On A Budget
This is my first submission to this site, a site I have used since I first planned a holiday in Thailand over 4 years ago. It has been a great help to me over the years and helped me avoid some of the more stupid mistakes I probably would have made. Thanks,
What has prompted to write this is a recent submission on how much it costs to live in Thailand. The number arrived at, 70K baht per month, is over 3 times what it has cost me per month in the 2 years, 7 months I have lived in Thailand. I know this because when I came to this country to live I knew what sort of a budget I had to live on and if I don’t come in at or under budget in a year I would quickly run out of the wherewithal to stay. That being the case I keep a monthly check on my spending and average it out at the end of the year.
To understand how I do this you probably need to know a bit about me. I am in my mid sixties, fit and healthy. I run a little most mornings and there are few days when I walk less than 5 km and often more then 10 km. I don’t drink or smoke and have never needed any medication. No, I don’t need a blue pill to keep a lady happy.
In my life I have owned most things – land, houses, cars, trucks, boats, horses, pretty much whatever and now I don’t see the need for possessions. In fact to me owning things only creates an anchor that would hold me in one place. As I travel a lot and want to keep traveling for as long as I can there is no point in accumulating things that I can’t carry on my back. I would like a few more books but they are a bit heavy.
So what do I live on and how do I do it?
My first year was the most expensive when I lived in a 2 bedroom rented house in Hua Hin with a live-in lady for most of the year. We traveled around a bit, including a week in Laos, saw a few things and places, spent more than was necessary yet the average monthly spend for the year came in at 29,011 baht.
I learnt as the year progressed about the little things that keep costs down. For instance, when I moved into the house it had heavy blankets on the beds and as I had come from a colder climate and was used to blankets I used them. Of course I needed the air-con on to keep cool at night. After seeing the first month's power bill I was thinking of how to get it down and worked out if I didn’t use the blanket I wouldn’t need the air-con. So I went out and bought a thin sheet that I still use and the next month the power bill dropped by about half.
I also learnt where I could get good Thai food, which I like, for a fraction of farang restaurant prices. An example of this is today’s lunch. I saw gai pat met ma muang (chicken with cashew nuts) on the menu board of a place I had never eaten at before and thought “Haven’t had that for a long time, that will be lunch”. As there were quite a few kon thai eating there, usually a good recommendation, I stopped and had a very nice meal for the princely sum of 40 baht including a bottle of water. I later saw the same dish on the menu of a fancy restaurant full of tourists for 280 baht.
Where I ate didn’t have a flowery table cloth or a queer waiter in a tricky uniform to call me sir and yes I had to order in Thai because they didn’t speak English but I reckon I got the best deal.
My second year was spent mostly traveling alone, 3 months moving around Isaan stopping for a few days at each city, a month on Gaw Chang, several trips as far south as I reckoned it was safe to go and a bit of time in Hua Hin and Pattaya. I traveled by bus or overnight sleeper train for longer journeys where possible (a good option as you don’t lose a day in travel, the top bunk is cheaper). I stayed in cheap hotels, there was the occasional room you wouldn’t keep your dog in but most were OK. Recommendation: if you want to see something different, go to Yasathon for the rocket festival. Even with the amount of travel I did my monthly spend averaged out at 23,305 baht for the year.
In the first 7 months of this year (my year starts in July as that was the month I arrived here), I have done 3 months in Pattaya, ten days in Cambodia, a week for 2 in Singapore and another 2 trips to the south one alone and one with a friend.
Average spend for 7 months is 18,826 baht per month.
That gives me a monthly average over 2 years, 7 months of 24,502 baht per month. As you can see it has dropped each year but I think now it is probably as low as it will get and as low as it needs to be to fit my budget.
At the moment I am in a small rented room in Hua hin (air, fan, TV, internet connection 2000 baht a month + power), eating 3 good meals a day for under 150 baht per day and enjoying life. Yesterday I did a day trip on the bus to Prachaubkirikan and in a couple of weeks will go to Singburi for a month with a friend. After that, who knows?
So you have to decide what is important to you and the lifestyle you want to live. If you want a flash condo in Bangkok, a gas guzzling 4WD status symbol and your own monogrammed bar stool on Soi Cowboy you better be prepared with some big bucks but if you can live simply without booze and without the need to give ladies large lumps of cash each month you can have a great time in this country for between 20,000 and 30,000 baht a month.
You're probably at the lower end of the scale of farang spenders. I respect that you are willing to live like that but for me, sadly, it just would not be possible. Some of the things I enjoy cost a bit of money and I find it hard to keep my monthly spend below 55,000 baht – which even then I think is on the low side. As another writer wrote a couple of weeks ago, it is easy to spend well in excess of half a million baht a month, every month.
What I think is best is that in Thailand, we have options. If you want to live the high life, you can. But if you prefer to live a simple life, or simply don't have the finances for extravagance, then you can still get by comfortably enough.