The latest ‘Cost of Living’ index for 2018 has just been released by Numbeo.  It’s a fantastic resource for anyone looking to compare the cost savings they can enjoy by moving from an expensive country, like Australia, to one which is far more affordable, such as those found in South East Asia.

Whilst costs savings aren’t the only motivator when considering a relocation overseas, clearly the knock on benefits can be substantial, as it allows many people who might be struggling on a low income and limited savings to enjoy a lifestyle they never thought was possible.  BUT despite the remarkable savings that can be generated, it’s still very important to have spending discipline.

Lets briefly touch upon some simple mistakes that new retirees / long term expats should try and aviod


Most of notes below are nothing more than common sense, but its surprising how often even the most disciplined people get caught out and find themselves spending far more than they expected when they move overseas.

As one of our clients said to us “I used to spend about $3,000 a month in Australia, now I spend the equivalent of over $4,000 a month in Thailand, I thought it would be cheaper”. 

After a brief chat, it was easy to see what was happening.  He was spending like there was no tomorrow, and living a completely Western lifestyle.  Yes, the savings in Asia can help you have a Champagne lifestyle on a Lemonade budget, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean you can (or should) have Champagne everyday.

Managing the Excitement

Most retirees and long term expats have often planned (or thought about) their move overseas for some time.  So naturally once the adventure begins they’re excited and pretty pumped.  It’s fair to say, the first few weeks (or even months) will often see a burst of activity, lots of going out and about and having fun.  Certainly nothing wrong in that!  However the key to long term success is recognising that at some point you probably need to settle into a more manageable lifestyle pattern.  That doesn’t mean you have to be boring, it merely means that there’s an acknowledgement that this isn’t a 2 or 3 week holiday, where you’ll return back to Australia and go back to work.

This is longer term, and therefore requires some thinking about ‘Cash Flow Management’

Cash Flow Management

Ok, we don’t want to lose readers here, so we won’t going into great detail on this subject.  There’s more information on this in our website and if you have any specific questions you can always contact us directly anytime.

Essentially what we’re talking about here is a budget.  Understanding what your income stream is, which for many is fixed (allowing for some currency movements), and what your expenses are.

Now we know moving to South East Asia can provide you with huge savings, but there still needs to be some control over your discretionary spending.  And of course not everything is cheaper in Asia.

Street Food

Living like the locals    

Many of the big ticket items, such as Housing/Rent, Transport, Groceries, Mobile, Internet, Entertainment etc… are far cheaper in South East Asia than Australia.  Certain specific items do vary from country to country (for example in Malaysia alcohol is generally more expensive than most other Asian countries – excluding Singapore!)

Healthcare costs are less expensive than Australia, although we acknowledge the quality of healthcare does vary quite significantly (and healthcare insurance is an important factor.)

So what are some simple key learnings many of clients have told us, about how to manage their expenses;

  • Try and minimise the buying of imported ‘Western’ foods from supermarkets
  • Go to local street markets for cheap fresh veggies and fruits
  • Look out for meat specials in the supermarkets, chicken is often very cheap, as is Pork (except in Malaysia!), whereas Beef and Lamb are generally more expensive.  Depending on your location fish is also ofetn priced very attractively.
  • Local beers and spirits are usually extremely cheap, and many bars (and Seven Elevens) have lots of deals/ happy hours etc…
  • Wine is usually expensive.  If you enjoy wine, its probably best to make it a special treat.
  • Use the local transport effectively (tuks tuks, buses etc… rather than taxis).
  • And if you need a car, rent one – don’t buy.  Cars are often expensive in Asia.
  • If you love coffee, check out the local providers rather than the big name chains (like Starbucks)
  • When considering where to live, ask yourself if you need to be right in the middle of town (or right on the beach). Could you live 5, 10 or 15 mins away.  The savings can often be substantial.  And of course, negotiate the rent.  The longer your stay, the more your bargaining power
  • Negotiating will also apply to many other items such mobile and internet.  There are lots of providers and you’ll often find the local Expat Club can be a great source of information in this space.

And if you’d like to find out more about retirement planning both in Australia and overseas, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

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