How Much Does It Cost To Live In Hawaii? I cannot tell you how often I get this question! Dane and I have officially called Oahu, Hawaii our home base for 6.5 years now and it’s safe to say we’ve learned a thing or two about how much it costs to live here in Hawaii. We’ve survived financially both as military and civilians, which makes a huge difference, and have found ways to cut costs and save money along the way. It’s always kind of a tough question to answer, because there are so many varying factors in anyone’s equation! We are a dual income family, but we have two dogs, which can make housing (and life) in Hawaii a bit more difficult. Today I’m sharing how much it costs to live in Hawaii on Oahu given our life factors and prices you can anticipate if you are planning a move here. I hope this is helpful for anyone who has inquired or wondered what the average cost of living in Hawaii is like.
How Much Does It Cost To Live In Hawaii?
A couple of important questions you will need to ask yourself:
-Do you have pets?
-Are you living off one income or more?
-Do you have children?
Why are these important? For starters, finding a house with big dogs in Hawaii is really difficult. There are often breed and size restrictions and most always require an additional pet deposit. Of course, the more things cost, the more important it will be to know how much you are able to spend. And then, if you have kids, you will need a bigger home, figure out schooling — you see where all of this is going, right? So, let’s get down to breaking out the cost.
We have lived in 6 places in Hawaii in 6 years, as well as owning a home and going through the home buying process. We have experienced the range of $2,900 – $4,000 per month for rent/mortgage for modest 2-3 bedroom apartments and townhouses. I wish I could tell you those prices covered a huge ocean-view mansion, but alas, those are slightly out of our price range 😉 Obviously, there are likely much cheaper options if you are able to rent out a bedroom if it’s just you or choose a small apartment if you don’t have pets. For us, we needed a yard at nearly every place we lived at (minus the first two before we got Judy). When our rent was $2,900 that did not include utilities, water, etc, so we were paying anywhere in the $500-$700 range for those. I would say a good average for a home or townhouse that is able to have pets would be $3500 per month. Utilities vary based on if your home has air conditioning, location, etc. Of course if you are military, you are able to live on any of the bases for full BAH and we have had good experiences with that. The all-inclusive utilities is a nice touch, particularly the air conditioning!
This one can be tricky, because there are so many different diets and places to shop, but my answer is based solely on my experience. We shop primarily at Costco (more on the other perks of Costco below) and the commissary (military base grocery store for those who might be unfamiliar), because it’s comparable to the prices on the mainland. I do occasionally shop at Whole Foods for diet-specific ingredients or pick something up off Amazon Pantry, but many food-type items won’t ship to Hawaii, so there’s always that little snafu when you’re trying to order online. I try to only go to Costco 1-2 times per month and I usually walk out of there spending $150-$200. Things I love to buy at Costco: Eggs, coconut milk, vegetables (avocados, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn + onions are all cheaper at Costco than the commissary), clothes, cleaning products, alcohol, bagged salad mixes, pita chips, tortilla chips, white strips, tooth paste, coffee, spices, and rotisserie chickens for Dane’s lunches. If Dane is craving steak, I will also pick up a pack there. When I go to the commissary (probably once per week), I pick up fill-in items that I can’t use quickly enough from Costco or that they don’t offer like: sweet potatoes, gluten free pasta, Frosty Paws for the dogs and fruit. I typically never spend more than $50 or so. I also try to meal plan as much as possible so no food goes to waste! I have compared prices between the commissary/Costco and regular grocery stores like Safeway/Foodland here and the price difference is startling. One example that always sticks out in my mind is coconut milk in a can. I buy it at the commissary for $0.96 per can or in a palette of 12 at Costco for around $11. I have seen it for as much as $3.50 at regular grocery stores. EEK!
So what does it cost to go out and do things in Hawaii? Let’s be straightforward first – there are plenty of free or inexpensive things to do on Oahu (15 Oahu Activities for $5 Or Less!) – but sometimes you just want to do something. We’ll start with gas, which is currently $3.57 as of yesterday when I filled up my tank for my tiny, non-SUV. This will last me about 2 weeks, but only because I work from home. Dane fills his car up once per week. When we first moved here, we shared Dane’s Jeep, but we traded it in two years into our stay, because filling that sucker up at nearly $6 per gallon was wearing on us! Of course, after it was sold, gas dropped. Oh well. Sidenote: We also shared a car for the better part of 5 years, because it just made life easier since I work at home. Now on to the cost of more fun activities in Hawaii…The typical price for a movie ticket is $12-15, expect a dinner out for 2 at a decent place to run $75-100, a cocktail for $12 and shave ice is around $5. Paying to park is sometimes a surprise expense when you first move here, as well. It’s nearly impossible to find free parking in downtown Honolulu and sometimes there is even a charge to park for doing popular hikes (6 Easy Hikes On Oahu).
This is a budget line that won’t apply for everyone, but for us it’s a major expensive, so for any fellow pet owners – I wanted to include it. Our dogs and Hawaii have a very love/hate relationship. While they’ve known the tropical oasis their whole lives, their bodies have the most insane allergies that numerous vets and animal dermatologists have confirmed for us over the years. Unfortunately, atopy is incredibly common in animals here, because it never gets cold enough for organisms to “die off”. Because of this they are on medicated food and a specialty allergy drug – Apoquel – a combination that runs us about $450 per month. Unfortunately, the dog food only arrives on the island quarterly, so we end up paying a hefty amount once per quarter for dog food. Because discounted shipping services like Chewy.com don’t deliver to the islands, it makes cheaper workarounds pretty difficult. When we travel, it also costs money to board the dogs with our Rover nanny. She is AMAZING and I cannot say enough good things about the Rover service here (Get $30 free to try Rover.com). We’ve had nothing but good experiences. We’ve had friends use kennels and they have reported prices in the $35-$70/day range depending on animal, size, etc.
I totaled up our baseline monthly cost (rent, food and gas) from June 1 – July 1st as $4,123.87. Unfortunately, we were also gone for 8 of those days, so I think a more fair total would be in the $4500-$4700 range. To note, we also have expenses like cell phone bills, insurance, healthcare, etc. – but those are pretty similar for everyone, so they weren’t included in this specific add-up. We also enjoy going out for drinks every now and then, eating dinner out, going to the movies, etc. Also to take into account — we don’t have children, so we don’t have costs for childcare to consider either.
SOME MONEY-SAVING HACKS WE LOVE
We are members of Costo, which costs $120 per year for both Dane and I to have a card. This is a great perk for us for three reasons: 1. It is an excellent place to buy food. 2. It has some of the cheapest gas on the island (gas was over $5 per gallon when we first moved here) and 3. We can get our car serviced there pretty inexpensively. So yes, the cost upfront is a bit pricey, but a worthwhile investment if you plan to spread roots here. I’ve done a full post on my favorite Costco hacks, which you can read here.
We set a limit for how often we go out on the weekends, because all those costs definitely add up. When the money is gone for the month, we do things at home or look for free fun. It’s not always the most enticing, but it’s the reality!
Keep in mind that electricity bills can be shocking, so being smart when it comes to how you use power is key. Turn off your A/C when you aren’t home, open windows to enjoy breezes, turn off lights, only run laundry once per week, etc.
Use price matching at any store that will participate – I know for sure Target and Walmart will price match their website!
I use Craigslist and Facebook sale pages for everything. The first place I look when I want to upgrade a camera lens? Craigslist. The first place I go when I want to sell something quickly? Facebook pages. Seriously – those resources have such good things! I’ve never lived in a place where you could find such quality things online.
We’ve never taken advantage of it, but we have friends who swear by public transportation to ease car-sharing woes. There’s no rail or subway system here (yet), but The Bus is a popular option and goes all around the island.
I hope this gave a little bit of insight into the cost of living in Hawaii and it helps guide anyone who might be moving here or trying to plan a move to the islands! If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Moving To Hawaii With A Pet or The Insider’s Guide To Oahu. If you loved this post and want to reference it for later, be sure to pin it below!