computing expenses

Here’s How Much You Need To Earn To Live In The Big City

Unlike Western culture, the Asian population (especially Filipinos) in general aren’t that accustomed to independence at 18 years old. While the close family ties honed by the Filipino culture is a contributing factor to this, the economic climate is also one of the main culprits. In fact, even young adults from Western countries are struggling to move out from under their parents’ roof, according to a study.  While living independently is an exciting rite of passage to signify your adulthood, it is easier said than done.  

Moving out is a major milestone in life, and it can cause a major financial stress if you aren’t prepared physically, mentally, and financially.  Being able to afford a house is just the beginning!

Renting a house or an apartment

After all, the main idea of moving out is having your own place. While finding a house with enough space for a bedroom, living room, toilet, and a kitchen is easy, finding one that you can easily afford may take more research than you think.  

As the demand for homes continues to increase in and around the major metropolitans in the Philippines, the price also increases over time. Depending on which city is your target, finding a home that will suit your preference and budget may or may not be easy.  For one, a house and lot may not be a realistic option in Metro Manila. Meanwhile, it could be a different case in Cebu or Davao.

Here’s a quick overview of the housing rentals in the different cities in the Philippines:

Metro Manila

Metro Manila is known as the Philippines’ economic, political, cultural, and educational center, making it the country’s most important metropolis. It is also one of the world’s most densely populated cities. Its population density per km2 is more than double Calcutta’s and almost three times as high as Shanghai’s, thus housing can be a bit cramped in some areas. Fortunately, high-rise properties have become common here to address the housing needs of its ever-growing population.

Most people move here to work, and if doing so for the same reason, you should look for an accommodation near your workplace to avoid its infamous Metro Manila traffic gridlock along the Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA).  Apartments and condominiums are your best bets when it comes to accessibility and comfort. For locations away from the city center, while they may be cheaper, the horrendous traffic and the cost of your daily commute can easily eat up the price difference.

Rent for 1 bedroom apartment
Manila₱15,000 - ₱30,000
Makati₱18,000 - ₱60,000
Quezon City₱7,000 - ₱20,000
Taguig₱10,000 - ₱50,000


Also known as the Queen City of the South. Cebu is the oldest and the fifth most occupied city in the Philippines. This city has seen relentless growth in the BPO sector in the past years and ranked 8th in the Top 100 BPO Destinations for 2013. It’s also the country’s top outsourcing growth area, which is why many professionals move to this city to seek career-related opportunities. Compared to Manila, the employment market in Cebu is less saturated, making it attractive to many professionals today.

The Queen City of the South also serves as the Philippines’ main domestic shipping port with about 80 percent of the country’s shipping companies headquartered here. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is the country’s second busiest airport with regular flights not only to Manila, but also to Hong Kong, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore.

The increasing number of available jobs in the city, its continuous urbanization, and its proximity to historical and natural sites have caused the real estate sector to boom. There are many condominiums and apartments that are ready for occupancy.

Rent for 1 bedroom apartment
City Center ₱9,600 - ₱30,000
Outside City Center₱7,000 - ₱20,000


Like Makati in Luzon and Cebu City in the Visayas, Davao City serves as the center of business, commercial, and financial activity in Mindanao. As one the largest cities in the world in terms of land area, it continues to be one of the most significant economic locations in the Philippines.

Davao City is home to a wide range of industries as its land area is vast. Agriculture, fishery, and livestock continue to be the city’s main sources of income, although continued urbanization has also allowed for infrastructure and commerce to emerge as major economic contributors. A key inclusion in the East ASEAN Growth Area, investments from both local and international firms continue to enter the city.

Often touted as one of the safest cities in the Philippines, Davao City continues to become an increasingly popular place to live in for many. The sense of security compared to the urban metropolises of Manila and Cebu, but with a greater availability of land and natural surroundings is a plus point. This has made the city an increasingly attractive alternative among the country’s major metropolises.

Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment
City Center₱7,000 - ₱15,000
Outside City Center₱4,000 - ₱12,000

Security deposit!!

When moving into a new place, landlords or owners will be requiring security deposits. The amount you need to pay for security deposit is usually double the rental price. You will eventually get the money back (provided you keep your place in tip-top shape) so remember that the money will be locked down until you move out.

Utility bills

Bills are pretty much synonymous to independence because you no longer rely on someone (your parents) to pay them off for you. These expenses make up a sizeable portion of ongoing payments you make monthly to keep your basic necessities.
Here’s an estimate of how much you have to put aside to pay for these monthly necessities:

Monthly utilities
Electricity₱1,500 - ₱3,000
Water₱200 - ₱300
The figures shown above are just a rough estimate of the monthly cost of the following item. They may be higher or lower than the actual cost.
Friendly reminder

Electricity is highly dependent on your consumption. The more electronic gadgets you use, the more electricity you will consume. Also, air-conditioning units can consume a lot of electricity and lead to a massive increase in your electric bill.

Daily expenses

This is the amount of money needed to maintain a normal standard of living on a day-to-day basis. The items included in this type of expenses are food, and transportation.


Being independent basically means you’re now capable of feeding yourself. Even if you plan to just eat out, you will need to fit your kitchen with some bare essentials so that it will be ready to use.

However, if you a living alone, it often works out much cheaper to eat out so here’s a rough estimate of how much you can expect to spend per meal.

Cost per meal
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant₱100 - ₱200
Fast food₱100 - ₱185
Water (1-liter bottle)₱10 - ₱25


Transportation costs are directly affected by the location of your house, so when hunting for a place to stay, always make this a consideration. Monthly costs can run up to a few thousand pesos, depending on where you live. Living near your workplace can easily cut this cost down to several hundred pesos (unless you’re fond of walking during your off days).

Despite your home’s proximity to your workplace, it’s inevitable to travel from one place to another. Setting aside enough funds to accommodate your transportation expenses can help you stick to your monthly budget.  

Here’s a quick chart showing the different modes of transport and their costs:

6 kilometers commute estimate
Travel Option Travel Duration (min) Fare (1-way)
Drive Own Car 60 ₱100 – ₱150
Commuting FX 90 ₱40
Regular Bus (with AC) 90 ₱12
Regular Bus (no AC) 90 ₱10
P2P 45-60 ₱40
MRT 20 ₱20
Grab: GrabCar 45-60 ₱200
GrabShare 45-60 ₱165
GrabTaxi 45-60 ₱200
GrabCar (6-seater) 45-60 ₱260
GrabCar+ (Premium) 45-60 ₱340
Taxicab 45-60 ₱160 – ₱180

For a complete guide on Metro Manila commute cost, click here.

Emergency funds

In case you haven’t gotten the memo yet, life is all about surprises. Whether you like it or not, there will be days when you end up with a flat tire, a broken smartphone or laptop, or encounter some unexpected expenses here and there to make your days that much more challenging. To be on the safe side, set aside some funds that you can use for rainy days.

At a minimum, you should at least have three months’ worth of living expenses for your emergency fund. This means if your monthly household expenses come to ₱20,000 a month to cover your basic needs like rent, utilities, transportation, and food, then you need ₱60,000 in your emergency fund.

Pro tip!

Starting out can be tough, and it’s unrealistic to maintain a huge amount of money as an emergency fund when you’re still starting out. What you need to do is to set aside a small portion of your budget consistently until you reach the required amount for your emergency fund. This is also a good budgeting practice.

How much do you actually need?

While moving out can really cost you an arm and a leg, you don’t have to tick all the boxes right away if you’re just starting out. What you need at least are enough funds to pay the deposit and advance payment for your accommodation, enough funds to help you get by the entire month, and at least a stable job.

According to the crowdsourced global database on cost of living, Numbeo, the real cost of independence in the Philippines (not including rent) is PHP27,016 per month based on data for Manila city in September 2018.

At the end of the day, the price of independence isn’t really a fortune that can enable you to start a life of your own. Instead, it’s about being capable of creating a balance between your income, expenses, and your savings, without compromising your basic needs.

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