In order to live in Hawaii, you have to be an outdoorsy DIY type of person. Very frugal. Enjoy the simple things in life, getting your hands dirty, not lust after the finer things (like first-class flights, gourmet dining, room with a view).
(1) You can save a lot of money by making your own basic furniture pieces. Bookshelves, cube shelves, a stool, a table. There is no Ikea in Hawaii, so furniture can be very pricy, especially if you’re going after a certain look.
(2) There are plenty of good deals on used things (Craigslist) because there are so many military families coming in and out of the island, trying to downsize before they move back up to the mainland. Because of this, you can get a car or a bed for a steal.
(3) Garden. Almost anything will grow in Hawaii’s warm climate, and plants don’t die in the winter. You can save good money by growing your own tomatoes and other vegetables, by planting fruit trees. Learn how to garden by talking to neighbors, reading books, and consulting the garden center and home improvement stores. There are also plant nurseries.
(4) Cook at home. Eating out is almost impossible for a family. If you do eat out, eat out at a very cheap place like Costco.
(5) Almost everybody in HI, including singles, shop at Costco. It’s the only way to afford food.
(6) Install fans. Electricity in HI is very expensive. If you can get by with fans and picking a place in a cooler part of the island (Mililani), you will save a lot of money. Burn candles or have lamps instead of overhead lighting with multiple bulbs. Every little bit counts.
(7) Do free activities. Beyond the beach, there is gardening, DIY projects, blogging, church, volunteering – these are all affordable activities. You have to be a simple life kind of person. There are small farms with many houses also where people keep chickens or pigs to save money.
(8) Stay away from malls and magazines, TV. Generally, all advertisement. This is a good minimalist tip wherever you live. It is not that hard in HI because there are no billboards.
(9) Stay away from bargain stores because you will spend more than you save, for the most part. If you are going into Ross or a swap meet, go there with the intention to only leave with what’s on your list.
(10) To make the move easier, you will need to downsize tremendously. The less you have, the smaller space you can fit into = saving lots of $.
(11) You don’t need winter clothes or fancy clothes. Even the business professionals dress pretty casually. This will save you some money, that you may not have considered. No heated blankets, no heavy jackets, no warm boots. Just shorts and dresses, and khakis if you’re a guy.
(12) Drive a used car, buy used clothes and furniture. Workout in nature, not in a gym.
(13) Learn how to maximize small spaces. What I mean by that, become an expert at organizing. Hang your window curtains as high as they can go (108 inches usually), and they will make the room feel twice as big. Use a lot of mirrors to reflect light across the room. For small bathrooms, hang a tension rod high up with a long white curtain so that the room feels bigger. Decorate with light colors, never dark shades. Use plants in your decor for savings. Use lucite furniture if possible, glass lamps. Things that are light and airy, like capiz shells, rocks, plants.
(13) For me, I would need to live nearby where I work. This is crucial because traffic is horrendous on Oahu. If you do not live where you work, you will waste a lot of gas money and time driving, causing you to may want to move back to the mainland. Mililani, Pearl City, Aiea, Kapolei, Waipahu, Ewa Beach – these are all an hour or more from town one-way. Also, living where you work is generally a little more expensive, so you know you will be able to make it. If you pick the cheapest part of the island (far from your job), you have no leeway. If you get an apartment/cottage near town, you can move anywhere if you do fall on hard times.
(14) Finally, the number one tip is to be realistic. Wages in HI are low compared to cost of living. People generally leave after five years or less because they can’t afford the cost of living anymore. You need to do research on what a one- or two-bedroom apartment costs to rent, what an electric bill is like, and what the traffic situation is. If you do not, you will spend thousands moving to and from HI. It’s better just to visit if Hawaii is beyond your price range or if you want to live a more luxurious life (spacious house, central AC/heat, massages, maid service).
They call it salt life for a reason. It is a simple lifestyle based around gardens, outdoor activities, hiking, walks in the park, beaches. There is a lot of traffic on the weekends, so if you do go to the beach regularly, search the ones out that aren’t tourist destinations. When I was on Oahu, this was any of the beaches in Laie, and some of the ones in Kailua.