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 July 7th, 2015

34 Baht to one US Dollar
52 Baht to one Pound Sterling
37 Baht to one Euro
25 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.75 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Richard

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40,000 - 50,000 baht

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

I only teach students on-line so earnings tend to be up and down depending on student cancellations and my own availability, but in an average month I can earn about 50K.

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

I'm not much of a saver to be honest so I tend to spend most of what I earn. I have some funds in the UK which I dip into whenever the need arises such as a flight back home to see family and friends.

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

I rent a two-bedroom town-house (with garden) for a bargain 6,000 baht a month. Firstly, it's in a very Thai area of Bangkok and quite a fair distance from the mass transit systems. Secondly, the house belongs to a very good Thai friend. He doesn't need or use the house so he gives me a nice break with the rent.

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

a) Transportation

Because I teach on-line at home, the only time I venture out is to walk to the local market or convenience store or to take a bus into Bangkok at the weekends. So my transportation costs are almost nothing.

b) Utility bills

I use one bedroom to sleep in and one bedroom as my 'classroom' or work-room. The air-con is always blasting away in my work-room so my electricity bill is about 4,000 baht a month - possibly because it's quite an old machine.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to cook at home almost all the time. I would say about 8,000 baht a month on food shopping and the occasional meal out.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nothing at all. I'm a good old clean-living lad.

e) Books, computers

Probably about 500-1,000 baht a month because I like to keep my computer upgraded as much as I can.

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

I used to work for private language schools making about 300-500 an hour, which is OK but far too much time was wasted going to and from school or hanging around between lessons. On-line teaching is just a far easier way to earn the same money in a shorter space of time. So as regards standard of living, I earn enough to keep me happy and I have lots of free time as well.

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

Fresh food shopping and transportation.

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

In my opinion, you need a minimum of 50,000 baht a month in Bangkok. I know many teachers survive on a lot less but I'm really not sure how. I used to earn 30K a month and life was always a struggle. 40K allows you a few treats but it's still not a great salary for Bangkok/

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is the first cost of living survey we've had from an on-line teacher. A while back I would have said "make a living by teaching on-line? No chance!" But I'm slowly beginning to change my tune as I hear from more and more teachers who are making a go of teaching students via computer. And why shouldn't it be successful? Neither teacher nor student has to waste time battling heat and traffic; it's all done from the comfort of your own homes. And there seems to be plenty of willing students out there. I wonder if this is the future of English teaching? Enjoy Thailand's relatively low cost of living but pick and choose from a pool of students all over the world. Sounds like a winner to me.  

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


Jay

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 55,000 baht a month on average

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

40,000 from my government school job, around 3-5,000 from weekend teaching.

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

Around 20-25,000 a month

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

5,000 baht a month for my studio apartment near my old workplace. It's got a pool and gym, plus 24 hours security, so I know my motorbike is safe.

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

a) Transportation

2,000 a month, I have my own motorbike which is fuel-efficient, so it costs me around 300 baht a week for petrol (Gasohol 95) to commute to and from the school 30km away. I don't drive efficiently by any means, I keep the speedometer as high as it will go all the way if I can. If I drove efficiently, the cost would go down to around 200 a week. Rest of the time, I use the BTS/MRT and taxis. Sometimes I will splurge to visit my girlfriend, and that's a flight away for me, so around 3-4,000 on flights.

b) Utility bills

Near government rates, so I pay around 1,500 a month with air con running every night and at weekends when I'm in. Water is only 30 baht a month (15 baht a unit). I was surprised the first time I received my bill because I used the shower liberally twice or three times daily.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't cook in my studio apartment to avoid smells so I spend almost nothing on supermarket shopping. I spend around 100-150 a day on food, which is going down because food at the school is good and costs me 20-25 baht a plate/bowl. I help myself to fruits that my lovely Thai coworkers feed me from their gardens. I used to spend a lot on coffee, but now I drink instant coffee which is free at my school. That's taken 100 bahts off my daily spend.

d) Nightlife and drinking

As far as drinking goes, I can't handle alcohol in this climate, so one or two bottles of beer a month is enough for me. I'm more of a fan of eating out than getting drunk, so my spending on night outs are close to zero. At weekends, I'm a Japanese food fiend and will happily spend a lot of money on sushi, but I'll do that just once or twice a month these days. That comes to around 1,000-2,000 on sushi alone.

e) Books, computers

I have a notebook and iPad, so I spend nothing on computers. I buy three books a month from Kinokuniya at Siam Paragon, so let's say around 1,000.

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

I'm comfortable, my motorbike has dramatically driven down my transportation costs and given me so much freedom, so for now, I'm content, but I would ideally like to be earning a lot more because I intend to start an MEd course as soon as possible, and obviously postgraduate education is quite expensive.

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

Back in the UK, I'd be paying 65-68 baht a litre for petrol, but I spend less than half that here, so with a fuel-efficient vehicle, it's a bargain!

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

I'd say 40-45K a month in Bangkok is a fair estimate.

Phil's analysis and comment

Jay also had the following to say on the topic of teacher salary - "I could NOT survive on the 25-30k some teachers here are making, and I wouldn't want to either. When I was hunting for jobs, I was so glad I had savings - it's allowed me to be more stubborn and hold out until I found a job that I thought would pay me enough to have a semi-decent standard of living. I grew up without much and my family taught me how to be economical with money, so being frugal is second-nature to me. However, there's being frugal, and then there's desperately clinging onto the fading Thailand dream. If I could only get 30k a month jobs, I'd just pack my bags and go to Vietnam where they're paying teachers a lot more on average. I also just wanted to highlight that investing in a motorbike like a Yamaha Fiore or something can and will cut down on transportation costs immensely, and that living outside of the BTS/MRT network drives down costs" 

Jay sounds like a sensible chap and I'm impressed that he's managing to save half of his salary. You would need to do quite a few hours at the weekend to make 5,000 baht. But I do know one teacher who teaches three hours on a Saturday morning and does six hours on a Sunday - that's 9 hours at 700 baht an hour, which adds up to over 6,000 baht for just one weekend. So it can certainly be done. 


Danny

Working in Mae Ai, Northern Thailand.

Monthly Earnings 10,000 baht

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

10,000 baht

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

Nothing. No holiday pay either.

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

I live in a sustainable baan din (earth house) on an agriculture project and accommodation is currently free.

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

a) Transportation

About 1700 baht

b) Utility bills

500 baht

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Both restaurants and supermarket shopping: At Tesco Lotus about 2k per month, restaurants about 2k per month. Drinking water 70 baht per month. Beer about 500 baht per month.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife? No chance.

e) Books, computers

I just get my laptop fixed cheaply when it goes wrong.

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

Unique and basic but stress free

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

Food and vehicle tax.

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

Out here in the sticks, if I rented a small apartment, I could get by on about 15k a month. At the moment, I mainly live on-site and only pay for food and drinking water.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think that Danny's is a special case because he also said in his e-mail to me - "for me, it isn't about the money. A stress-free life developing a language project for a worthwhile foundation is more valuable than that which I could earn elsewhere. The 10K I earn is a stipend while I am doing my degree"

Fair enough.


Donald

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 - 32,000 baht

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

I earn just over 30,000 baht a month at a school in Bangkok

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

Virtually nothing. When you earn 30K a month and you are living and working in Bangkok, there's just nothing left over. I take my hat off to other teachers in my position that can save money.

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

I pay 6,000 baht a month for a studio apartment. The room itself is nothing to write home about but the building is clean and safe and I like the management.

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

a) Transportation

I take a combination of bus and sky-train to work and that probably comes to about 1,500 a month. I also try to use public buses at the weekend instead of taxis in order to keep costs down.

b) Utility bills

I have air-conditioning but seldom use it. I'm on the 12th floor, so if I open the door to the corridor and the door onto the balcony, I get a nice breeze coming through. It's been a lot hotter this month though. People told me that April and May could be hot but they didn't tell me just how hot!

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Fortunately, I live in an area that's heaving with basic Thai restaurants and street-food stalls. Eat at these places and it's not too difficult to keep your daily food spend down to below 200 baht. I will sometimes have a fast food splurge at the weekend but only because I crave something other than rice. I guess with supermarket shopping on top, my food bill comes to about 7,000 baht a month. That's still almost 25% of my monthly salary though and I'm always trying to figure out how to get that lower.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I very rarely go out. I have a couple of good drinking pals and we'll do a Saturday night down the Sukhumwit a couple of times a month. That can cost you 2,000 baht a time once you get your beer legs on.

e) Books, computers

I'm lucky to have quite a lot of free time at school so I use the school's computers and internet. To be honest, the last thing I want to do when I get home in the evening is spend those precious hours aimlessly surfing more internet. For me, the evenings are for watching TV or perhaps studying some Thai.

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

30,000 baht in Bangkok probably isn't enough for a lot of people. I survive well enough but there is little room for luxuries But I think the more you earn, the more you want. If I earned 50,000 a month, what would I do with the extra 20K? I'm not even sure.

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

Only the cost of riding the public buses comes to mind. The street-food is cheap enough at let's say 30-40 baht a dish, but in all honesty, that's all it's worth.

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

You can survive on 30K for sure but 40-50K in Bangkok is probably the minimum a Western teacher should be aiming for.

Phil's analysis and comment

Here we go again - the old 'can a teacher live on 30K a month' debate. It's not going to go away is it? I look at Donald's survey and I think here is someone living within his means and probably enjoying himself immensely. He's in a foreign land, absorbing a foreign culture, learning a language, making friends. And of course he's got food in his belly and a roof over his head. I don't know how old Donald is but I'll take a guess at mid-twenties. Life is nearly always exciting at that age. But if it were a teacher in his 50s giving us the same figures as above, well that's a different story. 


Steve

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 180,000 baht

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

I'm now in the very fortunate position of leading teaching staff and my salary is 180K baht a month.

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

80-100K a month.

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

I get a three-bedroom house as part of my benefits package.

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

a) Transportation

I'm provided with a company car and local fuel costs are also covered,

b) Utility bills

500 baht a month. Believe it or not, I hate air-conditioning.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My weekly supermarket shop sets me back about 2-3K a month and I spend anything from 10K-50K a month on eating out at restaurants.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I very rarely drink and spend probably a thousand baht or less per month on alcohol. But when I do enjoy a beer, I normally go for an expensive brand.

e) Books, computers

Internet costs are covered by the company and I have no time to read books that aren't work-related.

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

A damn sight better than it was ten years ago.

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

Nothing if I compare the cost of living to ten years ago. You can't even get an extra fried egg for 5 baht anymore.

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

10 years ago, I made 50k a month and saved around 25-30K of it and lived what I thought was an OK life, although I dipped into savings a fair bit. 10 years on, I would live on 70k, but it wouldn't be enjoyable. 100k is better, it guarantess savings for emergencies and retirement. Don't forget health insurance - I'm covered to walk into a top Bangkok hospital and it not cost me a penny.

Phil's analysis and comment

Hmmm, I wasn't sure whether or not to put this cost of living survey on-line because it does smack a little of 'gloating'. However, Steve did send me a couple of introductory paragraphs and hoped that he wouldn't come across as a gloater. He merely wanted to highlight what can be achieved with hard work (and a little bit of luck no doubt). This is what he had to say.Just over ten years ago, i set out in the TEFL world, and after 4 years of it realised that if teaching was for me, then I had to get qualified and not be fannying around pretending the world was great while eeking out a meagre existance.

My cost of living survey might spur people on to show them what they can achieve with some hard work, good luck and timing.

I have gone from TEFLer to teacher to upper senior management in only a few years.

I'm not trying to brag, but I think before a young TEFLer gets himself tied down out here, they have to really look at what they want from their future.

I'm always amazed at the people I have met who have been doing the TEFL game for 10 years+ and still on similar salaries, getting by and trying to convince others they are ok.They might well be until something serious happens.

I know my work life balance is terrible. i don't see my family enough, but they will be taken care of in the future.

Anyway, I hope I'm not coming across as a complete knob.

Page 1 of 19 (showing 5 entries out of 91 total)

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