Living Like a Thai Day 2: Losing Money in My Sleep

Living like a Thai is Stupid and so are you!

Living like a Thai is apparently Stupid

Well, this little experiment of living on Thai wages has definitely gotten peoples attention and the verdict seems to be split down the middle as to whether it’s a good thing or not. Half the people commenting or e-mailing me think it’s commendable to try and live on less money and see how the other half lives while the other half seem to think I’m an asshole because they find it disparaging to the Thai people.  I do have to say I have received some of the stupidest e-mails in the history of Thailand, Land of Smiles in just the last 24 hours.

Look, I’m not doing this to be more Thai, disparage Thai’s or make fun of Thai people. This isn’t some intellectual social experiment or a guide on how to live cheaply. The challenge was put forth well over a year or so ago and while thinking about wasting money I thought I might try living on 200 baht a day to change some of my own lazy habits. Nothing more, nothing less.

Some of my favorite e-mails so far:

What a dickhead. Why did you buy water at 7/11 a Thai would never buy water at 7/11 they would go to a water station.

Well, let me explain it to you.

1. Thai’s do buy the same bottled water I do every day…if they didn’t the stores wouldn’t sell it.

2. If you don’t have a water bottle you won’t be able to fill anything at a water filling station…and since I didn’t have a bottle I needed to buy one first.

Ramen noodles are wasted calories with absolutely 0 nutrition and your statement that Thai’s eat them all the time is a falsehood.

When did nutrition become a requirement of the challenge? While there are all kinds of good nutritious options in fresh Thai food sometimes you need something around the condo you can dig into at 2 am without fear of it going bad. I agree ramen noodles aren’t the best choice for nutrition. Your observation that my observation is a falsehood tells me one or two things.

1. You have never been to or lived in Thailand.

2. You don’t personally know any Thai people.

This is stupid, you aren’t Thai so you will never know what it is like to be Thai. Everything you do is stupid.

Reading that e-mail definitely made me feel more stupid…

Well, that’s all for the e-mail bag today but I’m sure there will plenty of other gems coming in to respond to, and I will :)

Living Like a Thai Day 2

The water bill cometh

Well today’s study in living on only 200 baht a day hit home as soon as I woke up and walked into the kitchen only to see the water bill had been slid under the door. My water bill is only 125 baht ( $4.25 ) a month and it’s not a deal breaker in any way but when you are living on 200 baht ( $6.80 )a day that 125 baht deduction before I even started the day was a cruel blow…but I knew it was coming.

As I sat down to my 20 baht breakfast of egg, rice, hot dog and chicken 2 thoughts crossed my mind. The first was concerning my breakfast, it wasn’t as good as I remembered. Sure the egg and meats were fine but the rice seemed off. I think I’ll stick to my local roadside restaurant for breakfast from now on, it’s fresh, it’s hot and at 20 baht it’s a great deal. The second thought I had pertained to my rent and electricity situation. I should really deduct these from my totals now before I do something stupid and get caught short at the end of the month because technically I don’t have 200 baht a day to spend if I have these bills hanging over my head.

Today I will calculate these numbers into the running totals. The rent I set at 1000 baht ( $34.00 ) but the electricity might be a bit tricky. I will deduct 1000 baht for electricity as well but my average electric consumption is usually 1400 baht ( $47.66 ) a month which means I am going to have to buckle down and keep it at or below the 1000 baht mark.

Water re-filling station

In other news I filled up my water pitcher with water and headed to the refilling station today for a 5 baht ( $.17 )refill, so I have more water around the condo. I didn’t eat lunch today as I wasn’t hungry so there was a savings there and for dinner I hit the Thai street carts for a big piece of grilled chicken and a pack of sticky rice which cost me all of 30 baht ( $1.00 )

Tonights dinner: Chicken and sticky rice

Observations today: I really need to find a closer water refilling station…there has to be one but it has eluded me thus far.

Adjustments to the stipend:

As I said earlier I really need to be aware of the rent and electricity bill so I will be adjusting those costs out of the monthly total stipend now which will give me a lower daily stipend.

200 baht X 30 days = 6000 baht

Minus 1000 baht electricity ( this is a guesstimate the final bill may be higher )

Minus 1000 baht imaginary imposed rent

That leaves a grand total of 4000 baht for the month of June or 133 baht ( $4.52 ) a day stipend to live on.

Living Like a Thai Day 2 Totals

Purchase Amount Cost Total
Water Bill 125 baht 125 baht
.6 liter water re-fill 1 5 baht 5 baht
Dinner 30 baht 30 baht
Today’s Total 160 Baht ( $5.44 )
June Totals 351 Baht ( $11.95)



Well, looks like I’ll be tightening my belt a little as the adjustment to my stipend now has me at 133 baht a day living expenses.



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35 Responses to Living Like a Thai Day 2: Losing Money in My Sleep
  1. Mike N
    June 2, 2011 | 8:24 pm

    As you are splitting your rent with 2 imaginary friends (as a thai might) should n’t you also split your electricity bill ? And the water bill ?
    that should give you at least another 20 baht/day ! think of the sticky rice you could buy with that ….

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 12:05 am

      Mike, I thought about splitting the electricity and water bill with my imaginary roommates but they were having none of it :P Actually I decided to keep those costs the same because I do have certain advantages over my Thai counterparts. Most Thai’s have a motorbike or use public transportation and I am not and I also don’t have family or children to take care of.

  2. Dave
    June 2, 2011 | 8:40 pm

    Good luck with your challenge. It will certainly take some discipline. You aren’t living like a Thai, though. You’re living on minimum wage in Thailand.

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 12:02 am

      Dave, that is very true. I am not living like a Thai but living on a minimum wage salary. Hopefully I’ll be able to do as many things the Thai way as I can though.

  3. Alfredo M. Gapuz Jr. DMD
    June 2, 2011 | 10:10 pm

    Great article! I also wish you luck. I don’t think that living like a Thai is stupid.

  4. Jake
    June 3, 2011 | 12:06 am

    I love seeing how your adventure is unfolding… I love to see the adjustments.

  5. Dave
    June 3, 2011 | 2:20 am

    I wonder how often they change the filter in the water machine ?
    Changing it costs money and that is less profit !

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 2:34 pm

      Dave, that thought crossed my mind as I was filling up …by the looks of the re-fill station it might have been a while but I am hoping not.

  6. Bangkokbuddy
    June 3, 2011 | 3:43 am

    the key to living on a small budget is to cook your own meals. personally, my monthly budget is about 20k to 30k baht a month. and much of this is for fun – believe it or not.

    I recommend oatmeal and split pea soup as some of your meal items if you want to save money. a 1 cup serving of split pea soup costs me about 3 baht. the same with oatmeal. ..big eater? knock yourself out, and have yourself an extra serving. pig out on 3 servings. good and nutritous too.

    I like chicken with basil leaves and garlic over rice. and cook a lot of this. total outlay per serving.. 10 baht. and that is with a heaping serving of steam rice.

    many dishes cost about 10 baht per serving if you cook them yourself.

    if your food cost averages about 50 baht a day, that means you have 150 baht a day for other things.

    take the 7 baht red buses and you can go around the city all day without breaking the bank.

    and then, with the 100 baht left out of the 200 baht you budgeted for the day, you could drink a few cokes at 13 baht per. even pop for a cheap cheers beer at 30 baht.

    add a few friends to shoot the breeze with. life is not so bad here. 12+ years and counting.

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 2:32 pm

      Bangkok, I would think oatmeal and the ingredients for split pea soup would be expensive…never bought them so I don’t know. Yoiu are right though that cooking can lesson costs, which reminds me I need to get a bag of rice today and some pork.

      • ChuckWow
        June 3, 2011 | 3:51 pm

        You might also try your hand at making Tom Yum Kai.

        I get the spices pre-mixed in a Banana leaf from the market.

        Boil some water and cook the chicken.

        Throw in the spices, a chili or two, and simmer for a few minutes.

        Add coconut milk to taste and it’s done.

        Cheap, easy, and QUICK.

        • Talen
          June 3, 2011 | 6:17 pm

          Chuck, that’s a good idea and along the lines of what I was thinking today…I can cook a few Thai style dishes and cheaply at that.

      • Bangkokbuddy
        June 6, 2011 | 11:03 am

        at foodland and the villa markets, you can buy the dried split peas for about 45 baht. that gets you a 500g bag. enough for 2 pots of split pea soup. each pot is enough for about 10 cup size servings of split pea soup. add some spices for favoring.

        the same price structure applies for the instant oatmeal I buy. 38 baht for a 500g bag of oatmeal. I eat my oatmeal with bananas.

        I like the “mcgarrett” brand. check it out. save yourself a bundle.

        • Talen
          June 6, 2011 | 8:16 pm

          Bangkok, the one thing I hate in the world is split pea soup :P Instant oatmeal I do like though but I have never seen those prices at Villa market here in Pattaya, I’ll have to check foodland.

  7. Paul Garrigan
    June 3, 2011 | 4:43 am

    Hi Talen, I think what you are doing is fascinating. I’ve no idea how anyone could find offence with this. I lived on a low budget here for a few years – not as low as you are attempting now though. I know it can be done. Keep it up.
    Paul Garrigan recently posted..Paulgarrigancom Was One Year Old YesterdayMy Profile

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 2:31 pm

      Paul, this little experiment is definitely opening my eyes. It can definitely be done but hopefully I can find some ways of doing it that keep me sane and in tasty food…a beer would be nice as well. :)

  8. Catherine
    June 3, 2011 | 8:56 am

    Talen, this bitching is a switch from the norm.

    They usually accuse expats in Thailand of “spending WAY TOO MUCH money” and end it with “now, aren’t you ASHAMED of yourselves?”


    I’m not Thai. I will never be Thai. I don’t have Thai aims (but bless their hearts all the same). I am totally in my comfort zone with my expat-ness.

    Another tip: If you are dying for a coke ask for a soda in a plastic bag. It’s much cheaper because you don’t get charged for the container.

    I’m a klutz so I doubt I could manage without spilling the contents all over so please let me know how that goes.
    Catherine recently posted..Thai Language Thai Culture- Does Written Thai Need SpacesMy Profile

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 2:29 pm

      Cat, these particular whiners I believe come from a specific place that bitch about anyone living in Pattaya. Coke? I can’t afford coke woman! The soda bags do work nicely though and they are much cheaper usually at 10 baht…and I can get me some iced tea at the same vendors for 15 baht.

  9. Martyn
    June 3, 2011 | 12:49 pm

    Talen this is going to be a fantastic series, you’ve made a great start to it already.

    Tip….Grab a 500 baht (might take a bit of bartering)bar girl and get her to tie you to the bed and tell her to come back and release you one week later.

    Seven Day Allowance 931 baht
    Spending 500 baht
    Savings 431 baht
    Martyn recently posted..Thailand’s Streets Aren’t Paved with GoldMy Profile

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 2:28 pm

      Martyn, the female part of the equation comes into play today…they cost money! :P

  10. Agenda
    June 3, 2011 | 1:33 pm

    It’s the best post I’ve read in weeks! I love it, you are genius:)

  11. ChuckWow
    June 3, 2011 | 3:36 pm

    I have to agree with you concerning the Ramen noodles.

    Whereas I will usually grab a couple of Hamburger Denmark cheeseburgers, a “Banana pancake” (Roti), and something to drink at 7-11 on the way back to the room after a long night my wife enjoys the Cup O’ Noodles at 7-11.

    She cracks it open and puts the hot water in at 7-11 and by the time we get back to the room it’s ready to go.

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 6:22 pm

      Chuck, Ramen noodles are definitely the fast food of Asia…Thai’s even eat them uncooked. I can’t tell you how many times I have opened up my cabinet to get something out and find a half eaten pack of dried ramen noodles.

  12. I-nomad
    June 3, 2011 | 7:25 pm

    Hi Talen, great and interessting attempt you’re doing. I’d like to know what you learned at the end of the month and how it will effect your future. I mean will you ‘fall back’ to the same old habits or not?
    It actually reminds me a bit of a story I heard from a businessman in Japan. He told me that every year he would join a game where you were dropped in a random town, without any luggage and money. Contestants usually started off by selling their watch, while trying to survive they had to make money of what remained over a three day period. The person who made the biggest money wan.
    I’m not sure if there were any rules regarding the value of the watch.
    Obiously this game was more about how to be a shrewd bussinesman rather than abstaining from money like in your case.
    I-nomad recently posted..That will teach youMy Profile

    • Talen
      June 3, 2011 | 7:34 pm

      I-nomad, I am hoping that I learn a great deal about myself and my surroundings which will hopefully change some of my bad habits. Time will tell.

  13. Marc
    June 4, 2011 | 7:59 am

    Not intended as criticism, but you are not really ‘living like a Thai’ on 200 bht per day. You are living like a penurious farang! The mix of foods you eat within your budget will differ and, unlike a Thai (particularly an Isaanite) you probably don’t know how to forage locally for edible roadside plants & fungi to mix with & flavor your rice or noodles, or how to catch insects and lizards on a seasonal basis- for example we are just coming out of ‘meng gi noon’ season now- these beetles are considered a delicacy. Or after rain, just put a bowl of water under a light and presto- you’ll have all the ‘meng mao’ you can eat- an almost pure source of protein. Eat enough of them, and you will feel mildly intoxicated too. Basically, with some sticky rice or some packets of instant noodles in stock you need pay very little for the basic accompliments- a decent sized bunch of a seasonal veg (such as morning glory) from the wet markets will only be around 10 bht, and will last you a few days. Ubiquitous flavorings- chill and fish sauce, maybe some soy sauce too. That is how a rural Thai gets by when there is literally no money in the kitty- or what cash there is goes to the lao khao (rice wine) budget, or an outstanding debt.

    As a westerner, both this particular knowledge- and the Thai stomach- are not available to you, but as a farang in Pattaya on a self imposed limited budget you do have available an option not available to a Thai- being the fine art of balloon chasing. Is this allowable within your ‘terms of engagement’? If you turn up to a bar party, honor dictates that you buy at least one beer, which at 65 bht is about half of your disposable cash budget- but then you have an all you can eat buffet, generally including the ubiquitous pig on a spit. Luxury! Several westerners living in Pattaya on shoestring budgets have become accomplished ‘balloon chasers’- they know where the parties are, or the good happy hours where the bar lays on some free food. Just a thought.

    I lived in Pattaya for 4 years, now I live in rural Thailand. Fortunately my budget- whilst by no means lavish- does not require such financial discipline. Nonetheless I figure that on a disposable (ie after rent & utilities) income of 200 bht per day, you can actually live OK in Pattaya if needs be- although being surrounded by all that hedonism and excess may be a bit hard to take. Good luck with your ‘experiment’, and I will follow your progress with interest. Possibly you will need to develop a taste for insects to see the month out, LOL.

    A couple of thoughts-
    Buy packets of instant noodles in bulk from Makro- less than 5 bht each. Noodles or rice with some foraged or seasonal market veg is all you need for breakfast & lunch- and healthier actually.
    Even the cheapest 711 hot dog or burger gives you unlimited access to the small but adequate salad bar- good place to stock up on salad veg.
    Can’t believe how much you’re spending on water- but you appear to have that sorted.

    • Talen
      June 4, 2011 | 8:14 pm

      Marc, While I am technically not living like a Thai I am living on a a Thai minimum wage. Actually I have spent quite a lot of time in rural Thailand and have foraged before …I especially like hunting red ant larvae, unfortunately I live in Pattaya and there is really no foraging to be done here so I am at the mercy of Thai food carts and restaurants. I disagree with your comment about not having the knowledge or Thai stomach as a westerner. I have eaten just about every Thai dish there is and I love issan food and yes that includes snacking on insects and such.

      I have thought a lot about the balloon chasing thing and even have a Thai friend that owns a gogo that serves free food every Sunday night. I could cheat and eat well this way but in the long run it will only be cheating myself so I am abstaining from the balloon chasing.

      Being surrounded by the hedonism and fun can be a hard pill to swallow but luckily where I live is sandwiched between places and I can literally walk around most of it. and when I’m home I don’t hear or see anything.

  14. trekkr
    June 6, 2011 | 12:46 am

    I’m moving to Koh Samui in less than 3 months, so it is very interesting and helpful to read this. I’ll be on a set budget as well (although much more than 200 baht a day!) Reading about the street vendors and comparisons to expat-frequented establishments is great to know. I’m not sure how similar Koh Samui will be to Pattaya, so we’ll see. Thanks.

    • Talen
      June 6, 2011 | 8:17 pm

      Trekkr, definitely cheaper eating in the non expat oriented places if you can. Samui and Pattaya are similar in terms of tourist towns.

  15. Bangkokbuddy
    June 6, 2011 | 11:15 am

    one more tip… another person mentioned “makro”.

    of all the big stores (big C, lotus tesco), makro has the been prices for vegetables. ..will even compete with the “farmers markets”. believe it or not, many of the people at the farmers markets buy their stuff from makro. hehehe.

    you can buy a 18 count banana bunch for about 49 baht. 1 kg sliced sandwich ham for 200 baht. dozen apples for 60 baht.

    not all things are a bargain at makro. but I would say vegetables are one of the best deals around bar having a farm.
    Bangkokbuddy recently posted..the plan for todayMy Profile

    • Talen
      June 6, 2011 | 8:15 pm

      Bangkok, I will definiely have to check out Makro…I don’t think I have heard of them before.

  16. SiamRick
    June 8, 2011 | 6:31 pm

    Still to this day I find it surprising how people can question someone’s project before one can get to the end of it and draw some conclusions. Really the only thing the negative critics are saying is a reflection of their own bent thinking. These are the first persons to sneer at a foreigner and his Thai wife who may have been married 12 years.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and I like how you’re constantly adjusting your budget based on real world impact. Some of the other posters have clearly researched the grocery markets and food sources, and have some good ideas. You may be thankful for a split pea soup soon!
    SiamRick recently posted..Breakfast in Bangkok- Why so bloody expensiveMy Profile

  17. Lani
    June 10, 2011 | 9:41 am

    I need to catch on your posts in this series! I’ve been remiss. 555 – ramen or MAMA noodles (duh) are awesome. Love, look krung :D
    Lani recently posted..not american enoughMy Profile

  18. Rambone
    June 19, 2011 | 1:34 pm

    I was in Vegas with my wife from Nakhon Rachasima in March. I was at a conference and was worried she’d break the bank raiding the mini-bar when I wasn’t around, so I brought some Ramen Noodles with us. Well at the MGM Grand unbelievably there was no coffee maker or microwave in the room so we were out of luck. One night we were in our hotel room late, I was busy on the internet for some reason. Well she was clamoring for dinner and I rather sarcastially told her to go eat her noodles. About an hour later I was ready to go, as I pass the door I see an opened and mostly empty cup of dry noodles. So I can concur with you that Thais do eat them ‘raw’!

    • Talen
      June 20, 2011 | 3:40 pm

      Rambone, I don’t get it but it seems to be like a treat to them in some way.

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