Reason number 29 to live in South East Asia: Almost everything is cheaper
I am very happy that I made the choice a few years ago to come and live here in Thailand and honestly wish i could come up with some method of making enough of a living to stay but at the same time realize that the jobs I am qualified for don't now, nor will they ever be high-paying enough for me to secure any sort of financial future.
Some of the people that I know that have been teaching here for 5 years or more have almost nothing in the way of savings and if they don't make a move to "greener pastures" they are likely going to eventually be a burden on their families when they do eventually return to their home countries. For that reason and that reason alone I am going to return to USA after the world becomes normal again. However, I am going to put some photos on my refrigerator wherever it is that I end up in the States in order to remind me that the eventual goal will be to retire as early as possible and get my ass back here.
That reason is that it costs dramatically less to live a good life over here in Thailand and I have heard that the same is true of almost all of the surrounding countries as well (not you Singapore!).
Let's start with housing. Most people that I know that live here rent their homes and it is only the older, retired people who worked their entire lives in other countries that, for the most part, actually own their homes. Buying houses is considerably cheaper than back in most places in the West, but if you have some crazy notion that it is pennies on the dollar you would be very incorrect. A two bedroom house on a reasonable plot of land is still going to set you back $100,000 or so but if you look at land / house prices in similar places (tropical-ish) in the USA, you can't pull that off.
When I moved here Covid wasn't an issue and the housing market was booming. It was very easy to find furnished or semi-furnished houses for $200 to $300 a month. To put things into perspective, the first apartment I live in while in college was unfurnished, was basically a dump and it was $450 a month.
Next lets look at our monthly bills: They are so low that they are almost irrelevant. Of course this is largely up to you how much you want to use high energy consuming devices such as air conditioning, but most of the houses here are designed to stay cool even in hot months. In my house for example I very rarely use the air conditioning in any room other than the bedroom and even then I need only turn it on for an hour or so to cool the place down and the cement blocks do the rest. It doesn't get hot in my bedroom until after I should have woken up already anyway.
That bill above is pretty common for me in the "winter" months where I rarely have to use the air con at all and it is less than $10 US. Can you imagine getting a bill for $10 in USA for electric? It isn't going to happen.
The water bill is usually just a few dollars a month and even though you can't (or shouldn't) drink it, it kind of opens your eyes to exactly how little potable water you actually need in your day to day life. Drinking water delivery services that reuse the bottles cost around $1 for 20 liters of the stuff and since I live alone, this goes a very long way.
Next let's talk about food. Just like anywhere in the world you can spend as little or as much as you want depending on what you feel like eating, but in Thailand and most of the other South East Asian countries I have visited, take-away street food is available just about everywhere. These mobile units are easy to find and you can have a wide variety of dishes that are both delicious and fast for 1-2 dollars per meal. I think this is only possible at McDonalds when they are having some sort of special on burgers every now and then. Street food, presumably because of government permits, are not very common in USA and even when you do find it, it isn't going to be a dollar.
You can never eat the same thing twice in a week and never spend more than a couple bucks on each meal. Really the only major expense that anyone will face in this country is the fact that alcohol continues to go up in price as the government is really sinking their claws into "sin taxes." I have seen the cost of beer nearly double in the 3 years I have lived here. But I suppose you don't have to drink, do you?
All in, I live my life pretty well here. I eat out more often than not and after all my bills are paid each month I easily live for under $1000 a month. I don't think that is possible in many places in the USA, if any of them.
So when I go back to the States, and I know it is the right thing to do. I am going to try to focus on saving as much money as I possibly can and hopefully be able to retire 20 years earlier than most people who plan on living in the USA for the rest of their lives.
The people I know that are here living off of pensions are able to do so quite easily and I don't think that is the case back in the West at all. The retirees I know here are much happier than the ones I know back "home." If I can stick to this plan and chug out 20 years of a career back in the USA and manage to not get sucked into the consumerism, I hope to join them circa 2040 or so.
I don't know why more people don't do this as it seems like an easy decision in my mind.