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 February 7th, 2016

36 Baht to one US Dollar
52 Baht to one Pound Sterling
40 Baht to one Euro
25 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.75 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Mae

Working in Phuket

Monthly Earnings 39,000 to 50,000 Baht

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

I am a teacher/training manager in a 5-star hotel in Phuket. I earn the minimum of 39,000 baht in the low season (+ service charge soaring up to 10,000 baht during the high season) I also have an average 4,000 baht extra income from private students.

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

30,000 baht goes straight into my savings account each month towards my future wedding.

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

I live in a studio-type condo and the rent is 5000 baht per month.

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

a) Transportation

None. The hotel provides free transportation for the staff. From the town to the hotel, everyday, back and forth. There are also two big shopping malls and a fresh food market just a few minutes walk from my condo.

b) Utility bills

Electricity is about 700 to 1000 baht, water 100 baht, and internet 800 baht.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

From zero to 2,000 baht. I get two free meals from our hotel’s canteen (breakfast and lunch). On top of my salary, I also have an officer’s check amounting to 8000 baht per month which I can spend at the hotel’s restaurant. This covers my evening and weekend meals. Sadly though, this cannot be converted to cash if I cannot fully utilize it in a month. I spend more on toiletries and cosmetics to be honest.

d) Nightlife and drinking

No nightlife, no drinking. Done with it. As I mentioned in my cost of living survey last 12 months ago, my money would go on healthy fruit shakes at the beach with a relaxing massage and a nice manicure or pedicure, and a trip to the movie theater.

e) Books, computers

Nothing. I have everything that I need.

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

I am living a great life, working at a beautiful place in Phuket. The hotel provides fantastic benefits – delicious food, free transport, free spas, uniform, trips to islands, free laundry, etc. I only work Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm (3-4 hours of teaching) and get weekends off. I have no lesson plans to prepare or grades to compute - just a monthly report to submit and that is so easy to do. I’m provided with all the materials to use in my training and I’m away from stressful, annoying, noisy students.

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

Food and clothes are cheap.

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

I really don’t know but I guess it depends on the lifestyle you want. I’ve lived on 18,000Baht/month and I can remember living comfortably and not just surviving. However, on an 18k income, you can’t really afford trips back home.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is a survey that will make a fair number of teachers green with envy. It's not just the fact that Mae earns a decent salary but also that so many of life's other essential expenses are taken care of by her employer. Mae has secured herself a remarkable deal here. 5-star hotel quality food twice a day - need I say more?

I'm pleasantly surprised at Mae's basic salary as well. Thailand's hotels, even the 5-star joints, have always been notorious tightwads when it comes to rewarding in-house teachers. 25K salaries are not uncommon.

As Mae mentioned, she's no stranger to our cost of living section and she first featured in January of last year. Back then she was earning 18K a month. What a difference a year can make!   

Mae also sent me this message with her survey.

Hi Phil! This is my second time doing your cost of living survey. I think it's nice to give you a little background about myself. And hope you remember me.  The first survey was last January 2015 when I was working in Sattahip. I worked there in a private school for 7months (Nov 2014 to May 2015) and moved to Phuket last June for a new job as a training manager in a 5 star hotel.

I'm a Filipina and same with the rest of the Filipinos out there, I experience the Thai discrimination when picking a good and skillful teacher.

I think I am just blessed to have found employers who appreciate the skills of a person, and picking employees not based on skin color. So here I am happy with my new job.

I just also hope that my survey will open the minds of many Filipinos. I would like to give them a message that teaching is not only limited at schools. There are other opportunities out there that offers a better pay (I know my pay is not that big compared to other farangs, albeit, better than other Filipinos).

All you have to do is be aggressively ambitious diligent to search for opportunities and to run after your goals, by no means a hopeless daydreamer. Sell yourselves well in a job interview and show them what you got.

By the way, I'm 39 years old, getting married to a longtime French boyfriend in France. I am not a teacher by education. I am a graduate of BS Biology, and Bachelor of Laws.

Thank you, Phil. Your website helped me find those jobs. More power to you!


Niall

Working in North-east Thailand

Monthly Earnings Up to 40,000 baht a month

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

35K a month, including end of year bonus for my current teaching post at a rural government school. This includes private health care. I also sometimes teach at my local village community hall at weekends for between 300-600 baht an hour.

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

I put aside 10-15,000 baht a month to pay off some UK bills.

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

Nothing. I live in a bungalow that we designed and built last year on my wife's property. We laid the foundations 7 years ago and it cost us £10k in materials for the build. I have a Thai brother-in-law in the trade.

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

a) Transportation

I bought a new car so pay petrol at 2,000 baht a month Commute is 50-minutes each way. The car costs me 6,000 baht a month.

b) Utility bills

Electric is about 800-1000 baht per month. Internet is 750 baht. As for water, we have our own well.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Probably 800-1,000 baht a week for house food from Macro/Tesco Lotus. We save a lot on rice and fresh produce from our own farm. Don't go out to eat because my wife is the best cook in town ;)

d) Nightlife and drinking

Don't drink much and don't dig the nightlife. About 500 baht in the odd month on a crate of Leo is about the extent of my nightlife and drinking.

e) Books, computers

Mostly kindle books and I have a very good PC I brought over from the UK. I read a lot so spend about 500 -1,000 baht a month on books

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

Rich in lifestyle, stress-free job, zero mortgage.

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

Has to be the food. Also the fuel prices have dropped considerably of late. I also enjoy some of the free transport Thailand has to offer. I would also say some of the clothing is pretty well-priced if you know what to look for.

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

I've only been in Thailand for six months and it appears 30,000 baht is the average for teaching. It really depends on the lifestyle you wish to lead. My wife and I are not very materialistic here. As a foreigner you have to be able to adapt and just go with the flow here in Thailand.

Phil's analysis and comment

Niall, I'm surprised that you spend up to a thousand baht a month on books. I thought you would have made your own board games out of bits of wood and played them by candlelight.

I'm pulling your leg Niall. I genuinely like what I read here. A bungalow built on your own land. Water drawn from the well. Fruit and veggies fresh from your own farm. There's something wonderfully uncomplicated and 'wholesome' about your lifestyle.

You sound like one of those guys who dropped out of the rat race to be 'close to the land'. There ain't nothing wrong with that! The idea even appeals to me more and more as I get older.

I don't know about 40,000 baht a month, it sounds like you could live on a lot less. What are you going to do with all that extra cash once the UK loans and the car are paid off? :) 


Rob

Working in Greater Bangkok

Monthly Earnings Up to 77,000 baht a month.

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

I earn 52K a month as a teacher (some of it paid as bonus 6 monthly), plus another 5k a month on average from private students. Also get health care, a free gym and sports hall on site. My girlfriend earns roughly the same as my salary. I have business side projects which bring in anywhere between 5k and 20k a month and are fun but could work out long term.

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

Not a lot with a baby. Maybe 10k a month. I have a house in the UK that is rented out and pays the mortgage off which I see as my pension. My girlfriend likes to save for us as a family.

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

I have a 4-bedroom house in a nice village with a pool for 18,000THB a month. Costs are shared with my girlfriend. We also have a maid to look after our baby and the house. She lives in and is paid 9,000B a month

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

a) Transportation

I have a car so I pay for gas and insurance (2,400B a month). My drive to work is about 20-minutes each way plus lots of other trips. The car costs me 9,000B a month to pay off over 4 years, after which I have an asset. I don’t go home to UK very much, maybe once every 5 years. My family come here.

b) Utility bills

Electric is about 800 – 1000B per month. I don’t like the AC. Water approx 250B Internet and TV another 900B

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I have no real idea. Probably 1,000B a week for house food from supermarkets which the maid cooks. Probably up to 2,000 baht some weeks. We eat out probably once or twice a week at 1,000B a go.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Go out probably once or twice a month to local pretty bars, cost is around 1,000B a time, 2,000 if a big night. Too old for clubbing, and I don’t like tourist areas or prices. Regular weekends away in Hua Hin, Rayong, Kanchanaburi, say once every 1- 2 months. That costs about 5,000B a time inc hotel, food and gas.

e) Books, computers

I seem to buy a computer once a year. If you buy cheap you get crap, and I do. 10,000B. I stream sport which costs about 250B a month. I will pick up books when I find them, but I’m busy with my projects and my baby.

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

I have a beautiful partner, a lovely child, a nice house with a maid and pool, a great job with no stress and fun side projects, eat great food and get flirted with all the time by beautiful women.

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

Fun is very cheap. Thais love fun. Nights out, football, massages and much more all great value. Rent & especially water. My house in the UK would probably cost 5 times as much. Tax too, 7% feels fair for the services provided, whereas in the UK tax felt like a rip off. Petrol and Gas are very cheap here as not taxed at 70% Cornettos, Coca Cola and some other Western staples are way below the same product in the West. Of course Thai food is amazing value to, but a Cornetto for 20B always amazes me. Coke 12B

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

I’ve never made less than 50k here and that has always given me a nice life. When single I could spend lots on fun, but if I was the only breadwinner it wouldn’t be enough for this lifestyle. I find you spend what you make by and large. I had a friend who lived in the sticks who lived a comfortable life on about 15k, - he couldn’t find ways to spend the rest.

Phil's analysis and comment

Rob also had this to say on the topic of 'how much money does one need to survive here?'

The common mistake is trying to live by Western standards, on Sukhumvit, paying city prices and tourist rates. If you cannot survive without Starbucks, Fishbowls and Western Food, then 30k isn't enough.
I find it insulting to the genuinely poor Thai people who are actually trying to survive and support a family in the village where they are from to use the word "survive". Westerners in Thailand don't know the meaning of the word. My maid sees her son 3 days a year for example. How does that rate on a survival index?

Fair point Rob. 

But to get back to Rob's actual survey, can I quote one of his answers?  - "I have a beautiful partner, a lovely child, a nice house with a maid and pool, a great job with no stress and fun side projects, eat great food and get flirted with all the time by beautiful women"

There's no arguing with that is there? When I read that Rob lives in an 18,000 baht house, has a live-in maid, drives a car and enjoys a regular night out and a trip to the seaside, I had to check several times to make sure I had typed in his correct monthly earnings.

It just goes to show how far the money can stretch once you give up on the nightlife :) Well done sir! 


Mark

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings Around 60,000 baht

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

I earn 40K a month as a primary school teacher. Plus another 13-14K a month from corporate gigs and 7-8,000 from private students (who thankfully cancel quite often)

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

Not much at the moment! Maybe 20,000 baht a month. Things will get better this year when the car is paid off. Right now gas prices are really low, so that's a big monthly saving for me.

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

I designed and built a large house in the country and borrowed some money from a Thai bank to do it. The mortgage is 9,800 baht a month.

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

a) Transportation

This is the big one - car payment, gas and insurance about 15,000 baht a month. Sounds like a lot, but I travel a lot for work. The commute to my school is 500 kilometres a week! My other jobs require trips to Bangkok (I live in Ratchaburi.)

b) Utility bills

Electric, internet, and others add up to about 5,000 a month. This figure also includes street lighting, pool maintenance, water and security.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Another big one, but entirely discretionary. About 5,000 a month. I have a nice kitchen and I cook a lot.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I never go out and I don't drink.

e) Books, computers

I'm a gadget nut and I love computers so that accounts for my 'fun stuff/hobby' spending. Difficult to say how much but probably 100,000 baht a year.

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

Perfect, I work at a reasonable pace and make a reasonable living. If I was in the UK/US I would have to work a lot harder and I would still never get what I have here in Thailand. I keep waiting for the dream to end and someone to tell me to wake up and sod off back to England. Life couldn't be better.

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

Property prices. Prostitutes... so I've been told.

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

It varies and this question is impossible to answer. Some people can live very happily on half what I make and others would struggle to pay their bills. I'm smack dab in the middle, I think. If you are looking to move to Thailand, you should aim to be making at least 40,000 baht a month within a year of being here. 50,000 baht within three years. When I lived in Bangkok I earned more money, but I hated every second of it.

Phil's analysis and comment

Although Mark has put down 60K as his monthly income, I guess it's probably closer to 50K in a lot of months when those private students or corporate gigs start cancelling (December is probably a prime example) But as I've said many times before, private students, and to a certain extent corporate contracts, are the icing on the cake. Never ever factor them in as 'guaranteed monthly income' but enjoy the extra disposal income in a month when it all comes together and no one cancels.

I always had a love/hate relationship with private students. I used to teach a teenage brother and sister every Sunday for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Oh man, they were just the dullest students you could imagine. I think I only agreed to accept the job because I got on well with their father.

However, on the very rare occasion they used to cancel, I would punch the air and literally dance a jig around the living room. I didn't like losing the income but not having to give up my Sunday afternoons to teach those two deadbeats was more than adequate compensation.

Going back to Mark's survey, hats off to him for making his money go a long way. He's built his own house in the country. He runs a car. And he clearly enjoys life. You can't say fairer than that.    


Trevor

Working in Lamphun

Monthly Earnings 28,000

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

28,000

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

Two to three thousand baht to cover unexpected bills.

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

I live in a house.

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

a) Transportation

1,000 baht

b) Utility bills

700 baht

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

15,000 baht

d) Nightlife and drinking

2,000 baht

e) Books, computers

Nothing

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

Comfortable

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

Utility costs, food and dining out

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

To have a reasonable standard of living I would say that you need to be earning 25,000 to 30,000 if you live out of Bangkok and double that if you live in Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

Not really anything to get my teeth into there, although 15,000 baht on food when you earn 28K a month doesn't seem quite right. Er....Lamphun is quite nice so I've heard. Is it?

Page 1 of 22 (showing 5 entries out of 108 total)

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