You’ve saved your money, you bought a plane ticket, and now you’re living in Thailand. It’s no secret that the cost of living in Thailand is cheaper than the western world, but if you don’t manage your money wisely, your life abroad will be a short one.
1. Forget western food
That’s right, don’t even think about it. When you see a cheeseburger and fries on the menu at a Thai eatery, turn the other cheek on your greasy old pal. The same goes for you Brits with your bangers and mash. It’s at least three times the price of your average Thai dish, so stick with what the locals are eating if you wanna extend your stay.
2. Put the beer down
It’s alright to sip a cold one after a long week, but if you’re guzzling beer every night, or any other alcohol for that matter, your overall living expenses are gonna double. In Thailand, a 12 oz. beer costs as much as a full meal. I need to drink about 4 beers to get a decent buzz. That’s 4 days’ worth of lunch money!
3. Keep a spending log
If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend a lot less money if you get into the habit of tracking your expenses. After a month, look back to your log to see what you’re spending the most money on every day. You’ll be surprised at how much dough you’re dropping on crap you don’t need.
4. Tutor in your free time
If you’re a native speaker, it’s easy to find a job teaching English at a school in Thailand. But if you aren’t frugal, your monthly salary will fall short of your expenses. That’s when you should look into a supplemental job like tutoring. Post flyers with your email address, tell everyone you meet. Who knows, with enough marketing your tutoring salary could surpass your teaching salary.
5. Cook your own food
One of the first things I invested in for my apartment in Thailand was a rice cooker. That way I can eat as much as I want to (I eat a lot) without breaking the bank. Rice and beans are staple foods that can be prepared using a rice cooker, and they cost pennies per serving. Cook your own food as much as possible and you’ll undoubtably save a ton of dough during your life abroad no matter which country you inhabit.
6. Stop paying ATM fees
When you use an ATM with an overseas credit card, it rapes your bank account. I get slapped with a $10 fee every time I withdraw. Trust me it adds up. Avoid this mess by withdrawing your cash in the biggest chunks possible. Better yet, open up a bank account in Thailand.
If you can buy something in Thailand, you can haggle for it. Make an offer that’s so ridiculous that you’d feel guilty if they accepted it. They won’t agree, but they’ll definitely try to meet you in the middle. Just don’t try to haggle over small stuff like food and snacks, otherwise locals will think you’re an ass. Save your bartering skills for more expensive items like clothes.
8. Learn the language
You don’t need to be fluent, but put some effort into learning the basics and you’ll reap the financial benefits. Learn how to count and learn how to compliment people. Both go a long way when dealing in business, and using a few key phrases could help you dodge paying the notorious “foreigner price.”
9. Stay put
You’re living in Thailand because you love to travel and experience new culture. That’s awesome, but don’t make a habit out of traveling to a new country or province every single weekend. Living abroad is not the same as backpacking. The cultural experiences you seek shouldn’t require constant migration if you’re already living on foreign soil. You’ll have a much deeper immersion in a foreign culture this way.
10. Don’t be a showoff
Did you bring more money than you need? Awesome, don’t spend it. Just because living in Thailand is cheaper than living in the west doesn’t mean you should treat your money any differently. Picking up a big bar tab will make you popular, but it spells financial disaster if you make it a habit. Don’t sacrifice precious travel money just to impress friends and strangers.
Follow these guidelines to living frugally in Thailand and you’ll end up with more money than you started with. Have fun, travel, experience the culture, and be wise with your dough. It’s so easy to live a long-term sustainable life in Thailand, but it’s up to you to decide how long you want your life abroad to last.