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. However, 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 August 28th, 2015

36 Baht to one US Dollar
55 Baht to one Pound Sterling
40 Baht to one Euro
26 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.77 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Alan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75-85,000 baht a month

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

Monthly Earnings 75,500 baht after tax, if there’s some OT going I can add in another 10,000. I’m contracted to work 37.5 hours a week. This works out at 21 hours of teaching plus 3 hours of cover or placement testing, the rest is planning time, admin and personal development. We also have full health insurance which over the last year saved us in excess of 200,000 for me and my wife, this is a total godsend.

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

I participate in my employers provident fund, which automatically saves 9% of my gross salary and is matched by my employer. So that’s 14,000 a month. The provident fund reduces your income tax, so I pay about 1000 baht less a month in income tax. I usually try to save about 20,000 on top of that.

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

14,500 for a 100 sqm older two-bedroom apartment. It doesn’t have a pool or a gym, but the owner is excellent and the neighbours all say hello to each other and stop to chat.

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

a) Transportation

About 3,000 - depends how many times we have to visit the mother-in-law. We take the BTS/MRT/buses when it makes sense, otherwise it’s a taxi.

b) Utility bills

Internet is free at our condo. We like our air-con at night so that puts our leccy up to about 2000 and I like to have a bath or two so, water is another 250.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 16,000 in total, we like to eat out and we shop at Tops as it has a good range of fresh vegetables and we can get most things we want in one stop.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Neither of us drink, so we spend our money on restaurants and holidays.

e) Books, computers

Books about 1000 a month, I pick up an occasional new title, but most of my purchases are second hand from Dasa. I’m not a big techno geek, I bought a cheap PC a few years ago, all I need it for is email, word processing and the internet, so why pay big bucks?

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

Comfortable. We save what we can and we enjoy our lives here. Going to the islands a couple of times a year, is something we couldn’t imagine doing from the UK.

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

Taxis, hotel buffet lunches and massages.

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

I think this depends on who you are, how old you are and your financial security. My early 20-something self would be happy as Larry getting by on 25-30k, eating street food, drinking in cheap bars and living in a 6,000 baht shoebox. My now 40-something self wouldn’t want to do it for less than I currently earn. This provides me with a comfortable life and allows me to save for the child that’s on the way, buying a car, trips back to the UK, pension etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

Alan's a teacher who earns very decent money but lives well within his means. He's obviously with one of the 'better' employers as well and enjoys the benefits of a nice savings scheme. The most interesting part of the survey for me - and something I completely agree with - is how your mindset can change as you get older. You hit your thirties or perhaps your forties and find you don't want to go the cheap accommodation and the cheap food routes anymore. Perhaps you feel that at a more mature age, you deserve something better.   


Isaiah

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 67.000 baht after tax.

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

All of it. At my school, I'm there 50 hours a week for 53K. I also tutor a group of 9 nannies and their manager for 3.5 hours on one of my days off for 4,200 a session.

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

This is my first month making this much and I have had a lot of big expenses, but I estimate that I should be able to save about 23K a month easily.

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

I stay in a modern 50 square meter, one bedroom condo with my girlfriend. I pay the rent, which is 13K a month. Good security, fitness, pool, washing machine in room, kitchen, etc.

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

a) Transportation

About 3,000. BTS and MRT to and from work every day, and then taxis on the weekend.

b) Utility bills

Electricity: 1,400 a month. Insulation is not great, so the air gets left on all night at 22-24 degrees, but we don't use it during the day since we don't need it or are not home. Water: 260 a month. We do laundry almost every day or two. Internet: 600 a month. Cable TV: I think 140 / month. AIS 3G plan for phone: 440 / month. Total is about 2,840.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to budget myself about 8,000 a month for both of us but that will probably increase now I’m making more money. I usually eat Thai food or bagels for breakfast, big homemade sandwiches or Thai food for lunch and Thai food in the evening. On weekends, we might go out to a restaurant and spend between 250-600 baht. I also eat about 1,000 baht worth of chocolate and other foreign foods a month (included in the 8,000)

d) Nightlife and drinking

Traditionally I have drunk 2-3 big cans of Cheers beer pretty much every night, but recently I have been exercising more and only drinking 2 cans maybe 3 times a week. I don't go out and my girlfriend doesn't drink, so it comes out to 1,500 to 3,000 a month usually.

e) Books, computers

0-1,000 on books. Nothing on computers.

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

With my new job on weekends, my standard of living is great. I'm finally able to eat whatever I want, not constantly eat reduced price food, treat my girlfriend to nicer things, and save a significant amount of money.

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

Vegetables. They are super fricking cheap if you don't buy them at a foreign grocery store. I don't understand why Thai people don't eat more of them given how cheap they are.

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

Basic survival I would say 23k, but surviving with a shred of dignity would be 28-30k. 40K is pretty okay for a person with no debt or dependents, but 50k is the minimum I would ever settle for.

Phil's analysis and comment

You heard it here first - "50K is the minimum I would settle for in Bangkok" And I think Isaiah is right. I used to think that 40K was the amount to aim for but as prices in Bangkok increase at an astounding rate, I'm leaning towards 50K as well - especially if you want to live in a 13K condo and put 23K a month away for a rainy day.

I guess a lot of people reading this will say there's no need to spend that much on an apartment, etc - and that's a fair point. But Isaiah works hard. He does a 50-hour week at school and then a few more hours of private tutoring on one of his days off. He deserves to come home to a nice place in the evening.


Kenneth

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht

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

I earn exactly 30,000 baht a month. Not a baht more and not a baht less.

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

None. If I've got 2-3,000 baht left over at the end of a month, then I live better the following month.

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

I've got a studio apartment about 10 minutes walk from BTS Onnud. I pay 6,000 baht a month. When I came to teach here almost a year ago, 6,000 baht was the absolute maximum I wanted to spend on rent. This was the best place I could find in that price range and trust me, I looked at an awful lot of rooms.

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

a) Transportation

I use the sky-train twice a day and I'll take the odd taxi at weekends if I'm really in a hurry to get somewhere. Probably about 1,500 a month I guess.

b) Utility bills

I've got air-conditioning at the apartment but I rarely use it. I simply couldn't afford to have a utility bill of more than 2,000 baht on top of the 6,000 baht rent. During the cooler season, I find the room is cool enough with the balcony doors open and during the hot season, I'll either sit in my boxer shorts and suffer or treat myself to an hour of two of A/C.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to limit myself to 200 baht a day on food (even less if I can) On Monday to Friday I manage that quite easily (but eat only Thai street-food or grab something from the market) I find that by having a good breakfast (toast, eggs and cereal) I can keep lunch and dinner light. I do like a fast food splurge at the weekend though and that just knocks your budget for six.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I do love my Friday and Saturday night out and I can easily spend 1,000 baht in a night. Bloody hell - that's 8,000 baht a month on entertainment. And they're only normal beer bars as well. There are no ladies involved. Honestly.

e) Books, computers

Nothing.

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

Surviving in Bangkok on 30,000 baht a month is not easy. Every one hundred baht note is precious. I could dip into my savings if I wanted but why should I? I came here to live on 30K baht a month and that's exactly what I'm going to do. Probably for another year at least.

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

Food is a real bargain - especially if you know which markets and food-stalls to go to and become a regular customer.

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

I haven't got an answer to this question because I don't think there's a limit on how much you can spend in a big city. Big cities all over the world have a horrible knack of sucking up money. The problem with 'surviving' on X baht a month is that an 'unexpected bill' can cripple you. I needed some emergency dentistry work done last month and that cost me almost 20,000 baht. I had to dip into my savings for that. I had no choice!

Phil's analysis and comment

Having to raid the piggy bank to pay a dentist's bill. Eating a large breakfast so he can skip on the day's other two meals. Sitting and sweltering on the sofa because he can't afford the electricity bill. Is this a prime example of what it's like to try and survive in Bangers on 30 large a month? OK, I could suggest that Ken cuts down on the entertainment - but going out on the lash twice a week is not excessive and neither is 1,000 baht a night. Wouldn't that be about 2 beers and some bar snacks in a nice Sukhumwit jazz club these days? 

Why don't you tell us how much you spend each month and what lifestyle you lead on a teacher's salary in Thailand. Just e-mail me the answers to the questions above. We would love to hear from you.


Darren

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 59,000

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

59,000 baht a month total. Salary of 46,000 baht per month, plus additional 13,000 per month for after school private tutoring 2 days a week (3:30-5:00).

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

I save on average 30,000 baht a month.

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

I stay in a studio apartment with my Thai girlfriend, 300 meters from BTS station. Rent is 7500 per month, and my girlfriend pays half of all bills. My cost : 3,750 / month.

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

a) Transportation

1000 per month on BTS, and maybe 2000 per month on taxis. I take a combo of taxi and BTS to work everyday. Add in a few trips on weekends for shopping or going out, I would estimate about 3000 baht a month.

b) Utility bills

Electricity: 800 / month. Water: 100 / month. Internet: 600 / month. These are split with my girlfriend. My share would be about 750 per month. Also I spend about 500 - 700 per month on cellphone. Total cost utilities : 1,500 / month.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My lunch is provided by the school and weeknight meals are picked up by my girlfriend on her way home. I buy meals when we go out on weekends usually (or if the bill comes to more than 300-400 baht if we go out during the week). We go to the supermarket twice a month and my girlfriend will go to the fresh market once a week. About 10,000 baht a month total, of which I pay the lion’s share.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I spend most of my time at home or at friends' homes. I do have an occasional (5 - 10 drinks a month) beer or drink, usually with dinner. Let's say 1,000 - 2,000 / month.

e) Books, computers

I just bought a new laptop at fortune town for about 20,000 baht. I have a kindle, but mostly read free books available through Amazon. Budget about 500 / month for replacement costs.

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

One word – Simple! I live on about 25,000 baht a month, and save the rest (about 30,000 per month). I do have a safety net of income from home, but since I have been teaching, I have not touched that money except to invest it in the stock market via online.

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

I think transportation is a bargain here and also the fresh fruit / vegetables and meats at market. Rents are starting to creep up in Bangkok, especially in expat areas. My advice is to get out and walk around the sois close to where you want to live. The newer developments may rent a studio for 20,000 baht, but there will be a building close by that is about 10-12 years old offering the same thing for half the price.

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

In Bangkok, you should be able to find employment with a school paying over 40,000 no problem. I think the minimum one needs to survive is 20-25,000 for a simple life, and 35,000 plus if you go out often and enjoy the night life. If you do not have obligations at home (student loans, etc) one should be able to save enough for a trip home every year (think 5,000 baht a month) or more.

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice one! Here's something else that Darren said about his cost of living and lifestyle in Bangkok - and it struck a chord with me.

"I have had the cars, house, boat, toys, electronics, etc. when I lived in the USA. I used to spend all my time working to pay for my toys and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Now I work to pay for experiences. I enjoy the walk to the market and temples, the 15-20 baht train ride to Ayutthaya and finding a new restaurant near my condo. Since I have shifted my priorities, I have never been happier"

I think a lot more of us are starting to adopt this mindset in today's complex world aren't we? I know that I am and I applaud Darren for his attitude. It's funny but the more technology we surround ourselves with, it seems like the less time we have. We spend too much time trying to be everything to everyone instead of looking after number one first. There's nothing wrong at all with trying to keep life simple.

What about the other aspects of this survey I liked? Well, it's always nice to have a Thai partner who pays his or her way (and that's clearly the case here) and I also love that Darren adds a nice 13,000 baht to his slary for some after school tutoring but is still done and dusted by 5 pm and has the rest of the evening to enjoy. 

Good survey! I don't know Darren's age but this sounds like a wiser, older head. 


Karl

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 52,500 baht

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

I count myself as being lucky as I earn 48,000 baht per month from my government school job. I know that this is above average for a government school. I also earn 4,500 per month from teaching students at a retired teacher's home.

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

15,000-17,500 baht. I'm in saving mode at the moment and have just opened a second bank account. As soon as I've been paid I transfer the amount that I want to save into my savings account. The rest left is my budget for the month. If I'm running low on funds towards the end of the month I will just have a quiet weekend, although that hasn't happened yet.

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

I pay 11,000 per month for a two bedroom townhouse that's a two minute walk from the MRT and a fifteen minute walk from school.

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

a) Transportation

10 baht per working day for a motorcycle taxi because I'm too lazy to walk in the morning. Then between 1,500-2,000 on taxis and MRT/BTS.

b) Utility bills

Water is 100 baht. Electricity: My house is actually fairly cool so I don't use too much air con. My last three bills have been 600 baht. I suspect that it will be about 800 baht this month as I have been using the air con more. Internet: 750 for high speed fiber optics with True. Phone line: 150. Mobile phone: 250. Total: 1850-2050.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love Thai food and don't really miss western food much. I eat a lot of cheap and delicious street food. The food at school is even cheaper and almost as good. I must add that I have a dog. He's a one year old shih tzu and doesn't cost too much to feed each month. Just a side-note: I go home during my break to see him and I spend plenty of time with him in the evenings and on weekends (in case anyone was wondering).

d) Nightlife and drinking

fI go out to meet friends or go on dates 1-3 times each week. I enjoy a drink and one of my best friends owns a bar and a guesthouse so I hang out there quite a lot. When I go drinking with friends I spend anything between 700-1500 baht but avoid the more expensive areas. A big Leo at my friend's bar is 120 baht, big SangSom 560 baht, plus it's fine to take a bottle of whisky in and pay 100 baht corkage fee. Most customers are Thai and I'm friends or matey with a lot of them. My nights out are fun and cheap

e) Books, computers

Zero. Although I might buy a new laptop sometime within the next 6 months.

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

Fun, easy and stress free (for the most-part). I know I'm supposed to summarize it in one sentence, but everyone else seems to add more, so I will too. I don't live a luxurious lifestyle and I'm not materialistic. I'm a man of simple pleasures. I like eating delicious food, hanging out and partying with friends, staying home with my dog and watching movies, and dating girls. All of these I do here on a regular basis and I'm very happy with my life in Bangkok. Plus, I'm also saving a little money each month.

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

Food and taxis. Thai food is obviously in its abundance here and it is super cheap and extremely delicious. Street food, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and food courts are very cheap. A taxi ride to my friends bar from my house (14km) costs 120-130 baht. Oh, cinemas are also super cheap compared to back home in the UK.

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

I could survive on 30,000 baht per month. I'd have less fun and wouldn't live in a nice townhouse and I definitely wouldn't be able to save any money. I simply do not want to live like that. Life is for living. Not just surviving.

Phil's analysis and comment

Karl seems blissfully happy as a teacher in Bangkok doesn't he? If you're someone living the single life and only want for 'simple pleasures' then you're going to do just fine on 50,000+ a month. I love that system of having a second bank account as well purely as a way to encourage him to save money each month. Well done Karl. Well done indeed.

For some extra info, here is the breakdown of Karl's food bill on a typical working day (there wasn't enough room to put it in the field above)

Breakfast: Rice with two toppings and a fried egg - 30 baht.

Fruit: 30 baht.

Lunch: Big bowl of noodle soup - 30 baht.

Ice cream: 10-15 baht.

Dinner: An Isaan meal consisting of larb or grilled chicken or sausages with som tam and two portions of sticky rice - 85-100 baht.

Grilled chicken, pork or liver for my dog to go with his dog food: 20 baht.

Total: 205-225 baht

Fancy doing a cost of living survey? E-mail your answers to the above questions to me (philip@ajarn.com)

Page 1 of 20 (showing 5 entries out of 96 total)

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