Throughout my march to financial independence (and still to this day, really) I’ve always focused on the “big wins” in my buget.
What I mean by that is, one has to spend a major chunk of their time and resources on figuring out how to spend less on the big budgetary categories.
Specifically, I’ve long aimed to reduce my costs as much as possible across the “Big Three”: housing, transportation, and food. These three budgetary categories combine to make up the majority of the average consumer unit’s spending.
While cutting cable or limiting lattes sounds nice, that kind of stuff won’t make the kind of impact that, say, living without a car will. If you’ve already got the “Big Three” totally under control, cutting cable is awesome. But one has to make sure their priorities are correct first.
In my desire to maximize value, happiness, freedom, and quality of life, I recently reloated to Chiang Mai, Thailand. This move allows me to capitalize on the geographical independence that’s available with financial independence.
And while achieving financial independence has been wonderful in so many respects, I saw an opportunity to build on what I’ve already accomplished by augmenting financial independence through the relocation to a place where my purchasing power is increased significantly.
I’ve become very proficient at budgeting and living frugally. In fact, frugality is something I enjoy very much, as it allows me to spend a lot less time worrying about money and stuff and a lot more time living my life.
But as proficient as I am, there are certain limitations to what I can do in America. I lived without a car for years in a small city in Southwest Florida. I split the rent with my significant other on a very modest apartment. And I would forgo restaurants in favor of eating at home.
All fine and dandy, but my passive income of ~$1,200 per month still wouldn’t go as far as I’d like it to.
However, the “Big Three” are substantially cheaper here in the Land of Smiles. This additional flexibility and freedom not only makes me happier, but my opportunities are greatly expanded.
And to give you readers a glimpse of what that looks like in real-time, I’m going to show you some pictures of the one-bedroom apartment I’m renting in Chiang Mai.
This apartment costs me ~$420 per month (at the current exchange rate). It includes cable, Wi-Fi, and water. It’s completely furnished. It comes with a gym and pool. There’s fingerprint access and a digital door lock. It’s fairly new. And it’s located in one of the most walkable parts of the city, although Chiang Mai as a whole is an eminently walkable city anyway.
But I have dozens of coffee shops and restaurants, multiple gyms, numerous grocery stores, coworking spaces, a cinema, malls, and public transportation all within a few hundred meters of my doorstep.
So let’s take a tour…
This is the building as you walk up to it.
Not anyone can just walk in as they please. There’s a fingerprint scanner before you can even get into the building.
You then enter the elevator (or you can take the stairs).
The door to the apartment has a six-digit code that must be entered before the door will open.
The kitchen, on the left, as you walk in.
A small table sits in front of the kitchen. This table is absolutely perfect for working on the laptop.
The bathroom is much fancier than anything I’m used to. It’s small. But one doesn’t need a giant bathroom.
The living room is just the right size for me, as I rarely watch TV anyway. I have access to over 100 channels, but most of them are in Thai. Like I said, I rarely watch television. So this isn’t a big draw for me. Just beyond the living room is the balcony, where the washer can be found.
And then there’s the bedroom, which features a giant floor-to-ceiling window with great views of the city and surrounding nature. It also has a TV attached to the wall.
There’s also a pool…
And a small gym.
Overall, I’m incredibly happy with this place. It has clean lines. Very minimalistic in its design, yet the size (at right about 400 square feet) feels so spacious due to the appropriately-sized bathroom and kitchen.
I was always bothered by how small apartments in America are designed. Many seem to have these kitchens that take up a quarter of the space. And the bathrooms are often too big. It’s crazy. I don’t spend hours in the bathroom. And I hate cooking. But I do spend a lot of time in the living area. And a bed with a view is quite nice. So this place is big where it needs to be, small where it should be. Indeed, it feels very much like what a 700-square-foot apartment would feel in the US. It’s just right for me.
I feel confident in saying that an apartment like this would be three times more expensive in a comparable city in the States. But spending less on housing allows me to spend more on the rest of my life. It allows me to go grab something to eat without worrying about whether the budget has room for it. I can meet people, go to events, and explore the city with reckless abandon. It’s really incredible.
So that’s it. That’s my $420/month apartment here in Chiang Mai.
The funny thing about is that you could actually spend less. There are apartments all over the city that are cheaper. But I’m frugal, not cheap. Some of the cheaper apartments are cheaper for numerous reasons. I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel here. This place offers me good value, the perfect location (it’s within walking distance to an amazing coworking space), and a great design/feel that I sincerely appreciate. My housing is now maximized for value and efficiency, so I just couldn’t be happier.
What do you think? Do you focus most of your energy and attention on the “Big Three”? Do you have your housing maximized for value and efficiency?
Thanks for reading.