Living in Manila (BGC) for Less Than $1,000/Month

Living in Manila (BGC) for Less Than $1,000/Month

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:

living in Manila (BGC), monthly expenses

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…

Housing Expenses

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).

Electricity

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).

living in Manila, electricity usage

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).

Water

Water, as I mentioned in a previous post, is dirt cheap

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!

Internet

With internet, it might seem kinda pricey at ~3,000 PHP (~$58.93 USD/month)…

Globe

For that price, though, what you’re getting is a HIGH SPEED 100 Mbps unlimited fiber connection.

Streaming 4k Ultra HD?

No problem!

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.

living in Manila, dining out

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.

Home Cooking

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.

living in Manila, home-cooked meals

It’s NOT a “meal” (merely a snack) unless it’s served with rice (says everyone in the Philippines).

My usual breakfast.

living in Manila, home-cooked 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…

Sit-Down Restaurants

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.

Cheaper Restaurants

And if that fails, luckily, there’s lots of “cheaper” options available, too.

living in Manila (BGC), food district on 5th

The new Food District On 5th is usually packed.

Food District on 5th

This is where you can pick up stuff like Macao Imperial Tea and Hawker Chan.

living in Manila, food district on 5th, BGC, Macao Imperial Tea, Hawker Chan

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.

Pure Nectar coconut water, food district on 5th BGC

2 bottles for 65 PHP (~$1.28 USD), sounds good to me!

living in Manila Pure Nectar coconut water, food district on 5th BGC

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).

living in Manila BGC refill water blue containers

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.

Simply text GOTSCOMBODD90 to 8080 after loading your Globe account with funds (you can load through various means such as local bank account, GCash, Coins.ph, etc.).

Globe cell phone data plan load, living in Manila BGC

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.

Laundry Expenses

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…

Transportation Expenses

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.

MRT

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!).

Grab

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).

BGC Bus

To get around just BGC (or to head over to nearby Makati), the *NEWER* BGC buses are a very viable (and cheap) option.

Regular Bus

The regular (non-BGC) buses aren’t usually as new, but they get the job done. Very cheap and affordable too!

Jeepneys

Outside of BGC, jeepneys are your best bet (they’re just kinda loud + very polluting).

Trikes

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.

Haircut Expenses

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).

In just about any “big” shopping mall in BGC (e.g., Uptown Mall, SM Aura), you’re bound to come across Bruno’s Barbers.

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.

Gym Expenses

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.

Furthermore…

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 Expenses

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”.

Interesting.

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.

Netflix Expenses

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.

Supplies Expenses

When it comes to “supplies”, here’s a rough sketch I had in mind:

  • paper towels
  • toilet paper
  • trash bags
  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • electric toothbrush replacement heads
  • floss
  • shampoo
  • body wash
  • facial cleanser
  • deodorant
  • shaving cream
  • shaving blades
  • hand soap
  • detergent
  • hand towels/cleaning cloths
  • floor cleaner
  • glass cleaner
  • etc.

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.

Other Expenses

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!

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Neelabh mayandChenalFinancial Freedom CountdownFI Fighter Recent comment authors
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Charles Young
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Charles Young

Revealing, accurate and much-appreciated account of ‘real life’ living expenses for a middle-class occidental single person in the Philippines’ capital.
No doubt, if you tighten your belt, you could live like a working class phillipino and significantly reduce monthly expenses. By at least 15%:)
Bonne continuation.

Roadmap2Retire
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Good to see you are having a great time, Jay. Thanks for sharing all the details. The property taxes of $35 seems insane! lol…

keep it up and have a great time
R2R

Mike
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Mike

I was going to comment on exactly this! Dirt cheap for what looks like a lot of value (BGC looks nicely kept up). I suppose it also depends on other public services that are available (schools, fire, safety, etc.).

Looks like paradise! Very happy for you. Adding Manilla/BGC on my ‘to visit’ list. Hope to meet up with you again in the near future (owe you a nice dinner/lunch)!

Will crozier
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Will crozier

Nice level of detail. I live around the corner in Forbes Park. I guess a shoe string budget can be done! Maybe I’ll give it a try one of these days. Lol

Joe
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Joe

A max benefit limit of $3k seems pretty light. Do you have any estimates on how much various procedures or a hospital stay would cost?

Curious because a procedure in US could easily cost $100k which is really what you want the insurance for.

Financial Freedom Countdown
Guest

Inflation in non developed countries averages 10-15% which is where it will be interesting to see this budget in a year or two. Pictures look fun so I will be sure to visit in June.

al
Guest
al

On the first picture, concerning the moved electrical socket, to be put on the ceramic tile wall (middle of picture).
1. Please move it more upward, so that you can put “food, spices, whatever” small containers under it, without always being disturbed by the sticking out electrical gear plug and cable wire going to the machine that’s got plugged into the built in socket.
2. Please double or triple that specific socket (internal “serial” wiring from contact to contact, that’s not visible from the outside once the plastic covers are put back on the socket, to cover the wall mounting), you will have more than one electrical user at times, and will then be pleased to have spent $10 more to double/triple the socket numbers.
I have 8 sockets in 4 sections on my own kitchen home wall, never any regrets going overboard on that one.
Just being practical here.
It apparently is dirt cheap to live in BGC compared to a similar big city back home in the US.
You nailed it once again.
And got great yearlong weather to boot, too.
Congrats.
Have a nice live.

Chen
Guest
Chen

I’m in Manila for 23 hours so not getting a chance to fully explore the city, will have to get a proper tour from you next time. Good to hear that your life is going well in Asia!

Neelabh mayand
Guest

Sorry but have to say chick is hot

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