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Would You Rather Have a Short Commute or Lower Living Expenses? — Part 2

On O‘ahu, many families must consider housing costs versus commute times when deciding where to live. We spoke to one family who opted for smaller living quarters and higher housing costs to enjoy the many conveniences of Kaka‘ako.


Hawaii‘i Life Real Estate Agent Kinga Mills at Park Lane

Hawai‘i Life Real Estate Agent Kinga Mills at Park Lane.
Photos: Courtesy of Kinga Mills


Kinga Mills is a real estate agent at Hawai‘i Life, a statewide brokerage firm with five offices on O‘ahu. Though she makes her own schedule and can work out of any of those office locations, Kinga and her husband, Todd Mills, choose to live in the heart of Kaka‘ako.


The Mills’ youngest daughter is enrolled at a nearby middle school, and their 23-year old daughter has moved back in with her parents and younger sister. It’s a tight fit, with only 1,280 square feet of living space, but the Mills love their contemporary three-bedroom, 11th-floor condo in Kaka‘ako.


Not even the potential for shorter commute for Todd could convince them the West Side would  be a better fit for their family. Todd Mills works 9 to 5 in ‘Ewa Beach. His daily commute is a relatively easy one, since he drives against town-bound traffic at the tail end of rush hour, but it could be shortened if they moved further west, where a new single-family home would mean additional space, at a lower cost.


Kinga and Todd Mills



“We could buy a comparable home with a yard and about 1,700 square feet compared to the 1,280 we live in now for about half the price,” says Kinga Mills. Despite the smaller living space and higher price tag of their Kaka‘ako condo, she says, “I would make that choice 10 times over!”


Kinga is part of a small team of specialized real estate professionals. “I work with military families on the West Side all the time, and I work the condo market in Honolulu,” she says. Her family’s central location means that she rarely needs to drive more than 30 minutes in any direction to show a home to a client.


While they’ve been reluctant to have their youngest daughter change schools, the most significant factor in their decision are the many amenities right at their doorstep in Kaka‘ako, which they say are well worth the higher price tag.


Kinga Mills at Ala Moana Beach Park



“It’s all about the convenience of the location close to the beach, shopping and restaurants for us,” says Kinga Mills, who regularly spends time at Ala Moana Beach Park walking the paths and seawall and dining out at her family’s favorite spots in Waikīkī.


“You’re buying into a lifestyle. The only thing I might change is that I would live even closer to the beach or on a higher floor than we do now!”


She points out the most significant trade-offs for her family. “It’s not that I spend my days at the beach. But if I want to experience Waikīkī, I can walk or drive over. It’s a short distance. I have a choice of restaurants here. I like the urban life, though not everybody does,” she concedes. “Oh, and the views! I prefer a view over a backyard.”



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Beautiful beaches, year-round summer weather and that iconic aloha spirit are just a few reasons why we’re lucky we live Hawai‘i. It’s no secret that Hawai‘i is one of the healthiest, happiest states in the nation—or that it’s also one of the most expensive. When you pay to stay in paradise, the high cost of living can often be a challenge. The key to living well while living Hawai‘i boils down to one thing: taking charge of your finances. And it’s easier than you think.


HONOLULU Magazine is proud to partner with First Hawaiian Bank for Live Wellthy, your new money-savvy guide to living smarter, happier, and healthier. Here, we’ll cover the most essential topics—money-saving tips, travel hacks, investing and spending wisely, planning for retirement and more—to help you navigate your finances, plan for the future and make your money work for you.

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