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How one Melbourne Couple Saved $23,994 a Year on Living Expenses—Internationalliving.com/au

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With yearly rental savings of over $10,000, transport savings over $5,000 and $2,600 savings on dining out—one Melbourne couple upgraded their lifestyle with a move to Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

The editors at Interatntionalliving.com/au reveal what they made the savings on.


“Before moving here, I knew Chiang Mai offered low-cost living and that the savings I’d make would mean I’d be in for a nice lifestyle upgrade,” says Michelle Hammond. “But I didn’t realise just how good the value was. Now I’m settled in, I’ve a good handle on my budget and the savings I’m making run right across the board, from the essentials to the little luxuries.”

Here’s how the couple saved almost $24,000 in one year.

Rent: Yearly Cost Saving: $10,932

Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, housing is one of the biggest costs in Australia.

“In Melbourne, my partner Jason and I paid $1,738 (plus bills) for a two-bedroom apartment in an old building with no amenities,” says Michelle. “This worked out to $400 a week, cheap by Melbourne standards.

“Compare this to our modern condo in the trendy Chiang Mai suburb of Nimman, which comes with a pool, gym, sauna, rooftop area and more.”

Their rent now costs 20,000 baht (about $827) a month—considered expensive by Thai standards but it’s less than half the cost of their rent in Melbourne.

“Friends of ours rent a much older place, with no amenities, in the neighbouring area of Santitham for 7,000 baht ($290) per month,” Michelle adds.

Transport: Yearly Cost Saving: $5,824

“Cars are expensive to run. Back in Melbourne, it cost me at least $50 a fortnight to fill up my Hyundai Elantra,” says Michelle. “That’s $1,300 a year, just on petrol.

“Add to that the cost of insurance (in my case, $812 for comprehensive cover) and registration ($800), and you’re looking at a total of $2,912.

“Multiply that by two (Jason’s car expenses were roughly the same as mine) and the grand total is an eyewatering $5,824.

“We have no need for a car in Chiang Mai, everything we need is within walking distance. If we do need to travel somewhere, we can catch a Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber) for as little as 68 baht (about $3).”

Massages and Beauty Treatments: Yearly Cost Saving: $3,832

“I used to dread going to a hair salon in Melbourne,” Michelle says. “Every six weeks, I’d fork out about $250 for a cut, colour and blow-dry. I also used to treat myself to a pedicure ($30) every three months, which meant my beauty expenses—not including cosmetics—would set me back around $2,120 a year.

“While beauty treatments aren’t dirt-cheap in Chiang Mai, there are still savings to be had. A cut, colour and blow-dry starts at around 2,850 baht ($118), while a pedicure is about 300 baht ($12). That’s an annual saving of $1,128.”

Then there’s the savings on massages.

“You can get a full-body, one-hour, oil massage for as little as 200 baht ($8),” says Michelle.  “In Australia, that same massage would set you back at least $60. Let’s say you treated yourself to one massage per week. That’s an annual saving of $2,704.”

Dining Out: Yearly Cost Saving: $2,600

“We love eating out,” says Michelle. “But back in Melbourne, we always felt a little guilty if we didn’t cook the bulk of our meals, purely because of the cost. I estimate we spent at least $150 on either restaurant or takeaway food every week. Even takeaway Thai would cost about $40 for both of us.”

But in Chiang Mai the savings are huge—you can eat fresh, authentic Thai food for a quarter of the price.

“The other night, we spent 220 baht ($9) for two servings of pad Thai, a plate of pork ribs and two mango shakes.

“We eat out every single night in Chiang Mai—for about $100 per week. Compare this to our weekly restaurant/takeaway spend in Melbourne and we’re saving about $2,600 a year on dining out.”

Drinks: Yearly Cost Saving: $806

Michelle and Jason aren’t big drinkers, but they’ve noticed a considerable difference between the price of drinks in Chiang Mai compared to Melbourne.

“Back home, a beer would cost about $10,” she says. “Here you can sip on a cold brew for as little as $2. Even if you only drank one beer a week, that’s a saving of $416 a year!

“Beer isn’t the only refreshment you’ll pay less for. You can pick up a fresh fruit shake (literally just your fruit of choice, mixed with crushed ice) for 30 baht (about $1.25) or a delicious smoothie packed with different ingredients for 60 baht ($2.50)

“In Australia, fresh smoothies cost upwards of $10. Assuming you enjoyed just one smoothie every week, that’s an annual saving of $390.”

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