How much does it cost to move your family to paradise?

The financial reality of moving to Ko Lanta, Thailand & how to make a family forecast for going location independent

3 coconuts + 1 sunset = a happy hammock

The cost of moving to paradise?

The annoying answer is: whatever you are willing to spend.

The better answer is: if you plan a little, you may not save a lot, but at least you’ll know what’s coming.

‘Doing the numbers’ or ‘Business Planning’ is not something I’ve always prioritised. But the twin-influencers of building (& failing) with multiple projects and starting a family have changed my approach to one where financial forecasting is now one of my first post-idea ‘actions’.

The unsurprising but typical mistakes I’ve learnt that many of us make when forecasting (whether for a project, first version of a business or a life/career move) are:

  1. We under forecast the costs and transition gap (too casual).
  2. We over forecast the income (too confident).
  3. We forecast way too far ahead (to make us feel secure).
  4. We don’t update the forecast with enough regularity once we’re underway.
  5. We assume we’re not ‘good enough’ at financials and therefore ignore it.

We’ve approached moving our family (Isla-4, Mali-3 and Jack-1)to the island of Ko Lanta in Thailand in the same way I would a startup project: by doing a financial ‘sanity check’ of the big idea and then tracking it in detail.

Here is a quick summary of our ‘forecast vs the reality’ and how we’re adapting. Then follows a financial forecast template for families considering moving to Ko Lanta or elsewhere.

Our Financial Plan for moving to Ko Lanta

The first thing we did was split out costs into three main buckets:

  1. Pre-departure costs (flights, insurance, kit, visas + fixing up our house, getting the car off the road, changing phone tariffs etc…).
  2. Ongoing/new home (UK) costs once we’d left.
  3. New living costs in Thailand.

The trap for us is that we would assume cost of living would be much cheaper in Thailand without factoring how we wanted to live, where, how our income would be impacted, how much time it would take to adjust, and unexpected costs at both our ‘homes’. Not forgetting what I call the ‘meltdown’ budget for when everyone is too tired and you pay your way out of the situation with ice-cream, expensive snacks or another take-away meal for Mum & Dad.

We researched costs in Ko Lanta by talking to the friendly folk at Kohub, Global Village School and on facebook groups as well as using resources like Nomad List and Lonely Planet.

For income, I built a simple ‘ideas vs income’ sheet, and how quickly I thought we could generate revenue and how much. We had the rough, following plan:

  1. Use savings from the previous 6 months work for pre-departure costs.
  2. Line-up startup coaching work from October 2018 (start by covering 25% of costs and growing to 40%) + more affiliate side-income like Strikingly, Airbnb & Bulb Energy.
  3. Focus on Rebel Book Club (a 3 year old side project that’s been getting momentum) for 2 days a week (start at covering 20% of costs and growing to 30% by end of year).
  4. New Projects — test 2 to 3 new ideas/opportunities within 2 months to fill the gap. Let me know if there is an opportunity I can help with :)
  5. Focus on getting tax returns done early and costs recouped (30% of income in first 2 months).

2 months in, what has been the difference between our financial forecast and actuals?

On costs there have been a few surprises:

  1. Cashflow has been hit hard in the first month (Long-term payments on housing and car have meant good deals but hefty bills) + upfront costs on school fees, co-working, stocking the new family home with kit and supplies.
  2. Cost of accommodation is double what we forecast. This is mainly due to the peak-season (December-March) and not doing enough research pre-departure into family type accommodation. We could be staying somewhere cheaper but not sure we would have lasted more than a month!
  3. Feeding the family is 25% more than we forecast. Market and street food is cheap but we have eaten out a lot more due to trying to get the kids to eat (!) and because we don’t have an oven.
  4. Its taken almost a month to settle-in and for me to find enough time and energy to do income based work vs support the family in-person. Aside from a couple of yoga classes my wife hasn’t had any child-free time since we got here (we’re still looking for childcare support but that’s another story). I expect it will take another 2-3 months to really find the right balance.

On income, we’re just about on track (for the original forecast) and a surprise tax return dividend has helped make up the gap.

The good news for us is that cash flow is now much more manageable after those early costs and we now know the reality so we can adapt. Now we’re mostly settled, the focus is on doing more income generating work!

I was wondering if other families considering going location independent, might need help with their financial planning/ sanity checking.


Make your own family financial forecast for Ko Lanta (& beyond)

I’ve made a simple family financial forecast template for Ko Lanta based on what we’ve learnt over the past few weeks. These are not our exact numbers, more general estimates for you to adapt following the instructions below. Quite a lot will depend on your ‘home’ situation — mortgage, rental, debts, savings etc…

Feel free to make a copy and a forecast. Instructions are at the end of this post.

Please do share your forecast back with us if you have any further questions or think we’ve missed anything. We really hope it helps you on your way to going location independent and please come to Ko Lanta in 2019.

We are very much aware of how lucky we are to even be considering doing this. Which is a big reason we are doing it. There’s definitely been some moments when we wonder if it is a good idea, but fortunately, so far, those moments are in the minority. So, with a little forecasting, we get to live in this island paradise.

Jungle Trekking: cheaper (and sweatier) than scuba diving.

The template assumes the following:

1. Family with 2–3 children

2. Medium-high standard of living on Ko Lanta > subtract 20% ( more basic accommodation/less eating out/tuktuk instead of car rental etc…) or add 20% (more of everything, especially better quality accommodation during peak season + more trips to islands etc…). There are families living on Lanta for £2–3000/month and some living off a lot more…so its up to you. The only real barrier is peak season. This forecast is deliberately high to minimise risk.

3. Private education at Global Village School — fees

4. Peak season for living/rentals November-March

5. Doesn’t include pre-departure costs: Flights, First Visas, Immunisations, Kit

6. That you’re starting with zero in the bank :)

7. Your actual cashflow here will be slightly different as more costs in month 1 for long-term rentals (house/car) and less over subsequent months

8. Assumes Income is post-tax

How to use:

1. Go to FILE from the drop-down menu > ‘Make a Copy’

2. Save in your own google drive or desktop and re-name

3. Add/edit in the numbers you know for your costs after moving to Ko Lanta

4. Add/edit in forecasted income

Any questions… :)

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Ko Lanta National Park