How to Cut Living Expenses in Bangkok, Thailand by 10-20 Percent in a Month
I am saving money to buy an apartment in Thailand. In cash.
That is why, several months ago, I decided to cut my living expenses in Bangkok, Thailand by 10-20 percent, so I can sock away more money and buy that apartment faster. Easy to do? Absolutely. Plus, if I can do it – Ms. I Must Buy Every Cute Thing I See – anyone can.
If you would love to cut your living expenses in Bangkok by 10-20 percent a month, here are some of the things I changed in my life so my total living costs are now far below normal. None of them took any time to implement, and some took advantage of things I already had lying around the house.
1. Stop buying things you do not need – As ridiculously simple as this sounds, it is difficult to do for most.
A latte every day. A book. A computer game. A cute t shirt. While we all justify our purchases with “It was only 100 baht ($3)” or “It was on sale”, the truth is, unless you don’t have any coffee at home, or the only clothing you have is the shirt on your back, none of these purchases are things you need. Yet they can add up to thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of baht a year.
With 1,000 DVDs I have never watched, 300 books I have not read and 250 computer games I have not played, plus the 50 outfits in my wardrobe I rarely wear, my chances of ever ‘needing’ to make certain purchases for the next five years are slim to none. Yet I was spending 20 percent of my income in Thailand every month to buy more. Until I stopped.
Assess what you already own and do not use, and you can as well.
2. Eat the food you have – Every time I used to go to the grocery store, I bought cans and packets of things I wasn’t likely to eat for months. Why? Well…..I might need it, it was on sale, or it looked delicious. When I decided to cut my living expenses by 10-20 percent a month, I stopped. Instead, I ate the food I already had – packaged food I had bought months previously and never eaten.
That alone saved me over 2,000 baht in grocery bills the first month I did it. Several months later, and it’s still saving me 300 baht a month, and is likely to do so for another couple of months yet.
3. Stop throwing food away – The average American and Brit throws away up to 25 percent of the food they buy. That amounts to tens of thousands of baht, and thousands of dollars/pounds a year. Money they could have spent on other things – or saved.
Eat the food you have, and cook the food that is close to its ‘eat by date’ first. That way, you won’t find yourself throwing away chicken or fish that was perfectly edible yesterday.
I went one step further and started to cook food I always threw away. Namely the vegetable stems my rabbits do not like.
Instead of refrigerating the leaves and heads, and throwing away the stems, I started to put the stems in a separate plastic box in the refrigerator. Chopped up, and sauteed in olive oil with half a diced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, then marinated in oyster sauce and served on rice, they became a delicious meal.
Free too, when you factor in they would normally have ended up in the garbage can.
4. Shower the Asian way – Cutting your water and electricity bills is a great way to save 10-20 percent on your living expenses every month. One way I do this is to ‘shower the Asian way’, (well…I do live in Thailand!)
What that means is you turn the shower on and wet your hair and body. Then, turn the shower off, and shampoo your hair and soap your body. Turn the shower back on for rinsing. Surprisingly, small things like this can save a fair amount of money a year, as you use a tenth of the water you normally use, and save the electricity it takes to heat and re-heat water.
I am currently saving 75 baht a month by doing this. Only around $2.40, that is still close to $30 a year and $30 a year I now have in my savings account.
The same thing goes for continually running the water while you are cleaning your teeth. Don’t.
5. Stop air-conditioning rooms you are not in – I have noticed Americans in Thailand tend to use their air-conditioners all the time, and even air-condition rooms of their apartment they are not even currently sitting, sleeping or working in. Something few other nationalities will ever do.
Why? Especially as it can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year to do so, it is a waste of electricity, and terrible for the environment.
Bangkok, officially the world’s hottest city, has temperatures regularly over 100 degrees. Yet I only air-condition the room of my apartment that I am physically sitting in, so my utility bills every month are low.
If you are not in a room, turn off the air-conditioning unit and shut the door. There is no reason to air-condition rooms you are not in.
If you want to make sure rooms remain ‘aired out’ and don’t get that musty smell, simply air condition them a couple of times a week for a few minutes, and you will have no problems.
The result? A saving of 10-40 percent on your utility bills every month, and at no discomfort to yourself.
6. Walk – Stop taking the car for five minute trips to the supermarket, the bank or even to your job. And stop hopping in taxis. Walk instead, and save the money you spend on gas/maintenance on your car, or on taxi fares.
Up until a few months ago, I used to take motor cycle taxis everywhere in Bangkok. They are cheap (less than $1 a trip) and they make getting to the store or mall a breeze. But…..even that small $1 a trip adds up when you are doing it 20 times a week.
When I decided to cut my living expenses by 10-20 percent a month, I calculated I was spending more than $80 each month on short motor cycle taxi trips I did not need to take (I still take them for longer journeys). Distances I could cover on foot myself in just a few minutes, and with no more inconvenience than getting a little bit hot. Plus, I got my daily exercise too.
Now, I only take motor cycle taxis if I am loaded down with shopping bags. Otherwise, I walk. It is 95-100 degrees in Bangkok many days of the year. If I can do it, you definitely can.
Simplify, simplify, simplify
Look at your life and be honest with yourself. What things do you really not need to buy? What things do you already own but never use?
How much food are you wasting? Do you really need cable TV? (I ditched mine three years ago and, with millions of hours of YouTube videos available to watch for free, plus Netflix, I have not missed it for a second, yet I am saving over $900 a year on cable fees). Can you walk to the place you would normally drive to? (and yes, you will also lose weight if you do).
Change just 10-20 percent of the way you normally spend money and, voila, you have cut 10-20 percent of your living expenses in Bangkok every month. Soon, you could be buying an apartment in Thailand – in cash like me.
Meanwhile, check out this article on the cost of living in Thailand compared to somewhere like America. If you are moving here, you can see how much more you can cut your living expenses in Thailand compared to where you currently live.