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.

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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.


The Cost of Quality of Life

April 26, 2014

The subject line would work for a quality of life (QoL) substantially defined by materialism. My concern is the QoL somewhere with a higher crime rate than Thailand. Appears to me the only systematic violent crime against foreigners here is against drunk or unaware ATM users in the most heavily visited tourist areas. Non-trivial theft or property crimes are so infrequent they either never get reported on the expat forum or they’ve slipped my memory.

I’m concerned about crime in the Latin American places I’m researching. Now an obligatory time out to counter responses before they’re made. 1) ‘Crime is everywhere’. Yes, but the crime rate, officially or anecdotal, is a continuum, so it’s the relative crime rates which matter. 2) ‘I’ve lived in (place) for # years and have never been a victim’. Congratulations, you just proved you don’t understand the concept of crime rate. 3) ‘Just do it. Going through life scared is no way to live’. I’m not scared, I can’t afford to lose $2,000+ worth of camera and lenses. If I can’t walk around at sunset with a camera without fear of it being stolen, I don’t want to live there.

Thinking about QoL jumped to the cost of QoL and my trump card. All, and I mean all, my retirement planning excluded my expected SS benefits. Why? It’s a Plan B in case my financial projections are wrong, or I have huge unexpected and unavoidable expenses. Now I’m thinking about what QoL would be possible I added SS because it gives me a greater selection of places to live.

I turn 60 in a few months. Maybe that’s why I’m finally thinking about planning beyond being financially prepared. Until now, thinking about death was in the context of sticking to safe practices while rock climbing, hang gliding, riding a motorcycle, etc. Now I’m aware that my personal decline in physical ability, mental ability and health is slowly steepening and will continue to do so. It can be slowed or delayed but the process is inevitable. Why not enjoy a higher QoL in my 60s and then live simpler afterwords?

One good thing about turning 60 is I now look good in grey shirts.



My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2012

January 30, 2013

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 in Thailand. 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, learning to play music, reading fiction, being an internet omnivore, walking on the beach, exercise, 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 (’12) and last two. Numbers are average cost per month in US dollars.



My rent didn’t change, so why the big increase this year? While I was renting an apartment in Chaing Mai during Nov. and Dec. I was still paying rent in Hua Hin.

Last year’s version of this post noted spending per day was well under what it could be and still achieve the goal of not having to tap the retirement account before I hit 59.5 years old. I predicted an indulgent purchase.

That happened, sort of. Tickets and reservations for 2 weeks in Japan were made, then canceled at the last minute because of illness. I’ll attempt to do try harder this year. Already have tickets for 6 weeks in the Western Balkans and Italy. Also I expect to reschedule last year’s Japan trip for this Sept. A desktop computer with a large high resolution screen would be nice, but that’s not going to happen until I get out of the phase where I’m thinking all my photographs suck.


My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2011

January 1, 2012

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.


Pattaya: Six and a Half Years Later

April 29, 2011

Spent a few days in Pattaya on my first trip to Thailand. Hadn’t been to a Tourist Disneyland yet so went for the spectacle. Haven’t found a reason to return until a friend planned a trip to Thailand that included going there after visiting me in Hua Hin. Went to Pattaya to spend more time with him and to see if my opinion of Pattaya had changed.

At first the hustle and bustle of the big city had it’s appeal but that wore off. There would be advantages to living there. It has more of everything, including variety. Cost of living is significantly lower than HH. Enough Americans call it home to have USA professional sports on TV. It’s closer to Bangkok. The air quality means I can’t live there even if I wanted to, butt it does have a certain appeal.