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July 2018 update – abandoning extreme frugality
July was a month that just flew by without me really noticing. Usually that’s a sign that I haven’t really achieved or done anything notable during the month. But what I like about these monthly updates is looking back and realising I have made some incremental progress towards my goals. This includes:
Consolidating our travel plans: We’re off on a multi-country travel adventure around Asia from October to late December this year. This month we’ve further developed our itinerary, and have booked more flights and accommodation.
Health and well-being: I’m still trying to keep to a gluten-free, dairy-free, and mostly soy-free diet due to an ongoing condition. And no this is not easy in Thailand at all!!! It takes a lot of focus, effort, and discipline that I’d usually direct elsewhere. In addition to the diet, I’ve been exercising at least 3-4 times a week, doing a mix of running, aerobics, swimming, and yoga.
Learning: I picked up Chris Guillebeau’s Side Hustle book mid-month with a determination to have a side hustle up and running within 27 days (the aim of the book). I don’t know what happened though… somewhere along the way work got hectic and I could no longer dedicate an hour a day to putting the lessons into practice. But I did get started at least, and I plan to continue in August. I also read a couple other fiction books but these were quite trashy so they don’t really count towards my learning goals :p
Why now is not a time for extreme frugality
I mentioned in my June update that I had signed up again for the Uber Frugal Month with Liz from Frugalwoods. The aim of this challenge is to encourage you to question every expense, and to cut back as much as possible for the month to help you re-align your expenses with your values on a longer-term basis.
I did this course for the first time back in January 2017, and the results were incredible. I managed to save 65% of my income for the first time, even though I was paying a higher portion of our rent back then.
It was also fun: it made me look into checking out bus routes (a bus ticket can cost as little as 15p, versus the same journey on the BTS costing 76p), and got me to check out cheap street food and buy fresh produce from local markets. While some changes didn’t stick – I’m still taking the BTS, others did – I still try to buy my veg from the market. It helped me forge a more sustainably frugal path of living in Bangkok.
This time? It started off well on the first day of the month – I had a fun picnic in the park with friends and contributed some home-made guacamole and buckwheat crackers. But I fell off the uber frugal wagon two days into the challenge. Why? Because I’m in a transition phase.
I have a limited time left with friends and colleagues in Bangkok, so I didn’t want to limit myself to cheap picnics in the park (as fun as they are). Instead I spent evenings in the pub (including watching England make it to the semis in the World Cup!), and had a fantastic evening imbibing expensive cocktails with my closest female friends.
I also went to a beach! There was a rare four-day weekend at the end of July, and my partner and I skipped out of Bangkok and headed to Koh Chang for a change of scenery. Rather than stay in a cheap bungalow, we opted for somewhere more mid-range (£37 a night) that was well-located, had a great breakfast, and had an Apple TV (yes we watched a lot of movies). Sometimes a little comfort is needed.
Transitioning to a new diet has also taken up lots of my focus and energy as mentioned above, so adding an extremely frugal dimension to the month just seemed an effort too far.
However, even though I wasn’t able to stick to the uber frugal path this month, I still managed a savings rate of 64%!!! By cutting down on my biggest expense – rent – since the last time I did the challenge, I can still indulge in a number of luxuries without having to compromise savings.
It’s a good example of why we should always look to cut our biggest expenses first. By simply reducing my rent by over 25%, I don’t have to sweat it out on a Bangkok bus every morning, or question every single social commitment in order to maintain a high savings rate.
I can also thank the first Uber Frugal Challenge for having helped me incorporate frugality into my everyday life and keeping me on frugal autopilot. Since I have already optimised my expenses, taking it a little bit further in July seemed a bit unnecessary.
Once I’m settled back in Europe, I look forward to taking the Uber Frugal Challenge again, and seeing how I can craft a life of fun and frugality in a new setting. I doubt I’ll be able to reach such a high savings rate given the higher cost of living, and the fact I’m not rushing into a new job, but I’m sure going to try my best.
July 2018 numbers:
Income: 74,926 THB / £1,665.02
Expenses: 26,639 THB / £591.98
Savings rate: 66% (January – September 2018 goal = 60%)
Net worth increase from December 2017: 21.5% (goal = 20%)
All looking good!
I’m not setting any ambitious goals for August, although I do have a growing to-do list in regard to moving out of Thailand and planning our travels. I also aim to dedicate more time and space to reading, making notes, and planning life for 2019 when we’re finally back home. Also – just have fun!!
How did July go for you? Comment below!