This one simple fact creates the ultimate leverage in cheap international living

It was then that a few naysayers stepped in to tell us it wasn’t possible. “You would have to live like an ordinary person!” They’re quick to point this out. “And that’s no way for a Westerner…

Who is right? Is it possible to live comfortably on this amount of money anywhere else in the world? If so, then why is the discrepancy?

Considering Different Budget Paradigms

The simple answer is – but it’s not the only one – that everyone has their idea of what makes a life abroad worthwhile. When someone asks about the cost of living, I tend to give three figures.

1. Living a comfortable, first-world lifestyle is the minimum.

Although you may not be able to live as comfortably as expats, you will often have a better life than back home. To make this happen, you would need to stick to a budget. This is usually $1000 per month in Thailand.

2. You’d feel as if you were doing well for yourself at this point – imagine a happy, active retiree.

You would have enough cash to travel freely throughout the country, go on vacations (within limits), and play golf as many times as you like. This kind of flexibility is not available in Southeast Asian countries where $2000 would buy it. It is important to note that budgeting is a good idea for large purchases. However, you won’t be living like an oil tycoon. Money would, however, be a minor concern in your daily life.

3. What would it cost to feel wealthy?

This will make money seem like a non-issue. This amount will allow you to have almost everything you need or want (remember that there is no limit to the amount you can spend on luxury, regardless of where you live).

The average SE Asia number is $3000+

Wait, Wait, Wait… $1000! This is not enough!

This is when someone comes in and says that $1000 per monthly is not enough to live a comfortable life in Thailand. They might say you could do it but it would be a very boring, miserable existence. It would be impossible to function in this cockroach-infested environment.

But not so quickly.

First, this argument overlooks the fact that $1000 is a minimum. It’s also a solid minimum. You could eat out every day for $1000 per month, but you would need a budget to do so.

You’d need to be careful with your spending to make it possible. Although you wouldn’t be able to go out every night, the lifestyle described above is not bad. Do you ever go out with friends? I doubt it.

This is where the number one leverage point arises

This is where confusion can arise and why discrepancies exist.

Extra income is almost always a necessity when you live in places like Thailand and Cambodia. That’s because it buys convenience. Most foreigners don’t have the time or patience to find deals and learn the truth about the country.

It takes a lot of effort to learn how to live cheaply in a new place. It takes time. It takes people skills. This is a unique kind of people skills that allows you to cross cultural boundaries and communicate across language barriers. This is all possible through intercultural travel.

Most importantly, you must be willing to work hard and have a budget that will allow you to do so.

Keep in mind, however, that no matter where you go, there will always be a learning curve as you settle in. This can also cost you. This is one reason why a country becomes cheaper the longer you stay.

Let’s take a closer look, starting with food

Here’s a great example of how effort and an adventurous spirit can work in a country such as Thailand.

If you wanted to move to Bangkok now, your first instinct would be to stick to the tourist areas like Khao San Road or Sukhumvit. It’s easier.

Tourists will find the infrastructure reliable and well-suited. Everybody speaks English and is comfortable dealing with foreigners. You’re more likely to be referred there by other travelers than you are to the local venues. Many travelers find it much more enjoyable to travel abroad with this group, regardless of whether they recognize it or not.

You’d probably eat at tourist spots which tend to be the most expensive for what you get. On average, you’ll spend 100 to 200 baht (about 3 to $6) per meal. The occasional meal may cost 60 baht ($2). You’d probably spend twice as much if you stayed with Western restaurants.

That doesn’t sound bad, does it?

Once you become more open-minded and more comfortable with your surroundings you may venture out to explore other streets. You’ll be amazed at how affordable 35 baht (about $1), is for a meal. These places have the best food, but lack the luxury and decor of more expensive restaurants.

You can live comfortably on a very modest food budget while still enjoying delicious meals.

Is that a big sacrifice compared to how you manage your food budget back at home?

You can save even more money! You can save even more money if you rent a property with a kitchen. This is something you do at home, even though it may not be the norm in Thailand. You can still indulge and make great Thai dishes for your dinners or weekends.

What about hotel and rent costs?

People don’t bother to compare prices and shop around. It’s too much work in a foreign country and not in their native language. They grab the first apartment or hotel they see – it’s cheaper than their home. They don’t care if it’s cheaper because they have never had to pay such low rent in their life.

Instead of looking for a place to rent for $200-300 per monthly, they will gladly pay $500-$600. They may not be aware that affordable, clean and livable homes can be found for as low as $60-$90 per month. Many long-term travellers don’t even bother to leave their hotel rooms!

Most people will choose the easiest path.

Transportation is another cost that fluctuates wild.

It’s obvious that if you travel around Bangkok in a taxi or tuk tuk, the cost will add up. This is especially true if you are still learning third-world negotiation skills. Many tourists refuse to ride a motorbike because they believe it is too dangerous. Although it is dangerous, renting a motorcycle on a regular basis can save you a lot of money.

Renting a motorbike can be expensive. It can cost anywhere from 3000 to 5500 baht ($90-$150) per month.

You can find a bike at as low as 2000 baht ($60 per month) by shopping around and moving away from tourist areas. It’s often cheaper to meet local friends than it is to rent a bike. These are just two options. You could split the monthly rental of a bike with a friend, and take turns. You could also buy a bike to sell when you travel.

You don’t need a motorbike to get around if you live in a rural area. If that’s the case, you can either bike or walk. In Bangkok, you can also take the Skytrain and buses.

Many foreigners will reject any of these ideas. It takes time to understand how transportation works, accept some discomfort and take risks. They decide to take a taxi.

Paradise’s Interesting Characteristics

Let me make a point. It’s much more convenient and enjoyable to take a taxi or rent a car with air conditioning.

Again, convenience is more important than money in Southeast Asia.

Another interesting aspect of these exotic foreign locations is the ease with which you can live comfortably. This is possible by choosing how much to spend your money and looking for deals that are meant for middle-class residents. These low costs make it possible to live an ordinary life on such tight budgets.

You find ways to make your life work, even if you have a tight budget. This is likely something you learned from living in the first place, which was the exact same. Bartering is a skill you learn. Ask your friends to recommend where to find the best deals. You search for the best leverage points.

This is a way to live like a local. However, it’s a mistake to assume that living like an Asian local means suffering and poverty.

By putting in the extra effort and time, you can have a life that is very similar to someone who has twice as much money.

It is your duty to do so.

Who is right?

Everyone is right, because each person can decide how hard they want to work. There are many ways to live in poor countries.

Do you live well with less? It’s not hard to try… isn’t it?

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