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Expats, holiday makers and residents can all enjoy the relatively inexpensive cost of living in the Philippines, though poverty is still an issue for many people. Living on a budget is easier to do in this part of the world than in some areas, but with lower wages and certain items fetching much higher prices than you might expect, its can still be a challenge. That being said, the Philippines is a place that allows people to live very cheaply if they are willing to be mindful of their spending habits. Here’s Asteria’s guide on how to make the most of your money while living on a budget in this part of the world.

Learn to shop locally

If you can avoid spending money in chain stores and corporately owned businesses, you can often find yourself a bargain. Local food markets and produce sellers are often open to the idea of bartering and would generally prefer to make a sale than lose one. Regular customers in local Filipino businesses frequently enjoy discounts, with shop owners happy to “round down” the total you owe to make things nice and easy. The other advantage to shopping locally is that you won’t need to spend money on transport.

Buy Seasonal Produce and Avoid Exports

As the expat community in the Philippines is thriving, you can generally get most things that you would expect to be able to buy in the rest of the world, though anything that’s imported from the E.U or the USA can come with a heavy mark up. This is especially true of specialist items, such as certain types of breakfast cereal, condiments, certain electrical goods and confectionary. Though a treat can be nice from time to time, indulging your taste for nostalgia can also be expensive. If you learn to explore the local alternatives, the chances are, you’ll be able to find a more than adequate replacement for your favourite brand of mustard or any other home comfort you think you can’t live without.

Cook at home or eat cheap street food

Restaurant meals in the Philippines aren’t anywhere near as expensive as they are in the west, however, in larger cities, fine dining scenes are well established. Eating out at a restaurant like this can be a magical experience but it will also eat in to your monthly budget. With an abundance of fresh produce and often generations of practical knowledge, street food vendors in the Philippines provide a healthy and reliable source of food for a fraction of the price. Like shopping in local grocery stores, eating at locally owned street food trader’s stalls means you can develop a relationship with the owner and sometimes a enjoy discounts or the occasional freebie.

Cooking at home is always the cheapest option and if you are smart with your shopping list, you can gather the ingredients to prepare all of your meals in one trip. Batch cooking, which means preparing food in large quantities and freezing it in small portions for later can be an extremely effective way to reduce your monthly grocery spend. This will obviously require you to have a roomy and reliable freezer unit, but this is a worthwhile investment in the long run.

Take Advantage of Voucher Codes and Online Discounts

Though for many people, part of the appeal of moving to the Philippines is the ability to disconnect from the digital world, or at least limit their exposure to it, connectivity is generally of decent quality in major towns and cities. Shopping online can especially effective for saving money when you’re looking for clothes or electronic items. You can compare reviews, prices and shipping costs to ensure you’re getting the best deal and if you’re willing to put in a little extra time, you can also find sizable discounts online. Many promotions like this require you to sign up to an email list or use a particular product, but providing you don’t end up spending more than you intended to, this is usually worth the additional effort.

Avoid Tourist Spots if You’re a Local

Tourists generally have a lot more disposable income than the majority of working people in the Philippines. This means you can expect quite heavily inflated prices in and around hotel complexes or areas that are well known for attracting sightseers. Small things like coffee, snacks, souvenirs and parking can all be far more expensive than elsewhere in the country. You can avoid over spending by packing snacks and drinks to take with you and resisting the temptation to splurge on unnecessary impulse buys if you do decide to take a trip to one of the many tourist hotspots across this region.

Be Careful With Contactless Payments

The Philippines now accepts contactless payments in most parts of the country. Though market traders still deal with cash, wireless technology and low cost payment processing software are beginning to change this. Though this is fantastic for convenience, it can be disastrous for your wallet if you aren’t mindful of what you’re spending. A quick drink here, an extra portion of noodles there and you’ve already spent your day’s budget without thinking about it. Use a budgeting app to set limits you can stick to and check your spending regularly to make sure nothing had been taken from your account unexpectedly.

Second Hand Goods

Many people on a low income in the Philippines use second hand goods as a way of reducing their spending. Though there can be a risk of the product breaking down sooner than something you bought new, you do have the opportunity to ask questions and potentially test whatever you buy before you hand over any money. Electronic items such as laptops and phones are often less than half the price you would expect to pay when new. Similarly, cars and bikes can be picked up for a lot less than you might expect if you’re willing to haggle and take your time before making a purchase.

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