Update: cost of living on Maui

That the most searched words on this blog are “cost of living” is testimony to the popularity of Civil Beatʻs “Cost of Living” articles and Hawaiian News Now’s “Priced Out of Paradise” videos. I’ve not only read and viewed them all, I’m also convinced that it’s no joke that Maui is one of the costliest places to live.

mauitipsBefore deciding to move to Maui, you would naturally check the cost of living. While I did the same (see my earlier blog post), I didn’t factor in the cost of leaving Maui.

You see, when you’re living on Maui, presumably you’re also earning a living. That income should cover your expenses if you wish to leave Maui for vacation or other reasons.

In the summer months when adjunct lecturers don’t get to teach, we are still required to cover our health insurance for continuity sake. We thus pay at least double the coverage from our savings. Should we choose to leave the island for those three months, we need to factor in continued payment of rent and other ongoing costs.

My 2016 monthly cost of living breaks down as follows:

  • rent: $750  – this was kept the same for four years because my landlord was generous and kind. Apparently good tenants are hard to find. From July 1st, the rent goes up to $900 plus water charges.
  • electricity: $45 – the installation of a new water heater with a timer reduced the previous average of $55.
  • wireless internet: $12.50 – Hawaiian Telecom’s charges varied from close to $40 to the present surprise for wireless Internet (no phone).
  • car insurance: $118 for six months because I don’t drive much.
  • petrol: $30 – gas prices have fallen.
  • cell phone: $60 – unlimited domestic phone and text. 1GB data on my iPhone 5.
  • health insurance: $230 per month – medical, dental, and prescription drug plans
  • car registration: $198 – the latest annual payment
  • car safety check: $20 – this has remained the same for several years now.
  • home rental insurance: $130 per year
  • minimum lunch outing $10; dinner $30
  • groceries: $100 at Costco

If I’m very frugal and book my flights early enough, I can just about manage to “leave Maui for the summer months” and take my Spring Break elsewhere. Unfortunately, both the uncertainty and swings in income levels for each semester prevent more reliable cashflow planning. When classes get cancelled due to low enrollment or when I’m not assigned enough classes to teach, I have to grin and bear it or supplement with side income, as many others do.

The solution to surviving on Maui is not to put all your eggs in one basket. You can’t rely on one source of income. I have colleagues who work several jobs: a history teacher who tends bar, a business teacher who works as a security guard, and music teachers who give private lessons from home and get gigs at hotels.

When I asked my students how many worked part-time, I was surprised to learn that most people held down several jobs. “A time and a half” means a full-time job plus a half-time job. It’s no wonder they cannot afford the time to attend concerts or participate in extracurricular activities on weekends. They are busy working to support their studies.

So I decided to try the same last semester. While teaching four classes (10 credits) which is two-thirds of a full-time lectureship job, I took four classes (11 credits) – also 2/3 of a full-time course load. Between January and mid-May, I was on a treadmill, constantly trying to keep up and meet deadlines. In addition, I started playing Sunday church services and pitched for a series of concerts. I can hardly imagine what it’s like for those who have family responsibilities.

Sadly, nearly half of residents live pay check to pay check. For those who don’t have a pay check or savings to fall back on, life is pretty grim. Nonetheless, some of the best things in paradise are free and not found elsewhere: perfect weather, abundant nature, outdoor lap swimming, windfall papaya and mango. Could this be the temptation of getting a one-way ticket to paradise and live homeless in the great outdoors?


University of Hawaii salary chart does not include adjunct lecturers who are temporary, part-time staff who get paid by the credit-hour. The lecturer fee schedule is given separately in section D.

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About BLOGmaiden

As one of the earliest bloggers (since 1999), I enjoy meeting people who embrace "out-of-the-box" thinking and fear not the unknown. I believe in collaboration for sustainability because it increases stakeholder value.
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