Skip to main content

12 Ways to Live in Hawaii on a Budget

Rose West has been an online writer for more than 10 years. She often writes about England, Hawaii, and books.

Learn how to live on a budget in Hawaii while living your best life!

Learn how to live on a budget in Hawaii while living your best life!

So you want to live in Hawaii, but you're not sure if you can afford it? Does paradise seem like the perfect vacation spot but an impossible place to raise a family? Does $4.60 per gallon of gas and $6 per gallon of milk scare you out of your wallet? Well, believe it or not, living in Hawaii on a budget is possible and within reach. With some smart shopping, wise saving, and frugal living, you can live in a tropical paradise and still afford to eat!

local macadamia nuts at the farmers' market.

local macadamia nuts at the farmers' market.

1. Shop Locally

One thing that can save you money when you live in Hawaii is shopping locally. Hawaii has a great system of farmers' markets that provide the best of locally and organically grown produce. Although not always, shopping at farmers' markets can often save you money. Some growers do charge more than the grocery store, and keeping an eye on the prices will help you to know when you will actually be saving money.

Directory of Farmers' Markets in Hawaii

2. Shop Sales

Maybe you already do this, but shopping sales at the grocery store is often the only way to keep the food bill within the budget. Sure, you might not be able to have filet mignon every Sunday night, but there's always a way to save money and plan great meals at the same time. This means being creative, staying flexible, and planning your meals around sales.

3. Shop Wholesale

Shopping wholesale, whether through Costco or other stores, is a great way to save money on your grocery bill, especially if you have a family to feed. Because these stores are able to provide more products, they are able to keep prices low. But since they often sell in bulk, shopping wholesale isn't for everyone. A Gold Star Membership at Costco is only $50, which can easily be saved back through the year.

Costco Stores in Hawaii

4. Live Simply

Simple living is the key to saving money in Hawaii. This might be new for you, but you'll probably find that life is a lot more enjoyable without all the extra distractions. "Simple living" has a different definition for everybody, but it may mean not going out to dinner too often, or renting DVDs instead of going to the theater, or (must I say it?) not paying for cable. I like to think of simple living in positive terms, however—going to the beach, spending family time in the park, hiking in the jungle, visiting the library—all free things!

5. Downsize

Downsizing your personal belongings can be very helpful when you live in Hawaii (it also helps a lot when you move to Hawaii). A part of simple living is having less stuff. Face it, we like to own things, but sometimes our belongings get out of hand. When you live in Hawaii, it's easier to see the excess. With rent and house payment being very high in the islands, smaller homes are more affordable. But the smaller the house, the less room for stuff.

6. Save Gas

With recent gas prices in Hawaii averaging around $4.50 a gallon, filling up your car can become one of your biggest expenses. One good thing about living on an island is that travelling doesn't usually take very much time. Still, even short trips can add up your gas bill. Combining trips is very important for saving gas. Driving to the closest beaches most of the time can save you some money on the weekend. Having a Costco membership will also save you money on gas.

7. Hang a Clothesline

Recently, our dryer broke to the dismay of all ease-loving launderers involved. But what seemed to be yet another appliance to hit the dust, turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We hung a rope clothesline on the covered lanai, saving us the trouble of fixing or replacing the dryer. With electric bills coming out over $300, this break from the dryer will be sure to save us some money. Many residents in Hawaii hang their clothes outside to soak up the tropical sunshine. Because of the frequent rain showers, though, an open-air garage or a covered lanai often works better as a place to hang dry clothes. Hanging your clothes in a place with good air flow will ensure that your clothes don't mildew.

8. Turn off the Lights

Speaking of electric bills, electricity is outrageous in Hawaii! Turning off lights when you're not in the room and using the windows instead of air conditioning will help keep your bill within reason.

9. Recycle

Everyone is talking about green living and eco-friendly lifestyles, but did you know that recycling can actually pay? In Hawaii, a five-cent fee is taken for every beverage you buy at a store. To get back your five cents, take your collected empty bottles and cans to your local recycling station. A nickel may not seem like much, but after a while, the money builds up, and who couldn't use some extra spending money?

Recycling Locations

10. Ask for Kama'aina Discount

If you live in Hawaii, you qualify for something called the Kama'aina Discount. "Kama'aina" literally means "friend of the land" in Hawaiian. This discount is usually 15% off your purchase at local stores and shops. Be sure to ask for your kama'aina discount and show your Hawaiian driver's license when you shop locally. Unfortunately, chain stores and most restaurants don't have a discount, but many locally owned shops do.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Toughnickel

11. Spend Free Time

The weather in Hawaii is beautiful year-round, and the outdoors is a playground full of family-friendly activities. Good news, many of these activities are free. All beaches in Hawaii are public and free for all to use, though camping may cost you a permit. Hiking on state land is also free, and the amount of trails that explore the exotic climate is amazing.

12. Share What You Have

Living Aloha means sharing what you have with your neighbors. For instance, people who live in Hawaii love to share the fruits and vegetables that grow so prolifically in the tropical soil. Much of the land is dotted with fruit trees of all sorts: tangerines, oranges, limes, mangoes, lilikoi, bananas, etc. Share the abundance with others and they will do the same.


Keith on November 06, 2016:

Hi, thank you for the article. I came across as I research for moving my family (6yo boy, 3yo girl) to Maui. I have strong sales background, and wife is Dental Hygienist. We have 65k to get us on our feet. Its our burning desire to live there after visiting 3 times in 10 years. We won't regret working through the hurdles and tough times to give our kids a life outside of the expectations of society. Family is everything to us! just wanted to share :) mahalo

Jacobb9205 on February 14, 2015:

Wow great tips! I live keep your hub in mind if I ever decide to live in hawaii! :)

SUNSHYNE from California, US on February 13, 2015:

Thanks for this great article. My daughter just moved to Hawaii, so I will share this with her.

Live Love Lux on October 29, 2014:

Yes! thats exactly what I've been doing. So true!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 03, 2014:

Hi Eric, thanks for reading! Well, you're going to want to save as much money as you can for the move - depending on how much you want to bring with you, it can be quite expensive. Also, living costs are quite high. I'm not an expert in economics, but I would say that tourism is the biggest industry in Hawaii, so a job in that field is the easiest possibility. But there can be a lot of options, so you should find something you like to do, and see how it fits in the Hawaii lifestyle!

Eric on November 30, 2013:

I plan on visiting Maui in 2015 for the Maui Invitational. I have two children and a wife and cannot get Hawaii off my mind. I hope to one day move to Big Island. I dream of Hawaii even! Any suggestions on how much money to save for a future relocation to Big Island? Also what career I should pursue in my quest? I am 33 by the way.

caligirl on July 31, 2012:

Are there any economical options in Waikiki for a 3 month stay for a student? I've been looking for months and can't seem to find any reasonable solutions. I'd appreciate any direction you can provide!

hawaiiby45 on June 13, 2012:

Very helpful and much appreciated article.

Thank you for sharing!! My children are now grown and I am seriously considering relocating to Hawaii. I'm researching sites such as this trying to decide if I can A. Find Employment B. Find Affordable and safe housing C. Afford IT!! Again, your article was very helpful. Aloha!!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on May 15, 2012:

Hi Ramsa1, living here does take a lot of adjustment. Waikiki is good if you like a busy city life within reach of the beach.

Ramsa1 from A citizen of the World on April 07, 2012:

I visited Hawaii twice, once on a cruise of the islands. While the islands are indeed beautiful, it's not practical for me to live there. But if I were going to live there, the Waikiki area would be a great place to live.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on April 02, 2012:

Hi Kim, I wish you the best as you make plans to relocate here in Hawaii. Job searching can be difficult here. Perhaps you could find some good business with photography though. The wedding industry is fairly big here, as well as the tourist industry, so using your camera skills could come in handy. As to other advice for job searching, be sure to connect with people when you get here. Meeting and being friends with other locals just might get your foot in the door for a good job. Thanks for your visit!

Kim Ortiz on March 28, 2012:

Thanks for the great tips. I just came back from Maui for the 5th time and decided my husband and I will move when our youngest daughter goes off to college. I started to look for jobs and there are not many in Maui. I am a photographer also so I could always do that on the side while finding a fulltime job. Any suggestions for job searches?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 28, 2012:

Hi katiejean, congratulations! That must be very exciting for you. I haven't actually been to Moloka`i, so I can't tell you much in particular. But if you are coming from the mainland, just be honest with yourself that life here isn't *always* a vacation. Give yourself time to get used to life on a remote island, which can be very relaxing and laid-back, but also can be the same as life anywhere. Also, don't bring too much stuff with you - chances are you won't need it :) I've written several other articles on Hawaii, if you are interested in reading more. A link to a catalog of these hubs is listed above the poll. Thanks for reading!

katiejean on February 21, 2012:

Rose we just found out today our offer on property on Moloka'i is accepted. We will be slowly transitioning in the next year to this remote island. What do you know about Moloka'i and can you suggest anything you already have not covered about the islands?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 20, 2012:

pooilum, thanks for your visit! I really appreciate the rating :)

pooilum from Malaysia on February 15, 2012:

Thank you for the information on hawaii. i can plan properly next time :). love your hub. Followed you and voted!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 14, 2012:

fli8uk, it is pretty amazing - thanks for reading!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 14, 2012:

iguidenetwork, thanks!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 14, 2012:

jenniferg78, everything needs to be shipped to the island from the mainland, so the price just goes up.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 14, 2012:

htodd, saving money is a good thing :)

fli8uk from Pakistan on February 13, 2012:

that is amazing place to live and visit thanks for this nice sharing keep it up.

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on February 12, 2012:

Nice tips!

jenniferg78 from Philadelphia, PA on February 12, 2012:

I never realized it was so expensive! Thanks for the informative article.

htodd from United States on February 11, 2012:

That is really nice post ...We can save money a lot

Rose West (author) from Michigan on February 03, 2012:

czczcz, same here - Costco is great for the necessaries. Cheapest place to buy eggs and milk. But if you don't want to buy bulk in other things, other stores have sales sometimes.

CZCZCZ from Oregon on February 02, 2012:

I loved seeing your recommendation for whole sale costcos in Hawaii trying to be on a budget. That is something that we always do when we get to Hawaii is load up at the Costco of all the basic necessities. Then you can still get the special deals at the local markets and stores, but the eggs and milk and other basics are taken care of at a good price.