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Household Budget – Thai Style



It starts something like this…
Me: my dear, why is the bank account at 100 baht?
Answer: I buy something.
Me: OK, what did you buy?
Answer: I buy something.
Now I get the DITH (Deer In The Headlights, Thai blank facial expression) and well know that this will go nowhere, lest in the direction I would like to go…like a real answer to a simple question??? Grrrrrrrr…

Moving right along, Mr. Warrior has an idea. Let’s start tracking what we spend money on. Won’t this be fun?
So we sit down, meaning I try to think of various items that we spend money on every month. I make a quick spreadsheet and we are good to go, almost.

My dear, I have this nice notepad that you can use to write down what you buy and how much it costs. Isn’t this fun? We quickly move from the DITH to storm clouds and Ms. Warrior has progressed to Ms. Warpath, but she agrees.

Fast forward to the end of the month.
My dear, can I see that notepad that I gave you at the beginning of the month?
She hands me the notepad.
My dear, why is the notepad all blank? Weren’t you going to write down what you bought and the cost?
Ms. Warpath: I start this month.
Mr. Warrior: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, OK, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Fast-fast forward to the end of the month. My dear, can I see that notepad that I gave you at the beginning of the month? She hands me the notepad. I have data! Life is great. I enter the numbers into my spreadsheet and quickly see that we are below what I estimated to be our budget. Some things were a little higher, but bottom line, below our budget. Nice!!!

MONTHLY BUDGET

March 2006

ITEM

BUDGET

ACTUAL

Cooking Gas

200

200

Water

300

139.10

Internet

681

681

Electric

2800

2592.54

Phone

200

246.10

Food

6000

4330

Motorcycle Gas

200

290

Motorcycle Repair

100

100

Medical

2000

2060

Hair Dry

500

385

Take Out Food

300

230

Personal Misc.

1000

680

Swimming

200

130

Garbage Collection

50

50

Phone Card

500

500

ATM Cash Withdraw

10000

10721

TOTAL

25031

23334.74

The spreadsheet is not 100% complete or accurate as we have some expenses that we pay the full year at one time; house insurance, exterminator monthly spraying the house, etc. Also some “special” expenses such as; painting the house, clean and recharge the air conditioner, etc.

All in all, I now have a feel for how much and where the money trickles to every month.

A constant issue is the ATM monster. It is so easy to have your account drained from the ATM. With most of the Thai banks offering internet banking, it is much easier to keep tabs on the account(s) and try to keep the ATM monster under control. For my household, the ATM is a “four letter” word. Ms. Warrior (no longer on the warpath) seems to hit the ATM all month but doesn’t keep a running tab on the total amounts she has taken out. By the end of the month, ouch! While she doesn’t record her hits on the ATM, I do that via the internet. When the hits at the ATM get excessive, I show her the “yellow card” (yes, it was just soccer/football season) and I am prepared to show her the “red card” if needed (tough talk, makes me feel better, but of course totally unrealistic).

I found that in my household, keeping and tracking monthly expenses was a concept from deep space, for sure, something not of this planet. As long as the ATM keeps spitting out cash, life is good.

This led me to wonder, do they teach basic household economics in the schools?

I am very familiar with the Japanese family system and the housewife will keep track of all the finances down to the last penny (or Yen in Japan’s case).

Even in the USA, it is very common to make a budget and track expenses. With many households having a computer (or three), check books are balanced and expenses tracked and controlled.

I dare say, this trend has not caught on in Thailand.

How do the Thais save for a holiday? School expenses? Maybe better to ask, do the Thai households save at all?

Maybe an industry can be brought forward here. Along with the many English language schools, how about a home economics school?

Teach the students how to manage their finances, track expenses, save for the future, etc. I would expect that the younger, educated Thais are mostly computer literate, even if just doing e-mail and playing computer games, they have seen a PC and a keyboard.

Next, getting them interested, showing them the benefits of managing your finances. Keeping control of your finances makes you self-empowered. You can control you future, at least to some extent.

Never a dull moment here in the Warrior household. We are lucky that we really have very few expenses but it all started as I wanted to really know what it costs to live in Thailand. We have the house paid off, so our actually expenses are low.

Keep this quiet, but my “secret” expenses (wink-wink) really kill the budget, but then again, they never seem to appear on the spreadsheet…imagine that!!!

Stickman's thoughts:

The long week with no comments continues….believe me, it has been a killer week!