I've been living on the Big Island for almost a year now and I always get the question about how expensive it is. It is much cheaper than Maui and Oahu so if you're looking for that, head elsewhere.
Yes, Hawaii is expensive as a mo-fo. But if you play your cards right, you can live comfortably on a $25,000 budget like I do.
Electricity is a Bitch
Having the latest cable/air conditioner/name-an-appliance probably won't be possible.
- Get wi-fi so you can watch all your favorite shows without the cable bill.
- Live high. You won't be on the coast, but you won't need A/C either (and it'll cut those tsunami/earthquake home insurance costs way down).
- Buy small fans or lights to use when necessary.
- Unplug, literally and figuratively.
|Cave at the end of South Point|
- Hilo side (east side) is cheaper when it comes to rent, land, restaurants, and gasoline.
- Find a community. You'll make a tight group of people you can count on, share rides, share food, go to potlucks when it's not a HOLIDAY, and learn where the best beach and surfing spots are (not advertised in tourist books). This is how I managed to gain 10lbs despite having to walk everywhere and cutting my food budget in half. Hooray friendship!
- Pick fresh fruits and vegetables! You can trade with neighbors and friends oranges, tangerines, coconuts, avocados, bananas, and all that healthy junk. Many people have trees that grow on their property and will give away the extra food if asked.
|Hidden Waterfall off of White Road hike|
- Roommates are essential. Living alone is practically impossible. You'll need at least one or two more people to afford rent, electric, water, Wi-Fi, and everything else. I live in a studio apartment connected to my friend's mother's house and I pay $500/month, and I got lucky! Usually, you won't find a studio (even attached to someone's house) for less than $800 and that may not count utilities.
- Word-of-mouth. Everyone will know everyone else's business. Despite being the biggest island, Hawai'i only has a small group of residents who really settle and live year-round. But this is the best way to get that cheap junker car, a nice place to live, or a well-paying job. Otherwise, good luck. You'll pay twice as much and get paid twice as little.
- House-Sit. People buy properties on the island and leave all the time. Once you get into the community, offer to water the plants, watch pets, or keep up the house while your friends are gone. News will spread and you can be living in a coastal mansion half the year, getting paid to watch TV.