10 ways to afford to live in Hawaii

So you want to move to Hawaii! An initiation sought out by many-as a vacation spot, a permanent living situation or a frequent winter sweet spot for the traveler in all of us. These are a few of the ways I found to make living here affordable!

  1. Find the island and location on that island in which you would like to visit first. There are seven islands to choose from, excluding one that is only for Hawaii’ loyalty and their guests. Look into each islands particular climates, cultures, and activities-it all varies greatly for each island. For example, the Big Island of Hawaii has almost every climate zone that is present on the earth-10 out of 14 climate zones (Tropical Continuously Wet, Tropical Winter-Dry, Tropical Summer-Dry, Tropical Monsoon, Hot Semi-Desert, Hot Desert, Continuously Wet Warm Temperate, Summer-Dry Warm Temperate, Summer-Dry Cool Temperate, and Periglacial Climate) from the Koppen Climate Classification System. Once you’ve looked into the different islands and found the right fit, begin looking at the culture scenes that the island offers. It’s possible to live in the city or the jungle, or somewhere in between. Decide what is best for you and how much you would be willing to commute to visit the other.
  2. Now that you’ve found the island where you would like to land in, its time to look a little deeper. Begin looking towards the different social media groups that are based on the island of your choice, and explore them based on your interests. Introduce yourself to the different groups, let them know you are planning on moving to the island and will be new to the area. Ask for any recommendations they can offer for you such as places to stay, weekly events, rental car suggestions, etc. Keep a notebook of the information that they suggest, this will be priceless along your journey. Make sure to do a thorough check online of all their references, such as looking at the validity of information online and through personal communication by making the calls that are necessary. A website such as http://www.gohawaii.com/en/ is also a great reference because it offers deep insight into each island including guidebooks, top sights, travel tips and more.
  3. Now lets begin looking at affordable living situations. Depending on your age, skill level and interest one option is doing work-exchanges. For example, doing 10-20 hours of work on the land in exchange for the rent of living. There are amazing farms in Hawaii with communities that focus on permaculture, yoga, healing arts and many more exciting outlets. It’s a great way to build connections with the people, the land, and different teachers along the way. This also gives you a safe and educational way to learn about the wild plants in this area that might be very strange to new eyes. Check out workaway.org for reviewed work away options that are available worldwide. The places that offer work trade can vary between healing centers, yoga schools, permaculture schools, or mom & pop gardens. The accommodations depend on the center, but can include housing, food, classes, and/or discounts around the aina’ (Hawaiian word for land).
  4. Another affordable way to live on the islands is to sublease an apartment or care take a piece of land. It’s very common for people to leave the island for months at a time through out the year to come back to the main land. As long as you don’t mind a little bit of movement every couple months, this is a great option and it also allows a bit of exploring before you find a place to settle into. Find these open places on social media sites, such as the Facebook groups we spoke about earlier, or on luxuryhousesitting.com Finding the people that are in transit between the islands and the main land is also helpful for finding deals on cars. It will most likely save you money and give you a komo aina’ (of the land) deal and be a great alternative to expensive major dealership.
  5. The job market in the cities of Hawaii is similar to the ones found on the mainland. The jobs are mostly concentrated in the cities and living expense is pretty high there. Most people travel to and from work, and live in developments outside of the cities or farther into the jungle. I would recommend commuting to get the experience of both lifestyles. The transit time isn’t too bad either, especially when the rest of the experience here is surrounded by luscious fruit and coconut trees. A lot of people I’ve met so far are either working in the jungle (next topic) or in government agencies such as teaching or construction. There is a lot of work to do in construction here to constantly keep the jungle back. While the teachers are always needed here, especially if you see yourself being here longer then a year. Take a look at hawaiipublicschools.org and http://www.governmentjobs.com to explore your options further.
  6. If a 9-5 schedule isn’t for you, there is plenty of other work to be done out on the islands. There is plenty of land to work on and to learn from. Landscapers, bee keepers, animal caretakers, permaculture specialists come on out here. The jungle is a full time job to keep back and to maintenance but it gives back gifts of plenty. People are always looking for someone to climb their coconut trees, maintance their property, and take care of their plants. A lot can be done here and with the climate never reaching a “winter” its possible to make this a full time job. If this sounds doable and exciting for you, this might be for you. Searching for jobs can be as easy as posting flyers of your services, posting on social media groups that are especially made for service offerings (they exist and are amazing), or websites such as ihirelandscaping.com.
  7. Most of my paychecks had usually gone to groceries, eating healthy and consciously had a price. Hawaii has made it easy to make food shopping and eating healthy affordable. It has one the highest ranked food support system (EBT) in the country. This system gives you up to $350 a month to spend on groceries. It can be used at most grocers and farmers markets gladly. Hawaii was also recently ranked the #6 in the locavore index-the country’s ranking of the states commitment to local food. EBT is a simple process to apply for and it is such a great help when the mission is to save money. With about 97 farmers markets and 25 CSA’s (community supported agriculture) throughout the islands allowing plenty of diversity and affordability when choosing the best food for you or your family. This assures that you’ll be eating right while also not spending the whole paycheck on food. Go Hawaii!
  8. If you have a craft such as wood carving, painting, cooking, or anything that falls in that category, keep working on it. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of farmers markets here and they don’t just carry food they also carry local arts and crafts as well. It can provide an extra form of income and it works as a great commerce as well-a lot of vendors (which I am one of) at farmers markets are willing to do trades, for food or other forms of art. Local art is well cherished and respected here. So keep working on it- your art, wood carving, or food making skills and people will begin to recognize you in the small communities. It’s great fun and an amazing way to get to know the community and make extra cash.  This might even give you the motivation to make a full-time business out of it!
  9. The best way I’ve found to get comfortable in a new place such as one of the islands, is to get to know the community around you. Local events such as dances, markets, community pot-lucks, concerts, and workshops are found in plenty at these islands. It’s a great place to meet people and the small community feeling allows everyone to get to know you as well. There are many different teachers and artists that are attracted to the islands as well, for good reason. This creates the atmosphere to do different types of trainings and learn new things throughout the islands. Begin your search at hawaii.com/events or websites such as http://www.punahappenings.com (this one is especially made for Puna on the Big Island) before you get here. When you are here, make sure to check out the billboards at shopping centers and grocery stores as well to find events closest to your area.
  10. The people in Hawaii love and cherish food and are proud of the plants that they grow locally and that are native to the land. There are farms in plenty and it’s easy to get your coffee, chocolate, fruits, veggies, meat all within short miles from you or a quick stop at a local farmers market. It’s as easy as asking a stranger about the location of a market, they really do take local food economy seriously. Do your best to really take in the food culture here. Drinks as many coconuts, eat as many different types of bananas (there are at least 49 types!), crack open a cacao bean, eat a durian, mangosteen, soursop, and a handful of lychees. That’s the prescription. The climate is so special that the most amazing fruits flourish like nowhere else. There are competitions on who can grow the biggest sweet potato (really, they get huge) mangos and more. Savor it, take it all in.


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