How I Lived on $13,526.69 in 2020

My annual expenses for 2020 were about $3000 less than the $16,826.37 I spent in 2019. I spent $17,433 in 2018. It is good to have a downward trend in spending. My annual expenses for the past few years were $13,697 in 2017, $16,431 in 2016, $16,999 in 2015 and $15,775 in 2014. My annual spending seems to stay in the area of $15k a year. I expect my spending in 2021 will be a little higher than in 2020 since the pandemic kept me from spending as much on travel and some other stuff as I usually would.

Car Maintenance$1451.93
Rideshare/Public Transportation$4.64
Car Insurance $454
Phone $374.72
Other Entertainment$233.31
Doctor Visits$533
Health Insurance$46.27
Student Loan$345

The above table provides my annual expenses broken down into 21 different categories. For 2021 I will tweak the categories so that Miscellaneous isn’t such a big category. Other than the too big Misc. category, I think the table provides a good detail of my annual expenses. Further explanation for each category is included below.

Rent and mortgage was what I paid for rent before I bought the house with my mom. Mortgage, is of course the mortgage I paid after buying the house. This will stay about the same unless I am able to travel to Thailand and rent an apartment there for a few months. Any extra mortgage payments I make I count as savings and won’t be included in my annual expenses since I don’t consider saving to be an expense.

Utilities was low because I mostly didn’t pay utilities. I won’t pay any utilities at all this year unless I rent an apartment in Thailand and pay utilities there.

The bulk of the Misc. category was for my annual bar fee and paying for siding on my mom’s former home. This year I hope to have some relevant business income to use the bar fee as a biz expense against. Business income and expenses aren’t included in my annual expenses. This category will be much smaller this year.

Laundry was for the laundromat when I lived in an apartment and for the month I stayed in Cancun. The amount I spend on this category this year depends on whether I’m able to travel.

There were some months I spent hardly anything on gasoline. I expect this category to go up this year. I’m hoping car maintenance will go down. I’m considering buying a new car this year which would create a new category and would of course result in quite an increase in my annual spending.

Rideshare and public transportation were low since I didn’t travel much.

Car insurance will probably stay about the same level.

This year I intend to increase the grocery spending and decrease the restaurant spending. My overall spending on food is pretty low, but I need to start eating healthier food.

I included the clothing category of $0 just for fun. I did buy a pair of shoes last year that I included in the miscellaneous category. Perhaps, I should have included them in clothing. I’ll probably spend something on clothing this year.

My phone is with Google Fi and it should cost me about the same this year.

Travel was actually kind of high considering I didn’t travel much. I spent a week hiking in Shenandoah and a month in Cancun. Although I suppose some people would spend more than $1163 just on a one month trip to Cancun. I have two international flights booked for this year that have already been paid for, but there is a good chance I won’t be able to use them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get vaccinated and travel later this year, but I’ll have to wait and see what happens. If I’m able to travel this expense will go up.

Movies and other entertainment were not too expensive since I mostly stopped going to the movies after the pandemic started. This expense will probably be about the same.

I paid for 2 months gym membership at the beginning of the year. This expense will be much higher this year since I now have a new, more expensive gym membership. I really want to get in much better shape this year.

Doctor visits and health insurance will be much higher this year. My ACA subsidy doesn’t completely cover the cost of my insurance like it did last year. Also, I have a low deductible this year so I’m going to try to get several health issues addressed.

I wasn’t required to make any student loan payments last year. The amount I did pay was because I use any money made by this blog to pay the student loan.

I should probably be more generous with my giving. I’ll make it a goal to increase spending in this category this year.

That is how I spent $13,526.69 to live in 2020. I think I had a pretty good quality of life for the year and received great value for the money spent. If you have any questions about any of my spending, let me know. How was your year?

December Income – $2651.76

Here is a breakdown of my income for December.

Amazon FBA($13.58)
Swagbucks Deal$68.77
Other Bonuses$97
Bank Bonus$50
Ebay/Other Selling$0

December’s income was pretty good since I was working at my doc review job most of the month.

I made $2183.89 from my doc review job. Although there were three weeks with reduced hours, the fact that the month had 5 paydays helped make up for that.

My Amazon FBA side hustle lost a little money since I didn’t do any selling during the month, but still had some expenses.

I made $50 from a bank bonus and $97 from other bonuses.

Dividend income came in at $6.29. Not many of the companies I own payout dividends in December. There will be a lot more dividends this month. If you sign up using my Robinhood referral link we will both get one share of free stock. Thanks to anyone who signs up using my link. Every little bit helps.

I made $0 selling stuff online and eBay since I couldn’t sell stuff while in Cancun.

I also received $236.58 in cash back. This relatively large amount is mainly from buying stuff online to resell.

Lastly, I received $22.81 in interest and $68.77 from a Swagbucks deal. I’m a little peeved that the bank I opened an account with three months ago cut their interest rate from 3% to 2%. I only opened the account with them due to the higher interest. I’ll have to reevaluate whether it is worth jumping through the necessary hoops to earn the reduced interest rate.

How was your month?

One Week of Travel Spending

This is what I spent during one week of travel. My travel didn’t go exactly as planned . Two days before I was set to travel to Thailand to get some dental work done and visit my Thai girlfriend, the dentist contacted me and stated that my scheduled appointment dates would no longer work. They offered two new times for appointments and stated no other times would be available during the time of my Thailand trip. This led me to have to change my travel plans and cost me money in the form of two new airfares that had to be purchased. Also the new dates required me to make two trips to Pattaya while in Thailand when I previously could have gotten all the dental work done during one trip to Pattaya. This did not make me pleased with the dentist. I will be asking for a discount on the remaining dental work, but I doubt I will receive any compensation for my inconvenience and additional expense.

To make things worse one day before I was set to travel my girlfriend told me that she would not be able to visit me in Pattaya as planned. This didn’t cost me any additional money, but it did mean that the two air fares I had purchased for her would go unused and be a waste of money. This wasn’t a great start to the trip.

Sunday 9/29: The day started with a $1.50 bus ride to the airport to catch my Southwest flight from Kansas City to Chicago. This required taking two buses and quite a bit of time. While I was waiting to transfer to the second bus I realized I had forgotten my water bottle. I had time to walk over to Walmart and purchase a bottle of water for 50 cents. The second bus ended up being a half hour late. I had plenty of cushion built in to my arrival time at the airport. Still, I was about ready to call an Uber when the bus finally showed up.

Once I was in Chicago I needed to take the train to my hotel. This was a bit of journey because I landed at Midway airport and my hotel was near O’Hare since that was where I would be flying out of the next day to Bangkok. This required taking two trains. The total travel time was about an hour and a half. One ticket was good for both trains and cost $3.00. The train ride went smoothly. I did make a mistake in not using the bathroom while at the airport. I assumed there would be one at the train station and there was not. I really had to pee by the time I switched trains. After arriving at the second train stop I needed to take a city bus for $2.25 to travel the last mile to the hotel.

Before checking in to the hotel I bought a $3.33 McChicken meal from the McDonald’s across the street from the hotel. After a couple of hours of watching football I was hungry again. The snacks in the hotel snack bar were predictably overpriced so I ended up having another $3.33 meal from McDonald’s. I had a McDouble the second time to switch things up a little bit.

Total spent for the day: $12.41. That is a pretty low amount for transportation to and from the airport and two meals.

Monday 9/30: I try to eat light or not at all on days that I’m flying. My flight was at 12:55pm so I wanted to eat something before the flight. I bought a pack of mini-donuts for $1.50. That and water from my refilled water bottle was all I needed for the morning and kept me from spending any money on food or drink at the airport. I took a free shuttle from the hotel to the airport. The rest of the day was spent on the plane so I didn’t have an opportunity to spend more money.

Total spent for the day: $1.50

Tuesday 10/1: I was on a plane for most of the day which made it easy to not spend money. Arrived in Bangkok about 9:30pm and took a free shuttle to my hotel. Went to 7/11 to buy a cold bottle of water for twenty cents, then returned to the hotel and slept.

Total spent for the day: $0.20

Wednesday 10/2: This was a very lazy day. I woke up after just a few hours of sleep and was tired all day. Spent $2.02 for some snacks from 7/11 and some grilled meat from a street food vendor for breakfast. Spent $4.66 for more food from 7/11 for lunch and dinner. Spent $39.34 on airfare from Bangkok to Phitsanulok to see my girlfriend the following week.

Total spent for the day: $46.02

Thursday 10/3: Had a free breakfast at the hotel. Checked out at 11am and took the free hotel shuttle to the airport. Bought a bus ticket from the airport to Pattaya for $4.25. Once I arrived in Pattaya I took a mototaxi from the bus station to my hotel for $3.93. Had lunch at the McDonald’s in the mall across the street from my hotel for $4.55. I wasn’t very hungry in the evening. I bought 2 donuts for 65 cents from the Mr. Donut shop in the mall and called that dinner.

Total spent for the day: $13.38

Friday 10/4: I took a baht bus from near my hotel to the Terminal 21 mall. The Terminal 21 mall is an airport themed mall that is interesting to explore. I had a meal a Thai macaroni dish and a soda at the food court there for $1.80. After that I went to the movies and spent $13.12 for the ticket, a large popcorn (it would be a small popcorn at a U.S. Movie theater) , and a bottle of water. That is about what I would pay for a movie and a popcorn in the U.S., so it wasn’t that great of a bargain for me. After the movie I took the baht bus back to my hotel. The baht bus cost 66 cents round trip. During the afternoon I bought a plane ticket for $43.83 from Phitsanulok to Bangkok for the return portion of my trip to visit my girlfriend. In the evening I bought some snacks for $1.15 from 7-11.

Total spent for the day: $60.56

Saturday 10/5: Spent $4.57 for breakfast at Burger King. Spent $6.56 at Carl’s Jr. for lunch. I should really stop eating fast food all the time since it cost more than Thai food and is bad for me. I spent $7.32 at the grocery store in the mall for snacks. This wasn’t a frugal expenditure as approximately $5 of that total was for a bag of cheese curls. I crave my fast food and junk food too much. I broke my reading glasses and bought a replacement pair from the Daiso store in the mall for $1.97. I usually get my reading glasses from the dollar store. Although these glasses are still very cheap they seem to be better quality than the dollar store glasses. I bought a big pork pao for 92 cents from 7-11 for dinner.

Total spent for the day: $21.34

I ended up spending $155.41 for the week. The two plane tickets made up most of that total. I also paid $450 for my October rent and $19.89 for my Regal Unlimited monthly membership fee. I didn’t include those in the total since they had nothing to do with my travel. Spending almost all of one day on an airplane and crossing the international date line helped keep my expenses low. My hotel stays had already been paid using credit card points so there was no hotel expense.

If my girlfriend had joined me in Pattaya I would have spent more money since we probably would have visited some local attractions. My entertainment was mostly limited to free activities such as walking around the mall, walking along the beach, and swimming in the hotel pool. Since I’ve been to Pattaya before I didn’t feel a need to visit any attractions on this trip. The primary purpose for this trip is to finish my dental work and visit my girlfriend. If this trip were for entertainment I would have spent more, although probably not a lot more.

Dinner and a Dentist Visit in Thailand

Sign for the noodle restaurant in Uttaradit, Thailand.
My girlfriend walking to the noodle restaurant.

This post is about a recent evening I had here in Thailand. Nothing too exciting happened, but I thought some people might be interested in my daily life here.

The evening started with a trip to a street food restaurant for dinner. There are a lot of restaurants similar to the one pictured above. These restaurants have outdoor seating with plastic stools and flimsy tables. The Thai people don’t seem to mind eating outside when it is over 90 degrees. We wait until dusk to eat so it is at least a little bit cooler and the sun isn’t beating down on us. We usually eat at a table 2 or 3 rows in since the outer row of tables is too close the noise and traffic of the street for me.

Thai Noodle Shop Menu
Thai Noodle Place Menu

The great thing about these restaurants is that they have yummy Thai food for cheap prices. The menu above shows how cheap everything is. For reference, the cheapest item on the menu is 35 baht which is about $1.11 U.S. Dinner for both of us usually is only about $2. Sometimes it is even cheaper. My girlfriend prefers to go to these types of place for dinner and that works out great for me. Eating at a Western restaurant would cost several times more than the typical Thai place. Since this is not a tourist town the menu is all in Thai. I rely on my girlfriend to order for me. She knows my limited palate and hasn’t made a bad order for me yet.

Chicken and noodles dinner.
Chicken and Noodles Dinner.

The picture above is what we had for dinner. My GF calls my dinner chicken and noodles.
I don’t know the Thai name for the dish. It doesn’t taste like chicken and noodle soup. It tastes better than that and is really good. Her dish contained chicken feet and was eaten with rice. I didn’t try that. This restaurant adds some kind of flavoring to their free water. Most places don’t do that. I don’t like the taste of the water with their flavoring added so I splurged and paid another 10 baht for a bottle of water. Not tipping is required or expected at these restaurants and tax is already included in the prices. Thus, the cost of your food is the cost of your meal.

Uttaradit Dentist Office
Uttaradit Dentist Office

After dinner we made a visit to the dentist office. The night before I had some fresh caramel popcorn that I bought at the Wednesday night market. Unfortunately, a piece of the popcorn got jammed up under my gums and I wasn’t able to floss or pick it out. I complained about it hurting during dinner and my GF suggested we go to the dentist after dinner. I didn’t realize we could visit the dentist at that time of night without an appointment, My girlfriend assured me it would be no problem. The first dentist we went to had a long queue. We left and visited another dentist. This one only had one person in front of me. It turned out this dental office had just opened the previous month. The office did look new and extremely clean. It might have been the nicest dentist office I’ve been too. It was definitely way nicer than the dental school where I’ve been getting my dental work done the last few years.

After about a five minute wait we went back to see the dentist. My GF explained the problem I was having. The dentist did speak some English so I think I could have explained the problem to her if I didn’t have my GF there to do it for me. The dentist flossed between my teeth and then went in with the dental pick and got a small piece of popcorn out. I told her I felt like there was more in there and she went back in and pulled a much larger shard of popcorn out. Although my mouth was still sore it immediately felt better once the larger piece of popcorn was removed. This is the second time this year I have had to go to the dentist to get a piece of popcorn removed. It was in the same place both times. For now, I’m going to give up popcorn until I have some more dental work done.

When we went out to pay the bill, we were told there was no charge. I was very surprised by that. I indicated that I was willing to pay, but they waved off my money. I was impressed with this dental office. If I were going to be in this town longer I would have them do my dental implant or maybe redo my bridge. When I come back later this year or next year I will get some type of dental work done there.

After that we went back to the hotel and took our evening showers. It is normal in Thailand to take 2 or 3 showers a day. After the showers, we got in bed and watched a movie on Netflix until it was time to go to sleep. Other than the dentist visit that was a typical night for us. It isn’t too exciting, but I like it.

My New Thailand Apartment

My apartment in Uttaradit Thailand.

After four different hotel rooms in four nights I am now settling down as I have rented a room for the next month. I did have some people interested in how to find an apartment in Thailand so I will share that process. This apartment hunt took place in a smaller city in Thailand and I was assisted by my Thai girlfriend so my search won’t be relevant to a lot of visitors to Thailand. I’ll probably move to Chiang Mai next month. My apartment hunt there will be more typical and I’ll share that process too.

This apartment costs 4500 baht a month which is about 141 U.S. dollars. There is also a 500 baht fee for weekly cleaning. This didn’t appear to be optional so adding this fee the price for the month is about $156. There is also a 100 baht per month charge for water and electricity costs 8 baht per unit. Since it is over 100 Fahrenheit every day right now the electric bill might be expensive. Like most apartments in Thailand a deposit of one month’s rent was also required. When I leave next month they will deduct the cleaning, water, and electric charges from the deposit and refund the rest to me. They let me use my credit card to pay for the rent and deposit which made things simpler.

The room isn’t quite as nice as the room I had in Chiang Mai. It doesn’t have a couch, kitchen, or a proper desk area. It also doesn’t have a fitness center. It has a pool, but you are charged for every use making it unlikely I’ll use the pool much. Since I never used the kitchen when in CM not having a kitchen doesn’t matter to me. It does have a small table with plastic chairs that I use when I’m tired of sitting/lying on the bed and when I’m using my laptop. This apartment was chosen mainly for its location. It is about a 20 minute walk away from the Tesco shopping center which in addition to the Tesco supermarket has a movie theater, several restaurants, and various other shops. Overall, I think it is a great deal for the money.

My apartment search for this room took just a few hours. My girlfriend drove me to several places which helped a lot since I wouldn’t have been able to walk everywhere and I wouldn’t have known where to go. Our first stop was a hotel that my GF knew and liked. From the outside it looked pretty nice, but they didn’t have any rooms available for monthly rental. Our second stop was a room in a small complex owned by GF’s cousin. This room was quite basic but acceptable considering the price of about $95 a month. I didn’t choose this room since it was a little far away from the supermarket and restaurants. Plus, I knew I could go up quite a bit in quality for not much more money. The third place we visited was the hotel I stayed at when I was here last year. They had a room available for 4500 baht per month. Since it was fairly close to shopping and restaurants and I knew I liked it after staying there last year we decided to rent this room. Since this was Sunday when we were looking we wouldn’t be able to sign the contract for the room until the next day.

On our way back to the hotel we came across another apartment building. They had lots of rooms available for just $3500 baht per month. The rooms were really old and dark and the building didn’t seem very clean so I passed on this place. After returning to our hotel we thought to ask if the hotel had monthly rooms. It turned out they did and I ended up renting my room from the hotel and cancelling the other room. If I would have asked at the hotel first we wouldn’t have had to do any apartment hunting. I think I would have been just as happy at the other 4500 baht per month hotel. Shopping is slightly closer to this hotel and it does have a pool if I want to use it so I decided this was a slightly better choice.

So I guess my advice for apartment hunting in Thailand is to ask at your hotel first or have your Thai girlfriend help you or both. Joking aside, I hope the apartment hunt information was somewhat helpful and/or interesting.