Where can you live for less than 1200 USD a month?

The cost of living at a personal level largely depends on how you choose to spend our cash right? That makes sense. If you are someone who MUST have a bottle of good wine on the table at the end of every day, you are not going to be someone happy to live within a budget that precludes that.
But let’s imagine for one minute that you wanted to live reasonably well for less than 1200 USD a month. That’s less than 15,000 USD a year. All in. Accommodation, food and drink, travel and transport, entertainment and general medical expenses. Can it be done? And if so, where?
The good news is, lots of places actually.
If we use Thailand as a base comparison, we can make good guesses about how far your money will go. We will do this in USD, but you can convert it to the currency of your choice. According to the cost of living website Numbeo, living in Thailand is cheap in some parts, not Bangkok as a rule, but expat enclaves like Hua Hin and Chiang Mai cater to those on a budget, as well as those with money to burn. The average cost of living in Thailand is 42% lower than in the United States, and rents are 62% lower.
In Asia, the number one spot for ‘Digital nomads’, that is people living and working with only the need for a good internet connection and the requisite number of cool drinks, is Cambodia. The cost of living is 6% higher overall than Thailand, but rent is 3% lower. Including regular meals in restaurants, rent and a quite comfortable lifestyle, you can get by with as little as 1000 USD a month.
Vietnam is also very cheap, a good meal in a local restaurant can cost as little as 2 USD, and that will include a soft drink. Vietnam is 8% lower overall than Thailand, but rents are 4% higher. In Cambodia and Vietnam, beer is about 50 cents a pint, or can.
Indonesia is cheap too, 1000 USD a month will cover you for a house, part-time gardener, maid, and all the Nasi Gorang you could every need, but not if you MUST live in Bali. If you MUST live in Bali, you are not on a budget. Indonesia’s cost of living is 5% lower than Thailand, but rents are CHEAP nearly 29% lower than Thailand.
The very cheapest places to live in Asia are, not surprisingly, parts of India ( outside of the major cites) where our budget will allow you to live like a king, and Nepal, where 600 USD per month is considered distinctly upper middle class. Nepal’s cost of living is 31% lower than Thailand, and the rents….78% cheaper….yes. You read that right.
If Asia doesn’t float your boat, but South America stirs your soul, Colombia (not the dangerous parts), Argentina and Mexico all offer great lifestyles for bargain basement prices. For example, maids in Mexico earn around 2.50-3 USD an hour. That’s considered a good wage. Half a litre of local beer will set you back about 80 cents, maybe a dollar. A meal in a local restaurant about 4 USD. Mexico is a bargain for expats. The cost of living is 25% lower than Thailand, and rents are 41% less.
The average cost of living in Argentina is 28% higher than in Thailand, but the cost of renting an apartment is 4% lower. Argentinian wine is world renowned but when it’s bought in situ, you can enjoy it even more for less. A nice bottle of local red will set you back about 4 USD. Colombia is also a real winner. Rent in Colombia is up to 34 % lower than in Thailand, and the overall cost of living 22% lower. Sure, you might get caught up in a drug lord war, but you will live well up until then.
If you want to live in Europe, there are plenty of options.
Bulgaria, Portugal and Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania are all pretty reasonable. Places like Bulgaria and Slovakia get cold, so if that is not your thing, beware, but they do make up for it in other ways. Beauty is one thing, and being closer to ‘home’ for some people is another. The cost of living in Slovakia, for example, works out as being 8% higher than Thailand, and rents are only 10 % higher which is still much cheaper than the states.
The Czech Republic and Hungary and Romania all cost about the same. If you choose these places, you might consider a smaller town, where life is simpler and easier to live well on a budget. Romania has the best internet of the group, and some think that The Czech Republic has the best beer. No doubt that could be disputed. Portugal has excellent weather, and being part of the EU has certain advantages (Sorry Brits) plus the overall costs are low. Half a litre of local beer is about 1.50 USD, and good local wine about 5-6 USD. A 3 course meal for 2 in a mid-range restaurant will set you back about 45 USD. This all means that the cost of living is 19% higher than Thailand, and rents are nearly 8% more, but you do get better rates away from Lisbon plus….Portugal…..hello!!??
Our real winner for Europe is Bulgaria, which is CHEAP AS CHIPS!!! Remember, our budget is 1200 USD a month, and that is enough for a good lifestyle in Thailand as long as you live sensibly. But you can still eat out every day, and do pretty much what you want without going crazy.
Well, Bulgaria is 13% cheaper than Thailand as a general cost of living and rents are 41% lower as well. Not too shabby. Our budget means we are twice as well off as the average local, in fact, we are living well.
You don’t need a stack of money to finance your life, you just need to know how and where to spend it. If you are starting to think about where you want to be, shop around. There are plenty of options out there for the money wise adventurer.


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