Every new arrival wants to know “can I survive or live well in Bangkok or rural Thailand on 30,000 baht a month”? or perhaps 40,000 or even 50,000? It’s always a difficult question to answer because each person has different needs, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the lifestyles and spending habits of some teachers currently living and working in Thailand. We are concerned with what they earn, but more so about what they spend money on and what it costs each of them to enjoy a certain kind of lifestyle. After each case study, I’ve added comments of my own.

Approximate conversion rates as of January 2014
33 baht to one US Dollar
55 baht to one Pound Sterling
But check an on-line exchange rate for the most accurate figures.

Andy

posted on 30th January 2014

Working in: Udon Thani

Monthly Earnings: 70,000 baht

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

A. My wife and I have our own private tutor school. After outgoings we end up on average having a profit margin of around 60,000 baht per month. We also undertake some private tuition and corporate work which levels out at about 10,000 baht per month. I rarely have to teach more than 20 hours per week. We are also pursuing another business venture which could double this amount.

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

A. We usually save around 25,000 baht per month in Thailand. We also have two properties in the UK that we rent out and these give us an income of another 55,000 baht which we do not touch so this could also be counted as savings.

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

A. we pay 7,000 a month for a spacious three-bedroom fully furnished property. We have everything we need and are only 5 kilometers from the city centre and all its amenities.

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

a) TransportationI initially put down 200,000 baht on a car from the profit gained from selling my car in the UK. We now just have to pay 5,000 baht a month over the next four years. On average we spend around 700 baht on fuel per month.
b) Utility billsAbout 1,800 baht. We use air conditioning most evenings and it is left on overnight. We have a water pump but our water bills never exceed 250 baht.
c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shoppingWe spend on average around 10,000 baht per month on shopping at Tesco Lotus and my wife and daughter probably spend another 5,000 baht per month on eating out (Thai food). We eat out on average around 4/5 times a month costing us around 5,000 baht for the three of us.
d) Nightlife and drinkingWe rarely go out drinking now but when we do we spend around 3,000 baht. I think on average we probably go out once every three months. However, we have had two beach holidays in the last six months. We spent Christmas at Pattaya and in October we took my daughter and her friend to Phuket. When we holiday there is no expense spared. We go all out for a good time!
e) Books, computersI use to spend a fortune on books in the UK but have a kindle over here in Thailand. With my internet at both our business and home I would say we spend around 1,500 baht per month including the odd kindle purchase.

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

A. We work exceptionally hard and have a very good standard of living. We can choose when we want to eat out and every time our business is closed we can always afford to have a break at the beach. We make sure we have at least two to three massages every week. I always have at least two days a month at the pool side at one of the big hotels in Udon.

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

A. I think the cost of living is the biggest bargain here. My wife takes 30,000 baht per month which covers the shopping, hers and my daughter’s eating out, and our utility bills. This leaves her with some spare money in her pocket to spend on what she wants. I then pay the rent and the car payment via direct debit. With the other little extras you could say we spend around 45,000 baht per month on our living costs. I also pay 20,000 baht a year for health care and regular dental check-ups for the family.

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

A. A single person can have a very good standard of living on 30,000 baht per month in Udon Thani. However, in my opinion a family of three needs an income of around 45,000 to 50,000 baht per month. Most people I know who are teachers can easily make this money. Government teaching jobs pay 30,000 baht per month and most teachers supplement this income by earning another 15,000 baht per month by working two or three evenings and weekends at one of the many language institutes in Udon Thani.

Phil's analysis and comment

Udon Thani sounds like the place to be doesn't it? What time does the next bus leave? Andy's not in the millionaire bracket but he seems to leads a great lifestyle. When you combine a 70,000 baht salary and a 55,000 baht income from a couple of properties in the UK, that is serious coin for a family of three living in Udon Thani. Andy lives within his means but he eats well, holidays whenever he wants, runs a car, has his medical insurance sorted out, etc, etc. And who begrudges him any of that when we're talking about a guy who clearly works very hard. Well done Andy!

David

posted on 26th January 2014

Working in: Bangkok

Monthly Earnings: 35,000

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

A. I live in Bangkok and work through an agency. Right now, I teach English in a pretty good government high school. My net income is 33,000 and I get around 2,700 (300b an hour) from teaching private students on weekends.

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

A. I spend a lot of money on food. I like to buy new clothes and gadgets as well. I have a scooter (bought with an installment plan, 7,000 baht down and 3,000 monthly for a year since last December) which I always use to get to my school. I can save up around 5,000b a month

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

A. I live near Victory Monument (heart of the city) and I’m renting an apartment for 5,500 a month. I have a room, a bathroom and everything I need: A/C, TV, fridge, hot shower, own internet connection (590b a month).

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

a) TransportationAs I mentioned, I ride my scooter and I have to fill the tank 2-3 times a week (100 baht per tank).
b) Utility billsAbout 800 baht a month for both water and electricity. I use the A/C as much as I want and the 3BB Internet connection costs 590b a month (got my own router).
c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shoppingI spend a lot of money on food. I like to go to The Pizza Company, Sukishi, Toast2U and so on. I used to have a meal from 7-11 everyday as well, but I also like to get something delicious from the street vendors. So around 10.000 baht a month. I don’t have a kitchen but would love to have one in the future to save money.
d) Nightlife and drinkingNothing, but I sometimes go to the cinema.
e) Books, computersI have a 4-month old notebook and a 6-month old phablet (bought them here), not so expensive stuff, but I can say that I think I’m able to buy new gadgets every year.

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

A. My standard of living is much better and more comfortable than it would be in my home country. My life is totally stress-free.

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

A. Food, gas, gadgets, accommodation. Those smoothies…

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

A. At least 20,000 baht a month but that would be a bit difficult. You would have to live a Thai lifestyle with no luxuries and little or nothing in the way of savings each month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Anyone who follows these cost of living surveys will probably predict what I'm going to say first - 35K in my opinion just isn't enough for a foreign teacher to live on in Bangkok. However, many teachers do and David above seems to be very happy with his lifestyle so who am I to argue? He eats well, treats himself to a few gadgets and has his own transportation. But at the end of the day, he's only stashing away 60K a year for a rainy day. A trip home to see the family or some unforeseen expense will account for those savings in the blink of an eye and the flap of a withdrawal slip.


If I were David, I would be looking to maximize my earning potential a bit more. 300 baht an hour for private students is mighty low for starters. If he's teaching those privates at his home or their home, he's seriously undercharging. He should be asking for at least 500 baht an hour and certainly more if it's a small group of 2-3 students let's say.


If he's happy earning 300 baht an hour, why not look to teach in the evenings during the week and leave his weekends free. Life is much more enjoyable - in any job - when you have two days off a week instead of one! 

Craig

posted on 20th January 2014

Working in: Surat Thani

Monthly Earnings: 30,000 baht

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

A. I've had lots of expenditures recently, and this school term has been crap. For the first two months of term I was only earning 10,000 baht a month, made it up to about 15,000 depending on the reliability of the students in my private classes. Thankfully I now have a full timetable again, so I can now earn up to about 30,000 depending on private classes. I do a deal with local schools - 40hrs a month for 10,000 baht. I also unfortunately have an agent that hooks me up with work from time to time.

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

A. Last term I was able to save all my salary and just use the money from private classes to live on (the good old times). Sadly for the rest of this term I would say nothing, and all of February's salary will be used up when I go to Bangkok to study in the holidays. Surviving in Bangkok with 25,000 for a month or so should be interesting, maybe I'll stay at a nearby temple to lower costs, lol.

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

A. I don't pay anything, I stay with a very nice Thai family that have taken me in and accepted me as one of their own. My Thai mum is on the local government, and dad is a retired soldier. The house is lovely and is located in a quiet village surrounded by rubber and palm plantations as far as the eye can see. My room has everything I need; big comfy bed, wardrobe, fan and the bathroom has a hot shower fitted (heaven).

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

a) TransportationI get about a bit on my scooter popping in town to see the Mrs, so I'd say about 5-800 baht in petrol a month.
b) Utility billsNo utility bills but university fees are 3,000 baht a month.
c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shoppingAt school its free and if I'm at home it costs me nothing, mum insists on feeding me plenty of lean pork in curry with veg, etc (heaven again). But it does cost me when I'm out with the Mrs, so I'll say anything from 1-3000 baht a month depending on funds.
d) Nightlife and drinkingI did one of these cost of living surveys before when I lived in Donsak which was an hour and half ferry ride away from Koh Samui, I'm glad to say I no longer blow thousands of baht pissing it up on Koh Samui. Life is a lot quieter now and I just focus on training and uni work. But I'll give myself a drinking budget just in case - 1,000 baht sounds fine.
e) Books, computersEasier to download books now, but recently had to replace my laptop which set me back 35,000.

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

A. Unpredictable, but otherwise one of the most comfortable hobos in Thailand.

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

A. Live here long enough and very little seems a bargain.

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

A. 30-35,000 is comfortable for me away from the bright lights.. But I don't think money should be the only factor here, I can survive with very little if I have to, this is due to the support from a really great group of Thai friends/family and also a great supporting family back home. Narcissistic traits may also come in handy when being away from your family for years at a time.

Phil's analysis and comment

Craig describes himself as 'one of the most comfortable hobos in Thailand'. Hmmm, I don't think this kind of existence is for everyone and it certainly isn't one for me. At the back of my mind would always be the nagging question - "well, how long can I reasonably be expected to do this for?" I think Craig's biggest problem is the lack of stability in his teaching jobs. I don't know what the job market is like down in Surat Thani but there must be something available which would guarantee him a more reliable income. It's tough surviving as a teacher anywhere if one month you're earning 30K and then you find youself down to 10-15K the next. Living in rural Thailand might be cheaper than living in a big city but 10-15K ain't going to cut it anywhere. No sir!


They sound like a very nice Thai family who take care of him though.

Jackie

posted on 17th January 2014

Working in: Bangkok

Monthly Earnings: 50,000

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

A. I teach at a hotel in Bangkok. The salary is 50,000 Baht per month. The pay slip shows more than that because the hotel pays and manages the taxes for me. My Thai partner (not a teacher) brings in about 22,000 per month. Many of our expenses are shared.

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

A. Not much, as we are planning for our wedding and I’m paying back my US student loans (which are about 18,000 Baht per month). 2,500 Baht is put into my provident fund directly from my paycheck, and then we put aside another 3-5,000 Baht per month.

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

A. We live in a slightly older one bedroom condo about 15-20 minute walk from the BTS. It takes a motorcycle taxi less than 5 minutes to get to the BTS. It has a gym and swimming pool and the membership for this is included in our rent. Our rent is 10,000 Baht per month.

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

a) TransportationFor me, I take a motorcycle taxi and the BTS to work every day. That adds up to about 1,500 Baht per month. My partner drives to work and he pays about 4,000 Baht per month for gas.We also have a car loan that we are paying on which is 7,600 Baht per month.
b) Utility billsAbout 1,000 for the electricity, 700 for the Internet, 100 for the water, 450 each for our phones.
c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shoppingI usually take care of the food shopping for both of us and buy a lot of fruits and vegetables from a local market. During the week my lunches are provided at work, and I usually pick up market food on my way home from work for dinner. We eat in Western style restaurants about 2-3 times a month. All together about 6-8,000 Baht per month.
d) Nightlife and drinkingWe usually go out every other weekend and spend 1,000 Baht per night for the both of us. I always like to have a bottle of wine in the fridge, so that’s another 1,000 or so per month. So, I would say about 3-4,000 Baht.
e) Books, computersBooks, computers : Internet is already factored into utilities.

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

A. Right now it is manageable, but it will be a whole lot better once these loans are paid off.

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

A. Taxi fares, massages, and the price of pineapple.

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

A. If you do not have burdensome student loans, or any other kind of debt that you are paying back, I would say 35,000 Baht to get by and still have some occasional luxuries.

Phil's analysis and comment

I would never ever advise a person to come and teach in Thailand if they have student loans to pay off. I would probably tell someone to look for work in the better paying Asian countries such as Korea or Taiwan. 18,000 baht a month - the loan amount that Jackie is paying off - is a huge chunk of your salary disappearing every four weeks. However, if anyone can make things work, then I think Jackie can, because she sounds extremely sensible. She goes out on the weekend just a couple of times a month and she manages to keep those utility bills low. There is also 72,000 baht a month coming into the household. Take off Jackie's 18,000 baht loan and you're still left with 54,000 baht a month. A couple can manage on that amount of cash for a period of time but life will certainly get a whole lot better once that loan is paid off!


Jackie only spends about 8,000 baht a month on food and restaurant eating for two people. She achieves this relatively low figure by doing a lot of her shopping at the local market. This piqued my interest because I've become a regular face at my local market as well. I got sick and tired of paying the supermarket's inflated prices for fruit and vegetables and thought "enough! I'm going to go local". Many of the market sellers now know me by sight and we have a bit of banter and I genuinely enjoy the whole market experience. And you do save an awful lot of money compared to shopping at the supermarket.   

Mike

posted on 15th January 2014

Working in: Bangkok

Monthly Earnings: 54,000

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

A. I work for a language school in Bangkok. My salary is 50,000 a month and I make about 4,000 a month from a private student who I see weekly.

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

A. Recently I've been saving almost nothing because I have had some major expenses come up, but realistically I could save 15-20 K if I tried.

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

A. I pay 6,800 a month for a nice, safe, and clean apartment in the Huay Kwang area. My condo is 42 square meters and has everything I need, although no fitness or swimming pool.

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

a) TransportationI take a motorbike to the MRT / BTS to work and back every day and that all comes to about 3,000 baht a month
b) Utility billsAbout 1,300 baht. I don't use air conditioning because the electricity at my place is expensive. Most of the cost is from my hotplate and TV.
c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shoppingI only eat out at an Isaan Restaurant or a Kao Dtom restaurant in my neighborhood on weekends. About 8,000 a month.
d) Nightlife and drinkingUsually drink 1 or 2 big bottles of Thai beer every night. Maybe go to a bar occasionally and drink some 65 Baht beers. All in all about 3,000 baht a month.
e) Books, computersNothing.

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

A. I work a lot, but am able to support two people on that salary (including my girlfriend's college tuition), while still saving a decent amount of money and living in a spacious apartment in a pleasant area.

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

A. Food. I give my girlfriend 6,000 B per month and she buys and cooks all the food for us

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

A. If you are living in Bangkok on your own, then 35-40K should have you pretty comfortable as long as you spend reasonably. Like I said, on about 50K a month I completely support two people and am still able to have a good time and also save a decent amount of money each month.

Phil's analysis and comment

54,000 baht a month is a decent enough salary in Bangkok. Mike lives pretty much how I would live if I was earning the same amount. I like the way he's managed to find a nice apartment for just 8,000 baht a month (so it's only costing about 15% of his monthly take home) Shame that he feels he can't afford to turn on the air-conditioning though. There are months of the year when I just couldn't live without the a/c. But I also remember living in an apartment building that charged through the nose for 'leccy' and must have made a small fortune out of the tenants. I used to turn on the a/c for a couple of hours in the evening if I wanted to give myself a special treat.

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