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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!

How to Live in Hawaii for Cheap

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 $5.30 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 $60, 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 on 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 $5.30 a gallon, filling up your car can become one of your biggest expenses. One good thing about living on an island is that traveling 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 airflow 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.

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.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

Ramsa1, I've heard those cruises can be a lot of fun. Kona is pretty cool - but I wouldn't term living on a volcano "exciting". More like "smoky".

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

skys, I'm glad you enjoyed this! The more you save the more you can travel!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

Joyce Vitales, oh yes, it's so very hard ;) Cost-U-Less is pretty good too - plus you don't have to pay a membership fee.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

TrahnTheMan, haha so glad I could distract you :) Dreams are what life is built upon.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

RetailRich, thank you for reading!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

LucidDreams - sounds like you had quite an adventure! If it was expensive then, it's definitely expensive now!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

IJR112, thank you! I hope this helps!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

JamaGenee, thanks for your visit! Living here does have its advantages - like access to the beach (which is free :). Plus, you never have to pay for heating. I'm not sure how the cost of living differs on each island. One thing though: Oahu is a lot more accessible, when it comes to shopping and stuff like that.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 27, 2012:

cheapstuff - thanks! It definitely can be done, with a little budgeting and determination :)

Ramsa1 from A citizen of the World on January 27, 2012:

I visited Hawai'i twice including one a 7 day cruise. If I planned on living there I would live in Kona. It's nice and small, sunny, I love coffee, and there's the excitement of it being right next to a sleeping volcano.

Samad Aslam Khan on January 26, 2012:

Nice information shared especially for the one like me who love to travel and explore. I can now definitely save some valuable bucks while I'm in Hawaii.

Joyce Vitales from Big Island, Hawaii on January 26, 2012:

Yes, living in Hawaii can be a burden sometimes! Just gotta know the tricks of the trade. ;) I wish there was another Costco on the Big Island, but at least we have a generic version, "Cost-U-Less" in Hilo, haha. (:

TrahnTheMan from Asia, Oceania & between on January 26, 2012:

Ahh, that was the cheapest holiday I've had since lunchtime. Now back to work :-( Thanks Rose for helping to keep the dream alive!

RetailRich on January 25, 2012:

Very helpful and nice to dream about.

LucidDreams from St Petersburg, Florida on January 24, 2012:

I moved to Waikiki when I was 18 and lived their a few years. I was a pedi-cabber and did pretty good for a kid. I do wish I would have had a few tips like these for saving more and spending less to live. Cool hub! That was 87 and it was expensive then.....

IJR112 on January 24, 2012:

Great hub! I'll definitely put this advice in motion when I move there when I retire.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on January 24, 2012:

Great tips, Rose! I think many would apply most anywhere. Hanging laundry outside to air dry instead of using the dryer. A smaller house = less rent/mortgage = savings. That sort of thing. But living frugally in paradise would sure be more enjoyable than living frugally in, say, Minnesota!

Does the cost of living differ depending on the island? For instance, living on an outer island instead of Oahu?

cheapstuff from California on January 24, 2012:

Awesome hub, really makes you want to live in Hawaii... mb it can be done! =D

Egrind from washington dc on January 23, 2012:

Nicely stated.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 23, 2012:

Egrind, true - living on a budget looks pretty similar in different places. I think living in expensive Hawaii adds an extra sense of living simply.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 23, 2012:

Hypersapien, thanks so much!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 23, 2012:

icountthetimes, thank you for reading and commenting! Maybe you'll get out here someday :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 23, 2012:

ytsenoh, thanks so much for your visit! That's wonderful that you have been able to spend so much time in Hawaii. Living here gives you a very different perspective as opposed to just visiting.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on January 23, 2012:

dappledesigns, I agree - spending time more "local" can be much more fun than just sticking with the "tourist" sights. I like what you said about the richness of life here - so true!

Egrind from washington dc on January 22, 2012:

Fantastic tips in frugality,which will probably prove well in any part of the world with few exceptions. great hub

Hypersapien on January 22, 2012:

Good info on island life. Thanks.

icountthetimes on January 22, 2012:

I really like the level of detail here. You paint a rich picture of how to save money in Hawaii. I've never been there personally, but it's one of those places I think that everyone's at least tempted at visit.

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on January 22, 2012:

I love this hub. My family lives on Kauai. I lived there as a young child and have been back as an adult and I agree with all you say. For everything you want, you have to make sacrifices of some kind. Beauty, clean air, all elements of a type of peace. Thumbs up on your advice.

dappledesigns from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest on January 22, 2012:

I have family in Hawaii and have visited in the past. It was absolutely stunning. It helped to be with 'locals' to show us around the beautiful places to hike and see the sights that are not normally included on booked trips. The cost of the 'tourist' part of it was so expensive when I really enjoyed the free parts of the beach and scenery more. I wouldn't consider it living simple at all when you are surrounded by all of the vast beauty of the environment... really I think it's living much more rich than most. :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 23, 2011:

MarloByDesign, thanks for reading! The poll can't be edited without deleting previous votes, but thank you for your suggestion. And yes, thank goodness the beach is free!

MarloByDesign from United States on December 21, 2011:

Can you add to your Poll "Used to live in Hawaii." ? Thank you.

Also, the beach is always free :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 20, 2011:

style-of-life, thank you for your feedback! It doesn't have to be just a dream...

style-of-life from Netherlands on December 19, 2011:

Thx a lot. It is nice to have someone talking about your dream once in a while!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 19, 2011:

KeithTax, wow, that would be great to be able to build your own house. The simple life is great :) Hope you get to visit the islands sometime.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 19, 2011:

maxravi, thank you for reading! I really appreciate the rating :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 19, 2011:

natures47friend, thanks so much for the rating! I hope you enjoy your visit here!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 19, 2011:

techygran, lots of people grow vegetable gardens here. Certain kinds of produce don't grow well in the climate, but there are plenty that do! I've never grown sprouts, but I'm sure that's also possible.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on December 19, 2011:

cs, oh yes, Cost-U-Less is great. I love that it doesn't require a membership.

Keith Schroeder from Wisconsin on December 19, 2011:

A client of mine moved to Hawaii a few years back. He built his home himself, saving serious money. Simple living is also his answer to most money issues. He enjoys the good life now. My wife says we should visit him. I think she is right.

Ravi Singh from India on December 19, 2011:

Wao nice hub.. I got some new idea about my vacation.thanks Rose.. voted up!

natures47friend from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand. on December 19, 2011:

Sounds good...I may be visiting Hawaii in the next two years for my twin aunties 60th....great info. Voted up, interesting and beautiful.

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on December 18, 2011:

Nicely presented information. Makes it seem possible! What about growing your own veggies? Is that possible too? And it is possible to do sprouts in your own kitchen so as to have an extra source of greens! Thanks again for all your tips!

cs on December 12, 2011:

Hey, if you live Kauai, you should know that Cost-U-less is a better deal than Costco for many folks - often they have the same stuff, smaller packages and no membership fee. If you are on the East side or North Shore, you don't have to drive thru traffic. Plus it seems much more local.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on October 10, 2011:

EuroCafeAuLait, island life truly is unique and wonderful, and living on a budget is possible :) Thanks for the feedback!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on October 10, 2011:

TattooKitty, good point. Maybe we should say that the *value* of living in Hawaii is high, rather than the *cost* of living :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on October 10, 2011:

Hi hush4444, our electric bill used to be up there too, but now we save a $100 a month by using a clothes line instead of the dryer.

Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on October 09, 2011:

I can relate to everything you said. I also live on an expensive island and life couldn't be better. Economizing is possible, thanks for pointing out How. "Beautiful"

TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 07, 2011:

I'd say the cost of living here (on the Big Island) is quite high, yet I love the lush greenery, cool mountains, and stunning beaches here!! It balances out ;)

Thanks for the great money-saving tips! The Farmer's market rocks!!

hush4444 from Hawaii on September 26, 2011:

Really enjoyed your hub. I live on the Big

Island where our electric bill is $400 a month!

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 26, 2011:

I quite agree with you, Kevin.

KevinC9998 on September 24, 2011:

Hawaii is a beautiful place...

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 22, 2011:

asktheexperts, yes, making friends is definitely the way to go! It's all about the Aloha spirit.

asktheexperts from St George on September 20, 2011:

Good to know. And I guess if I've made good friends with regular show visits, they may offer me other benefits for using their business.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 17, 2011:

asktheexperts, it probably depends on how well you know the shopkeepers. Most places ask for a state ID when you ask for the Kama'aina discount.

asktheexperts from St George on September 15, 2011:

If I don't live in Hawaii but visit frequently, will it be frowned upon if I use the Kama'aina Discount? Does it depend on how well I'm known among the places I visit?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 14, 2011:

gamercameo, I love to travel too, but you're right, the cost is what gets me. Too bad Hawaii isn't exactly known for affordability.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 14, 2011:

alecsu666, yes, it is a nice place to live - completely different from vacation though.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 14, 2011:

Hi Jennie, living on the beach sure would save on rent ;)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 14, 2011:

Kevin, thanks for the rating! That's great you got to visit Hawaii - pretty beautiful, isn't it?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on September 14, 2011:

Hi Kate, the simple life is good :) Finding a job can be pretty hard - the economy is suffering (just like everywhere else). However, the tourist industry is big here. It might be easier to find a job in the hotel/tourist business.

gamercameo on September 14, 2011:

I love to travel but having limit budget.

alecsu666 on September 14, 2011:

Nice place to live .

Venture Boyz from Floating in the clouds on September 13, 2011:

Can I open up a fruit stand and live on the beach? lol I am in! I say we get a group of us and go do it together! Look out Hawaii!!

KevinC9998 on September 13, 2011:

Great hub. Although I have no intention of living in Hawaii I did have the opportunity to vist both Oahu and Maui. Nice job and voted up.

Nova Scott from Upstate New York on September 13, 2011:

Reading this made me picture myself there. I never really thought about it before but I would love to stay in Hawaii at least for a few weeks. It would be such an experience to be able to eat what I find in trees or by fishing. How I would love a more simple life. How hard is it to find a job there?

Rose West (author) from Michigan on June 17, 2011:

applejuic3, I'm glad this helped you! I hope your dreams to live in Hawaii come true :)

Rose West (author) from Michigan on June 17, 2011:

Web World Watcher, oh yes, the current can be a silent killer. It's stronger than you might think!

applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on June 17, 2011:

all incredible tips. thank you very much, i would love to live in hawaii for sometime and this will definitely help if i end up being able to do this.

Web World Watcher on June 14, 2011:

I was pretty impressed myself. Especially in Hawaii...the current can be a monster and very dangerous to swim around in...or so I'm told.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on June 14, 2011:

That is impressive! That's really cool that he's able to live off the land like that (or sea, I mean).

Web World Watcher on June 13, 2011:

He wasn't good at it at first (I'm sure he had a couple of lean dinners during the first few weeks of his stay...but he stuck with it and the last time we visited he had a massive seafood buffet set-up for us...all wild caught from him. I was very impressed.

Rose West (author) from Michigan on June 13, 2011:

Web World Watcher, you're right - lots of people do their own fishing, saving money on food. I've never been spear fishing myself (I'd probably impale myself in the process), but I'm sure it helps a lot.

Web World Watcher on June 12, 2011:

Some friends of mine live on the north shore and they save money by spear fishing and eating what they's apparently not that hard once you get good at itr

Rose West (author) from Michigan on June 11, 2011:

ameliejan, you're very welcome! Thanks for your visit!