Stickman Readers' Submissions June 19th, 2009

Living On Less Than 400,000 Baht A Year

Well maybe that is the wrong word to use; I should be using surviving on less than 400,000 baht a year as that is what I do! Survive. I am an avid reader of this website and after reading Stickman’s column 2 weeks ago
thought I’d share how I live in Thailand.

I have been living in Bangkok for a year now and my only income is my Disability Pension from Australia and my job as a part-time English teacher at a language institute. When I came over last year the baht was about 26 and climbed steadily up to 30 and then our Australian dollar crashed and fell down to as low as 21, before only recently recovering back to 26. But I could say on average it has been about 23 baht to one Australian dollar.

He Clinic Bangkok

Now let me tell you that I never came to Thailand for its famed naughty nightlife. That’s just not me. I was just dissatisfied with Australia and after a friend of mine came here on holidays in 2007 and told me about the way the people were so friendly that I did a bit of reading about the country and its people and culture. So in early 2008 I came over here for a few weeks to see if it was just like my friend had told me, and at first was a little disappointed. But I was staying in Bangkok and it wasn’t until I travelled into the countryside that I saw what my friend was talking about. I travelled to Udon Thani, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle. The people were friendly and I felt more relaxed than I’d felt for a long time.

So I made plans to come back for an extended one month holiday in mid April to see Songkran and to help make up my mind if Thailand was the place for me to live for some years. Well my time in April was exactly what I thought it’d be like so I made plans to come back and live here for a few years. Now by chance I’d met a good(?) Thai girl during this time and for the first time in a long time felt like my life was coming together. So by mid-June I was back and started hunting for a small apartment close to the centre of Bangkok and found one at 4,500 baht a month, close to MBK. I had to stay close to the centre of town as this was where I’d found work and was also close to my girlfriend's place. Now this place could only be described as a shoe box, 23 sq meters in size and had no hot water and wi-fi internet was an extra 500 a month. It was ok to start with. But after only two and a half months it became unbearable. I just wasn’t able to get used to living in such cramped conditions and went looking for a better place.

I ended up finding a 32 square apartment in the Uropong area for 6,000 a month + utilities & internet. This place is own by Chinese Thais and most people here are friendly and polite and we’re told that after 1 AM noise is to be kept to a minimum. I’ve heard some horror stories and am glad that I chose this place as the owners are friendly and try to help me when they can.

CBD bangkok

Now back to my financial situation. I’ve said that I live on less than 400,000 a year, or 33,000 a month. But from this amount I have to take put away about 10,000 a month for trip back to Australia every 90 days to meet Centerlink & Thailand visa requirements. So my real budget per month is about 23,000 baht! Out of this I have to pay for everything – rent, food and the odd trip to see parts of Thailand that I want to go and see. You might ask how can I do this. Well it is difficult but not impossible. Like I’ve mentioned before, the naughty nightlife isn’t for me so I save a bundle there. I also don’t go out to restaurants much, maybe 2 or 3 times a month. I use public transport and motorbike taxis most of the time and sometimes if planning a trip away will walk home from work to save a few extra baht.

Yes! Some of you might think that this is just going too far. Maybe it is, but I am then able to do thing that I want so don’t mind the walk and the exercise keeps me fit.

Do I live like a Thai? Yes & no. I do eat from the noodle man a few times a week but the rest of the time I cook at home and eat steak & pasta, pork with mashed potatoes, chicken and chips and fish with rice so my diet is well-balanced. Now because I have to travel to Australia every 3 months, I use this opportunity to bring back foods that are expensive here to buy like cheese, breakfast cereals, margarine, ham (real ham) and other condiments like Milo, good coffee and a bottle of Bundaberg Rum. The ladies at check-in always have a laugh when I tell them why my suitcase is overweight (25 – 27 kg) and I’ve never been charged for the extra weight.

So here’s where my money goes!

wonderland clinic
Air fare 10,000 baht
Rent 6,000 baht
Power 1,400 baht
Water 200 baht
Internet 500 baht
Mobile phone 500 baht
Groceries 4,500 baht
Transport 1,500 baht
Miscellaneous 1,900 baht
Daily allowance (30 x 100 baht) 3,000 baht
Saving for trips 3,500 baht
TOTAL 33,000 baht

33,000 baht a month. Now this is an average, but it rarely moves and if it does then it’s the money that I’ve saved that gets used up.

Rent for me is the second biggest expenditure, but like Stick I want to be as comfortable as I can. Believe me, I am very comfortable where I live. Sure I’d like a better place in a nicer part of town, but I’m a realist and know this is all I can afford so I make the most of it and cannot complain as I’m happy where I live.

Food comes in at number 3 and I am careful of the quality of the food I buy. For example, I do most of my shopping at Tesco Lotus, but buy some of my food from Tops; like meat, pork and chicken as the quality at Tops is much better, so I don’t mind spending a few baht extra and eating better food.

My transport costs are mainly made up of bus, motosai taxi and the odd taxi fare. Most of the time I will use the bus but if traffic is very busy or I am working all day will then use a motosai taxi. If I have to travel more than a few blocks from home then I’ll use a taxi for the convenience and also if I am with my girlfriend.

I have shown that I put away about 3,500 baht a month for trips around Thailand. This amount can change depending on my spending for the month. If my power bill goes up or I have less work than normal then this amount takes a big hit and sometimes I am unable to put away any money. But that’s life and you just go on and hope that the next month is going to be better.

My daily allowance is for stuff that I want to buy for myself, like; trips to the cinema, DVD movies, computer software and other personal related items.

Now let me throw all of you a Curve Ball.

For the past 10 months my Thai girlfriend has been living with me and I’ve picked up the tab for 90% of our food, restaurant outings and also when we go travelling! Not a mean feat by itself I can tell you, but we manage and when she can she puts a little bit into the kitty. The rest of her money is spent on paying for her small house which she rents and the little things she needs. I am a firm believer that it’s the man's job to provide for the woman and even though I don’t have a lot will often go without to help her. Yes, you could say I am crazy, but I know that already.

So in closing, am I happy with my lifestyle? Too right I am! I may be living it tough but still enjoying life here more than when I was whist living in Australia.

So would I recommend the way I live to other people? Hard to say and maybe I wouldn’t, as each person is different and our goals in life vary and living the way I am living is not easy.

But it is possible and can be done and you CAN ENJOY life here in Thailand the way I live. You just have to set yourself a strict budget and stick to it and realize that there a lot of things you wont be able to do and accept that. If you can do that, then you can live the way I do.

Stickman's thoughts:

I thought you did a really tremendous job on this submission. It is simple but balanced and I think you explain why you spend what you do very well. I think you have brought a really balanced perspective to the idea of how much it costs to live in Thailand.

On a personal note, I would recommend you consider working a few more hours part-time or perhaps look for higher paying part-time work. While you are doing ok on what you earn you are at the mercy of fluctuating exchange rates. An extra 5,000 baht a month put aside for a rainy day would not go amiss, I'm sure!

nana plaza