Archive for April, 2009

The Art of Living Frugally

April 1, 2009

I’ve always found the idea of being a minimalist interesting, although “minimalist” isn’t really a term that we relate to sociologically in the present day. Nowadays, we reference the ideals of minimalism, as in, “being or providing a bare minimum of what is necessary,” through the words “frugal” and “thrifty”.

Since we are no longer primitive hunter-gatherers who live off the land, we don’t define “living on the bare minimum” in the same way. In the past, our current level of technology didn’t exist, so society had a different perspective of what was considered to be the bare minimum. Today, to not have a broadband Internet connection is considered antiquated, since such a large percentage of the population depends on that technology, and it has become a social normality. Not so long ago, most people didn’t even have personal computers, let alone any kind of Internet connection. It’s this consistent evolution of technology that continually develops our perspective of what we define as the bare minimum in society.

As a young adult, it is not uncommon for me to be practicing the art of living frugally. The art of living frugally, you say? Why, yes! Living frugally is indeed an art, let me tell you. Even though Chiang Mai, Thailand is extremely cheap compared to America, that does not negate the fact that I do not have massive amounts of money to throw around. Now, I am not poor, per se; I am just living on the bare minimum, buying only what is necessary to fulfill my immediate needs.

Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks

Just like in America, the same common snacks that a Frugal Ferguson would normally buy there, can also be purchased here, in Thailand.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Oh, yes. PB & J. The great American favorite. All you need is:

  1. One loaf of bread: $1.00
  2. One small jar of peanut butter: $2.50
  3. One small jar of jelly: $1.50

For only $5.00, PB & J will last you a good 7-10 days or more, depending on how much of each ingredient you use daily. You can also substitute the bread for crackers, and eliminate either the peanut butter or the jelly completely, if you’re really feeling creative.

Ramen Noodles

Oh Ramen, how I adore you. You only cost 6 baht ($0.16) per pack, and you are totally delicious and filling. You are also versatile in the time of day in which you can be eaten! It can be 12 in the afternoon or 12 at night, and you always hit the spot, either way.

Dinner

This is where Thailand really shines. Why buy expensive Western food, when you can buy cheap Thai food instead? A pizza, sub or burger here costs about $2.00-$5.00, depending on where you buy it from. A full plate of chicken fried rice costs about $1.00-$1.50 anywhere you go (in Chiang Mai). So, what would the frugal traveler choose? The latter, of course, and that extra dollar or so that you know you saved adds an extra layer of love to each meal… that makes the food taste even better!

Drink Water

Unfortunately, drinkable water is not free in Thailand, but it is still very cheap. In America, bottled water can cost up to $2.50 (or more?) depending on where you buy it from. In Thailand, bottled water is usually 5-10 baht for a small, and usually 20 or 25 baht for a large. If you strictly stick to water, your wallet will assuredly be thanking you in the long run.

You Don’t Need a TV, Private Bathroom, or Air-Conditioning

Everyone likes luxuries, but if you’re scraping by, you can definitely get by without them. You don’t need a TV because you have better things to do than watch TV all day. You don’t need a private bathroom because really, how much time do you spend in the bathroom, anyway? Lastly, you don’t need AC because keeping the windows open and a fan on will create the same effect. Ta-da!

Walk or Ride a Bicycle

In Chiang Mai, you can walk around outside and get everything you need easily. If you’re looking to do exotic things, then of course you will need some transportation. But just for your daily errands, a nice pair of tennis shoes will do the trick.

In Conclusion

Living frugally really just comes down to not being lazy and making good decisions. If you’re willing to go the extra mile to get the cheaper products, it will slowly, but surely, pay off in the end. Cut down on your wants and focus purely on your needs, and you’ll end up saving more, which will allow you to stay abroad even longer!

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