From the Midwest redneck author of "The Rooster Crows at 4am!," "Lizard Poop!," and "The Philippines Expat Advisor"
International Cost of Living Index: Manila or St. Louis, Mo. Which is Cheaper?
What is the cost of living in the Philippines compared to living in a big city in the Midwest, St. Louis, Mo., for example? How does living in Manila stack up against the Gateway to the West? A recent comment by Randy L about cost of living comparisons gave me the idea for this post. A big thanks to Randy for giving me that brainstorm. My brain needs all the help it can get.
I decided to use a website, Expatistan.com for this article. To calculate each cities' Cost of Living Index value, the site starts by assigning a value of 100 to a central reference city (that happens to be Prague.) Once the reference point has been established, the Price Index value of every other city in the database is calculated by comparing their cost of living to the cost of living in Prague.
Thus, if a city has a Price Index of 134, that means that living there is 34% more expensive than living in Prague.
So I compared the cost of living in four cities in the Philippines, located in different regions, against St. Louis. Why St. Louis? It's in the Midwest where I originate from and not too far from where I lived in Central Illinois, only about an hour's drive away.
But first, let's explain that all of the figures and international living cost of living figures from the website are only estimates or guesses. Expatisan depends on reader input for their price and cost information. That said, the comparative costs of each city from the website could interpreted perhaps as "ballpark figures."
Manila, located in the National Capitol Region, NCR, of the Philippines is 26% cheaper to live in than St. Louis. Interesting to note that though food prices in Manila are close to half of what they are in St.Louis, clothing costs are 63% higher. Doesn't anyone that filled in the price info for Manila go to ukay-ukay stores? They must shop at the most expensive shops at the SM Mall of Asia.
Note that housing costs in Manila are only 5% cheaper than St. Louis. Savings in food and transportation, along with cheaper personal care expenses and entertainment, helps make Manila less expensive to live in compared to the home of the St. Louis Cardinals (best baseball team in the world!)
Now let's take a look at the cost of living in Cebu City as compared to St. Louis:
It's 31% cheaper to live in Cebu City, located in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, as compared to St. Louis, Mo. Food costs are comparable to Manila but look at the huge difference in housing expenses. While Manila was only 5% cheaper in that category, Cebu City is 41% cheaper. Transportation and personal care costs were ranked higher than Manila.
Check out the next chart from the website. Looks like Bucharest, the largest city in Romania, could be cheaper to live in. 1 USD=3.81833 RON, the Romanian Leu as compared to 1 USD=42 Philippine pesos. I think I'll stick with living in the Philippines. I suspect the weather might be slightly warmer and I probably have more American expats to hang out with in the PH.
My asawa and I live in Iloilo City in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines. The next screen shoot shows how "The City of Love" stacks up against St. Louis.
The Expatisan website reveals that it's 40% cheaper to live in Iloilo City as compared to St. Louis. Housing is 60% cheaper (we rent a three bedroom home in a modern subdivision for only 140 USD a month) but food costs are only 12% cheaper.
If you're eating out at fast food restaurants all the time in Iloilo where a guy can get a Big Mac, Coke and fries for around 3.25 US Dollars, I guess the food costs could add up. But if you shop at the local wet markets and eat more rice and fish, you could save a lot of money. Fresh fish is available in Iloilo City on a daily basis and you can buy a kilo of some decent fish for 1.90 USD a kilo.
I also noticed that clothing costs are slightly higher but transportation costs are 49% cheaper. My American expat friend, Scott B, and I will continue to ride those jeepneys, or "cheapneys" as I like to call them. At P7.50 a ride, you can roam all around Iloilo City on the cheap.
Here's a chart that compares the cost of living in Iloilo to Sydney and Brussels along with St. Louis:
And where is one of the cheapest places to live in the Philippines as compared to St. Louis, Missouri? The winner is: Davao, located in Southern Mindanao. Here's the chart with the cost of living comparisons:
Check it out! Davao is 56% cheaper to live in than in St. Louis! The clear winner. In every cost category, this "Asian City of the Future" beats out Manila, Cebu City and Iloilo City as the cheapest place to live in the Philippine, as compared to St. Louis, in this international cost of living comparison.
Here's how Davao stacks up against some other cities.
OK, you expats living in Davao or in Mindanao, what are your thoughts on why it's cheaper to live in Davao or the general region? I know it's a huge agricultural area. What's your input on this? Thanks in advance.