My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2011

A frequent question on expat forums is how much does it cost to live there.  Only meaningful answer is it depends on how you live.  Before I retired my lifestyle included far fewer toys, gadgets, upgrades, alcohol, expensive entertainments and luxuries then my peers.  In retirement that fits right in with many of the pension drawing single men here.

To estimate what it would cost you to live here, first start with a description of your desired lifestyle. Use Google and the expat forums to check costs on individual items. Be sure to ask the expats in different towns because costs vary substantially, easily over 50%. Here is my description.

Hua Hin is one of the most expensive places in which to live a western style life. I have a big furnished studio apartment with A/C and hot water. Dine out twice a day. Of those 14 meals, about 4 are in the tourist district, 3 at vendor stands in Thai markets and the rest in the places aimed at the expats. About 4 of 5 meals is Thai food. Imported foods from the grocery store are mostly cheeses, deli meats, peanut butter, jelly, muesli. Weeks usually pass between bringing home a pile of cheese and sandwich meats, otherwise my at home food bill would be higher. Electronics and clothes are replaced when they wear out. Run the A/C at night only, run the hot water just enough to prevent initial shock. Entertainment is nerdy or low cost: Photography, Photoshop (GIMP actually), learning more about both photography and GIMP, reading fiction, being an internet omnivore, shooting pool, walking on the beach, combining people watching and watching sports (that I’m not interested in) in bars. Medical insurance covers hospitalization only, out patient is out of pocket. I rent a motorbike, putting off the hassles of ownership until I decide to stay here.

Here are the costs for this year (’11) and last (’10). Numbers are average cost per month in US dollars. Discussion follows.

CATEGORY 2011 2010
$ $
Medical 659 27
Travel 284 0
Food Out 208 242
Shelter 189 216
Scooter Rent 130 133
Misc. 127 157
Entertainment 95 223
Electronics 88 151
Food In 82 61
US Mailbox and International Shipping 49 32
Electricity 29 33
Laundry 26 24
Visa 12 72
Cell phone 6 8
Household 5 21
Bus / Taxi 4 7
1995 1407

Conversion to US dollars is based on the exchange rate when monies were transfered from US to Thai savings account. If all dollar to baht conversion had happened at recent exchange rates costs would be 4 percent lower.

Biggest difference this year is medical costs. Fifty six percent of the cost was from one condition that took two days of tests followed by 3 days at a hospital. The rest was insurance premiums for the rest of this year and all of 2012.

Travel was the second biggest expense this year. Last year’s zero number is misleading because I counted day trips and overnight trips as entertainment. I spent 42 nights away from home, not counting overnight or two night shopping trips to Bangkok this year.

Spending on electronics is half of last year when I picked up a laptop and camera. This year was another camera, a DSLR, but a discontinued and heavily discounted one.

Sending is still well under the monthly target that would drain my taxable accounts about the time when I could begin withdrawing from the 401k/IRA without penalty. That is as planned. Only twice since retiring have I spent more in a month than that target, once to pay hospital bills and once to pay next years insurance premium. Target hasn’t been adjusted since I retired, so I’m well the F under what I could be spending. I see an indulgent purchase in my near future as a start at correcting that imbalance. After all, I can’t take it with me.

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