How much does it cost to live there #3

July 12, 2019

Finally enough data for semi-meaningful category averages. I’ve compared my first 3 full months here in Caldas da Rainha to the 2018 monthly average in Hua Hin. Some categories are omitted because what I’m spending on is and will be so different than in Thailand. For example, I won’t be making 2 round trips flights from Bangkok to Europe in business class each year.

In the Difference column of the tables below black numbers show higher cost in Caldas, red lower cost in Hua Hin. All prices were converted to Dollars.

It was a no-brainer that housing costs would be much higher. I went from a studio apartment without a kitchen located far enough from the town center that leasing a motorbike was essential to a 3 bdrm, 2 bath apartment in the center. I wanted a 2 bdrm because rooms here are small. Took the 3 bdrm for the location and because it was only €50 more than what was the upper limit of what I’d wanted to pay.

Pellets? What are pellets? The lowest cost way to heat a living space: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pellet_stove

Food cost surprised me. Thought it was going to be higher in Caldas. Here I’m getting more animal protein, higher quality produce, bread, and cheese. The cafe portion sizes are substantially larger.

Much better insurance coverage, including my pre-existing conditions, for less in Portugal. Prices are so low that when they’re posted by expats on forums and FB groups, readers in the US think that’s the cost per month, not the cost per year. Prescription drug prices are lower, OTC higher. Both will go down now that I qualify for the SNS (national health system) health card.

Buses and roads are both better and more expensive here. No moto-taxis, Tuk-Tuks or Baht Buses here, so I’ve had to use taxis when buying something too big or heavy to carry home. Living in the center means zero need for a motorbike.

Laundry costs less because the apartment has a washer and 3 clothes lines outside the kitchen window. Spending more on clothes because after years in Thailand, I didn’t need any more shorts or t-shirts. That $23 average came from a single day in Lisbon at Primark (same retail concept as Zara and H&M) For my $69 I came home with 1 pair cotton twill pants ($9), 2 pairs cotton twill cargo pants ($15 each), 3 pairs of what I thought were called ‘boxer briefs’ but Primark calls them ‘hipsters’ ($10), and 6 pairs each of shorty athletic socks and longer, warmer socks. ($20). TMI?

Because this blog doesn’t have enough photos, here is today’s haul ($2.70) from the farmer’s market 200m from my apartment. For size reference, the green cutting board is 15″ wide. The yellowish ones are plums.

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How much does it cost to live there #2

April 29, 2019

Why I’m posting a snapshot of costs was explained previously.

For most of my time in Hua Hin the choice of western style markets was either a Wal-Mart style store or the store where addicted expats pay high prices for their favorites from home. So it’s nice to have a choice of where to food shop in Caldas. Within easy walking distance I can choose between 3 markets of Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear size, plus the daily farmers market at Praça da Fruta (Fruit Square). Two big box supermarkets are a 20 minute walk, in different directions of course. Can’t get everything I want at any one place, so maybe what I buy where will tell you something about life here. Or about me. From what I’ve read online, such multi source shopping is typical in Portugal.

Also, some routine medical costs.

Food Costs

Auchan Market has the best choice of canned fish, prepared sauces, and what would be an insult to call canned pork parts and white beans, though those are the two main ingredients. I call them stews. Why canned foods? It’s an easy meal to dump half or all of a can on left over pasta or boiled potatos, add blanched veggies and dig in.

Auchan-20190418

17.6 oz Spaghetti – $1.40
4.2 oz Canned Cod – $2.12 each ($0.50 per oz)
8.5 oz Vinagrete – $1.67 ($0.20 per oz)
7.4 oz 3 Pepper Sauce – $2.03 ($0.27 per oz)
Fifty 1 Litre plastic bags – $1.00
Thirty 20 Litre plastic bags – $1.09
14.8 oz Chispalhada (stew) – $1.72 ($0.12 per oz)
15.2 oz Dobrada (stew) – $1.40 ($0.09 per oz)

Pingo Doce has the best sweet potatoes, bread, and greens of the 3 markets. Also the only one to sell eggs by the half dozen.

Pingo Doce 1-20190418

1.6 lb Chicken – $3.25 ($1.01 per lb)
0.6 lb Sweet Potatoes – $1.24 ($0.96 per lb)
1.2 lb Greens – $1.83 ($0.76 per lb)
0.3 lb Carrots – $0.25 ($0.35 per lb)
1.1 lb Sliced Bread – $1.89
Six Large eggs – $1.11
0.2 lb Lowish fat fresh cheese – $1.10 each ($3.11 per lb)

Pingo Doce is the closest place with plain yogurt. Auchan market doesn’t sell it. Haven’t noticed if the other markets sell 250 ml of juice box wine. It’s decent table wine. Auchan doesn’t sell juice, only ‘nectar’, which is juice & sugar water.

Pingo Doce 2-20190422

Pingo Doce wine

Six Medium eggs – $1.00
1.1 lb Spaghetti – $0.55
0.2 lb Bread Rolls – $0.97
0.3 lb Plain Yogurt – $0.76 for 4 ($0.17 per oz)
33.8 oz Orange Juice – $1.67 ($0.05 per fluid oz)
8.5 oz Vinho Branco (White Wine) – $0.50 ($0.06 per fluid oz)
8.5 oz Dandruff Shampoo (½ off sale) – $2.12

Daily Farmers Market is the only place for ready to eat roasted sweet potatoes. Far better produce choice than the 3 markets. Plus it’s fun to shop there.

Fruit Square-20190422

0.3 lb Roasted Sweet Potatoes – $0.87 ($1.52 per lb)
0.4 lb Clementines – $0.49 ($0.66 per lb)
0.6 lb New Potatoes – $0.34 ($.30 per lb)
0.4 lb Apples (unknown variety) – $0.67 ($0.81 per lb)

Medical Costs

Except for Gaviscon (non-generic OTC heartburn relief), my prescription and OTC meds cost less than in Thailand, which cost way less than in the US. Woo hoo!

Colonoscopy with anesthesia – €285 (~$315)
Colonoscopy without – ~€130 (~$150)
EKG simple 12-way – €12.5 (~$14.50)
Doctor visit for prescriptions of existing meds and request colonoscopy because it’s been 10 years since the first one. – €40 (~$45.50)


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2018

January 29, 2019

The TL;DR version: 1) Cost living of depends on how one lives (duh), so explanation below*, 2) Some costs are reasonably steady across the last 6 years (allowing for exchange rate differences), except 3) Spikes are explained, 4) I’m living within my means, 5) Making this public motivates me to do it right, and 6) I like playing with spreadsheets.

*Actually, here is the long explanation from 2015 . How spending has differed since then is described below the table.

2018 cola table for blog

Misc. increased because of political donations. Apparently I gave enough that people or bots in the 202 area code (Washington DC) keep calling my US Skype number despite my never answering.

For the first time the Visa category earned a row of it’s own. It includes everything I did in support of applying for a visa, such as the costs of staying in Bangkok, the round trips, necessary government documents, sending docs from my US mailbox, notarization at the US embassy in Bangkok at $50 each, etc.

My concept of ‘cost of living’ changed while doing last year’s financial review. I’ve lived off my taxable (non-IRA) account through ’16. Spending was cost of living. Since retiring, the only withdrawals from my IRA were conversions from Traditional IRA to Roth IRA in ’15, ’16 and ’17. That’s not spending.

This year my taxable account bottomed out. IRA came to the rescue. In 2019 IRA withdrawals will be to fund the accounts I live off of. Going forward, managing how much is left in the IRA will be the most important part of my finances. I need to make that obvious in my financial spreadsheets. So, I’m calling spending from the IRA the Cost of Retirement. That spending minus Social Security is my Cost of Living.

Previous Cost of Living Posts: 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014. No post in 2013.

My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2017

January 4, 2018

The tl;dr version: 1) Cost living of depends on how one lives (duh), so explanation below*, 2) Many costs are steady across the last 5 years, except 3) Spikes are explained, 4) I’m living within my means, 5) Making this public motivates me to do it right. Glad I did. This year I realized I hadn’t recorded half of the health insurance payments for 2016, and 6) I like playing with spreadsheets.

*Actually, here is the long explanation from 2015. How spending has differed since then is described below the table.

Spending 2013-2017 v3 - 120Pct

 

Travel increased both in duration and cost per day in ’16 and ’17 because I wanted to, I could, and I’m not getting any younger.

US income taxes dropped because I didn’t follow the same Roth IRA conversion strategy used in ’15 and ’16. Wanted to see what could happen to income taxes in ’18. That paid off. In ’17 converted half the previous years amount so the taxes wouldn’t matter much.

I changed format from previous cost of living posts, separating medical care and medical insurance costs for the last five years. Medical care costs jumped in 2016. Six months of post heart attack meds and follow-up testing will do that. 2017 added a Cardiac MRI, 2 pairs eyeglass lenses, removal of a broad, deep, black, benign mole, and treatment of a grade II sprained ankle.

Eating out spending dropped for the same reason eating at home increased: to cut down on the palm oil and coconut milk in my diet.

My concept of ‘cost of living’ changed while doing this usual year end financial review. I’ve lived off my taxable (non-IRA) account through ’16. Spending was cost of living.

Since retiring, the only withdrawals from my IRA were conversions from Traditional IRA to Roth IRA in ’15, ’16 and ’17. That’s not spending.

Next year IRA withdrawals will be to fund the accounts from which I spend. Going forward, managing how much is left in the IRA will be the most important part of my finances. I think I’ll call the withdrawals Cost of Retirement. Spending minus Social Security will be my Cost of Living.

 

 

 


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2016

January 11, 2017

I’m sorry Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s no reason to do this post here(1). Past cost of living posts were intended to be informative. Also, as I stated in the first post 8 years, 5 months and 15 days ago, all posts are for my use too. In 2016 my spending changed significantly and atypically, so it doesn’t seem like others would find it useful. Besides, most categories stayed the same.

Medical expenses increased, to be expected following a heart attack. The most expensive drug prevents the immune system from treating my stents as foreign objects. Yeah, that’s worth it and will be for the next 2 and a half years I’ll be on it.

Food costs jumped because ingredient labels in Thailand are mostly fiction. Replacing palm oil with heart healthy oils required shopping at the supermarket with imported goods, priced for those who just can’t face life without their favorite foods from home.

Camera spending increased because I picked up 2 more camera lenses. They’re faster and sharper ones which duplicated focal lengths of lenses I already had. Did I need them? Nope. Did I want them? Yep. Will my photos improve? Nope, though I will be able to shoot in lower light than without them. Now, because this blog has too many posts without images, the 2 newbies:

em5-w-lenses

When I saw the average spent per month on travel I thought it couldn’t possibly be correct. It was, because I’d forgotten buying tickets in December for 2 trips this year. I hadn’t forgotten they weren’t Economy class tickets. I’ve always had trouble sleeping on flights. With age, that’s had greater impact on travel fatigue. As I suspected, upgrading has made sleep easier with less jet lag. Also, seems priority boarding and disembarking will be useful on one of these:

a380

(1) Paraphrasing one of the best improvised actions by a guest on SNL disrupting a live show that had been timed to the second He wasn’t invited back for almost 12 years.


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2015

January 20, 2016

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.

2015 Cost of Living for Blog

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.


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2014

January 26, 2015

In the 2011 and 2012 Cost of Living Reports I predicted an indulgent purchase. Finally happened last year:


(The size of cash wad is misleading because the largest bank note here is 1000 baht, or about $32.50)

How indulgent? I spent more on electronics than any other category. More about this below.

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 vary substantially. There is easily a 50% difference in Thailand between the cost of living in areas with non-trivial sized expat populations. The table with my costs for 2011 through 2014 is at the bottom of this post.

Before I retired my lifestyle included far fewer toys, gadgets, upgrades, alcohol, expensive entertainments and luxuries then my peers. In retirement such a lifestyle fits right in with many of the pension drawing single men here.

At my age, 60, medical costs add up. I’m insured by a French firm for 100% hospitalization in Thailand and 7 other SE Asia countries. Out patient 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 $60 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 aimed at those here on a golfing budget. About once a week I eat in the tourist district, not because it’s more expensive there, but because the routes I have to ride to avoid the usual helmet, license and registration checkpoints. I don’t have a license.

Electronics and clothes are replaced when they wear out, except for this year. Replacements were also upgrades. A powerful PC tower and big screen for photo editing replaced a dying notebook. I accidentally killed my travel netbook, then bought a better one.

Replaced a short term travel camera with a kit containing a body and 2 lenses. It’s a Micro Four Thirds system camera that should be all I’ll ever need. Everything past this purchase was pure indulgence. I bought another lens, another in Japan, and another lens the day after Christmas – which came in a kit with a camera body. That body was selling for $1,000 in both the US and Thailand. Buying it in the kit meant it cost $250 vs just buying the lens. The body and lens are both weather resistant, the only such photo gear I own. How could I say no? I pretty sure I’m done buying lenses. For now.

If would have cost me much less by now if I’d purchased a motorbike. I rent because of the hassles of ownership, because I can afford it and it allows putting off the big hurdle of getting a license until I decide to stay here. That’s right. Almost 5 years in Hua Hin, and I’m still just passing through.

I Run the A/C at 28C (82F) from one hour before going to bed until I awake. During the hottest 2-3 months of the year A/C is often on at 30C (86F) in the mid to late afternoon, until it’s cooler to go outside. Hot water for shower use is just enough to prevent initial shock during the hot months, most of the time in winter.

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.

Here are the costs 2011 to 2014. Values shown are average cost per month in US dollars at the then current exchange rate.

Oops. Should have replaced ‘ECM’ in the table with ‘USA mail address and forwarding service’.

[Update] Double Oops. Should have noted the higher ‘Shelter’ costs in 2012 and 2013 was from staying 2+ months in Chiang Mai.