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Cost of Living in the Philippines [US Citizen] 2023

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Are you considering moving to the Philippines? Or maybe you’re considering a long vacation to the Pearl of the Orient Seas? Either way, this article should provide you with a reasonable idea of the cost of living in the Philippines compared to the Unites States !

Before we dive in, if you are planning on retiring in the Philippines from the US, you may want to check out this article which covers how much you would need to retire in the Philippines. 

It’s no secret that the Philippines is one of the cheapest places to live in the world. Moreover, with its tropical climate, it’s also one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. However, it’s important to note that while pretty, the Philippines can be slightly more expensive in metropolitan areas such as Manila.

To factor in location effects, this article will explore the cost of living in major cities in the Philippines against the average cost of living in the United States. For simplicity, this breakdown will consider the typical cost of living for a single person. 

For the calculation of monthly expenses, we developed an expense model of typical expenses for various cities in the Philippines. The model was based on data from Numbeo.com. Numbeo is a collection of user-submitted data containing numerical and other itemizable data about cities and countries, designed to enable crowdsourcing of expenses. To put it more simply, Numbeo is like the Wikipedia of expenses. Primary monthly expenses were broken down into following categories:

  • Transportation – it was assumed that transportation would consist of fuel and car payments. This assumption was considered conservative as public transport should reduce expenses considerably;
  • Housing – a single one bedroom apartment;
  • Groceries were accounted for as a fraction of rent;
  • Luxury items such as non-essential clothing items, electronics and impulse purchases;
  • Utilities – water, refuse/garbage, electricity and internet costs;
  • Restaurants – dining out; and
  • Leisure activities – weekend activities and after work activities. 

Okay this probably sounds like a lot, but it’ll all make sense in the next few graphs (I promise!). But before we get there, not everyone spends equally. For example, what if you’re someone that relies on a diet of ramen and intermittent fasting to save money? Or what if you’re someone that eats out every second day and always has the latest iPhone? To consider these hypothetical lifestyles, we have devised three tiers of lifestyle categories:

  • Frugal;
  • Average; and
  • Comfortable. 

Okay now that that’s covered, the next couple of sections describe the cost of living in major cities around the Philippines. 

With a population of more than 1.8 million people, Manila is one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

The cost of living in Manila is one of the highest in the Philippines (if not the highest).

There are several factors that contribute to this phenomenon. Firstly, the city’s geographical location is ideal for harbour trade. Second and third are its rich cultural heritage derived from its colonial past, as well as possessing a vibrant metropolitan environment and central business district.

A bar plot of expenses comparing the average cost of living in the United States against a similar budget in Manila is shown below. 

From the data above, on a comfortable budget, you can expect to pay around 60% less than you would in the United States. Similarly, considering an average and frugal budget you can expect to pay 53% less and 60% less respectively by living in Manila compared to the United States. 

With a population of close to 3 million people, Quezon City is the most populous city in the Philippines.

The average cost of living in Quezon City is approximately 16% less expensive than Manila according to our expense model.

The economy of Quezon City thrives primarily around business and commerce, banking and finance, tourism and retail. Quezon City is also regarded as one of the wealthiest cities in the Philippines.

A bar plot of expenses comparing the average cost of living in the United States against a similar budget in Quezon City is shown below. 

From the data above, on a comfortable budget, you can expect to pay around 69% less than you would in the United States. Similarly, considering an average and frugal budget you can expect to pay 61% less and 58% less respectively by living in Quezon City compared to the United States. 

Davao is a city in the south of the Philippines and is referred to as the King City of the South. With a population of close to 1.8 million people, Davao is the third most populous city in the Philippines.

The average cost of living in Davao is approximately 34% less expensive than Manila according to our expense model and is the cheapest city on our list of cities analysed. 

Davao City has the largest local economy in the Southern Philippines. Agriculture remains the largest economic sector. It is the Southern island’s leading exporter of fruits such as mangoes, pomelos, bananas, coconut products, pineapples, etc.

A bar plot of expenses comparing the average cost of living in the Untied States against a similar budget in Davao is shown below. 

From the data above, on a comfortable budget, you can expect to pay around 70% less than you would in the United States. Similarly, considering an average and frugal budget you can expect to pay 69% less and 66% less respectively by living in Davao compared to the United States. 

Cebu is a city in the south of the Philippines and is referred to as the Queen City of the South. With a population of close to 1 million people, Cebu is the sixth most populous city in the Philippines.

The average cost of living in Cebu is approximately 26% less expensive than Manila according to our expense model and is therefore the 2nd cheapest city on our list of cities analysed. 

Cebu is centrally located in the Philippines and therefore is easily accessible by air , land, and sea transportation – and has become a popular tourist gateway to Central and Southern Philippines.

A bar plot of expenses comparing the average cost of living in the United States against a similar budget in Cebu is shown below. 

From the data above, on a comfortable budget, you can expect to pay around 70% less than you would in the United States. Similarly, considering an average and frugal budget you can expect to pay 66% less and 66% less respectively by living in Cebu compared to the United States. 

Depending on which city you plan on living in, your average monthly expenses could range between $1200 (in Davao) to $2000 (in Manila).

Living in the Philippines is very affordable and you can expect monthly expenses to be approximately 60-70% less than what your expenses would be in the United States. Davao was found to be the cheapest city to live in the Philippines with Manila as the most expensive – however, both cities are inexpensive compared to an average American lifestyle.

To retire in the Philippines you would need between $ 191,100 and $ 572,500 depending on your monthly expenses and safe withdrawal rate.

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