Living in Honolulu for Less than $1000 a Month

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by Ryan

About two months before starting this blog I booked a one way ticket to Honolulu from Wisconsin.  It had been over a year after I graduated college, I hadn’t made much of myself back home, and all I knew is I wanted to see the world, follow my passion for scuba diving, and invest at a young age. So I went to a moving site like to see what pricing was like for a move of this caliber and took that into account.

I ran the risks versus rewards in my head and decided there was a huge upside with little downside.  I saved up enough cash to live here frugally for about six months.  On the upside, I could follow my passion for scuba diving, meet a gorgeous Asian woman, and enjoy the beach everyday!  On the downside, I would have lived in Hawaii for six months and start right where I left off back home.

When running the numbers before I left I realized that I could live on significantly less than what everyone was telling me back home.

Some of the Naysayers said:

“Hawaii’s too expensive”

“You won’t be able to make it out there”

“Milk is $8 a gallon”

It turns out, that they were wrong.

So Why’d I Move Here?

1. Wanted to be in a warm climate all year round so that I could exercise outside and ride my bike to work.
2. Wanted to be able to scuba dive – this is one of my passions that I’m following which is more important to me than money.
3. I Heard there were hotter women in Hawaii than in Wisconsin (I kid… kinda)
4. It’s one of the many places I wanted to explore in my lifetime.
5. I thought the experience of putting myself out there would help me grow and challenge me, thus building character and making me a more rounded person.

Now, I did a bit of research before I came here, as a bachelor.  I looked on craigslist for apartments, estimated cost of living, and all that jazz and I noticed it was affordable… If I was frugal.

Here’s a breakdown of my expenses before I left, and my current expenses:

My expenses in Wisconsin
Rent:                            300  (3 guys in a house)
Utilities:                      100  (I had cable there as well cause the roommates wanted it)
Car Insurance:           80
Gas:                               150
Groceries:                  150
Gym:                               35

Total: 815 / month

My expenses in Honolulu

Rent:                         650 (I have a roommate in a two bedroom apt 1 mile from the beach)
Utilities:                     50 (turn off the lights)!
Groceries:              250 (A bit on the high side because I invest in healthy food)
Gym:                           45

Total: 995 / month

Alright, so I’m a bit of a frugal maniac, but I have a ton of time on my hands, the ability to work more if I want, and most of the things I do all year round are free such as: snorkeling, running, reading, hiking, and sight seeing.  I also bike to work and almost everywhere else, otherwise I’ll just take the bus or hitch a ride with a friend.

I do realize there are other expenses that do pop up, but these are the basics, my budget doesn’t fluctuate much from this.

This is proof that if you want you can live in any city you’d like for below minimum wage.  My monthly income is about twice my expenses at the moment so I have plenty to spend if I wanted, but am using it to also pay down my debts.

Try running your numbers in a city you’d like to live in and then ask yourself… why am I not living there?

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt Jabs December 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Our lives are fleeting… even more so than we realize. Knowing this it is important for us to seize opportunities as they are laid out before us. If you didn’t do it now, you never would have.

Bravo. And bravo for living below your means!

Financial Samurai December 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Great stuff man! I just came back from parking my car at the Honolulu Zoon. A quarter buys 15 minutes here, but only 6 minutes in San Francisco! lol.

Very excited to know that you are living your dream here in Honolulu! Will be exciting to see your pics, and other neat things from your adventure.

Best, Sam

FB @ December 22, 2009 at 3:07 am

That’s the thing — naysayers are naysayers because they haven’t tried it, and they aren’t willing to take that risk.

It’s why I just don’t tell people any more that I want to relocate to Dallas to work there.

I have my own reasons, and it just annoys me when people try to “help” to the point where they frustrate you because they don’t seem to be listening to you.

What happens to each person is subjective to that person.

Kevin December 22, 2009 at 6:01 am


How long do you plan to live in Honolulu? I love it man. Most people only talk about doing something like this. You’re actually doing it.

Ryan December 22, 2009 at 7:54 am

Kevin, I plan on staying indefinitely, I didn’t have a plan to head back to the home base anytime soon. One of the things I’m working on is living a mobile lifestyle… fairly inspired by a Mr. Ferris of the 4-hour workweek on this one, so I’ll be here for as long as I still enjoy it then probably hop somewhere else when I don’t.

Your blog post hit home for me because I’ve always weighed staying at home, making a lot of money and building a real estate portfolio like my folks did vs. Hitting the road, exploring the world and taking chances. I’ve decided to take the road less travelled I suppose and hopefully this blog will be an outlet for my conservative, “need to be in control” side.

I’m not money hungry at all and there are a lot more important things in life, but I do desire the ability to be free which does require being financially savvy. Having this freedom allows you to uses your resources and time to help others who also need it more, which is my main motivator. Not BMW’s and penthouses.

What was your main motivator for starting your blog?

Hopefully I didn’t rant too much there. Thanks for the compliment!

Ryan December 22, 2009 at 8:10 am

@ Fabulous – What do you like about Dallas? I’ve never been there.

Kevin December 22, 2009 at 9:58 am

I enjoyed reading the 4HWW book. Good stuff in there.

I started my blog as a way to maybe make an extra few bucks talking about the activities I engage in already (investing, money management, etc.).

My ultimate goal would be to generate full time level income from my blog (and maybe a couple blogs at some point) and have complete flexibility as you describe and be able to “work” from anywhere.

Look forward to reading your blog as well.

Mneiae December 25, 2009 at 11:38 am

I recently decided to check out Hawaii as a new place to live when I graduate from school. Thank you for providing a breakdown of the costs that you’ve incurred.

Jonathan December 25, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for sharing your budget, $1,400 for a two-bedroom apartment is pretty good for Honolulu near the beach. How good depends on which beach. 🙂 Still, your scuba equipment probably cost more than that! Which reminds me, I still need to do the Manta Ray night dive on Big Island.

Ryan December 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm

@ Mneiae – If you need any advice about moving here or places to live feel free to shoot me an email, I’d be more than happy to help.

thriftygal December 30, 2009 at 7:25 am

I admire your guts and initiative to actually follow through on your dreams. Thanks for the inspiration! You’re very smart to made this move before you have responsibilities and a family.

But tell me, how do you afford the tickets back to visit your family and how often do you visit? I’m in a situation where I’m far from family and the travel costs just drain up my finances.

Ryan December 30, 2009 at 8:04 am

Hey Thriftygal,

Thanks for the comment and compliment, I appreciate it!

This issue you brought up is something I haven’t really focused on yet. I have a great relationship with my family and talk with them a few times a week via the phone or skype, but when moving here realized that I wouldn’t be seeing them for a while. To answer your question I simply don’t see them. I’m trying to convince them to fly out here, but that’s been quite the challenge!

If you really miss your family and the issue is affordability I’d pick up a few extra hours, a part time job, or find creative ways to cut expenses. I’m not sure how far you are from home, but even if it’s $2,000 for a round trip a serving job could more than pay for that if you worked a few shifts a week.

I realize some people might be busier than I am if they have kids, but being a single guy if I want something bad enough I end up working 80-100 hrs a week to get it and spend only on things I need. If you want to see your family bad enough I think that should motivate you to do the same.

Hopefully that answers your question.

Peter December 30, 2009 at 11:03 am

Congrats on living life on your own terms! I have a friend who decided that he wanted to live free like the wind – just like you. He moved to Hawaii, and just worked some jobs to get by, lived near the beach and surfed just about every day. He loved the lifestyle so much that he has stayed in Hawaii for a couple of years now. He’s now finishing up his helicopter pilot’s certification and will soon be one of those guys flying tourists around the islands.

Quick note: be careful of who you mess with or where you go there. My friend likes to kid around with people – and went to one of the local bars there – where the native Hawaiians would frequent. He joked about something with one of them, and they didn’t take kindly to it. He woke up in a hospital after being beaten to within an inch of his life by several of them.

thriftygal December 30, 2009 at 11:10 am

Thanks for your response Ryan. I do skype and call but it doesn’t come close to the real thing. I can’t complain much though because I’ve made 2 trips to see family this year (which costs quite a bit for 2 adults and a baby). But a second job is out of the question because I have a regular 9 -5 and I won’t sacrifice what little time I have for my baby, which is why I’m thinking about alternative income and working on ways to cut expenses. I will also be blogging about my progress so come visit me at when you get a chance!

Ryan December 30, 2009 at 11:47 am

@ Peter – Wow, that’s exciting, I’d love to also get my helicopter pilots certification in the future, if there’s any way I could learn from him that’d be great.

Thanks for the advice… I usually keep a pretty low profile when I go out and don’t get too cocky… If I ever get assaulted I’ll threaten to send the PF blogosphere on them… I think that should make them think twice!

Monevator February 10, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Very inspiring stuff, as Matt Jabs puts it our lives are fleeting.

Maybe I’ll move towards this roaming the world goal in 2010. I’ve been kicking around the idea for years, and I think I could make 75% of what I make now from anywhere in the world — at least for a year, anyway.
.-= Monevator´s last blog ..Should you back Bolton in the China shop? =-.

Ryan February 11, 2010 at 1:09 am

Hey Monevator,

Thanks for stopping by. I think it’s all about priorities. Valuing experiences more than money is a great reason to travel, but it also depends on how you want to travel. I aspire to travel to other countries in the future to gain a better perception of the world and the people in it, which will help me better understand how I can help the world… corny, but true. Honolulu is a home base while still in the US and creating the foundation before traveling around the world.

Where would you like to roam?
.-= Ryan´s last blog ..Hiking Diamond Head and Snorkeling In Waikiki =-.

Ali February 11, 2010 at 1:53 am


I am really glad you’ve posted your experience with numbers for expenses. I too cannot stand the naysayers. I am coming to Honolulu for a few years. If we could keep in touch, that would be cool.

Jeremy Johnson February 16, 2010 at 8:17 am

I loved my trip to Hawaii with my wife. The warm weather was my favorite part. Living for less then $1,000 a month is truly amazing. I can see the advantage of being single and living in an apartment with others – that is a smart move and really cuts down the rent expense.

Couple questions: Do you have any insurances? (health, dental, life, etc…). Great health insurance really saved my can last month – through my employer, reducing a $17,000 surgery to just a few hundred dollars. I know some people are concerned about their health, but being young, careful, and healthy certainly gives an advantage to not having it.

I’ve thought greatly about ways to increase income and have extra money, particularly as a family. What would be your advice to those who are married, and particularly those with families. There’s a host of added expenses with that, such as diapers, health care, mortgage (which isn’t necessary, but many still have), cars, extra food, etc…

I think if more people would just look to minimize their monthly expenses, there would be a whole lot of people better off – you’ve given a good picture of a way to do that, nice job.
.-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..How To Be A Hot Nerd =-.

JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome February 20, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Ya I’d think the women are hotter in HI… I got myself an island girl too. Good luck man.
.-= JadeDragon@innovativepassiveincome´s last blog ..How to Create eHow Articles that Stink =-.

Kevin February 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Great blog. Lived in Hawaii from 95-98 and 01-04. Advanced Scuba Diver qualed! Loved every moment! Plan on returning once I finish my 20 in the military — 4 more years to go!

Keep up the good work!

Kristine March 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm

I really commend you for going to Hawaii and doing what you love – scuba diving. There are so many who don’t do things because of the cost, even if it’s something they love. Great inspiration for us!
.-= Kristine´s last blog ..Financial Freedom Resources – Tools to Help You Maximize the Assets Around You =-.

harvestwages March 23, 2010 at 2:37 am

you still talk about frugal living. At times we are wrongly informed and turn not to pursue our dreams for fear – we won’t cope financially. I think living below minimum wage is quite simple – you just need the right mindset. Most of my monthly income triples my monthly expenses and yet i’m not worried – i have more hope for the future.
I have some close friends here in Cameroon who keep asking how i do it. i simply tell them it’s all in the mind.
.-= harvestwages´s last blog ..5 traps that seducess great minds =-.

Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Ryan, I want to first commend you on going after your passions. Most people say “oh one day I’ll (fill in the blank)” but you take action and that’s commendable.

I think it’s amazing that you’re able to do it with a smart well thought out plan. And not only that, you’ve proved the naysayers wrong. So we can all see there’s a lesson here. This might be slightly off topic but we should never listen to what the naysayers are saying and you’ve made a great point of why.

Great post!
.-= Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey´s last blog ..Got Validation? =-.

Anthony December 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I noticed that there hasn’t been mutch activity on here in the last while, but I was wondering If too much had changed? I’m a 22 year old dude who wants to do the same thing you did… Whats the best place for me to look at for living? Any advice you would give me?

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