After spending 3 months on this popular Indonesian island I have a good grasp of costs to live here. All of these numbers are just for a single retired man. No dog. No wife. No kids. Just me. Here we go with Bali cost of living… The cost to rent on this island, in popular areas, can be absolutely amazing low and can go up as high as “are you kidding me”. For example I booked a few hotel rooms, normally referred to as a “home stay”, for as little as 7 USD per night and this included breakfast!! I Read more…
Finding a place to call “home” for a few months or a few decades requires patience and certain skills. It is difficult enough to find a house to call home in your home country of Australia, Great Britain or the USA. Throw in the language and cultural barrier and the task becomes tricky at best.
After the language obstacle comes the double pricing standard on many things. Foreigners to these exotic paradise beaches and towns come with local people that have a very interesting view of all us Westerners and the biggest myth is that we are all wealthy! Certainly the average Brit as far more income and material possessions than the average Thai person. However, a retired Westerner has an income far less than his working younger friends “back home” and his or her savings may well be far less than the Mexican, Thai or Ecuadorian that wants to charge the foreigner more because “they look rich’. There is a preconception that Westerners are all living a lavish lifestyle and so can easily afford more rent than a locally born person could afford.
I am strongly against such double pricing especially on the topic of rent. My landlord in Khanom Thailand owns 6 homes, and about 5 more acres of land close to the ocean. He drives a nice car and has a good life in general. He has been very fair to me but thinks it is funny that the local barber charges Thai people 60 Thai Baht and charges me and other foreigners 100 Thai Baht for the same haircut. I see no humour in this and I find it offensive.
Getting back to my house in Khanom: it is a one bedroom, with a slightly Westernised kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and both front and rear covered porch areas with seating. The rent also includes the furniture, electricity, water, internet and cable TV.
The construction is 4 years old and includes an air conditioner in the bedroom which can cool both the bedroom and the living area with the doors closed. The beach is a 200-yard stroll and the closest convenience store is about 3 km away. It is a very modern style home and even includes a washing machine. easy enough to dry a load of laundry outside in the sun in about 2 hours!
There are plenty of electrical outlets and the aircon works great! The kitchen is stocked with everything that I need. When I needed something my landlord actually supplied it!
An important thing to consider renting a home in a hot climate is shade and a breeze. A long roof overhang should keep most of the direct hot sun out off the house, trees next to the house are good, as is a shady spot for a car or motorbike. A breeze is fantastic if you feel like sitting outside and oftentimes found at a slight elevation or close to the beach. I do not like a home right on the beach. Far too much salt and wind. On a stormy day, the wind can carry salt spray to your house and can prevent you from looking out of your windows. The salt is also very bad for your electronics and will ruin them in a few years.
My landlord has 4 other rentals in this town and treats everyone with respect and is very fair. I imagine the electric costs that he absorbs for my usage is probably around $1.400 Thai Baht or about 43 USD per month March 2018. He also rented me a 125 cc motor scooter for 2.000 Thai Baht per month
Its a beautiful house in a very beautiful quiet beach town. Outside of my home, there is not a lot going on! hanging out at my local coffee shop with other Farang (a Thai slang word for foreigners) can take up a few hours each day, but once a week for me is just fine.
There are few people that can ignore how much
the cost of living will be in Thailand
, Mexico, Spain or wherever their idea of paradise is. When I left Tucson Arizona, in January 2013, for greener and cheaper pasture I was also a little apprehensive. I was hoping that my choice of Mexico was indeed a good choice.
In an earlier article, I cited that one of my reasons for leaving San Miguel de Allende, Mexico was the huge increase in the cost of living there. Ecuador was going to be my next country to enjoy, however the cost of living there was only about 25% less than my current costs in Mexico.
Thailands cost of living looked considerably cheaper on paper. Like so much research we all do, other people’s research often never matches our own experience and “your mileage may vary” creeps into the overall equation.
Now that I have
lived in Chaing Mai,
Thailand for 4 months I can give you an accurate report on my experiences and a little about general finding here in Thailand. But first here are the numbers from a site that I like that has some good information that I actually based my move on before I arrived here: Cost of living comparison between Tucson, USA and Chaing Mai, Thailand. That report basically states that I would need TWICE as much income to live the same lifestyle here in Thailand than in Arizona. Oh dear, how on earth would I accomplish that? I think my costs would be triple for me in Tucson than compared to here in Chaing Mai! Hence the flood of retirees to places like Thailand and Ecuador!
First my housing. I live in a 46 sq. meter studio condo that is in a very modern building just 1-year-old. In Thailand, this size condo is considered big. To most, especially American, farang (a farang is anyone from outside of Asia) 46 sq. meters, or about 500 sq. feet is tiny. Right? I have a combo mountain and city skyline view, great location to shopping malls, main street, walk to restaurants and walk to my Thai language school. I have a kitchen that by Western standards is paltry, with just a hot plate, induction heater to be exact, to cook with and a microwave oven to warm things.
I have a large modern bathroom with a walk-in shower, a balcony also with views and a place to dry my washing and defined areas for sleeping, sitting, eating and working. I agreed to a 1-year lease period and my rent will be 12,000 baht each month. At the time of writing this article, that is about US$360, which is what my rent was in Santa Monica in 1974. My electricity is expensive at this time of year due to the air conditioning on most of the day and night: 1,600 baht a month, my fast internet is 500 baht, water 200 baht and I have a maid clean my room twice a week (see those shiny floors in the photos?) for 1,200 baht each month. Total housing cost: 15,500 baht, or about $460.
The style of my home would have been never my choice earlier in my life; too modern and too small. As I have stated many times in my articles: the key to living happy and comfortable, in your own paradise, is throwing out your old way of living your life and accepting the changes that will be inevitable. Trying to recreate, in your future paradise, what you left behind in England, USA or wherever will be difficult and expensive to accomplish.
The next biggest expense is food and drink. So far, I have not cooked any real meals in my own kitchen. First of all I do not know how to cook Thai food and what ingredients to buy. I make porridge with fresh fruit, toast and popcorn and that’s about it. My groceries and household items cost me about 2,000 baht each month plus about 800 for beer :). Meals at restaurants and street food cost another 8,000 baht a month and beer outside my home another 2,500 baht. That is a total of 13,300 for all my food and drink. About $400.
At the moment, my only means of transportation is a songthaew, a covered 2-bench truck that I may be sharing with others and for 20 baht each journey I can get around to most major landmarks in this city up to about 4km away. This is now getting old though and because I do not speak Thai then asking the same driver to take me to a certain address (still must be on a songthaew route) is not possible for me. I also walk a lot, which I enjoy if it is not too hot. I probably spend 200 baht each month on songtaew rides. One more option here for me and the rest of Thai cities is a tuk-tuk. These smaller vehicles will take me and 1 or 2 of my friends, to an exact location and often the driver will speak a little English but the cost is much higher at 60 to 100 baht inside Old Chaing Mai.
I have decided to buy a scooter. This form of transportation is the most common here in Chaing Mai and I would guess all of Thailand from the little I have seen. A new scooter will cost me about 70,000 baht, but since I do not need a new bike then a 30,000 baht, to purchase a late model Honda Click will be just fine. Besides the initial investment of US$880 there will be the cost of petrol, maintenance, insurance and legal stuff that will cost about 2,000 baht a YEAR if just riding around town and nearby.
My Thai language lessons, I just began at the local YMCA. The cost for 30 hours of instruction is 2,700 baht, about US$80. I buy electronic items from time to time, such as a streaming media player, a computer monitor, mouse, keyboard, electric kettle and a fan. All these items new, are priced the same or less than in the USA and much less than England.
Up until this point my housing, food and a few other items amount to a grand total of US$860 plus the cost of one-time costs which must be figured into a person’s budget over time. Of course you can live here MUCH cheaper than my way of living; smaller and older condos can cost only 7,000 baht and some rooms just 3,000 baht “Thai style”, you can save money on no beer drinking, no internet and using the free internet at many coffee shops. I have also put on weight, about 2 kg, so I could save money on food too! Other expats that live here spend 30,000 baht each month on rent and buy a car. You can also live outside of the city and rent a nice 3 bedroom house starting at 8,000 baht each month. Many choices for all sorts of budgets.
Some of my meals here cost only 40 baht for a simple port curry with rice and a cup of iced water. fancier places can be 200 baht per dish. Street food is perfectly safe, or just as safe as a restaurant option will be. I have never been sick here with any major stomach upset. In Mexico I was sick many times for the first 8 months; maybe I have not been sick here because Mexico helped build up my bug immunity, not really sure.
My life here is comfortable and easy. It is also easier, for me, to make friends here. The
here, both working and retired is much easier to connect to and to meet smart people. My experience in San Miguel was not nearly as good as here. So far so good. My pension is more than enough and so I get to save each month, although the first few months in any move always costs more because of initial expenses settling in.
Do you have a question about an item that is missing from my article. Hit the CONTACT button above or leave a reply to this article below. Wherever you are as you read this: enjoy the Planning and set it in motion!
We each have our own priorities as to the “must have” in choosing best places to retire. In my mind there is little point living in one of the cheapest places to live if the town is dangerous or has awful weather. We each have to decide what is important to us. I am living in Mexico at the moment and the cost of living in my town of San Miguel de Allende is much higher than most places in Mexico. For me, the culture of this town, the many events and the towns beauty is worth the price.
My standard of living is somewhere in between my ex USA lifestyle and how a Mexican would live in a village. That is a HUGE difference in the quality of life! I know expats here who “get by” on $400 USD a month while others I know spend in excess of $3,000 a month. I am in the middle. If you are trying to recreate your USA life here in Mexico, or ANY expat community around the world then you will spend top dollar. Imported foods and clothes made for the USA markets are expensive. Buying a late model car in Third World Countries: very expensive-perhaps 35% higher than Europe or USA. Dining out at non-local food: twice the price. Similar story for the latest and new computers and electronics. Asia may be about the same or less than Euro and USA prices.
Buying used items, eating local ethnic meals, renting/buying a local styled home and so forth, then this is the smarter way to spend your money when retired. Some costs in your new paradise come unexpected and often at the worst times. Many people here in San Miguel trip on the hazardous sidewalks and end up having to pay medical expenses. Traveling back “home” can also be a huge expense. Certain things we can all control with our day to day living expenses, but just like my non-retired life, there were and still are many things that I have little control over costs.
Check out my articles on countries and towns that I have information on, that will help you choose your best choice for the cheapest places to live. Also go to THIS WEBSITE for general information about the cost of living around the world. Bottom line here is really, really, really consider what you can afford, what you would be willing to forgo (priorities) and try to look realistically at current and possible future expenses.
Search my website for more in-depth articles on various towns around the world.
I was never a good saver, I was careful with money and how I spent it, but saving for a rainy day, nope, I was not the best saver at all. I lived for the day mostly, spending huge amounts of money on travel especially to visit my family in England and Scotland, whilst i was living in Australia, USA or Mexico. I spent a ton of money on travel just for the fun of it all, this 40 years of experience helps me add credence to this website. Right?
I never gave retirement, the idea of not having to work but still getting an an income, much thought. I never stressed over it because somehow I just knew that all would be well, that “the Universe would supply me with what I need”. Yep I have actually believed this line of thought for about 20 years now and so what we receive in our life is related to what we think we are worth and think about. Did you ever read The Secret? This book covers what I just mentioned, which for me is an amazing gift that we all have if only we knew it! I digress…
So, rushing headfirst into 60 years old, I began getting statements from the USA Social Security Administration that informed me that if my income trend stays the same from 55 until when I retire then my pension payment was going to be about $1,800. A month! Woah…. and even MORE if I delayed retirement.
I always thought that the SSA, in the USA, pension was around $500 a month and you were such a loser and totally screwed if that is all you had to look forward to in your 60’s. But $1,800+ a month at the earliest possible retirement age of 62, now THIS gives me options. I think. To think, in my 20’s and 30’s I tried like heck to get that “FICA thing” removed from my paycheck deductions. So glad I wasn’t successful. That was my retirement fund and I WAS saving after all. Lucky me.
Many people are FORCED, thank goodness to pay a tax which funds their government pension, in the USA this is FICA tax. The more you earn the more you pay in tax and the more you receive back with this forced savings account with your government in Europe, USA et al. Unfortunately, the ceiling of how much you get back as an high income earner, pre-retiremnt is much lower than those with lower incomes. See this chart for an explanation:
For example, where I worked in the USA for 30+ years this chart shows a “replaced” retirement income from the government of about 33%. I wish!! Mine is around 25% of my pre-retirement income. Low income earners seem to be better off, but not necessarily, what they get back in the case of USA is 38%, but of their low pre-retirement income. Make sense?
So what does this mean for us all? Well, this is good news for low income earners prior to retirement. Because their lower income could only support a lower standard of living, they are more likely to be happier in their retired years with their government paycheck. High income earners that rely solely on a government pension, well, you will have the biggest adjustments to make. Not at all a horrible position but your attitude and acceptance of what must be, is paramount to enjoying your golden years. In expat communities in Ecuador, Mexico and Thailand there are many miserable expats, who are often complaining about their lives and how unlucky they are with love, money and health. I suggest they look around at the people who are indigenous to their new home country and count their blessings!!
A side note: If you are young and no where near retirement age, then do yourself and friends a favour: pay retirement tax! As it turns out I have many friends who were realtors, business owners and other self employed positions. They paid ZERO FICA, which means they have zero pension from the SSA (Social Security Administration). Assuming they have zero savings then what happens to them? Its not pretty at all.
So if you are pushing 60 and have worked most of your life in the USA or most European countries, you are probably not as bad off as you think. Be willing to make some changes and sort out your priorities and your Golden Years will be waaaay better than you ever could have ever imagined possible. I know mine are. So far.