How Can You Afford To Live in Hawaii? How Can I Afford Not To?
Living the Dream!
Palm trees swaying to the gently blowing Trade Winds. The sun warming banana oil tanning elixir that covers acres of bare, baking skin. The salty surf kicking up a spray that frosts coastal ti plants. The strains of ukulele and slack-key guitar. You get the picture?
When people find out that I live in Hawaii, they ask me all kinds of questions. They have their picture-postcard ideas of what life in Hawaii must be like. And truthfully, there are so many lives one can live in Hawaii, who am I to say they are wrong?
Truth is, Hawaii is everything you every thought it was AND so much more.
I truly am living a dream.
But before you start selling your things and packing your bags, you want to know the details. The plain and unadorned facts. THE most common question I get is:
“How Can You Afford to Live in Hawaii?”
Truth is, Hawaii doesn’t have to be unaffordable. It can be downright attainable.
But before you call the real estate agent to list your Minnesota home and trade all of your Brooks Brothers oxford button-downs for Reyn Spooner coordinates take a minute to assess the situation. REALLY access the situation. Stop fixating on sinking your toes into the sand while you sip your fruity umbrella drink. Snap out of it, already!
The 3 essential things you need to consider before your fantasy becomes a sustainable reality.
These 3 factors are in my favor. Decide if they are in yours as we go over each one.
Truth is, MY personal bio could not be written without mentioning Hawaii.
I’ve vacationed, visited and lived in Hawaii off and on for 5 decades. When I decided to chuck it all last year, I wasn’t exactly doing the Eat, Pray, Love that my grown daughters told everyone I was doing. I do, however, welcome most any comment that conflates me with either Elizabeth Gilbert or Julia Roberts.
My extensive history with Hawaii had one recurring theme: The only regrets I have had about living in Hawaii involve leaving Hawaii. Leaving the Islands for what I thought were sound, practical reasons, turned out to be neither sound nor practical. Hawaii reads exotic for most. It reads familiar to me.
Case study My first semester as a UH undergrad, I went through a half-dozen roommates. Yes, 6 of them. And no, it wasn’t me or the my irksome bathroom habits. They all went back to the Mainland because real life in Hawaii wasn’t the vacation life they thought it would be. More than 30 years later, people are telling me that same story. They leave because THEIR personal story is located somewhere else.
Fantasize, dream, invent a story for yourself living anywhere on the globe. Go ahead! One strong reminder, however, these fantasies, dreams, and stories need to include YOU. The REAL you. That’s the non-negotiable. Setting is up for grabs. You are nonrefundable.
John Saddington shared his strategies of becoming a financially self-sufficient writer in his post, “How Much Money Do You Really Need?” John gave us a peek at his family finances. I live in Hawaii on about 1/5th of his budget. And I do so happily. And that is the key. I have a Wabi-sabi aesthetic. Plenty of people spend plenty of money to live here. I don’t. Not a sacrifice. No worries.
Yeah, you weren’t going to let me off that easily, were you? How much? Exactly?
Truth is, my fixed monthly expenses are under $1000. Is this realistic for you? Probably not. Why am I special? Did I mention the 5 decades of connections and knowledge that have been compounding in my favor?
Life is NOT fair. So I can get a great (read: unbelievable) deal on rent because of a friend’s referral. And my low-key habits mean that my electric, cable, and phone (my portion of the family plan) rarely inches much over a $100. Bus fare is $60 per month unlimited. No need for a car. Costco and local (12-month a year) farmer’s market takes care of food. And the subtotal is…drum roll, please!…$900. Crazy, right?
Now, you could get a better deal on rent or even a mortgage on an outer island. But then you would also be paying more on transportation costs. Just ask yourself how attached you are to your wheels or how attached you want to be to the pump.
This last category does include the earlier two to be honest with you. It’s really All about personal preferences. Most of us never really think about it. We’ve known ourselves our whole lives, haven’t we? Well, here’s the part where we get a tad bit existential, but stick with me. I promised it was essential, remember?
What makes you uncomfortable, and what makes you happy? What truly does?
I took a diversity test [link to Harvard study] some years ago that measured how comfortable I felt in racially mixed circumstance. I was an outlier. BIG TIME. Unlike 99.99% or something close to that, I was MOST comfortable in diverse environments. I prefer them. Most people of all backgrounds do NOT. Most people tend to gravitate toward people who are similar. I like healthy doses of difference. Correction: I NEED healthy doses of difference. Hard to find a more diverse environment than urban O’ahu.
Truth is…when people leave Hawaii after their dreams collapse, it has nothing to do with the price of milk.
Hawaii IS practical if you put in your dues, if you’re naturally are cheap, and if you thrive on diversity. To live here successfully, you have to know two things very well: Hawaii and yourself.
You ask me “How Can You Afford To Live in Hawaii?” How Can I Afford Not To?
Have more burning questions on island life? Leave them in the comments below. Found this advice helpful? Share with someone who would care. Have “case studies” of your own? Always glad to talk story. Either here or on Google Plus.
“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” ~Emily Dickinson Lori Sailiata