How We Afford to Live Abroad

I’ve had people ask, “how do you do it?”  By it, they refer to travel around, live everywhere, and see the world.  Some people, friends even, think I’m a multi-millionaire.  Sorry to disappoint, I am not.  I’ve written a few finance posts, how to retire in your thirties, 9 ways to save $500 per month, and the $100 challenge.  But I’ve never really answered the question:  how do we do it?  Well, today is your lucky day.  Take a peek inside, nose about, and learn just how we travel the world, how we afford it (including mistakes we’ve made), and more importantly, how you can too!

Research and budget, that’s it.  It’s not glamorous and it’s not sexy, but that’s all it is.  The rest is just smoke and mirrors.

Pattaya Thailand

As you all know, we bought a condo in Thailand.  I’ll be explaining later on how we did it, and how you can too.  We just don’t pick up and go to Thailand when we feel like it, we wait on the cheap seats!  For some reason, Thailand is cheapest to get to in America’s winter and fall.  So, that’s when we go!  After all, it’s always summer on the Thai beaches, so it really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the $1,100 we save by traveling at these times:  $550 roundtrip from Houston to Bangkok in Jan, Feb, Mar, Sept, and Oct.  The other months?  $1100+  WOAH!  The money we just saved will more than pay for all our expenses for our 30-60 day stay.


We get to Thailand, go to our apartment, and never look back.  No, no, no.  We get there and we budget.  We don’t splurge every night at the restaurants, we don’t drink and party every night, we must budget.  Think about how much you spend on a five-day vacation in the Caribbean.  We would spend a gazillion dollars if we lived out life like a vacation.  We plan.  We budget.  In Thailand, we allow ourselves a very generous $200 per week.  Our goal is to stay under $150.  And sometimes, we play the game of less than $100.  Remember the $100 challenge?  This eliminates $100 dinners, and $50 bottles of wine.  We aren’t on vacation vacation, we are living.  This is how we are able to enjoy sunshine, beaches, and massages ALL THE TIME!  We eat where the locals eat, with the locals, at the street markets, and at home.  We are never hungry, and never want for anything.  It’s great.  I love it there.  As I write this, I am in the most Instagrammable fairy-tale town of France, but I miss Thailand.


pattaya pool

Eight weeks in Thailand at $200 per week is $1,600.  Add on two plane tickets and we are at $2700 for a two month stay.  In America, our mortgage was $2300 per month.  That’s not food, no electric, no water, no anything.  So, Thailand saves us money—A LOT OF IT.  Two stints of this per year is $5,400.  Keep that in mind.  We are going to do a yearly total at the end. 

So, we are in Europe now, as I just mentioned.  How do we just jaunt about?  This country, France, is a bit pricier than our home in Asia.  Susan “accidentally” bought $40 worth of nougat at one time!  What does one even do with that much candy?  Susan’s reply, “eat it!”  We have to be super careful here in Colmar, else we could spend a fortune.  We’ve allowed ourselves $250 per week while in France.  This doesn’t include where we are staying.  In Colmar, we paid $1300 for a month in this quaint little flat.  It’s beautiful, and the perfect size.  And the location couldn’t be better.  We are, at most, half a mile from anywhere we want to go, including the Monoprix supermarket.  This, our seventh day here, concludes week one.  Sadly, we went over budget by $50 for the week.  However, we will make up for it and I am confident that we will be back on track after our second week.  Forecast for a month in Colmar:  $1300 rent plus $1000 to spend on food and other things:  $2300.  For the amount of just our mortgage in America, we can enjoy perfect weather, picturesque views, candies, chocolates, crepes, waffles, well, you get the picture!  Even in this spendy little place, we save money by being here.


Little Venice COlmar

After this month in Colmar, we will be in another French town for a month—Bayeux.  There, we have the same budget set aside and our AirBnb for the month there is $1200.  A month in Bayeux will cost us $2200.  Add that to the $2300 in Colmar and we have $4500 for two months livings expenses.  Our plane tickets from DC to Paris were $700 for both of us, and we will have about $400 in train tickets for getting from Paris to Colmar to Bayeux to Paris.  $5600 for two months.  Twice as much as Thailand, but still cheaper than staying in America.  Remember, $2300 mortgage, plus utilities, plus food, plus ahhh, enough already!

Alright, half way done with the year:  4 months in Thailand plus 2 months in France plus the travel expenses and we are at exactly $11,000 for 6 months.  In America, the mortgage alone would be $13,800.  No crepes, no massages, no nougat, just the mortgage.  How NOT fun is that?!

Well, we have six more months to go, where to?  What now?  If you’ve been following along, then you know we are going to Europe for a paid work trip in October for 10 days.  We get to tour London, Paris, and Amsterdam, all expenses paid, and get paid to work.  Afterward, we have a two-week blank space before a cruise of the Rhine river until November 6.  After that, we are staying a month in Prague. 

Let’s do that, a month in Prague.  Our AirBnb there was free.  Wait, what?!  Yep. FREE.  I used credit card points to get this one.  I use a credit card for all our purchases when possible, and so should you.  Just PLEEEASE pay them off every month.  Interest will crush all your hopes and dreams.  I am guessing that every year I’ll have enough points for a $1000 travel credit.  Especially, since new cards give new bonuses and I love to take advantage.  Let’s give us a $250/week budget in Prague, same as we have in France.  We’ve been there before, and it is way cheaper than France, but there will be Christmas markets!  And I love Christmassy things!  $250 a week for four weeks is $1,000.  Our seventh month, $1,000, upping our yearly total to $12,000. 

The cruise and the two-week gap between that and the paid tour puts us at eight months.  We had to pay a bit for the cruise, and the two-week gap will be more than normal.  Why?  Because it’s northern Europe, and they are proud of everything.  Let’s pretend the cruise and the gap will be a wash with our paid work.  Our total for the year is now:  8 months, $12,000.  I do have to get from Thailand to London and back to America.  Let’s add $1,000 for that.  $13,000 for 8 months.  Four months left, what do we do.  Well, now the un-fun part begins.  Someone has to pay for all this!  I’ll work four months in America, as will my wife, and we will do it all again.

 Chances are, this may be our last year of just all-out go-time travel like nomads.  I suspect that once our house is sold, we will purchase one, in America, and pay cash.  Then, again, I’m just guessing, we will have three stints in Thailand per year (2 month, 2 month, 1 month), coupled with a month of travel in another place, and six months in America.  To be honest, I’ll be glad to settle in a bit.  I’ll be glad to have my little one back, our kitty Luca B.  Our friends, Scott and Tia, have been so great keeping her, maybe they’ll want to continue our shared custody agreement.  And when we aren’t in Thailand, they can certainly go stay!  Which reminds me, I promised to tell you how we, ordinary people, bought a second home, and how you can too.

It’s easy.  Just do it.  We looked in Bulgaria, another cheap place, and Thailand. We settled on Thailand because of its climate—the same year-round.  We spent $50,000 on a 300 square-foot studio.  I halfway regret not spending $15,000 more on a one-bedroom, but too late now!  Unlike America, we had to pay for it before we got the keys.  We did this over the course of one year.  We sold my car and used part of that money.  We used some savings, and did some sacrificing.  We stopped the $150 dinners out, cancelled our cable, and followed the 9 ways to save $500 per month.  Susan’s car flooded during Hurricane Harvey and we used the insurance money ($11,000) to pay cash for our little Fiat.  Sure, we could’ve gotten the Cadillac SUV we looked at it for $30,000, but then, no condo in Thailand.  No massages and no pools or beaches.  Just do it.  Make it your goal, if you want to, and drive everything toward it.  I’m so glad we did.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever purchased, and I’m sure Susan feels the same.                      







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