6 Practical Tips to Help Offset Higher Living Costs in Hawaii

The cost of living in Hawaii is one of the highest in the world. When we first visited Hawaii as tourists, we understood Waikiki to be expensive given that it’s one of the top destinations in the world. But now, living as locals and away from Waikiki, there is no denying that prices for basic commodities in the suburbs are pricier than already expensive California.

Hawaii vs California

For a fun comparison, I went to Costco and compared the prices for the same product sold in Costco in California. Here are some items we buy regularly and how they compare in terms of $$:

Hawaii vs California Groceries

Hawaii vs California Groceries

There is no way to sugarcoat this. Obviously, goods coming from the mainland will be priced higher, to cover the cost of shipping. The goods first arrive in Honolulu, and are then again shipped to other islands of Hawaii. You can expect an even higher price on other islands.

Tips For Affordable Hawaii Living

So, you ask: what are the ways you can offset this higher cost of living in the islands? I’m sure there are hundreds of other ways, but here are some tips for you:

1. Shop For Local Produce

For our vegetables and fruits, we go to the farmers market and swap meet on a regular basis. A bunch of kale from the grocery costs $3.99, while it’s $1.00 per bunch from the local swap meet. Imported fruits like strawberries, blueberries, and cherries will cost you an arm and a leg, so why not try the locally grown banana apple, dragon fruit, rambutan, or sugar apple? Explore and enjoy the tropical fruits and your taste buds will surely be delighted.

2. Buy Second Hand

Hawaii is home to the US Pacific Fleet, and they constantly PCS (Permanent Change of Station) our troops. With our US troops constantly on the move, we help our armed forces by buying their stuff from garage sales. Before you shop at Pier 1 Imports, you can help your neighbor by buying their stuff. Don’t be surprised when you find Pier 1 products, for 50 cents on the dollar, so try to act normal.

3. Free Activities For the Family

There are free ukulele classes, free surfing classes, free hula classes, free yoga by the beach, free surf lessons, and free museums abound. Many are charities sponsored by local churches, grants, or even meetups on a donation basis. Here in Oahu, one non-profit activity center I have come across is the Palama Settlement, a community based social agency serving the Kalihi-Palama neighborhoods. Free or discounted rates for swimming classes, basketball clinics, etc.

Festivals abound, and almost every week, each region is busy hosting an event, so you’ll never run out of things to do. On the second Thursday of the month, Courtyard Cinema presents a free screening at the Ward Village, with complimentary popcorn and activities at the Ward Village. We take our keikis and it’s double the fun. And if you do not know this yet, a world-class beach is never more than a 15 minute drive.

4. Let the Breeze In

Hawaii has one of the most expensive electricity costs in all of the States. Since Hawaii does have wonderful weather all throughout the year, the a/c is hardly ever used. Leaving the windows open lets the trade winds pass through and even the hottest summer nights are still comfortable. Unlike the rest of the States where heating is necessary during the winter months, we don’t bother with it here in the islands. Of course, the beaches are within reach to cool us off. Don’t forget the mat – the trees will always lure you under its shade!

5. Free Outdoor Fun

With the natural landscape of mountains, valley, ocean, waterfalls, hiking trails – what could be better than a free, fun-filled outdoor activity when you can spare free time? Since we moved, we ditched cable because we are hardly at home anyway! Our surrounding is our playground. Sunshine is our vitamins.

6. Live Aloha!

Choosing to live in Hawaii is a conscious decision, and as much as the cost of living is not always within our control as various economic and social factors are at play, we can definitely control our expenses, our lifestyle, our food choices. We can choose to live minimally, consume less, recycle, reuse, engage in activities that elevate our sense of joy and physical well being. Island living sure does have a pricier tag, but with some creativity, we get to enjoy more and stress less.


If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in Hawaii, or about the cost of living here, feel free to contact me.

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