Adding Spice to Life in the Philippines

Tired of cold weather and the workday drudgery in his native Minnesota, Dave Christopherson was eager to turn his back on the working world. Having snow nearly five months a year was just too much.

Dave was ready to live in a place where he wouldn’t need to shovel his way out of his house, or scrape ice off his windshield every morning. He wanted someplace where he could spend his days golfing amid beautiful surroundings and diving in crystal-clear waters teeming with tropical fish. He found all that and more in Dumaguete where the low cost of living lets him enjoy an early retirement with his family on only $1,500 a month.

“Typical vacations in the past, with some sun, beach, and happy hours, were fun but always lacked something. My life back home in Minnesota was kind of the same, just missing something.” A machinist and a lifelong investor, Dave felt that his life lacked spice after years of doing the same thing.

“Home was great, but it was so predictable. It’s much more adventurous here! I wanted to try an early retirement, and the lower cost of living here allows me to enjoy the laidback lifestyle you dream about when you are so busy back home with a career.”

Dumaguete, Philippines
Dumaguete is an ideal retirement haven with a low cost of living, good housing options, and a welcoming expat community.

Dave’s slower-paced life in the Philippines these days revolves around golfing, snorkeling, spending time with his family, and socializing with both locals and expats from around the world. There is no shortage of crystal-clear water and beautiful beaches nearby, and Dave and his family take full advantage of that.

Twenty minutes away is a free marine sanctuary where they snorkel right off shore and see many tropical fish. He’s also been swimming with whale sharks. Whenever they feel the need to get away from Dumaguete, they simply go island hopping to explore the country’s other sights.

Dave and his family lived in Manila for a year, but the constant traffic and big city lifestyle were too frenetic for them. He decided to check out an ocean-side city and found a “simpler life, free from all of the silly status symbols that so many people want. And the people here are so friendly!”

Dave, his wife April, and their son Davey live in a one-bedroom condo right in the middle of town for $350 a month. Dave says, “There are plenty of good housing options in the $175- to $400-a-month range. I liked this place because it is easy to walk from our condo to the boardwalk and to the downtown area. Tricycles (scooters with a sidecar) are abundant and cheap if we decide to hitch a ride, so we don’t need a car.”

The expat community in Dumaguete is welcoming and happy to show you the ropes. You’ll meet them in any of the numerous bars and restaurants along the oceanfront, tree-lined promenade that looks as though it belongs in a small Spanish town.

Dave no longer feels that his life is missing something. He has found his dream retirement and he and his family live a very comfortable life on their $1,500-a-month budget.

“Some expats do it on less, but I like to golf, travel some, and eat out a lot,” says Dave. “Services are cheap; a haircut is under $1, a tricycle ride about 20 cents, and a live-in (nanny) only about $85 a month. Most meals out are in the $2 to $7 range, and if you like local food, you can eat for less than $2 per meal.”

Even luxuries like massages ($6) or pedicures ($1.25) are priced so low that they’re just part of the lifestyle. It’s an easy place to indulge yourself, yet not overspend. Dave doesn’t regret his decision to move here for one second. “It’s a simpler life, in a small-town kind of way, yet a full one, with everything I want.”

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