Chiang Mai Expenses, Costs of Living and Income Report (Dec 2019)

Here's my monthly update on what I spent, my costs of living, as well as other fun things that I include in my month end income and goal reports. This month I was back in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I'm excited to say that after 6 years of being here and slowly upgrading my life each year as I earned more money, this month I decided to go back to basics and see how little money I could spend while still living comfortably.

A lot of people only upgrade their living spaces to be bigger and more luxurious as they get older and as time passes, but lifestyle creep is dangerous, terrible for your finances, and doesn't actually make you any happier. So this past month, I did an experiment. Instead of renting or buying a motorbike and living a nice two room condo in a luxury building with a pool and gym that I would never use, I decided to rent the cheapest place I could find, in the best neighborhood where I could walk everywhere. I can tell you right now that it was an awesome choice and I'm excited to share with you the results. So keep reading for this month's income, expenses, goals, and overall happiness report from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Why Chiang Mai?

I've been coming to Chiang Mai every winter since 2012 and have really loved being here for the cool/dry season from Nov-Feb each year. I'd often spend six months or longer here, but in the past year or two Thai Immigration has been stricter with people spending 6 months or longer in the country even if the have the visa to legally do so. The solutions would longer term visa such as a one year education visa, or pay for an expensive Thai Elite visa, both of which would be options I would have considered if it wasn't for the fact that I've recently found and enjoyed staying in so many other up and coming digital nomad hotspots such as Tbilisi Georgia, Playa Del Carmen then also spending 3-6 months a year in places where there aren't that many nomads but are still nice enough for me to work remotely from and travel within, such as Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and many places in Europe.

But here's the thing, within days of being back in Chiang Mai, I realized how much I missed the place and how much I love being in Thailand. There's really no place in the world quite as easy, productive, and geninely friendly as Chiang Mai. Even though I had initially thought maybe I could skip a year coming all the way to Asia and just spend it in Europe and the Americans instead, being back here reminded me how much I love it and that it's definitely worth the long flights to and from here. Plus even with all of the travel costs included, it's cheap enough to be here that as long as you're staying for 3 months or longer, you're actually saving money by living here rather than staying home. It's a key point that I wrote about in my first book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap where I breakdown the costs of living when I first arrived and was living as cheap as possible for the first four years. 

Almost 12 years since my first trip coming to Thailand, and visiting and living in over 50 other countries such, Chiang Mai is still my favorite place in the world to be and I recomend it to everyone. Here's my mega blog post Travel Guide to Chiang Mai that you should definitely read and share with anyone who's planning to come to Thailand. Below is a mini documentary filmed at the Nomad Summit on why digital nomads come to Chiang Mai.

The Mega Blog Post about Chiang Mai

Traveling to Thailand

My route this trip was a bit of a strange one as I was starting in Mexico where there's no direct or even easy flights to South East Asia. The best route for me was to fly from SJC (San Jose Del Cabo) where I was through LAX, stopping over somewhere along the way then to either Bangkok or Chiang Mai directly. There used to be direct non-stop flights from both JFK (New York) and LAX (Los Angeles) to Bangkok Thailand on Thai Airways but the last one stopped in 2015 due to the ultra long haul flights being unprofitable.

So instead of having a 2+ layover flight, I decided to stop over in LA to hang out with my cousin Jacob and see some friends while I was in town. at first it seemed like a terrible idea just for 4 days as just the short flight from Los Cabos, waiting around the airport for check in and the 1.5 hour bus ride from LA to Orange County (California Traffic) was exhausting. But after a good night's sleep I had no regrets of breaking up the trip to see some friends. From there it was a nice easy flight from LAX through TPE (Taipei, Taiwan) directly to CNX (Chiang Mai) without first needing to stop over in Bangkok or transfer from there.

This trip I flew premium economy on EVA Airways and had a really comfortable flight and decent night's sleep on the plane. For $843.49 1-way it was well worth the extra cost, even though an economy ticket would had been half price. On the other hand, paying 4x the price for Business Class wouldn't have been for me this trip. Read my thoughts of Flying Business Class in this post. I still slept relatively well with the reclining, wider seats with more legroom, and there was no one sitting next to me, which wouldn't have been the case in crowded economy. I know as I looked back there and it was completely full.

Travel Tip: Never take 2+ layover flights. Break up the trip instead.

Bigger Screen, Wider Seats, more Legroom

Premium Economy LAX to TPE to CNX

Costs of Living in Chiang Mai

This trip I came in on the 30 day visa exemption, which is the 30 day stamp you get for free when flying in. But since I was staying for two months this time, I had to go to immigration and pay 1,900 thb ($63) to extend the visa for another month. Aside from the cost of that and my flight, everything else has been really cheap compared to living anywhere else in the world.

My apartment this trip was only $250 for the entire month which I wrote about how I rented it here. I signed up for a super nice gym called Playground Fitness for 1,000 baht a month ($34) during a special they had as their normal price is 1,5000 a month ($50) without a contract. I've also been working from coffee shops this trip instead of going to a coworking space, as I've missed the vibe, but also because I'm only working a 3-4 hours a day now instead of full days. Ironically I'm still spending 160 baht a day on coffee ($5.30) so I could have just pay for a month at a coworking space anyways for the same price, but I've prefered this setup and the excellent coffee they have instead.

It's also the first time ever in 11 years of being in Thailand that I've opted not to ride a scooter or motorbike. I purposely rented an apartment in the heart of Nimmanheimin where I'd be one block from the gym and coffee shops so I could just easily walk everyday and take taxis anywhere further. I've realized how dangerous it is to ride motorbike and how lucky I've been all of these years never getting into any serious accidents. So even though my average taxi ride is 80-140 thb ($3-$4) I only take them every other day so it hasn't added up to that much. Another big money saver is the fact that I stopped drinking alcohol which is expensive in Thailand anyways. So even though I love to eat and usually order 2-3 dishes wherever I go, that combined with only eating two meals a day (Intermittent Fasting) my total food spend for the month has been relatively low.

My quality of life here is fantastic with going to an incredible gym, living directly in the best part of the city, eating really good food, and getting massages whenever I like, hiking every weekend, I've still in total only spent well less than $1,000 in total this month on living expenses not including my flight and donations I make.

Apartment: (1 month, furnished, no contracts): $250
Utilities: (Electric, Water, Wifi) $0 (included)
Thai Visa: (for 1 month) $31.50
Cell Phone Data: (unlimited 4G) $10
Daily Coffees: (2x a day): $133
Office/Coworking: $0
Food Spend: ($-$7 a meal) $400
Massages: ($5 each): $35
Transportation: ($3-$5 each): $95
Alcohol and Drinks: $0

Flight to CNX: $834.49
Gift to my parents: $1,000 (for their retirement)

Living Expenses in Chiang Mai: $821.50

Total Expenses for the month: $2,655.99

Amazing Thai food in Chiang Mai

Night Market: $5/hour foot massages

Monthly Income Report

The nice thing about spending less money this month was also not having to stress about earning a lot of money this month. For the past two years I've been focused on my three passion projects including the two podcasts Travel Like a Boss and Invest Like a Boss as well as putting on and trying to grow the Nomad Summit conference each year to new locations. These three projects end up paying me less than $12,000 a year in total combined or sometimes even losing money, which like making less than minimum wage with the chance of actually owning money at the end of the year instead.

However, I really love doing all three and see long term potential in investing my time, money and resources into them which is why I'm super grateful that I have multiple streams of passive income coming in each month as well as all of the dividend, growth and interest income I earn every month from investing all of the money I made when selling my three dropshipping stores a few years ago. Now I'm able to live off of completely passive income while working on projects that will hopefully pay off sometime in the future.

What's really crazy is that as I mentioned in my year end review, even though my active earned income for this past year was only $64,582.04 which pushes me out of the six figures earner club. My total networth actually grew by $87,552.04 this year after expenses this year which means that I technically made or at least grew or earned on paper around $125,000 this year if you include the investment paper gains that that I haven't sold or cashed out on but could if I decided to. This is why I"m so happy I learned the lessons that I wrote about in my 2nd book Life Changes Quick early on and saved and invested 90% of everything I earned these past few years as that's how wealth snowballs and keeps on growing even after you stop working.

Total Income from December: $3,178.22

*decrease from $5,338.71 last month. 

Affiliate sales from my Amazon Store 
Revenue from my Youtube Channel

The Wrap Up

Being back in Chiang Mai has been amazing. I really love it here and wish I could have come earlier and spend more time here. I'm glad that I had decided to skip Nomad Cruise X to come here straight after Mexico and start working and getting back into routine again. Even though it would have been a cool and easy way to have checked off Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Dubai, and UAE as countries I've visited and had a ton of fun while doing so, it just wasn't my priority for this year. In the month that I've been recovering from travel, getting back into routine, going to the gym, working on my business, and feeling healthy, instead of I would have been flying to Greece, partying on a boat, spending money in Dubai, then mostly likely partying it in Koh Tao where the cruisers are currently.

One of my goals this year was simply to say no to opportunities, even if I knew they would be fun and a great way to meet new friend or likely minded people. The goal is to now spend a solid 2-3 months in a good routine between trips and so far I feel like i'm off to a good start. Chiang Mai is a fantastic place to be and home base and my goal is to spend even more time here next year.

Let me know if you have any questions about Chiang Mai, or what you liked about it if you've been here. Leave a comment below. Also check out the recordings

Read Next:

Everything you need to know about Chiang Mai

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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Income Report 4804969674427327379

Post a Comment

  1. Hi Johnny! Thanks for sharing your finances with your readers.
    I'd love to come to Chiang Mai to get a feel of digital nomad life (while I'm working 9-5 and growing my side FBA). How much money do you reckon I need for 2 weeks of co-working space, eating out 3 times/week vegetarian food, networking, and fun activities? I don't drink alcohol.

    1. Hi Hanoshka, you'll have a great time, but FYI most things are a lot cheaper monthly than daily or weekly. So try to stay longer if you can.

      Monthly rent might be $250 but nightly will be $20 a night.
      Coworking Spaces $150 a month or $10 a day, etc.

      But food and everything else is cheap.

      Here's more info:

    2. Awesome, thank you for taking your time to respond. Appreciate it!

  2. Missing your Peerstreet, etc... investment screenshots. Would be cool to see an annual wrap up investment comparison, and if your thoughts about which platform you like best have changed at all? (can't remember all of them, I think Peerstreet, Vanguard, Fundrise maybe??, and possibly Lending Club?) Love these reports, thanks for doing them!

    1. Thanks Matt! I'm glad you like it all! I shared all of that stuff in the Invest Like a Boss Q4 update here:

  3. Have you been to Hanoi Vietnam? I think you would be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Love the $250 apartment. No wasted space for sure. I wish I could convince my wife to move to Chiang Mai while I build up my online business... haha I don't think she'll go for it though.


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