Local Joe watched the locals and realized that normal girls weren’t showing up in the bars at night. So he put a profile up online and started just chatting with locals when he was in the market. When he saw a pretty normal girl in the market, he would say, “Excuse me, do you know how to cook this vegetable? I have never seen it before.” He would just strike up conversations. “What is an easy local dish to cook?” “I am trying to learn about local favorite dishes.” “Do you know anybody that could teach me how to cook this?” Eventually, he made a few local friends that like to cook ad talk about food. His new friends also taught him about the best local restaurants in town. He eventually ended up eating in locals homes and learning all about the local culture and foods. He also invited locals over to his house to try foreign dishes that he knew how to cook. He also noticed that the locals liked to go for evening walks in the park and along the waterfront. Wherever he went, people seemed genuinely friendly and they somehow knew he was a foreigner. And they seemed interested in where he was from and what brought him here. Eventually, he found himself in a relationship with a local woman that he may never have met in an ex-pat bar. Some people he met enjoyed drinking, but it was less often and usually in people’s homes where the beers where much cheaper. Beers $0.60 USD.

Local Behavior: 10 Beers week, $0.60 each, $6 week, $24 Month.

Local Joe Savings: $169-$24 = $125 Month Bar Savings


Back Home: Generic Robert sold his home before moving to the Philippines. It was about 1700 square feet and the mortgage payment was 1750 per month.

USA Costs: 1750 Month

Expat Rents: Generic Robert was single and he wanted to attract a beautiful woman when he moved to the Philippines. So he was willing to pay a little more than average. Plus, why not? The rents were so cheap in the Philippines and he wanted to impress the woman he hoped to meet there. (Top 10 Mistakes at 8:27) Plus, he felt he deserved to have a nice place. Plus, he wanted to live in an area that had more women to choose from. He didn’t want to be in a rural community. He was afraid he would get bored.

Expat Costs: $425 Month

Local Rents: Local Joe wanted to be in a smaller community where the air was a little cleaner and he was a little closer to nature. He wanted a place that was clean and nice, but nothing that was so much nicer than his local friends felt uncomfortable there or that he would stick out in the community.

Local Rents: $250.00

Local Joe Savings: $425-$250= $175 Monthly Rent Savings


Back Home: Generic Robert is happy to be out of that expensive home. He was paying heat in the winter and AC in the summer. Plus the internet, cable, and water, things were expensive.

USA Costs: $175.00

Expat Utilities: Geberic Robert’s apartment has 3 AC units and he runs two of them, one or 8 hours every night in the bedroom and the other for 4 hours per day in the living room. He also pays the Internet, cable, and water.

Expat Costs: $110

Local Rents: The place is on the ground floor and doesn’t have as many windows and sliding glass doors as the ex-pat apartment.

Local Behavior: $50

Local Joe Savings: $110-50 = $60 Monthly Utilities Savings


Back Home: Generic Robert sold his car and canceled his insurance before moving to the Philippines. So he no longer has a car payment or insurance.

USA Costs: $320 Month

Expat Trans: Generic Robert decided to rent a newer high-end scooter because he wanted the extra power.

Expat Costs: $120 Rent, $20 Fuel, $140 Month

Local Trans: Local Joe just paid $500 cash for an ugly used scooter that runs great.

Local Costs: $20 Fuel

Local Joe Savings: $140-$20 = $120 Transportation Savings

Groceries (Top 10 Mistakes at 17:13)

Back Home: Generic Robert finds everything he needs in the local Walmart for bottom dollar.

USA Costs: $65 Week

Expat Groceries: Generic Robert eats out more in the Philippines because the restaurants are so cheap but he still pays premium prices for non-perishable food brands he used all of his life in the USA. He doesn’t understand what the local non-perishable foods so he shops in the ex-pat grocery stores. He is able to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables in the local market.

Expat Costs: $40 Week, $160 month

Local Markets: Local Joe stays out of the ex-pat grocery stores whenever possible. He has learned how to cook local foods and where to buy hem in the local market. He does buy a few odds and ends in the ex-pat grocery store, but that is more of an exception than the rule.

Local Costs: $15 Week, $60 Month

Local Joe Savings: $160-$60 = $100 Monthly Grocery Savings


Local Joe Savings:

Restaurants: $122

Bars: $125

Rents: $175

Utilities: $ 60

Transportation: $120

Groceries: $100

Total Savings $722

Thanks for stopping by Vagabond Awake. If you would like to learn how I fired my boss and traveled the world since 2007, grab a free copy of my eBook at VagabondBuddha.com. Just click more information below this Youtube video to get the free eBook.

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