Save Money and Stay in Hawaii – As a Remote Worker
The tearful goodbyes at the airport, the promises to call and keep in touch, and the resolve to return someday soon. We have heard all the stories1, reports2, and opinions3 on the youth exodus from Hawaii. Hawaii has been reeling and staggering towards a crash, like a boxer hit by a one-two punch: an extremely high cost of living, and an economy not really diversified outside of tourism.
If the job market remains heavily based on tourism and military work (and construction, to some extent,) at some point it will be impossible for the average worker to even dream of buying a family home.
Even with the trend towards renting versus buying, other things are still too expensive: quality child care, buying and maintaining a reliable vehicle, and taking a family vacation.
However, if a worker can reduce one or more of those costs, it gives a little breathing room to be able to remain in Hawaii (or at least remain in Hawaii longer than they may currently be projecting).
The most obvious cost-savings would come from not having to commute into a physical office. But first let’s look at some less-obvious savings.
From stay-cation to workations
You may have heard of the “digital nomad” lifestyle – working remotely and living for months at a time in different countries all around the world. That’s nice, but that’s not what this article is addressing.
Rather, for Hawaii residents, being able to work from anywhere would help with occasional travel. It means not missing a week’s paycheck when a relative on the mainland gets sick, or being able to attend your mainland friend’s wedding without maxing out the credit card. Or it could just mean taking a family trip – even though you have to bring your laptop and work in the hotel room for part of the time, it makes a big difference between being able to travel versus not having the funds to travel at all.
Caring for kupuna and children
It’s very admirable that most people in Hawaii have a high regard for their kupuna (elders). They want to do all they can to care for the aged and accord them dignity, which often means helping them stay at home as long as possible. But when you work two jobs, who takes care of the grans? Across the state, Hawaii families are paying from $60 to $90 or more per day for elder care.4
The same goes for childcare. With both parents working, someone needs to babysit! And the cost – just on average – is $640 per month.5
That is assuming you are not on endless waiting lists for one of the few spots in a reputable childcare program. According to a report cited by the University of Hawai‘i Center on the Family, “Hawai‘i has 37 children under age three for every [one] licensed infant-toddler center seat.”6
Of course, some cases involve intensive or special needs, and working from home would not solve the issue of elder care and child care for everyone. But many workers could see annual savings in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Lunch and snack spending
Coffee might be provided free of charge on your job. Or you might have an office kitchen fund where everyone chips in to buy that precious java, or bring it from home in a travel mug with your bento box.
According to a Hawaii News Now story, “49% buy coffee during the work week”. And 72% of folks bring a lunch from home.
But what about when you wake up late and rush out without your bento? Or, your co-workers are all going out to eat, so you feel pressure to leave that bento in the office fridge for tomorrow. The HNN article went on to report: “Half of the diners said they spend $25 or more a week on lunch out.”7
That’s $20-$25/week, adding up to over $1,000 per year. And that’s not counting all the drive-thru and takeout folks purchase when they are too exhausted from fighting traffic to prepare dinner.
Car ownership cost by state “annual operating expenses of owning a car in” Hawaii, not including purchase, was estimated at $3,310.8
Just vehicle registration for an average sedan is estimated at $300 or more.9
Vehicle damage from poor roads, vandalism, or theft are also major headaches for Hawaii workers. Taking off from work in order to get your car repaired adds another hidden cost.
The most expensive part of owning a car in Hawaii? Gas.
Back in 2015, “buying fuel was the most costly component of owning a vehicle in Hawaii,” according to financial news site 24/7 Wall St.10 That was back at an average of $3.34 per gallon. As of this writing, the average is $3.52 across the state.11
How can we get the coveted “remote-worker” status? Either convince your current employer to see the benefits to Hawaii’s labor force, or find a completely new job. That will be addressed in an upcoming article.
1Hawaii News Now – Hawaii’s population declined for a second year. The reason: People leaving for the mainland (https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2018/12/21/hawaiis-population-declined-second-year-reason-people-leaving-mainland/)
Honolulu Star Advertiser – New initiatives aim to combat ‘brain drain’
3 Stopping Hawaii’s Millennial Brain Drain Is Complicated
4 Senior Care Costs / Aging Care Calculator –
5 Patch Hawaii
6 New study on Hawai`i’s early learning system finds critical shortage of care — UH Mānoa (https://manoa.hawaii.edu/news/article.php?aId=8958)
7 “Priced Out of Paradise: How much residents spend to make money” (https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/32284691/priced-out-of-paradise-how-much-residents-spend-to-make-money/)
8 USA Today “Most (and least) expensive states to drive in” (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/07/31/most-expensive-states-drive–24-7-wall-st/30855145/)
10 24/7 Wall St. “The Most (and Least) Expensive States to Drive” (https://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/07/28/the-most-expensive-states-to-drive/2/)