The cost of living comparisons we have developed reflect a responsible, middle ground point of view. However, they don’t reflect the high or low end of the spectrum.
We have found single people in Chiang Mai who live very comfortably on less than $1,000 a month, all in! On the other hand, there is a couple we interviewed in Ho Chi Minh City who spend $5,000 a month JUST for their luxurious embassy row condo.
To achieve a 50% reduction in your cost of living you will need to supplement the very real savings in buying or renting a home with shopping local markets and eating out on local fare a few times a week. That is no hardship in these countries; the markets are great fun and local food is very good and very cheap.
Utilities are, as a rule, very inexpensive. There are exceptions and particularly for electricity. You can rent a big place cheap but you now live in the tropics and air con most all of the year adds up. The bigger your place, the bigger the bill.
Local phones are very inexpensive and while Internet services are not as cheap, they are still a fraction of what you pay at home.
Transportation costs can ramp up from inexpensive taxis everywhere to buying cars for more than they cost at home. And, in many countries cars are heavily taxed. That said there are cheap and cheerful cars from local producers in Malaysia and Thailand. Leasing is an option that doesn’t tie up capital and buying used is an excellent option as these countries are all car crazy with lots to choose from.