Sunday, February 28, 2010


Microeconomics is the study of how households and companies decide to spend their money. There are numerous factors that drive the choices that individuals and business managers make daily on how to spend their limited resources like price, availability, desire, access, awareness, etc. On the Big Island of Hawaii, these factors are affected by the island’s remoteness. We get advertisements on TV about products we can’t get and have limited local broadcasting to tell us about local products we do have. The prices for the same products vary widely from store to store and from one day to the next and if the container ships get delayed, the store shelves quickly become bare.

Like most people, we are motivated to get the most value for our money and we are willing to make significant changes to achieve that goal. We mentioned before we were studying the regional economies of the Big Island of Hawaii
and noticing the surprising change in costs between Kona on the west side and Hilo on the east side since our arrival to the island in 2007. Over the past two years, rentals and food prices have dropped on the west side. Last month we started calculating the costs of living on the west side, for the way we live. Our calculations showed that theoretically we could live in a place with far more amenities (heated pool, fitness room, hot tub, secure entry, no yard work, and walking distance to a sandy beach) for about 20% less! We felt sure these calculations were wrong, so we started visiting available Kona rentals to see if the lower prices were real. To our delight, we discovered the prices were real so we rented in a recently built condo complex with all the amenities at a net cost far less than our Pacific Heights rental house in Hilo. We are happy about being able to increase the quality of our living situation and decrease our cost of living at the same time as renters. Now we are finding stores in Kona that carry fresh fish, grass fed island beef, local vegetables and fruits equivalent to what we had available in Hilo. Kona has cheaper mainland product prices due to Target, Costco and competition among the many retailers in Kona. The move increased the value of our money which is our definition of Microeconomic Happiness.

Moving our location only 100 miles from the east side to the west side of the island has come with some culture shock. Kona has a faster pace, gridlock traffic, a tourist-centric orientation, dry, voggy days, and lots of people that look just like us. We made many wonderful friends and found treasured things to do in Hilo and we plan to return to Hilo often and continue our writing about the town. With the extra energy and time we have gained from not having to mow a tropical lawn and harvest bananas, we plan to write a book.


Aaron Stene said...

Welcome to the west side :) and feel free to keep up with Kona issues on my blog.

larry said...

hope you enjoy the west side and we see you again soon. there are plans to have a few big island internet society meetings in kona or kohala area this year.

Kara said...

I have to say that I have been following your blog with great interest as my husband and myself are making preparations to move to Hawaii from the midwest in a couple of years.

Currently we are looking at the Hilo/Puna area as a landing spot, but your post makes me think that we ought to broaden our area of consideration to the western side of the island as well.

Anonymous said...

I followed your blog and decided to move to Hilo 8 months ago. I went to Hilo and stayed in Kona a while to check out both places. My wife made the choice and decided on Kona instead of Hilo. I am glad I listened to her. I love Kona and I love the active lifestyle here. Plus I can get a great house two blocks from the beach for under $400,000. Where else in Hawaii can you do that.

dave said...

So...does that mean you'll change the name of your blog? :-)

Anonymous said...

I think your right about the food prices there in Hilo, but gas seems to be running about 0.20-0.25 cents a galllon higher. I have noticed a bigger real estate price drop percentage-wise in Kona over Hilo....I thinks it's lack tourism and VOG trouble.

Koji said...

Hi - I had some questions for you on living in Hilo, I've read through your blogs but I was wondering if you could be more specific with regards to cost of living.

For a husband and wife, what would you say the average monthly cost is for

rent (assume ~ 1500sf house close to town)
transportation (1 energy efficient car and 1 4wd)

thank you so much,


Blogger said...


Professional trading signals sent to your cell phone every day.

Follow our signals today & profit up to 270% daily.