Lara Brit a fellow docent at the museum wrote this blog and I felt it would be of interest to a lot of people who have always heard how expensive it is to live here in Hawaii. Anything is possible with the right mind set.

A Penny-Pincher In Paradise

09 Thursday Aug 2012


Posted by in Aloha Fridays




Aloha Fridays are the time to hang loose and enjoy the bounties of Island life. So while Tuesday I put on my Tourist hat and view Hawaii from the perspective of a visitor. On Fridays, I celebrate Pau Hana (finished work) in the ways of those who call Hawaii home.

Japanese Garden at East-West Center

Writing Space is coming up on its 4 month anniversary. A few of my posts are search engine favorites. Who knew? My second post ever on this blog was Cooing For Coco Puffs. I surely did not know that someone in Mozambique would be curious enough to Google for Coco Puffs. Someone somewhere does every week. Four months later.

It also never fails that a Writerly Nook and one of the #MNINB Blogroll series makes it in my Reader’s Choice sidebar widget. But the one post that I feel that I fail to meet the Googlers expectation is my How Can You Afford To Live In Hawaii? How Can I Afford Not To? I thought at the time that if people would want to know something more specific, I would be able to respond to their comments. What I have found is that most fellow bloggers understand the value of comments and understand my inviting tone, but the general public is still a bit shy to hit that Leave a Comment button.

Basic Budget

  • Rent: $750 (includes water/garbage)
  • Electricity $50 (HECO)
  • Internet $35 (Oceanic)
  • Cell Phone $50 (My portion of Verizon family plan)
  • Bus Pass $60 (No need a car. Rental deals for as little as $8/day)

Subtotal: $945

What I don’t have: cable TV, car, Air Conditioning or heat (I don’t even own a fan. My building is built in line with the Trade Winds.)

But I hear milk is $8 a gallon

I have been hearing this one for years. I’m sure somewhere in the state someone regularly pays that much for milk but I have yet to meet them. I guess if you count the times I run across to Liliha Bakery in the middle of the night for a small single serve carton of milk to slosh in my morning coffee and multiplied that half pint to make it a gallon then I could say I have paid a lot for milk. But that isn’t any different from anywhere else. But I haven’t bought milk by the gallon in years. I don’t drink it by the glassful. I don’t eat that much cereal. I don’t slosh that much into my coffee. Heck, I rarely get even a half gallon of milk at a time. When I do, it’s on sale for around $3. I’m more likely to buy a carton of soy milk for $2.

How I actually spend food money

  • Every other week I spend $15-$20 at the Blaisdell on local fresh produce. (I need a buddy so I can halve my haul and go weekly. Any takers?)
  • Every 3 or 4 months I trek up to SuperTarget and buy $100-$150 worth of staples (pasta, bleach, detergent, frozen wild salmon steaks, frozen chicken breasts, dry beans, pasta…you get the picture)
  • Every month I spend another $40 buying sale items and such at a combination of Longs, Foodland, Times, Marukai, and a little Mom & Pop a block and a half down from me.

Subtotal: $120 monthly groceries


Here is where most people blow their budgets. They redefine their entertainment expenditures as other items. People didn’t used to go out to eat but for special occasions. Now they have to be entertained 24/7 from all those cable channel options to phone apps to three meals a day and the run to the coffee shop. That’s not food to fuel the body. That’s boredom eating for entertainment.

My Version of a Hot Friday Night

Today I worked out of Liliha Library. I admit that I ran out of the house with only a cup of coffee and a hard boiled egg this morning. My bad. So I popped in at Nice Day Dim Sum a block a way for a manapua (char siu bao). I was out a buck. I had my filtered water bottle in my bag. No need for a can of soda. My big splurge was stopping in at Shimazu Store for small shave ice ($3.50) I reuse my cone holders. I do this once a month or so unless I have folks I’m showing around. I walked down to Lili’oukalani Botanical Garden to savor in the shade by the waterfall. The cost of my outing was under $5. Most days I don’t spend anything; some days more. But I think that budgeting $5/day for a total of $150 on entertainment is incredibly generous for me.


  • Basics $945
  • Food $120
  • Entertainment $150
  • Grand Total $1215

Obviously there are other costs, insurance, medical, dental, retirement, stationary supplies, and books, to name a few. But that’s what it costs me to go muddling around in my life on a regular basis. It’s what I do any way. I never liked shopping at the mall. I worked for the food industry too long to really enjoy eating out as a way of life.

Three Keys Bear Repeating

For Hawaii to be affordable, you need to know yourself, know Hawaii and thrive on diversity. Otherwise you will overspend as compensation for your discomfort. Most of what I enjoy here is either free or cheap. Most of my excitement comes from the adventures my volunteering brings me. It truly works for me. Only you can say if it would work for you.

I don’t think I could risk trying to go it alone as a professional writer anywhere else. Hawaii is not a deluxe destination for me, but a practical place for me to take a chance on my life’s dream. It also feels like home. Is there something in your life that sounds impractical but is ironically the most practical choice? More questions? Don’t be afraid to ask. Someone else is no doubt thinking the same thing.


Catch it While You Can. The Night Blooming Cereus

While dashing Nico off to school with 5 minutes before the bell was to ring, I had to stop. Making an executive decision, “Nico wait in the car while I take this photo.” I quickly pulled over, rummaged through my purse, while pulling out my camera I flicked it on to not waste a moment.

This gorgeous, huge white flower was in full bloom! It only blooms for 24 hours and then never seen again. It is the night-blooming Cereus or the Hylocereus undatus for those of you who read Latin and would like to be specific. So without further ado as the flower speaks for itself, here it is.