I’ve been back and living in Manila (Bonifacio Global City) for over a month now! As usual, how time flies…
Currently, I’m waiting for my kitchen installation to commence…
Slowly but surely, though, I’m making progress towards turning the dream into reality!
In any case, after getting “re-acclimated” to life in Asia again, I thought now would be a good time to share with readers how things are going in the Monthly Expenses department…
As you’re all probably aware of, one key component in helping to maximize the early FI experience is to figure out a way to get the most bang for your buck. No doubt, keeping one’s Cost of Living (CoL) in check can do wonders for helping someone better sustain early FI.
Not to mention relieve stress/anxiety…
Monthly Expenses in BGC
How are we doing so far?
Please see below:
The table is a breakdown for how much I’m roughly spending each month to live in the finest city/district in all of the Philippines.
Just a shade under $1,000 USD each month!
The USD figures in my spreadsheet are based on a FOREX rate of USDPHP = 50.
Currently, USDPHP = 50.82.
So, my USD figures are coming in “conservative” at the moment, and if the USDPHP strengthens (it was 52 back in April), that’s even better news for anyone who earns wages/income in USD…
In my own situation, I purchased a studio unit in Uptown, and I’m paying about 11,264 PHP/month (~$225/month USD) for housing: HOA dues, property taxes, water, internet bills (which are mostly static, from month-to-month), and electricity (which is variable as fudge from month-to-month).
Indeed, the one real “wild card” housing expense that tends to fluctuate the most for me, I would say, is electricity.
Which all comes down to, really, how much one is cranking their air conditioner unit in a given day…
For the month of October, I used up 132 kWh (but please keep in mind that I didn’t land in Manila until the 9th), which set me back 1,207.72 PHP (~$23.73 USD).
After November, I’ll have a better idea of how much electricity I’m really consuming over an ENTIRE month…
In any case, I’m comfortable budgeting about $60/month USD (I’m anticipating air con usage going up during the summer months of March-May).
You can pretty much use all the water that you want for less than 300 PHP/month (~$5.89 USD/month).
For some items (like water), living in Manila has its perks!
With internet, it might seem kinda pricey at ~3,000 PHP (~$58.93 USD/month)…
For that price, though, what you’re getting is a HIGH SPEED 100 Mbps unlimited fiber connection.
Streaming 4k Ultra HD?
Totally, totally, totally worth it, in my book.
Eating Out and Groceries Expenses
In terms of “biggest individual expense”, once you’ve got housing knocked out, it’s most likely going to be eating out (unless you’ve got kids and are sending them to say private school, or something)…
With so many new restaurants popping up (seemingly) everyday in BGC, for sure, there’s going to be lots of temptations to try new “flavors of the week”.
Most recently, I ate at Basil, as I’ve been missing the Thai food from back in the states.
And if you ever have friends/family who decide to swing by to pay you a visit, it’ll probably give you a perfect excuse to indulge on some “unhealthy” food choices.
Not an everyday thang (that hurts the health much more so than the wallet), so I’m not gonna trip out too much about it.
With my own budget, I’m allocating ~60/40 split for food expenses, spending more on groceries for home-cooked meals than at restaurants.
A typical dinner I like to cook, served with rice.
It’s NOT a “meal” (merely a snack) unless it’s served with rice (says everyone in the Philippines).
My usual breakfast.
Which sets me back 182 PHP (~$3.58 USD) for 1 kilo of Quaker Quick Cook Oatmeal.
Or, perhaps this type of oatmeal is more your bag?
The best deal is probably for the whole grain stuff, if you prefer…
By no means would I say dining out in BGC is prohibitively expensive (most dishes run around $7-12 USD/plate at any of the “nicer” sit-down restaurants)…
Like Mango Tree.
Large vegetarian fried rice for 400 PHP (~$7.86 USD).
Tofu dish for 380 PHP (~$7.46 USD).
Relative to how much eating out costs in say Cali, living in Manila (even BGC) is much more affordable, obviously, but you’ll still save boatloads of $$$ if you have the means/time/interest to cook for yourself.
And if that fails, luckily, there’s lots of “cheaper” options available, too.
The new Food District On 5th is usually packed.
Let’s say about ~300 PHP/plate (~$5.89 USD/plate), for a “cheaper” meal in BGC.
When eating out, one of my personal favorites is the Hainanese chicken rice plate at Nanyang.
It’s affordable too, at 268 PHP (~$5.28 USD).
And don’t forget about
Costco S&R! You can pick up a FAT combo slice for only 99 PHP (~$1.94 USD).
One slice is pretty darn filling!
Or, a hot dog + soda for 119 PHP (~$2.34 USD).
Beverages on the Go
For a refreshing beverage, my “tried and true” has become coconut water, which I purchase at Pure Nectar.
2 bottles for 65 PHP (~$1.28 USD), sounds good to me!
Coffee at Home
Oh, and coffee prepared at home saves a bundle of cash, too!
I’m gonna savor the bag of Peet’s (from back home in Cali) until it’s all gone… Then, I will need to find a suitable local replacement…
Drinking Water Expenses
As it pertains to drinking water, right now I’m relying on home delivery service, which goes for 50 PHP/blue container (~$0.98 USD/blue container).
For myself, I’m using just about 2 blue jugs per week, so that’s 100 PHP (~$2.00 USD); I budgeted for 10 refills each month.
Cell Phone Expenses
Moving on to the cell phone bill…
Quite frankly, because wi-fi is so prevalent everywhere these days, most of the time, I feel like I don’t even need a mobile plan…
But in any case, it’s not too expensive, so I just load my Globe SIM card with 2 GB of data, each week.
It costs 90 PHP (~$1.77 USD) per load, which lasts for 7 days/1 week.
I just rounded up to 500 PHP (~$10 USD), even though I really never expect to top up more than 4x each month.
Unfortunately, when it comes to laundry services, there’s not really any self-service facilities to be found in BGC.
So, despite the situation of living in a small condo unit, many homeowners will elect to purchase a washer/dryer combo machine, since there’s still usually enough space available…
It’s about ~42,000 PHP (~$825 USD) for a washer/dryer combo.
Personally, I’ve been on the fence about this, but for now, I’m relying on the Panda Cleaners shop nearby for laundry services (they offer delivery and will: pick up, wash, dry, fold, drop off). Since it’s NOT self-service, it’s a tad bit more pricey, and once you factor in bedsheets, pillowcases, towels, etc. it can add up quite a bit.
For now, I’m budgeting 2,000 PHP (~$40 USD) per month for laundry, done roughly every two weeks.
Someday, I may elect to just bite the bullet and purchase a washer/dryer combo…
One of the major perks associated with living in a developed urban city is that there really isn’t a need for a car since most of the things you’ll need are within walking distance to your home. For anyone in early FI, this will ring even more true, since you won’t have to worry about things like commuting to the office.
To get around Metro Manila, the cheapest + most efficient way is probably via MRT.
Efficient in the sense that the MRT doesn’t have to fight/deal with traffic…
But 99% of the time, the MRT is the LEAST COMFORTABLE ride, because it’s super packed inside (you’re like sardines), and too often the air con inside is broken.
The following picture is like the one time in a million when there’s not too many people riding (this was the last train for the day, lol, that’s why!).
To get around Metro Manila, the most expensive + most comfortable way is probably via Grab (there’s no Uber here).
A single ride from the airport to BGC (~30 minutes with not too bad traffic) will set you back around 200-300 PHP (let’s just say less than $6.00 USD).
Most short-distance rides (less than 20 minutes) are around 100-200 PHP (less than $4.00 USD).
However, rush hour fare + rainy weather can easily jack up rates for even short-distance rides to 300-500 PHP (less than $10 USD).
To get around just BGC (or to head over to nearby Makati), the *NEWER* BGC buses are a very viable (and cheap) option.
The regular (non-BGC) buses aren’t usually as new, but they get the job done. Very cheap and affordable too!
Outside of BGC, jeepneys are your best bet (they’re just kinda loud + very polluting).
And trikes… which are a great way to navigate to/from the less populated province areas to any major transportation hub.
I budget around 2,000 PHP/month (~$40 USD/month) for overall transportation expenses, across all platforms.
However, if I just stay within BGC, almost 99% of the time, I’m simply walking.
Essentially, transportation costs can drop to $0 USD/month if you elect to just stay living inside of a “bubble” city, alone.
Most certainly, I do NOT miss having to pay bills associated with: car registration, car insurance, fuel, repairs/maintenance, etc.
The price for a basic haircut will vary (like everything else); for a guy, it shouldn’t be tough finding something for less than 400 PHP (~$7.86 USD).
For myself (a most simple dude), 350 PHP (~$6.88 USD) will do the trick…
And if you want to save some dough, one can always leave BGC and go to a local shop around the corner.
For example, in Mandaluyong, you can get a haircut for only 79 PHP (~$1.55 USD).
I budget for a single haircut each month.
When you live in a metro city like BGC, it’s almost a given that you’ll be living in a condo unit. As such, amenities such as a gym and swimming pool are common features that residences can use.
For the more “high end” units, what you get might be even nicer than the stuff offered at a commercial gym…
Your mileage will vary, but if your apartment complex doesn’t provide what you need, no sweat.
How about some pickup basketball?
Or some football (soccer)?
Meet some locals, join a league, whatever suits you.
There are gyms like Anytime Fitness, scattered throughout town.
Yoga, dance classes, etc. are also easily found, so don’t be deterred if at first you don’t locate what you’re after.
Most likely, 2,500 PHP/month (~$50 USD/month) will get you what you’re indeed looking for.
Healthcare, as we all know, is becoming increasingly expensive all across the globe. I’m sure prices have jumped up a lot in Manila in recent years, as well…
Here’s what typical rates look like today.
The above table is a quote I got from Maxicare.
Here’s the location of their primary care center, in BGC (7th Ave and 31st Street).
Going with the Platinum membership (Maximum Benefit Limit of 150,000 PHP; ~$2,946 USD), for my age bracket, this comes out to 26,628 PHP/year (~$524 USD/year or ~$44/month), if you pay a lump sum installment for the entire year.
Another healthcare provider that operates in BGC is MediCard.
In fact, they just opened up their clinic/facilities in Uptown.
With a pharmacy too, that is “also open to non-MediCard members”.
I’m still asking around for opinions, and will update readers as I learn more… To date, I haven’t tried any health plans yet, so I can’t comment at this time on any actual experiences.
And lastly, BGC is home to the high-end St. Luke’s Medical Center, which is one of the best (if not the best) healthcare facilities in the entire country.
For entertainment, it’s tough to beat Netflix for 550 PHP/month (~$10.80 USD/month).
Especially when it comes with 4k Ultra HD content.
But most of the time, I’m just watching (catching up) on old TV shows…
I’m still many seasons behind, on some shows…
Personally, I enjoy playing TV shows in the background while I’m prepping a meal.
When it comes to “supplies”, here’s a rough sketch I had in mind:
- paper towels
- toilet paper
- trash bags
- electric toothbrush replacement heads
- body wash
- facial cleanser
- shaving cream
- shaving blades
- hand soap
- hand towels/cleaning cloths
- floor cleaner
- glass cleaner
You know, items that you use on a regular basis and need to keep on repurchasing regularly.
5,000 PHP/month (~$100 USD/month) should be more than enough to pay for basic supplies.
As for the “other” category, this could be anything, like a new pair of kicks; NOT a “regular” expense item, but something you should budget for.
Say a trip to the dentist, like Affinity Dental, 1-2x each year.
Or, how about an infrequent visit to the cinema to catch the latest from Hollywood?
Standard showings go for about 360 PHP (~$7.07 USD), and 550 PHP (~$10.80 USD) for “ULTRA” (whatever that is).
5,000 PHP/month (~$100 USD/month) sounds about right to me…
Please keep in mind, the monthly expenses spreadsheet I have outlined in this post is just something I use as a “guideline”; it’s NOT an exact science, and by no means covers everything.
But if we’re just talking about living in Manila (BGC), status quo, then for myself, I’m confident I can keep expenses below $1,000 USD/month.
In this high-inflation world, hey, that’s gotta count for something right?!?
Keep up the fight!