Money And Happiness

Retire Small

If you’re planning a move overseas on a budget–or even if you’re staying put on a budget–consider a smaller, cheaper living space.

Looking at the papers, it seems everyone wants small…

Here’s a headline from the UT San Diego newspaper: U.S. Overbuilt In Big Houses, Planners Find.

And, here’s a New York Times article called “An Anti-Modern Lodging” about staying in private and university clubs on the road, specifically the Royal Air Force Club in London.

In recent years, the world has adapted to those who live small. Or those who live small have demanded a changed world. Either way, Starbucks has replaced our living and dining rooms. New ways of eating, from takeout to microwave to delivery, replace kitchens. Sports bars replace home entertainment centers, and we can watch a movie on an iPad as easily as on a TV in our den.

Here in Bangkok, our friend Professor Tom sets up every day for a few hours at a café or eating place. He changes times and places daily and sends regular e-mails to friends telling them where and when. Whenever we’ve shown up, we’ve met other friends of Professor Tom. What a social life. No living room or kitchen required.

Young Thai newlywed friends recently started married life together. The bride left her large home in northern Thailand to join her husband in his new, well-equipped but tiny, Bangkok apartment. The bride still needs to adjust to fast-paced Bangkok, a new job, and a husband. But when I asked her about the small living space she said, “So much easier to clean.” At least that adjustment, from large space to small, has already gone smoothly.

As Vicki and I are perpetual travelers, we’re used to small spaces. We travel with an immersion water-heater to make coffee. We joke that with just that water-heater we can whip up dinner for twelve. Our supply of boiled water can make soup, cook eggs, bring dehydrated stew to life. More seriously, a microwave oven seems to be able to do nearly everything that used to require a well-equipped kitchen–these days, you can make a full carrot cake in a microwave.

If you choose to live in a small space, you may spend more on going out. Then again, those who go out more–and spend money on experiences rather than stuff–tend to lead happier, more fulfilling lives. Just Google “money happiness” to see what I mean.

Small spaces save money; lead to happier, more social lives; and put us in sync with modern ways of living. So, why do many of us remain in big houses? Mostly, it comes down to personal preference. A friend moved from an enormous house outside of Buenos Aires–with a pool, a separate guest house, and four maid’s rooms–to a smaller place closer to town. After a year or so, I asked him what he thought about the move. His reply: “The big house…I miss it.”

Give some thought to living in a smaller space, but without overdoing it. Moving to small may make the difference between retiring or not, between living in the right neighborhood or not, between being able to afford to go out or not. If you do make it small, you’ll certainly save money.

Think of small as a new way of life. Instead of downsizing, you’re opting for café society. Starbucks, microwave ovens, and take-out will help ease the transition.

Paul Terhorst

Continue Reading: “How Can You Possibly Recommend Patong?”…

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