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How to save money in the Philippines

Hello everyone,

Did you plan your budget before your move to the Philippines? If so, how did you go about it?

How do you save money in your day to day life? Do you find there are any areas where you can't cut costs?

Do you have any tips about saving money in the Philippines? For example, getting the best deals on accommodation, grocery shopping and dining out, the best value transportation, etc..

Are there any apps or websites that have helped you to save money?

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Priscilla

To live a full life in the Philippines, I found that USD 100 a day is enough. This way, you don't even need to budget. I am renting a hotel room with all services, eat out and travel everywhere by taxis.
You can also live OK on half of that but you will need to budget a bit more.
I know people who live on USD 300-500 a month, but what kind of life is that?
When in PH, you want to live.
Apps? Just a pencil and paper.

When you budget don't forget to put in what Social Security you will lose from you home country  (particularly relevant to Australians)  When you do the figure to be fully dependent in the Philippines there is no financial help from the Australian Government.

To save money, put curtains in your you house to reduce the amount of heat that comes into the house.  And of course power saving devises such a power saving light bulbs.

When doing your budget don't forget to include flight back to your home country which you may or may not take.

Two of the biggest considerations are:  Inflation in the Philippines, which their reserve bank is hoping to keep around 3% Per year;  And a change in the PHP to your home country dollar, if the PHP gets stronger you home country dollars are worth less.  Of course the PHP may get weaker which will put you in a better position.

One way I save money in the Philippines is to have a US dollar account at  China Bank...., Which is the best of the five banks I have tried by the way, and deposit my US checks into the account and then after some maybe three or four weeks for the check to clear I just take the money out and convert it into pesos at the bank if they have a better rate than on the street, or on the street. By the way China Bank will give a special higher  rate of exchange after 2pm if the amount is Large and you request the teller to request the rate. She will call the main office and get permission. Sometimes I get even a better rate than on the street and can deposit it directly into my peso account. Then I don't have to be walking around with large amounts of pesos or dollars on my person. Also for these kinds of transactions I carry a plain nylon collapsible shopping bag if I am going to carry the cash. I also have 12 pocket shorts which includes pockets big enough to carry a lot of cash if i choose to do such. I have been coming here for 12 years and living full time seven years and have felt reasonably safe but I don't stretch the limits of normal caution.  There is a site Numbeo that does crime stats for all countries and I think even cities of the world and Philippines is rated way up higher than most of the recommended retirement countries for expats.
I save money by never taking a trike anywhere I can take a jeep, and don't take jeeps when I can walk, I need the exercise and don't like to sit and wait in a hot jeep. I don't take taxies where i can jeep or bus or trike.
I save money by having my girlfriend shop for me so I don't pay the "foreigner tax" She also bargains for a reasonable price...the locals price. 
I save money by shopping around for same product.... many times I can find the exact same item for way way cheaper at another location.
I save money by shopping for promos on airfare on domestic flights.
Can sometimes get  a fare for twenty percent if you can plan ahead.

I save a bit of money by not buying hi octane  fuel as I have had a scientist I trust say there is no advantage to the higher octane unless it is called for by the vehicle specs.
and on and on... you would think i live for free here...lol

I live alone so I am responsible for everything. I do not have aircon, I don't like and it is expensive to run. I use some of the cheap fans or I have a car fan on a 12v rectifier. I alws shop when I can in the markets, fish is definitely fresher. meat best bought first thing in morning. I never accept the first price haggling is the best, maybe not get Filipino price but close to it. I live in Mindanao, so I rent a house for 3500 peso. My elect bill around 750 peso. I have a big standing fridge freezer, microwave, electric turbo oven, deep fat fryer and quite a few other elect kitchen apps. Eating out is not expensive, I went to a motocross meeting at Tubod at the Mindanao civic centre. To eat we went into a nice looking carandaria at the centre,the meal was rice, sweet and sour chicken, mineral water and a small beer for me, the cost a staggeringly cheap 125 peso.   My luxuries are my honda 900cc cbr fireblade and my old mitsubishi lancer car. I have about 16k for my daily reqs for a month. very adequate, even i go on long runs on bike, like a beer or two (or more) Have girlfriend who i support. so all in all I have a relatively cheap lifestyle that I enjoy

Hi Pricilla,  (did I spell your name right?)

I'm planning to move permanently to the Philippines, and am considering a couple of citys/provinces.

HOWEVER... I do have 3 things that I did during 11 years elsewhere in Asia..that really saves money.

1.  home air conditioning.   Now you may not have one, as you feel it's too expensive, or if you have one, that may be the source of real 'costs' in electric bills.

.. I was in temperatures of 100-110 degrees F.  (I think that's above 37c)...  other foreign teachers were paying huge electric bills... but I came up with a great solution that worked for years:

   a.  there are 2 types of 'foam' you can buy.  (at lease I hope you can where you're living in Ph)...  one is the stiff 2cm to 3cm thick panels of foam.  These are ridged, but can be cut to any shape; in my case, I cut them to match the windows.  This increased the R factor by 300%, in the concrete structure, single-glazed glass windows my apartment was build of.  It lets in sunlight fine, yet no heat comes in, but is reflected off the bright white, and no cool air from indoors leaves.   FRESH air comes plentiful by you coming and going opening doors to your home/apartment. 
     the Other type of foam is the soft, kind of rubbery feeling foam that's just 1/4 to 2/5 inch thick, but is super insulating in it's properties.  this, I 'wrapped the concrete walls', and placed on the floor.  Then, I placed a floor rug or 'full room vynal flooring' over this.   
   The idea is to have the heat-collecting floor 'covered totally', and the walls (taped to this floor foam) covered to keep coolness from leaving the room.  The wall covering need only be 5 feet tall, or up to 7 feet, to 'trap the cooled air and prevent heat from entering the room from floors and walls'.

... the result, went from 180-320 electric bills... to 40-60 tops!   Of course, I was cooking with gas cook-top, and shower was gas.  lights were efficiency type, so only the frig and air conditioner were on.

...  the AC needed to only be on for 1 hour...to cool the room well to sleep comfortably all night.  !.

2.  cook, don't eat out.   First, you'll know what you're eating, eat healthier, and reduce costs by 90% over eating out, (and that's a low number, you'd likely reduce costs to eat much more).   Friends would come over, rather than going out.  As the rooms were 'cool' by #1 above, people wanted to come there, instead of doling out a lot of money for an AC'd restaurant or mall.   To do this, you need to be very multi-cultural and patient..  farmers or food markets are different in Asia; but most of the food is good; and you will find nice people most of the time.   Get a rice-storage thing, rice cooker, and so on.   

3.  Transportation, WHEN you need it.   use your legs!... if it's farther than 2 miles (1.5 km) then maybe 'ride a bike owned by someone'.  These are fun and cheap, but you're a girl, not sure if this would be comfortable for you?   (wear a fanny pack take low denominations of local currency).  I loved this myself, we.. the motorbike owner and me, would travel near and far... and I had 5 or 6 regular drivers.   When I needed to visit the factory, I had an agreement with a mini-van owner...for those longer than 20km trips.  I also bused often too.   but... walk when you can.  I would walk from one village where my housing compound was, to another village up to 8km away...  you will miss 'nice things and sights' by driving or riding...  but never walk, as a girl, alone in evening and night.   ALSO.. do NOT venture outside of some cities (mendenou areas for instance).    I jog at times, and this too is nice.  I wear a backpack, and will when I move to Philippines, and buy whatever then 'hike or jog' back.  Once you gain the respect and trust of locals, you'll find out who's honest, and who's looking for a ATM-person.  I loved the local people (families) very much.  And look forward to this with Filipino families.

4.  entertainment.  other than internet...  $35-38 a month... you can save by going to 'internet cafes'.. if you're only using interent once a week or month. .that's wise.    but..  KEY:...  take a laptop with you, and load it or flash drives with your favorite movies, e-books, etc....  then you can save on internet costs!!!   Next, there ARE many 'legal and legitimate' sites online to watch great movies, inspirational ones, happy true stories, or drama, etc.   so this is cheaper than the theater... and you can have a popcorn 'fest' at home with friends, watching online.   my MAIN suggestion is that you invest some of your freetime with local families... have fun with them...   I was so trusted that families considered me 'family' as an American...   they had me come to all local festivals, weddings, and even gave me the 'high honor' of working with them to rebuild their 300 year old family grave site with them... a real blessing.   I'm a guy, but I helped locals build houses, painted interiors for poor and widows, and even rebuild a concrete highway with 7 other locals (with officials permission, and they provided the steel and concrete).   it was such a delight..... my entertainment was to be with the families I adored and loved being with.  That saved me money, because I was more 'local' than 'american' in my freetime.

and yes... as a single guy, ... some think of their daughters... but i'm still waiting on 'gods girl' to wed.. one day???   so another way to save, is to 'get to know each other while doing community work together' ..than the standard romantic expenditures.   I feel people should save most of their romantic 'dates' for AFTER the wedding, not use them up before..... you get to know the 'real person'.. in all their flaws (funny ones) and all their greatness in Jesus too.   

I hope this helps, i'm expending 'blessings' and to be a blessing, when I move there.   If you are already there, and have suggestions for me... PLEASE DO...  my email is abide777 at zoho dot  com

ps planning a budget.. and sticking to it..   simply place cash in envelopes...and when one is empty... No to self and going out with others is the right answer.   wait until next month's budget.

painful..but wise....  'a wise man saves for tomorrow, but a fool spends every cent he gets'

... accommodations:  should be safe.   but... small and quaint is good too.    semi-furnished will keep you from buying stuff (but a wise person will 'find' things at times for little pesos...so it's an adventure over time to get stuff for the apartment).   

transportation PS:   be safe first, as a girl.. okay. 

how to find a house: 
1.  ask locals online before you go (there is a Christian free singles website you can find some people)
2.  ask online a real estate agent in the city you're going to.  (use a different name, until you find it's a right deal)
3.  studio in most cities; 4000-6000 pesos a month, but most foreigners want 'near shopping, etc', so pay 12,000 or more a month.    (a person willing to walk a little... 1/2 or 1 km for say... will reduce costs by half on rent of a nice 1br unit..or even a 2br)
4.  ... the PRIMARY things are not 'the looks outside the bulding'.. but:
    a.  fairly safe area
    b.  apartment is 'clean, bug free'
    c.  toilet works VERY good, and shower too.
    d.  basic appliances:  frig that works good,  a cook top (gas likely), the hot water (gas or elect)
    e.  water flow and fawcets.. run good, (you can get a brittal to filter drinking water)
    f.  a little furniture, or fully furnished.  (if you are there 'long term' of 2-5 years or more...then buying a bed and table-chairs to start .. .for a unfurnished unit.. saves on monthly rent in many cases 'notably' long-term.
   g.  heat, and your feeling about this.   fans, or air conditioner.   again, without AC, units go most cities in the 6,000 pesos.. or $120-170 usd a month rough ranges.   I am considering a unit with AC, or buying one??  so sorry, can't tell you.   
   h.  nighttime noise... you save when 1km from city center... (an easy walk)... but you don't want to be near a club or busy street.   open the window facing busy areas, and listen.  will it get better after 10pm?

that's the PS to what I shared earlier.   God bless you with health, prosperity as your soul prospers!

UPDATE:  what my Expat friends, who have lived in Philippines for 7 and 13 years...say:

they say, for a single person willing to walk a little..   total costs should be in the $550 to $770 a month range.   Those who like to go out to eat and party, etc... should expect $1500 or more a month costs.

my one friend says his budget runs in the 1200+ range, because he eats out mostly and is in city center.

The other friend, a family man with 2 children, runs 1800 a month for 3br place, food, transportation, etc. etc.. only because they are a 'prudent family' and not as demanding as an American or Brit's first time living abroad.   

both of them love living in the Philippines...  I would recommend you read the article (somewhere on this site)  'How to be a walking ATM'   it is vital you read and understand how to 'not be foolish and attract money-seekers to you'...  this alone, will reduce stress and expenses.

my work in the hospitals abroad... increased my budget only 10% for transportation and fresh fruits.. mostly, I bartered with Doctors to raise funds for medicines there for patient-family's children in the ward.

so be creative, prudent..  thank you

Dear Davijo     you mention rent at 3500 or 3800 pesos a month... that is VERY interesting.. what city are you in Sir?   Thank you for your info... how long in Philippines?

I lived in Cebu City for 2 1/2 years and a few months into that, I opened 2 accounts at a local HSBC bank near Ayala Mall. One was a peso account and the other was a US dollar account. I arranged for my monthly check from the US to be wired directly into my US dollar account at HSBC. I then transferred whatever amount of US dollars I thought I would need for the month into my local peso account.

I could then pay for things locally with NO conversion fees since my ATM card was from a local bank and in pesos. Since then, I learned that I could open a FREE account at Charles Schwab online from anywhere and get their ATM card good worldwide. You connect your bank to that account, and you have an ATM card that will work around the world.

And here is the BEST part: No matter what ATM worldwide you use, you will be automatically charged an ATM fee and conversion fee, BUT, Charles Schwab will REIMBURSE YOU for every fee at the end of the month, each and every month!!!

NO MORE CONVERSION FEES TO PAY... EVER!

There are no monthly minimums with this account and no monthly fees. You will NEVER AGAIN PAY A CURRENCY CONVERSION FEE EVER AGAIN. No one else offers this, and over time, it's a HUGE money-saver!

Wow... this is useful...  now have you now been using Charles Swab...  the card there at atms?   

and good info on 2 local accts, USD and Pesos...  thank you

tenstarr :

I lived in Cebu City for 2 1/2 years and a few months into that, I opened 2 accounts at a local HSBC bank near Ayala Mall. One was a peso account and the other was a US dollar account. I arranged for my monthly check from the US to be wired directly into my US dollar account at HSBC. I then transferred whatever amount of US dollars I thought I would need for the month into my local peso account.

I could then pay for things locally with NO conversion fees since my ATM card was from a local bank and in pesos. Since then, I learned that I could open a FREE account at Charles Schwab online from anywhere and get their ATM card good worldwide. You connect your bank to that account, and you have an ATM card that will work around the world.

And here is the BEST part: No matter what ATM worldwide you use, you will be automatically charged an ATM fee and conversion fee, BUT, Charles Schwab will REIMBURSE YOU for every fee at the end of the month, each and every month!!!

NO MORE CONVERSION FEES TO PAY... EVER!

There are no monthly minimums with this account and no monthly fees. You will NEVER AGAIN PAY A CURRENCY CONVERSION FEE EVER AGAIN. No one else offers this, and over time, it's a HUGE money-saver!

Many thanks a good post.  Just wondering how you find there conversion rate from USD to PHP?  Is it the same as you would get a local money exchanger?

How did you get a 900 cc Honda here?

I'm sure that Charles Schwab uses the best exchange rates available at any given time. They are a very dependable financial services company servicing many clients worldwide.

I just found out about the Charles Schwab account and got it set up easily, so I have not used it yet. Next week will be when I begin to. I have read other posts from people who have used it, and talked to the people at Charles Schwab and everything sounds wonderful.

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