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/RH6Y3JP

Approximate conversion rates as of May 31st, 2016

36 Baht to one US Dollar
52 Baht to one Pound Sterling
40 Baht to one Euro
26 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.76 Baht to one Philippine Peso

James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 55-60,000 baht

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

I live in West Bangkok and teach P.E at a private Thai school. I earn 50,000 baht per month as a basic salary plus 2,000-4,000 baht for extra coaching. I also get a 50k bonus each year at the end of my contract.

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

25k - 30k per month and I will be able to save all of my 50k bonus each year.

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

I pay 4,000 baht per month for subsidized school accommodation) It's cheap and it's very convenient for school and also opposite the gym which I use.

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

a) Transportation

I bought a scooter for 14,000 Baht a year ago and spend around 100-200 baht a week on petrol going to rugby training in the center of Bangkok and getting food

b) Utility bills

My utility bills are 100 baht per month on water and between 2,000 and 3,000 baht for aircon (the school charges a lot for electricity... 7 baht per unit!)

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I always buy Thai food off the street and rarely go to restaurants. Therefore food and supermarket expenses are about 9-12,000 baht per month. I also go to the gym every day and play rugby so I eat a lot but I feel 9k-12k baht goes a long way on food.

d) Nightlife and drinking

For nightlife I go out drinking once a week these days, either to Khao San Road or out with my rugby team. This would cost about 4,000 - 8,000 baht a month.

e) Books, computers

My computer was paid off a year ago and I hate reading so no cost there till my laptop breaks. Lastly I will add sports on as a section as I play rugby for a team in Bangkok. This costs me 300 baht a week for training and all competitions are paid for by the club, however when we go on tour around Thailand or Asia I have to pay for hotels, transport and nightlife - which can soon rack up. However this is only occasional and the regular season again is paid for by the club.

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

I'm a fresh graduate (1.5 years ago) so my standard of living is low but better than I'm used to.

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

Food and getting around.

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

James chose not to answer this question.

Phil's analysis and comment

James has very low accommodation overheads. Even with utility bills, the roof over his head costs just 7,000 baht a month, which is about 13% of his salary. Not every teacher is this 'lucky' but then again, we don't know anything about how comfortable the school accommodation is. Standards of school housing for its teachers can vary dramatically. But that said, James has plenty of spending money in his pocket each month and is clearly a saver. Putting away 30,000 baht a month is a very decent effort.

Keep these cost of living surveys coming guys. You're doing a great job! Apart from the jobs page, this is the most popular section of the ajarn website. People love reading this information. And don't worry if you've sent me a survey and it's not on-line yet. I have it safe. I just like to space them out a bit.

If anyone fancies doing a cost of living survey, I've now put the questions on-line to make it easier and quicker for you. Please spare half an hour if you can.


Alan

Working in Lamphun

Monthly Earnings 230,000

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

I earn 35K a month from my government school job in Lamphun. I also teach on-line for the same Japanese university I worked at in the past. That gets me another 130,000. In addition I get other university bonuses for attracting new students, etc and that makes up the package to around 230K.

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

live a rather simple life, spending only about 15,000 on myself. Through a Christian network, I support some young Thai people to finish school, go to junior college or learn a trade. And I outright sponsor a very poor family of elderly parents with a handicapped son. I spend about 56,000/month on these sponsorship efforts. I save the rest, about 160,000 Baht/month. I don't travel back home or take trips any longer (did all that when I was younger), so the money is in fact saved, not accumulated for later

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

I spend 4,000 / month rent for a pretty large corner, tree-shaded apartment in an older building, with one bedroom, small kitchenette, large bathroom, large open area, security guard; decent enough wi-fi internet included.

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

a) Transportation

100 Baht. I live less than a kilometer from the school. Still, I go back and forth on a motorcycle I bought new three years ago, mostly so I don't arrive at school already sweaty in the morning. I spend about 100 baht / month on petrol for it. I live within walking distance of two large supermarkets, two morning wet markets, one evening wet market, so I never really use the bike for much else

b) Utility bills

Average 650/month for water / electricity. Water is set at 80 baht/month, the rest is electricity. I don't use air-con; don't like it. I use several fans, though. I run a load in the washing machine about once a week. I keep the small fridge on a rather low setting. Never watch TV. Probably my laptop is the biggest user of electricity, as I do my Japanese university work on it for about four hours weekdays and eight to ten hours Sat / Sun

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 6,000 / month; I buy and prepare basic things like chicken, pork, eggs, rice, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables. I almost never eat packaged foods or import products; just don't have a taste for them. Preparing these gives me a good break from the computer.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Uh, I use some Melatonin to help fall asleep sometimes! Really, I live in a small town; I get a kick from my work. I may go walk the "walking street" occasionally, but only for the exercise.

e) Books, computers

About 300 Baht / month on used textbooks that I pick up from a local bookshop. I love reading old high school textbooks in history and sciences. Computer: I use a laptop provided by my Japanese university. I have my own laptop; it's over five years old now. So, really no expense for computers.

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

For a guy like me, who likes it simple and quiet, really quite good. My health is good, I eat the kind of foods I like, I do the work I enjoy, I walk a lot and do some basic exercising, I sleep well, I like my students and my colleagues at the school. Things are a lot slower for me here than they were in Japan, which at this time in my life is just what I want it to be.

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

Housing, food, services.

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

In a small town like mine, you can easily get by on 20,000 baht/month as long as you don't spend the rest on getting out of town on trips and such. I get by on about 15,000/month and I know a guy who spends less, only 12,000/month. If you need to have things and/or adventures, though, these levels are realistic for you.

Phil's analysis and comment

230K a month. Not bad is it? I guess the main question a lot of people will be asking Alan is 'why do you bother with a full-time government school position when your income from the Japanese university is so high?' Alan was good enough to reply.

"Because I truly enjoy being in the classroom and teaching young minds. I teach M1 to M4 Reading. It gets me out of the house. I don't have kids of my own, so it's also rewarding in a latent paternal instinct way"

You are very welcome to submit your own cost of living survey for this section of the ajarn website and I have created an online survey to hopefully make it a little easier.

However, I am getting a number of surveys where the teacher hasn't really taken much time and effort over it - and it shows. Sorry I can't think of another way to put that. As a result, the survey just becomes a list of figures. I think if you look back at the last half a dozen surveys or so, you get an idea of what we're looking for. Cheers.


Michael

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40,000 - 48,000 baht

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

I get 30,000 per month salary at a Thai university. I make roughly 28,500 after taxes. I also get overtime pay ranging from 12,000-20,000 per month. It's always paid late though.

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

I used to save around 6,000 per month. I've moved into a more expensive place now and I will be saving less from my base salary, maybe only 3,000-4,000. My overtime pay goes entirely into my savings account, however. if you include that, I save 15,000-25,000 per month.

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

I live in a one-bedroom condo located near to my job. It has a pool and a fitness center and rent is 12,000 per month

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

a) Transportation

Transportation is somewhere between 1,000 - 2,000 baht as I use the BTS quite often

b) Utility bills

I'm not sure about water/electric yet as I haven't paid them but I'm guessing on 100 baht for water and maybe 800 baht for electric. Internet is 1,100 and phone is another 700.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend most of my monthly salary on food. If I only eat Thai food, then I spend about 2,000 per week, if I eat Western food then I can spend a lot more - about 500 per meal. I try to only eat Western food a handful of times per month

d) Nightlife and drinking

I spend very little on nightlife, almost nothing

e) Books, computers

I don't spend money on books or computers, but I do spend it on camera gear. This is where my savings tend to go, toward lenses and camera equipment. Approximately 5,000 per month, if I averaged it out.

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

Comfortable, but not without sacrifices.

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

Thai food. You can get delicious meals for $1-2 dollars each. If you eat strictly Thai food you can get by with only spending about 5,000 per month on food.

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

I am used to living on a small budget and I could live off 22,000 before I moved into my new place. For most people though, I would say 30,000 is the bare minimum. But you won't be having much fun, if any, on that salary. 40,000+ if you want to save money while still having some semblance of a life.

Phil's analysis and comment

One of the scurges of the teaching profession - salary or a sizeable chunk of your salary that's always or often paid late. I wonder if Michael sometimes relies on that second income in order to pay rent and has to go cap in hand to the landlord to explain things. Perhaps he doesn't but the only reason I mention it is because I saw many teachers I worked with in the past get in that same pickle from time to time. There are few things worse than an employer who can't pay its teachers on time.

A word about fitness centers in condo buildings. I was talking to a pal at the gym a few weeks ago and asked him why he paid the 16,000 baht a year membership fee when he had a fitness center at his condo. After he had stopped laughing, he offered to take me there one day. "When I work out on those cheap quality machines, the whole building shakes"

True enough, I've never been that impressed with the fitness centers I've seen. A token treadmill or two and a rack of decent weights if you're lucky. I think fitness centers are often installed just as something to add to the amenities section of the brochure. I'm not saying the one at Michael's condo building is like that but from experience, the vast majority are.   


T.J.

Working in Petchaburi

Monthly Earnings 28,000

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

I earn a 28K baht salary from a Thai public school in Petchburi

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

About 3,000 baht.

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

I rent a studio apartment that costs 3,500 a month.

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

a) Transportation

I bought my own motorbike for 15,000 baht and I spend 100 to 300 baht a month on fuel

b) Utility bills

I pay 1,000 to 2,000 baht for my electricity, 100 baht for the water and 1,000 for my internet

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I seldom cook in my room so I buy my food most of the time at the local market. I spend around 2,000 to 4,000 for everything - including drinks

d) Nightlife and drinking

This is Petchaburi. We don't have nightlife. So that's a big fat zero.

e) Books, computers

I read free books on my phone and accept used books from colleagues.

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

My standard of living is very simple but it's comfortable. I have what I need.

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

The real bargain for me is the room rental. I have got everything I need - good water pressure with hot water, free wi-fi, queen-size bed, air-con, TV, refridgerator, and a huge room with a balcony for only 3,500 baht!

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

I could survive well enough here on 20,000 without any difficulty but 30,000 would get you a much nicer lifestyle.

Phil's analysis and comment

I've been through Petchaburi many times on the way to Hua Hin or Cha'am and it always seems like a pleasant, well-kept little town. J.T obviously enjoys life there but on a relatively average teacher's salary (by rural Thailand standards) I just wonder if I was in his position whether I would be able to resist the bright lights of Hua Hin just down the road, where there are so many Western attractions. 

2,000 baht a month on food must take some doing J.T. That's not even 70 baht a day. Are those Petchaburi markets really that cheap?

We also have a region guide to Petchaburi in our region guides section. It hasn't been updated for a few years but much of the info should still be applicable.


Patrick

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 70,000-80,000

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

70,000 – 80,000 baht a month at a good Thai university. My wife earns another 70,000 – 120,000 baht a month at the same university

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

Until last year, around 120,000 – 150,000 a month. We have been saving for more than 10 years, so at this point compound interest is definitely our friend, and accounts for some of the savings. We just started building a new house though, so we are drawing down on our savings now.

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

We bought a very small 2-bedroom Chinese row-house in the suburbs, and renovated it (new bathroom, modern kitchen, aircon, and high speed internet), all for a bit more than 1 million baht – 12 years ago. Since then, nothing. Though again we just started building a new house, and once we run out of cash, we will take a loan for the rest. That will be 35,000 a month or so.

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

a) Transportation

We bought a basic car back in 2008, it is paid for now. We bought a second, nicer car (used) a couple of months ago, we pay 24,000 a month for it, with a year and half of payments to go. We also take taxis a fair amount, to avoid driving/parking hassles when necessary, and use the expressway to cut down on commute times. So 24,000 + gas/tolls + taxis is around 30,000-35,000

b) Utility bills

5,000 a month or so, for 2 phones, A/C, internet, true, etc. I don’t skimp on A/C.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Both restaurants and supermarket shopping, around 25,000 a month. We often bring market food back home, which is very cheap, but sometimes I cook, or we go to a nice restaurant by suburb standards. Basically, we are price-indifferent at this point – convenience is our only concern.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Part of the restaurant expenses. My wife doesn’t drink but I do.

e) Books, computers

We spend 15,000 baht a month on a live-in nurse for my wife’s parents. We buy phones, computers, books, stuff as we need it (and we will soon be buying more furniture) – it totals around 25,000 a month.

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

One sentence, hell I can do it in one word - blessed. O.K. seriously, I have a very good standard of living. I have a career (not a job or a “gig”, a career – they are different) that I enjoy, which pays me reasonably well. I have a wife who often earns more than me - and plenty of savings. Things are not perfect but they are as close as any reasonable person could want or expect.

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

Anything involving labor, be it cleaning, gardening, laundry, handymen, etc. Also taxis, street food, mid-level suburban restaurants, some clothing, taxes, and nice wood furniture if you shop smart. Cars are very expensive, electronics a bit so, housing is cheap to rent but not to buy. You can get twice the house if you build it yourself instead of getting one in a development, but it is a lot of work in its own way if you do that, and you better know your contractor.

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

Well, I said 30,000 baht a month when I first did the survey 10 years ago. I am not sure I could do it on less than 40,000 baht a month and I would not want to try. If my wife and I no longer worked, a lot of our expenses would go down, but still.

Phil's analysis and comment

Here we have two very good wage-earners living in the same household and with 160-200K baht a month coming in, you are always going to enjoy a nice lifestyle, especially if there are no children to look after. I think this is the first survey where we've featured costs for looking after elderly parents, which is interesting. I also think that's the highest transportation bill that we've ever had :)

You are very welcome to submit your own cost of living survey for this section of the ajarn website and I have created an online survey to hopefully make it a little easier.

However, I am getting a number of surveys where the teacher hasn't really taken much time and effort over it - and it shows. Sorry I can't think of another way to put that. As a result, the survey just becomes a list of figures. I think if you look back at the last half a dozen surveys or so, you get an idea of what we're looking for. Cheers.

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