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How Much I Spend in a Week Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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A Breakdown of My Weekly Budget as a Digital Nomad Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Plenty of aspiring entrepreneurs gravitate towards Thailand for the low cost of living; by minimizing daily expenses, there's a larger window for "making it" with your business. With the great food, low rent, excellent WiFi, and affordable amenities, your cash goes a long way. It's an ideal environment for entrepreneurs to take advantage of the "buffer time" involved in growing their business into a profitable enterprise.

In the spirit of full transparency, I've put together a breakdown of how much I spend during a one-week period living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I'm a 29-year-old illustrator and graphic designer and earn 90% of my income through licensing my artwork. I primarily work in coffee shops and cafes throughout the city and consider the price of a coffee my "rent" for free wifi + a temporary workspace.

My "digital nomad" lifestyle means that I'm location independent, although I've been living on-and-off in Chiang Mai for the past six months. I chose CM for several reasons:

1) the thriving community of fellow entrepreneurs.
2) the proximity to jungle and mountains.
3) the tropical climate.
4) the low cost of living.
5) Thai food.

I chose one week at random to track my spending. I'm not actively trying to limit my expenses, but rather spend with my best judgement in mind. Basically, you can live a lot cheaper than this if you make an effort. I make occasional splurges, but always try to live within my means. My weekly expenses vary, so consider this a snapshot of just one point in time. Check out the results down below.

 

Conversion: $1 USD = 34฿ Thai Baht


// Recurring Monthly Expenses for Living in Thailand // 

These expenses are specific to living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I won't be including personal/business-related monthly expenses like my travel/health insurance, subscription services (Spotify, Adobe, Amazon Prime, Audible, web hosting, etc.), or automatic withdrawals for philanthropy contributions.  I also won't be counting any travel-related expenses that I made during this week in preparation for upcoming trips outside of Thailand.

 

Rent: 14,000฿ ($411.76)
Utilities: 2,000฿ ($58.82)
Bicycle Rental: 2,000฿ ($58.82)
SIM Card: 600฿ ($17.65)

Total Recurring Expenses Per Month: 18,600฿ ($547.06)
Total Recurring Expenses Per Week: 4,340฿ ($127.65)

This is what 14,000฿ rent will get you in the heart of the Nimman neighborhood, Chiang Mai: A fully-furnished apartment with a kitchen, desk, couch + TV, queen bed, vanity, closet, bathroom, and balcony overlooking the mountains out west. Included in my rent is also a weekly cleaning service and biweekly changing of the linens + towels.  There is a security guard 24/7 and electronic key entry into the lobby after 8 pm. 

This is what 14,000฿ rent will get you in the heart of the Nimman neighborhood, Chiang Mai: A fully-furnished apartment with a kitchen, desk, couch + TV, queen bed, vanity, closet, bathroom, and balcony overlooking the mountains out west. Included in my rent is also a weekly cleaning service and biweekly changing of the linens + towels.  There is a security guard 24/7 and electronic key entry into the lobby after 8 pm. 


// Sunday //

What I did: rented a scooter and rode out into the mountains with friends. We visited Wat Phra That Doi Kham for temple exploration, stopped for breathtaking views of the valleys down below, plus visited a few cafes for food and dessert.

10:00 am: 55฿ ($1.62) fruit and yogurt cup.

10:30 am: 300฿ ($8.82) scooter rental for the day plus a helmet upgrade for 50฿ ($1.47). 

11:00 pm: 20฿ (59¢) for two bottled waters at 7-Eleven.

1:30 pm: 100฿ ($2.94) shrimp Pad Thai and 20฿ (59¢) sparkling water.

5:00 pm: 35฿ ($1.03) lemon meringue.

7:30 pm: 80฿ ($2.35) burrito.

Sunday Total Expenses: 660฿ ($19.41 USD)

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// Monday //

What I did: worked in a coffee shop all day with a quick break for lunch.

10:00 am: 70฿ ($2.06) hot latte.

11:30 am: 75฿ ($2.21) iced mocha. It's an extra caffeination kind of day. 

2:00 pm: 35฿ ($1.03) chicken Pad Thai + 10฿ ($0.29¢) bottled water at a local dive down the street.

2:30 pm: 10฿ (29¢) sparkling water at 7-Eleven.

5:00 pm: 10฿ (29¢) bag of pineapple chunks from the fruit lady off Soi 9.

Monday Total Expenses: 200฿ ($5.88 USD)


// Tuesday //

What I did: worked in a coffee shop all day and dined at my favorite Burmese restaurant for lunch. Late-night run to 7-Eleven for snacks + I eventually fell asleep around 2 am with my MacBook on my lap and files still open. Such is life.

11:00 am: 70฿ ($2.06) hot latte.

2:30 pm: 30฿ (88¢) tamarind salad + 5฿ (15¢) white rice at a Burmese restaurant in Nimman.

3:30 pm: 75฿ ($2.21) iced caramel macchiato.

7:00 pm: 5฿ (15¢) on ten liters of drinking water from the bottle refilling station in the lobby of my apartment.

11:30 pm: 7-Eleven haul: 48฿ ($1.41) six-pack of sparkling water, 26฿ (76¢) pack of sunflower seeds, and 13฿ (38¢) pack of raisins.

Tuesday Total Expenses: 272฿ ($8.00 USD)

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// Wednesday //

What I did: worked in a cafe outside of town for most of the day, visited my favorite bakery, bicycled through the Old City, and spent the rest of the day working from home.

10:30 am: 70฿ ($2.06) hot latte and 30฿ (88¢) sparkling water.

1:00 pm: 160฿ ($4.70) sandwich.

4:00 pm: 10฿ (29¢) bottle of water, 65฿ ($1.91) caramel brownie, and 35฿ ($1.03) coconut/chocolate macaroon. 

Wednesday Total Expenses: 370฿ ($10.88 USD)

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// Thursday //

What I did: Took a mid-week vacation. Some friends and I decided to check out a mountain resort about twenty minutes from our neighborhood in Chiang Mai. We stayed for ten hours and spent 90% of our time in the infinity pool admiring the jungle view and getting sunburnt. This was a "treat yourself" kind of day and I didn't even touch my laptop.

10:00 am: 100฿ ($2.94) Uber from the city center to the Veranda resort.

10:30 am: 400฿ ($11.75) for all-day pool + veranda access, complete with a complimentary soda + dessert bar. We scored a little island all to ourselves in the middle of the pool and absolutely got our money's worth.

11:00 am: 160฿ ($4.70) latte. Definitely the most I've ever paid for a latte anywhere in Thailand. That's resort prices for you. (To be fair, it did come with a cinnamon stick coated in layers of raw and brown sugar AND a spectacular view.)

3:00 pm: 290฿ ($8.52) pulled pork sandwich and a 24฿ (70¢) bottle of water.

8:00 pm: 100฿ ($2.94) Uber back home.

Thursday Total Expenses: 1,050฿ ($30.84 USD)

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// Friday //

What I did: Filmed the intro video for my upcoming Skillshare course. I began at a coffee shop, but the espresso machine was too loud so I biked to a nice condo and filmed in their lobby instead. I also splurged on a variety of imported cheeses when I bought my groceries for the week. Grabbed some street food for dinner on the way home.

8:00 am: 70฿ ($2.06) hot latte.

11:00 am: 1,414฿ ($41.53) weekly groceries: grapes, dried seaweed, gourmet cheeses, dried fruit, pickles, smoked salmon, rice cakes, and facial soap.

6:30 pm: 60฿ ($1.76) doner kebab from a street market.

Friday Total Expenses: 1,544฿ ($43.53 USD)

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// Saturday //

What I did: Met up with friends at a coffee shop to hang out and paint with watercolors. We grabbed a late lunch at a Thai restaurant a few blocks away and then polished off our day with cake at a local dessert shop. Spent the evening working from home.

9:30 am: 85฿ ($2.49) hot latte and 30฿ (88¢) sparkling water.

3:30 pm: Picked up my laundry, which cost me 100฿ ($2.93).

4:00 pm: 79฿ ($2.32) salmon Pad Thai + 50฿ ($1.47) lemonaid. 

5:30 pm: 130฿ ($3.81) raw walnut espresso cake + 40฿ ($1.17) Americano.

Saturday Total Expenses: 514฿ ($15.08 USD)

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The Breakdown:

8,950฿ ($262)
=
Weekly total cost including recurring expenses (rent, SIM card, utilities, bicycle rental)

*   *   *   *   *

35,800฿ ($1,050)
=
Monthly total cost, assuming this breakdown is indicative of an average week for me