Having A Thai Family – Can You Afford It?
Recently I was talking to somebody I know from expat circles. He was doing what so many regular bargoers do. He was moaning and complaining – about money and Thais. It never ceases to amaze me that instead of looking at one's own choices and making adjustments, they just keep blaming Thailand and Thais. It's never their fault.
This particular person is a prime example of this behavior. He used to have a well-paid job yet never saved any money, had a messy divorce, saw Thailand as a place where punters are revered to unknown levels of respect, got involved with a bar lady with two kids from a previous marriage with a Thai man, tried to meet her demands and later got separated. It doesn't stop him from going to see her at her bar and spend some "quality time" with her. That, of course, has its price tag.
So, it was no surprise to me to see this person complaining that now when it is very hot – even seasonally adjusted – he can't afford to buy a new air-conditioning unit. What he can afford, though, was a trip to Pattaya costing 40 thousand baht. Well, we all have our priorities. But what I can't stand is the complaining by him and people like him stating that they can't afford whatever they fancy and have a beautiful, much younger lady, at their side. To me, it's all about personal responsibility and using a bit of forethought. Some seem to think that they are entitled to everything. I think not.
This feeling of entitlement no doubt comes from their first encounters in the Land Of Smiles. They came here with a wad of cash and had a jolly good time being The Handsome Man. And to make matters worse, some even believed that they were the pinnacle of the male species. Self-delusion at its best. Some come here expecting Thais to see us like some superb beings and waiing the ground we stand on. That may have been the case in the past but is long gone. Nowadays Thais are much more savvy. Most of them regard us as but visitors in their country. And visitors are best taken advantage of while they still can afford it. Earlier times I have been asked repeatedly in my village when I will return home. The bafflement could be seen on their faces when I replied that this is my home. In my native country we say that fish and visitors start to smell after 3 days. I wonder if I have started to smell yet?!
How would I see a person in my own country that likes to spend majority of his time – and money – in bars with prostitutes? <Great quote, think you just got quote of the week for my weekly column with that one – Stick> Complaining afterwards that he can't afford to install an air-con unit when he has just spent 4 times the amount 'having fun' (the cheapest model in DoHome is under 10,000 baht)? He is overweight, has bad personal hygiene, and offers no real solution to any poor Thais' foreseeable future? I bet I don't see him much different than the Thais do. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like him.
This was a prelude to my actual subject.
It has been long acknowledged that Thailand has become much pricier and more expensive than a decade ago. I personally don't see anything worthwhile here as cheap. Quality food, good education and exciting hobbies cost money. Not to mention seeing a proper doctor or having medical care or an operation. It may cost little to stay in a shack with no air-con but for me that is out of the question due to the extreme discomfort it comes with. Not to mention that I can't sleep at nights when it is extremely hot. And we can't forget mosquitoes and other flying bloodsuckers.
Another subject is that when staying here long-term, I need to have a car. It is a bit different when living in the middle of the City Of Angels than where I am. From here the nearest town is 50 kilometers away. The nearest lake and beach 20. Our adopted daughter's school is 12 kilometers away. That is a semi-private school (partly government-funded). The village school is best described as cattle herding for kids. The last term she was there I paid a visit and the elderly teacher had left the class to watch some animation. When asked how often this happens, the kids answered almost daily.
My better half has an elderly mother with high blood pressure and she needs regular check-ups and visits to the doctor. We have been lucky so far as no-one in our family has fallen seriously ill but I am convinced that time will come and so have been putting money aside for medical emergencies. A heart operation can run anything up to 2 million baht or even more. Eye surgery for glaucoma can be couple of hundred thousand baht per eye.
Many foreigners from developed countries are so used to social and health services being free that we don't realize how expensive quality medical care can be. Granted, some things are free for Thais. My mother in law gets her doctor's appointment and medicine free but that is not the case when something serious happens. I want to be able to give her the proper care that she will need. I don't trust the government hospitals treating serious conditions.
So what does it cost to have a family in Thailand? I will try to sum up my own expenses.
House and investment to businesses 6 million baht so no rent. My income varies from month to month.
Car 870,000 baht (installments between 8,000 – 16,000 baht a month depending down payment)
Our house we have had almost five years and when it was built it cost about 8,000 baht per square meter. Nowadays my guess is that price has gone up to 10K per square meter. We chose nice materials and better building blocks. One could do a nice simple Thai style house at a cost of about 6K a square meter. It is a personal choice. I needed a work space since I work at home and I was really fed up renting and with all the hassle with landlords. Despite their promises, they did no renovation and just wanted the place for their relatives. Never mind that they originally said that I could stay long-term.
Water and electric 3,000 – 4,000 baht – we have more than one air-con unit.
School for daughter 3,000 – 4,000 baht.
Food is a bit tricky one since in my own opinion we eat quite simple but it still adds up to 15,000 baht for 4 people. I think some saving could be done but I like the things I like.
Gardening and keeping up the premises. I don't have time to be a gardener nor do I like to become a janitor cleaning our business premises. Labor is relatively affordable in Thailand but it is not free and some extra payments – or tips are expected – if you like to keep them happy. There is nothing quicker to disappear than a Thai that is unhappy with their pay. These functions are about 20 full working days together adding up to 7,000 baht.
Repairs. There seems to be always something breaking down or in the need of repair. It is difficult to say the exact sum but it seems we need a new washing machine or similar every year so I would put it to 1,500 baht.
Maintenance. Every 3 months the air-con units need to be cleaned and since we have 8 of them, that costs 1,300 baht.
So we come to the grand sum of 32,800 baht a month. That is close to 400,000 baht a year. Not including visa fees & travel, holidays, parties, gasoline, someone falling sick, emergencies and so on. I am sure that one could survive in Thailand on much less but it would not be much fun and more like survival. I sometimes struggle when we have extra surprises and believe me when I say there will always be those. That is one thing that I have learned in my 12 year or so years in Thailand.
Luckily, there are two of us making money. Some months the love of my life makes more money than me…that might tell something about the future of things. I believe that Thailand, despite its problems, will continue to grow. Problems might grow as well so be prepared and have a plan B. We do and have had plans to leave Thailand. It is not an easy decision since it means all four of us relocating. Many foreigners think it is enough to take the lady and go but in our situation there is no-one taking care of the elderly mother and we can't leave our adopted daughter behind either. Some might disagree about the MIL but I see no other choice. It is the package that comes making the choice I have made.
So, back to the guy that complained about Thailand and Thais and the cost living here. I see it possible living here with a budget but without being very careful with one's money it is not viable. Unless, you have unlimited funds and I haven't met anyone yet who lives in Thailand like that. Yes, there exists some that I know but for them Thailand is a place to visit for holidays only and I have been lucky to be invited as a guest to join them during their stay. I could not afford to do so on my own.
It is very clear to me why bargirls see no future with a guy that spends his money on booze and other activities. To them he offers no solution for their or their family's future. They have their mothers and fathers and most likely kids from previous relationships. They see a bit further than the Deluded Farang. Thais are not stupid.
I have asked myself a question more a few times. Can I afford a Thai family? Now, after all these years when we have established our business and work hard, we can.
Yes, irrespective of lifestyle, Thailand is not the bargain it once was and if you take on a family – and especially if your other half is not working and earning – it can become a lot more expensive than you initially expected. If there is a commonality amongst a lot of the retirees I know here it is that many simply don't enjoy the lifestyle they hoped to because they don't have the finances to afford it. Of course, it does not help but that they retired much too early. Good on you for being able to make it work financially with your family!