The tl;dr version: 1) Cost living of depends on how one lives (duh), so long explanation below, 2) Many costs are steady across the last 3 years, except 3) Spending spikes are explained, 4) I’m living well within my means, and 5) I like spreadsheets,
Values shown are average cost per month in US dollars at the then current exchange rate.
The bold values in the graph show I splurged on travel in 2013, Camera and lenses in 2014 and Income taxes in 2015. How are taxes a splurge? I made a Roth IRA conversion for 2 reason. One was my beneficiary will have more options after receiving a Roth IRA than a regular one. Shoulda also done it last year, but so it goes.
Categories with notable cost swings were Medical and Shelter (rent). Besides varying need for medical care, I changed insurance, and, of course, premiums increase with age. The higher cost of Shelter in 2013 and 2015 was from staying 3 months in Chiang Mai while still paying rent in Hua Hin.
A frequent question on expat forums is how much does it cost to live there. Including a lifestyle description with such a question usually gets better answers because the only meaningful answer depends on how one want to live. One should also ask the expats in different towns because costs may vary substantially. There is easily a 50% difference in Thailand between the cost of living in areas with non-trivial sized expat populations.
Before I retired my lifestyle included far fewer toys, gadgets, upgrades, alcohol, expensive entertainments and luxuries then my peers. Except for my splurges, such a lifestyle fits right in with many of the pension drawing single men here.
At my age, 61, medical costs add up. I’m insured by a French firm for 100% hospitalization in Thailand and 7 other SE Asia countries. Out patient care is out of pocket. For stays of less than 7 weeks* outside that area, it covers urgent care 100% both in and out-patient. Meds for 3 chronic conditions runs about $20 a month.
Hua Hin is one of the most expensive places to live a western style life in Thailand. I have a BIG furnished studio apartment with A/C and hot water. One could rent an unfurnished 2 story row house for less than I’m paying.
About 40% of meals come from one or more of the markets: Super, fresh (Thai), and the expensive place with foreign imports for those with a monkey on their back and just can’t live without Oreos, certain brands of cheese or beer, etc. The rest of the meals range from vendor stands to places frequented by those here on a golfing budget. About once a week I eat in the tourist district, usually for my favorite eggs-based breakfast.
It would have cost me much less if I’d purchased a motorbike instead of having a monthly rental. I rented because of the hassles of ownership, because I could afford to, and it allowed putting off the big hurdle of getting a license until I decide to stay here. I now have a license and know I’m not going to stay in Thailand year around, so I continue to rent.
I Run the A/C at 27C (80.6F) from one hour before going to bed until I awake. During the hottest months of the year A/C is often on at 29C (84F) in the mid to late afternoon, until it’s cooler to go outside or open the balcony and windows. Hot water for shower use is just enough to prevent initial shock during the hot months, most of the time in winter. Both of these temps are one degree lower than past years. Don’t know if the thermostat has a problem, I’m less heat tolerant, or it’s just trading money for more comfort.
Entertainment is nerdy or low cost: Photography, photo editing, learning more about both photography and photo editing, being an internet omnivore, walking on the beach, exercise, hanging out over coffee or watching sports that I’m not interested in bars while conversing with blokes who show signs of intelligent life.