Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

If you would like to submit a Cost of Living survey, you can answer the questions on line - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9S6HQCD

Approximate conversion rates as of April 23rd, 2017

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Barry

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50-70,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

The salary from my Thai secondary school is 45,000 after tax and I can bump that up by 5,000 to 25,000 depending on how many private students I want to tutor or more to the point, how much energy I've got. It takes a lot of effort to do a full-time job and then be willing to sit with a beginner level student for a couple of hours.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

I try to save at least 10,000 baht a month and that money goes towards an annual trip home with usually a bit left over.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I got really lucky with accommodation because I rent a new one-bedroom apartment in central Bangkok but it actually belongs to a friend who bought it as an investment and he never stays there. I give him 8,000 baht a month but I think if I was renting directly from the building owner, it would cost anything from 12,000 baht a month up.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I go everywhere by sky-train and of course that's the advantage of living in downtown Bangkok. In fact I never go anywhere that requires taxis. So about 3,000 baht a month I guess.

b) Utility bills

That's all included in the 8,000 baht a month I give my pal for the rent. I don't abuse the air-conditioning though. I'm up on the 22nd floor so there's a great breeze that blows through the apartment when you open the balcony doors.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is the one aspect of my budget that I do like to control. I limit myself to Western food only once or twice on weekends because it's Western food that can cost the earth if you develop too much of a craving for it. During the week I eat only Thai food and can spend probably 700 baht from Monday to Friday. Weekends I can spend about a thousand. Let's call it 7-8,000 baht for the month.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out much. I'll meet friends for a night out once in a while but it only amounts to three or four beers at most. I bet I spend less than 3,000 a month on booze and nights out. I prefer to stay home and watch a movie or play computer games.

e) Books, computers

I do like my gadgets but I think it's difficult to put a monthly figure on it.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Brilliant. I love my lifestyle. It's very comfortable. That said, I'm well aware I'm not saving as much as I should be.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

It's easier for me to say what I don't consider to be a bargain and that's Western food. You can really pay through the nose here even for very average Western meals.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I think you could 'survive' in Bangkok on 30,000 baht a month but once you move up to the 50-60K bracket, life doesn't become TWICE as good, it becomes TEN times better in my opinion.

Phil's analysis and comment

Just this last weekend, my wife and I were analyzing and talking about the cost of eating in Bangkok. What's always interesting to me is not so much that you have the choice of eating on two levels - Thai or Western, but how you have to fork out considerably money to choose from the international menu. You expect Western food to be more expensive than Thai food of course, but the difference in cost can be astounding.

From Monday to Friday, my wife has a 30 baht lunch at the subsidized company canteen and in the evening, she pays about 70-80 baht a meal, delivered by a company that specializes in 'clean food'. For breakfast she'll have a yoghurt and some fruit. Total daily food spend no more than 150 baht, so 750 baht takes care of food for the five weekdays.

On Sunday, we went to a mid-range local restaurant where smoothies, a couple of pasta dishes and a starter or two came to about 800 baht. Then we went to a coffee shop for a latte and a cake and the bill was another 450. 

Eating Western food in Bangkok doesn't come cheap at all. If you're one of those people who can happily shun the tastes of home and eat only Thai food, you'll save a small fortune. However, I think most of us crave a change from 'something over rice' every now and again. 


Tommy

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 105,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I earn 105K from my full time salary at an international school in Bangkok. The school does provide opportunities for private tutoring, and I have been approached by many people too, which is something I may look at in the future. It's reassuring to know that option is there. Foreign teachers are very lucky that we are so in-demand for private tutoring.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

I aim for 40K every month but I can usually save more, usually 50,000+. My previous job paid a 30,000 baht a month salary so I'm used to living on a tighter budget so it is taking me a while to loosen the purse strings! I have been looking for ways to invest in Thailand but apart from buying gold I don't see many options. (an idea for an Ajarn blog, perhaps?)

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 8,000 baht for a townhouse on the outskirts of Bangkok. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a small garden. Yes, it is quite cheap but I must stress I live among mostly Thais and there is no swimming pool or gym (which seems to be a requirement for most foreigners).

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I spend about 200 baht a week on gas, so 800 baht in total

b) Utility bills

800-900 on electricity, about 150 for water, so let's say 1,100 baht a month

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I've averaged it out at around 400 baht a day. This includes a lot of "farang food" and a lot of home cooking. While the street food is delicious I still tend to eat food from home. So total food bill averages out at about 12,000 baht

d) Nightlife and drinking

I do enjoy a few beers while watching the football at the weekend. I'd say about 1,500 a month as I like to drink Carlsberg over local beers. In terms of entertainment in general I also usually go the cinema and get a massage at the weekend. That can add another 3,000 a month.

e) Books, computers

The odd trip to Asia books will cost me about 1,000-2,000 a month. I've started reading a lot more since I got a garden (seriously, houses are awesome!).

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I have a very good standard of living here. There is food on the table, clothes on my back and a roof over my head. Considering the weather, the friendly locals, an awesome school, a very friendly staff and being able to save a lot.... I'm in no rush to go home

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Where do I start?! Look at my rent and utilities - they come to about 8% of my monthly income! The cost of gas and public transport is so cheap too, as is healthcare. Food, beer, massages.... all much cheaper than at home.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I survived on 30,000 baht a month for a year and I had no complaints. But that is surviving. If you are thinking long term or want to save/travel you need about 60K. If you are thinking of being here for a few years do not accept the first offer you get and do not accept 30K (speaking from experience). Leave these jobs to the backpackers and show schools that they get what they pay for.

Phil's analysis and comment

Tommy also had the following to say about the townhouse that he rents for 8,000 baht a month. 

"The house did not come furnished so it has taken some investment to get it decorated but it has been a lovely experience putting my stamp on it and creating a "home". It certainly beats my time in studio apartments with the standard bed, wardrobe, tv stand and the only place you can clear your head is on a tiny balcony. That's one piece of advice I would give to all foreigners - get a house and put your stamp on it, it will make you feel much more at home. So many of the other teachers at my school are paying 15-20k for one bedroom apartments in the city, I can't imagine doing that, and it has nothing to do with cost"

I agree with you Tommy. I've lived in both houses and apartments. Both have their plus and minus points but the rented house wins it for me.

Summarizing his standard of living here compared to life back in the UK, Tommy also adds "In terms of my career, working here is actually more stable and much easier than trying to work my way up the very congested teaching ladder back home too. Considering I'm still in my twenties that is both extremely exciting and very depressing! Will this feeling of contentment last forever or will the reality of home come calling?"

Thank you Tommy for all the effort you put into that and for some very interesting answers.


We would love to get your cost of living surveys and you can do so by filling in the on-line form. Tell us about your lifestyle!

Many teachers unfortunately fill in the form and just provide a list of figures and no back story. It's those glimpses into a teacher's lifestyle that make these surveys interesting and enjoyable. Many thanks for your contributions.


John

Working in Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 22,000 baht

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work for a government school in Songkhla and my basic salary is 20,000 baht a month. I make an extra 2,000 with a little additional overtime teaching the kids.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Approximately 10,000

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

2,500 baht a month for a studio apartment.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I ride a bike that my landlady's son generously allowed me to use. However, I usually go to Hat Yai every weekend and transport costs me around 150 baht /week

b) Utility bills

500 baht a month for electric bill. Air-conditioning is my luxury every time I'm in my apartment.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I usually spend around 4,000 to 6,000 baht a month for my food allowance. The owner of the school canteen provides me lunch (she's very kind). I usually spend around 20-30 baht for breakfast and 50 baht for dinner, then I go all the way during the weekends

d) Nightlife and drinking

Zero. I'm not really a nightlife person (but I'm thinking of going out so I could "meet" other people *wink*)

e) Books, computers

I bought myself a new phone but that's really it.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I'd say much better compared to back in the Philippines. My cost of living is less expensive. The community I am with, my local co-teachers, my neighbors, landlady, parents, are all very kind, supportive and caring. Some mornings, I will wake up with breakfast hanging on my doorknob. Colleagues always asking if I am okay and happy. Its awesome and I love it.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Food. It's ridiculously cheap.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In my area, 20-25,000 would be comfortable and still have enough to save (for a single domesticated guy like me).

Phil's analysis and comment

Hold on there John. 22,000 baht a month for salary. Let's take away 600 baht a month for transportation, 5,000 baht for food and 3,000 for your rent and utility bills. And you still manage to save 10,000 baht of what's left! That's pretty amazing but if my figures are correct, you've got little over 100 baht a day left in your pocket to pay your phone bill, buy clothes, do laundry, etc, etc. That sounds tough to me. 

John, if you have the qualifications and experience, I wonder if you could find a teaching position that pays more than this? It's a teachers'market out there at the moment and although in most cases Filipino teachers are paid less than native speakers, the salaries are creeping up a bit for 'non-natives'. I'm sure your school wouldn't want to lose you but sometimes you have to look after number one. 


Trebek

Working in Sakon Nakhon

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht a month

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

My salary from the university is 20,000 but I get a housing allowance of 8,000 and I make another 2,000 from extra work.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

4,000 baht

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 4,500 baht a month for a hotel room with air-conditioning.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I have my own motorcycle and gas, repairs etc probably average out at about 2,500 baht a month.

b) Utility bills

Bills are included in the 4,500 baht hotel room rental.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Don't really know but not that much.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I mainly drink with the locals. 4,000 baht a month.

e) Books, computers

1,000 baht

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I love the countryside. I don't require falang company all that much so I avoid the expat bars. I enjoy hanging out with Thais - and no I cannot speak much of the language.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Small street restaurants, bike rental, accommodation and bus fares to other nearby cities.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I could do it on 15,000 baht a month if I got rid of the bike, lived in a cheaper place, partied less, stopped spending 200 baht per week on pizza, no more coffee shops. I could easily live on 15,000 in fact. Issan is a bargain.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is one of the best examples we've had in our cost of living section of 'going native'. A 30,000 baht salary, nights out with the locals, a small hotel room, a motorcycle and probably a relatively low food budget.

Trebek could survive on 15,000 baht a month but the question is would you want to? That sort of lifestyle is just not sustainable over a long period of time. Even 30,000 baht a month - double his 'survival wage' - only affords him a modest living. 

However, Trebek clearly enjoys being out in the countryside and mixing with the locals over a few beers. I guess you enjoy it while it lasts.

 


James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 70,000 - 80,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a private school in Bangkok and my salary after tax is 43,000. I can add another 27 - 38,000 baht a month from teaching private students about 7 hours a week.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

20,000

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I pay 14,000 baht a month for a one-bedroom condo.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

3,000 baht

b) Utility bills

Because I have a wife and baby at home all day, the air-con is constantly running so the bill is about 3,000 a month.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

At least 18,000 Baht. I have to add I've never believed the food bills people put up on these surveys. Are they really keeping track? By my logic even if you only eat street food you would spend 200 Baht per day (6k month at least and that's not even including a Cornetto from 7-11) and then I see people putting 3,000 a month. What are (or aren't) they eating?? Anyway, Saturday I buy 600 baht sushi and 2 bottles of "wine" from Tops (my weekly "treat") so that's my big dining expense.

d) Nightlife and drinking

At 7pm the baby has a bath, I do the dishes then go for a swim. After this I'll watch a few YouTube videos then bed.

e) Books, computers

Nothing

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's a good life but I don't feel fully relaxed yet. That's why I used a lot of savings to study for a Master's degree. Looking to the future and all.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Chinese made badminton rackets: 94 Baht for two and made from metal. I couldn't believe it. Was the best 37 minutes spent playing badminton ever.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

I'd say 50,000 a month. And can we put a ban on "living like a Thai" being the lowest bar. What does that even mean? The Thais around where I live drive Mercs. I bet they look at me and think, "I'm glad I don't have to live like a farang"

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you James, you made me laugh there.

But seriously, with a wife and baby at home, James is an example of a teacher who really depends on the income from private students rather than seeing them as just a bit of extra pocket money. And 27,000 baht a month plus from out of hours tuition is not to be sniffed at. By my reckoning, James is probably charging in the region of 1,000 baht an hour for his services (possibly even more).

That brings me to a very common question from teachers looking to go down the private teaching route - 'how much should I charge?' Many teachers get uncomfortable with setting an hourly price but I believe your free time is the most precious commodity of all. When I first started teaching private students at home, I was charging 400-500 baht an hour for a one-to-one lesson but quickly realised that I could make at least double that for groups of two or three - and very often it's far easier to teach a small group than just one student. The overheads are the same save for maybe a bit of extra photocopying. 


We would love to get your cost of living surveys and you can do so by filling in the on-line form. Tell us about your lifestyle!

Many teachers unfortunately fill in the form and just provide a list of figures and no back story. It's those glimpses into a teacher's lifestyle that make these surveys interesting and enjoyable. Many thanks for your contributions.

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