Let’s be honest. Sometimes, our biggest motivation as students is to do well in school and get involved in various orgs or activities so that we get a good jumpstart in the real world when we finally graduate. Personally, I feel that at one point or another, every student wonders what it’s like to be independent—not having to wait for allowance, being able to make your own, and taking charge of your life completely.
When I first moved out nearly five years ago at 19, it seemed like every college kid’s dream. On weekdays, I would get assigned to do five-hour shifts in malls around Metro Manila as a fundraiser. On weekends, I would work shifts or help out in events for an escape room game facility and events company. The 15th and the 30th of every month were my favorite days, it meant that I could treat myself to a good meal or a new outfit.
Since I was in-charge of my day-to-day schedule and was no longer living under my parents’ roof, I didn’t have to follow any rules or a curfew. Total freedom, as many would put it. I went out with my friends to get coffee or to party. When I would get a couple of free days off, I would plan spontaneous trips to nearby destinations. Because the first few months were filled with a lot of firsts, everything was fun and exciting.
Months, and even years, went on and finally, I realized it’s not always parties, gimmicks, and roadtrips. Independence gives you full liberty over most of your life decisions. However, the hard pill to swallow here is that to enjoy being “free,” there is almost always an equivalent price tag to everything. Living expenses and bills will come pouring in and just as the most basic principle of economics dictates—the wants and needs are always never-ending while the resources will always be scarce. Let’s break down how much you’ll be needing to survive in Manila in a month, shall we?
Rent – P8,000
Based on the area you want to stay, this can go up much higher or much lower. Prior to moving into a shared condo, I was living in a condormitel so my rent was about half of what I’m paying now. There are now a lot of places that offer a shared-living arrangement that can help you save. Just as in most things, there’s always a trade-off. Also keep in mind that on top of the monthly fee, most properties require about three times the amount as deposit before you could move in.
Utility Bills (Electricity, Water, Internet, WiFi) – P4,000
This amount is very much dependent on your consumption—are you using an A/C unit or just a fan? How long do you keep them on each day? Which WiFi package will you be getting or can you survive off data alone? How much time do you spend in the shower? It can also be affected by the fluctuating prices in the market.
Communication (Prepaid or Postpaid) – P2,500
Because having enough load to call and text is an everyday must-have especially when you’re living by yourself.
Food – P10,000
If you’re less frequently hungry than I am then you’re very lucky! Expect that you’ll be spending a huge chunk of your money for food. Based on my observation and experience, the average price for a meal is at around P60. You’ll be eating at least three times a day with some meals more expensive than the other especially when you’re out and you have to attend meetings or just extra hungry.
Transportation – P5,000
I always tell my friends, it takes money to make money. Aside from the basics, you’ll need to allot some resources for transportation because there’s no other way to get around.
*not including savings and insurance, medical emergency funds, shopping, and travel
What I learned
In the Philippines, the minimum wage is at around P450 per day or around 13,500 per month. Looking at the numbers alone, one can conclude that an entire month’s pay might not even be enough to make ends meet for those who are supporting more than one mouth.
Surviving in a fast-moving and highly populated cosmopolitan city really has a hefty price tag to it. It takes a lot of grit, resourcefulness, and creativity to make ends meet. Understanding these numbers is also a good bench mark to keep our privilege in check—most of us are very fortunate to have access to information, a roof above our head, food on our table, clothes on our backs and occasional trips for leisure.
Likewise, aside from looking out for ourselves by putting extra in our savings or insurance, we can make society a better place through our own little ways. Buy from local businesses built by smaller scale entrepreneurs. Pay your creative friends their asking rate or at least avoid haggling beyond what’s reasonable. Respect and value the people around you, most of them are just hustling, too.