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.


Paul

Working in Lopburi

Monthly Earnings About 40,000 baht

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

I work at a local secondary school and my salary is just shy of 30,000 baht a month but I also do a corporate gig at a local manufacturing company. I meet with them twice a week in the evenings and they pay me 1,000 baht an hour. In a good month, this corporate job alone can add 16,000 baht to my salary but the company will usually cancel classes here a couple of times a month so it's closer to 12,000 baht.

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

I can usually save between 10-15,000 baht a month easily. It's probably important to mention at this point that I have a Thai partner who earns 25,000 baht a month at a local manufacturing company (are you beginning to see the connection?) and we have that classic arrangement of my money is mine and your money is yours.

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

We rent an amazing house with a large garden for just 5,000 baht a month (it's worth far more than that I'm sure) It belongs to the father of one of the Thai teachers at my school, in fact I think he has several properties in the area that he just sits on and I guess he'll sell when the time is right. It's a beautiful house though. Sometimes I stand in the garden early in the morning with a cup of tea and think 'wow! I'm a lucky man to live in this place for such a low rent'

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

a) Transportation

I have my own motorcycle but rarely ever use it. The school is about a 20-minute walk away and I enjoy the exercise. So transportation is almost zero.

b) Utility bills

There is just one air-conditioner in the whole house (in the bedroom) and that gets a fair bashing - but our electricity bill is rarely over 2,000 baht a month. Water and mobile phones add up to another 1,500 baht I guess.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We tend to either cook at home or buy prepared food from the local market. I would say about 7-8,000 baht a month at the most. We'll sometimes have a McDonalds or KFC at the weekend as a treat.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Well, my partying days are over and there isn't a great deal to do in Lopburi so it's not really an expense worth considering. I would rather stay in and watch downloaded movies on the big TV.

e) Books, computers

Again not much. I'll buy a few books if I'm travelling around the north and see a second-hand bookshop. We both have laptops and wi-fi costs us about 700 baht a month.

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

Very comfortable indeed. Between my Thai partner and I, there's 70,000 baht a month coming into the household. Rent is low, we've no children and we are 'savers' rather than 'spenders'. But that's the way we like it. I enjoy the simple life of living and teaching in Lopburi.

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

Food. We can buy a huge evening meal for two of us at the market for about 100 baht. Now that's a bargain!

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

I think 30,000 baht a month in rural areas and quiet towns is enough. Everyone is different. Someone might read this survey and think my life is a bit 'boring' but I prefer the simple life as I've already said.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thailand can be all about making connections and Paul's survey highlights it perfectly. Through a teacher at his school, he's made a contact with someone who's renting him a great property for a great price. In addition, Paul's Thai partner has managed to get him a nice corporate gig at her company that can net him a very useful extra 16K a month. And there's a huge difference between earning about 30K a month and 45K a month (factoring in the corporate gig) But as Paul infers, always view part-time corporate gigs as the icing on the cake. Some months the class will study every week and the cash is rolling in but in other months (like April for example) classes will get cancelled as staff take time off to enjoy the holiday season.   

The 'cost of living' section is one of the most popular parts of the ajarn.com website. Let's face it, we all love to know what other teachers earn and how they spend their money. Not only that, but the figures help those who are thinking of coming to Thailand to teach. Why not put yourself up for the cost of living survey? Simply e-mail your answers to the above questions to philip@ajarn.com and I'll take care of the rest.


Richard

Working in North Thailand

Monthly Earnings 45-50,000 baht a month

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

Mabuhay!! I am a Filipino from Davao and I have been in Thailand for a year now. I am teaching science to Thai rich kids at an international School in North Thailand. My monthly income is 30,000 baht and I get an additional 15,000 baht for teaching at a language school which is owned by the same people who own the international school. Extra classes run from 5.30 to 7.30pm. I occasionally do private teaching as well – usually two hours every weekend and charge 300 per hour per student.

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

I am saving about 15,000 baht per month and I am also sending money home for my son for his essential needs and money for my parents. This all adds up to about 10-15k baht/month.

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

I just moved into a fully furnished house for 5,000 baht a month. It comes with air-conditioning, microwave, kitchenware, etc.

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

a) Transportation

I bought my own motorcycle recently. The deposit was 6,000 baht and I’m left with month payments of 2,350 baht for one year. I spend about 100 baht a week on fuel.

b) Utility bills

I’m expecting to pay about 1,500 baht for the electricity bill as that has been the case in my last two homes in Thailand (both apartments) and I expect to pay less than 100 baht for water. I also pay 600 baht for wi-fi.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love eating Thai food as long as it is not too spicy. I spend roughly 3,000 to 5,000 baht a month on eating out and another 2,000 baht on top for regular grocery shopping. I would say food prices here are about the same as they are in The Philippines.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I don’t go out that often and when I do, it’s usually to a friend’s house where a group of us can share the cost of the booze and have a house party of sorts. I would say I spend less than 2,000 a month on good times and partying.

e) Books, computers

I have books which were handed down to me by an American colleague. I was issued with a Mac Pro by my school so I don’t have to buy one.

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

I think I would say I’m enjoying a good standard of living here but without spending much.

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

Definitely the food. Clothing, electronic gadgets and travelling to other provinces are also very reasonable. And of course how could I forget the cinemas!!

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

I earned 20,000 baht a month in previous jobs and still had a comfortable lifestyle but it wasn’t enough to save anything. In addition, I had no work permit which meant always doing visa runs. For a Filipino, 15,000 baht a month is OK but you will need to tighten your belt if you want to save or send money home. Filipinos are proud to be English teachers all over the world. We may not be native speakers of English but we give our best for our families back home so we can send some cash to them.

Phil's analysis and comment

I read this survey with a mixture of excitement and surprise. Excited because I think it's the first cost of living survey we've done with a Filipino teacher and surprise because here's a guy putting plenty of farang teachers to shame. 45,000 baht a month with virtually the whole weekend off (bar the odd private student) Way to go fella! He's got a fully furnished house, a motorcycle, sends money home to his family, eats well, travels around when time allows. What more could you want? And I'm not surprised that Richard gives his place of work as 'somewhere in northern Thailand'. Free Mac Pro, extra private students organised for him by the school owners, I wouldn't want to give the name of the school away either. Seriously though, I'm sure a lot of people think that Filipinos are all working hard, sending money back home and then surviving on a pittance, but Richard's figures prove that a good lifestyle can be had if you hit it right.


Marcus

Working in Ayuthaya

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

I earn 30,000 baht a month from my job with a teacher placement agency and I leave it at that. I have been asked many times to teach students privately, but I can't really be bothered. I value my free time too much.

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

I don't really save anything to be honest. Perhaps on a good month I might stash away 5,000 baht but I only intend to work in Thailand for a year and as long as I don't keep dipping into my savings, I'm perfectly happy to spend what I earn.

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

I share a rented house with another foreign teacher from the same school. It's a tidy-looking two-bedroom house with a living room area and kitchen. It costs us 6,000 baht a month and we split the rent down the middle. So rent costs just 3,000 a month.

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

a) Transportation

One of the Thai teachers at my school very kindly gave me an old motorcycle that he no longer uses. I put about 500-1000 baht of petrol in each month depending on how much travelling I do at the weekend. I've actually offered the Thai teacher something in the way of rental money but he won't take it. What a gentleman!

b) Utility bills

The house doesn't have air-conditioning so our bills are ludicrously small. I bet water and electricity barely break 1,000 baht on an average month, and as I said earlier, I share the house with another teacher so that bill gets split down the middle.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

There is a battered old fridge in the house but you open the door and it looks like something out of a classic student flat. If you're lucky there will be a carton of milk and perhaps a yoghurt in there. I love eating Thai streetfood and never cook at home. Maybe on the weekend I might treat myself to a KFC or McDonalds but by and large it's Thai streetfood all the way. I guess in an average month I spend about 5,000 baht on food and still feel that I eat well.

d) Nightlife and drinking

There isn't a great deal to do where I am, even the town itself is relatively quiet. I've never been much of a social animal but I'll go out at the weekend for a few beers. I guess maybe 2,000-3,000 baht a month on entertainment.

e) Books, computers

I love my smartphones and laptops so I guess that's taken a fair chunk of my monthly salary. Difficult to put a monthly figure on though.

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

30,000 baht is more than enough to do what I want and to live relatively comfortably. That's possibly why I don't teach private students. If 30,000 baht is enough, why push yourself with more work? I wouldn't know what to do with the extra money anyway.

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

Thai food and foot massages. I do enjoy my weekly foot massage. It's become something of a Saturday afternoon ritual.

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

Well, my experience of working in Thailand is limited to Ayuthaya - a peaceful, sleepy town. I think 30K is more than enough provided that you can keep your rent and utility bills low. If you could earn 40K a month then you could live very well indeed and get a nice serviced apartment perhaps.

Phil's analysis and comment

A nice, simple cost of living survey. The main point is that Marcus only intends to teach in Thailand for one year anyway and as long as he doesn't start plundering his savings account, he's happy. I've worked out that his main basics (food, accommodation and transportation) come to about 10,000 baht a month with another 2,000 baht for entertainment. It shows just how cheaply you can live if you want to. In fact I'm surprised that Marcus doesn't save more than he does. He must have a nice laptop and smartphone. One final point - I do admire the way he makes sure that he has plenty of free time to enjoy himself. Why kill yourself with a punishing workload if you don't really need to?


Daniel

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 115,000 baht

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

When I first came to Bangkok a few years ago, I landed a teaching job at a mid-tier international school and made just over 60,000 baht per month. I now work more at one of the largest international schools, and make about 115,000 per month after taxes and deductions.That doesn't include bonuses, flights, insurance or the housing allowance of approximately 40,000 baht per month. (Yes, the big schools really are like this.) My Thai wife has her own income of about 15,000-20,000 baht per month.

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

I'm paying off multiple student loans and also own a car, so debt and the other expenses below eat up a lot of the potential savings. I put away at least 20,000 per month or more depending on the time. That will go up after the loans are paid off in about two years, and my wife can work full-time.

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

Until last year I lived in a 2-bedroom townhouse near one of the BTS stations for 12,000 baht per month. It's surprising how many deals you can find if you go off the beaten path. To be closer to work I moved into a 25,000 baht per month condo.

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

a) Transportation

The car payments are 11,000 baht per month, and I also frequently use public transportation when I want to avoid bad traffic in central Bangkok, and because my wife uses the car more. It probably comes out to a total of 14,000 baht per month for both of us.

b) Utility bills

I pay an average of 2,000 - 3,000 per month for the electric bill and another 1,000 for the internet connection. I don't even count the water bill since it's usually so low.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We love good food and we're happy to go to nice restaurants or get street food depending on the mood. This is something we don't keep track of, so I can't put an accurate figure on it. It might be around 15,000-20,000 baht per month. We also have a dog that eats a lot and other household items, so add another 4,000 to that.

d) Nightlife and drinking

This is something we don't spend much on, but if you count going out to movies and other activities, it probably adds up to only 3,000 baht per month.

e) Books, computers

My job provides a laptop. If I buy books, it only averages out to maybe 500 baht per month.

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

It's comfortable, but not luxurious. I would probably change that to be more positive in a few years once our debts our paid off.

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

Without a doubt, food. Even when you compare some of the expensive restaurants to ones in other major world cities, it's significantly cheaper. Clothes can also be purchased at a bargain at some places. Cars and some other items end up being more expensive.

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

It depends completely on your standard of living and your goals. Yes, I earn a really good salary, but I come from a family that focused on being conservative in spending, unless it's food or an 'investment' like education. I save a lot compared to others, but my job demands a lot of time--up to 60 hours per week for years now. Others would be happier working and earning less, but spending more. It's all perspective.

Phil's analysis and comment

Not much to say about Daniel's survey really but the future looks very bright indeed. As a couple, Daniel and his partner are pulling in 135,000 baht a month - with the potential to earn more in the years to come. A couple are always going to live well on that sort of income in Bangkok. As Daniel has said, it's just a case of getting all those debts paid off and then he's going to be walking along 'easy street' 


Seb

Working in Rangsit

Monthly Earnings 46,000 baht

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

I worked for a private bilingual school and made 40,000 baht a month. I also made an extra 6000 from private tuition over the week

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

I was able to save 10k a month over 3 years which made a nice nest egg for when I came back to the UK to study for my M.Ed

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

I rented a nice 2 bedroom house for 6,500 baht a month. It had a western kitchen so I was prepared to pay a bit more for the rent. I feel it is very important to have a nice place to come home to at the end of the day.

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

a) Transportation

I could walk for free or take a motorcycle to school for 10baht . I went to Bangkok once a month and took the bus for 22 baht. I made weekly trips to Future Park shopping mall by van at 25 baht a trip.

b) Utility bills

Between 1500-2000 baht a month; I love my aircon!

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I cooked dinner at home during the week, this cost about 1,000 a week in groceries. I would often make a big pasta dish and freeze it for the rest of the week. I spent 500 baht a week on lunch (half a grilled chicken, som tam and sticky rice) when I was working. Weekends I had no budget for eating out so I can’t really put a figure down on paper.

d) Nightlife and drinking

3000 baht a month, I hate clubs! I’d rather go to a decent Thai pub and order a load of food and Leo beer.

e) Books, computers

None, not into reading and I only use the computer for work and watching free stuff.

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

Great! I had a nice standard of life and was able to save some cash each month! There’s also nothing like throwing yourself into an ice cold pool after work and sipping a few cold ones!

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

Mostly everything! Thailand is wonderful for its cheap accommodation, food, transport, entertainment and weekend escapes. I been back in the UK for one year and I am already itching to get back to living Thailand in September.

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

30k to survive, although it would be hard to save on that. Anything above 35k and things will start to get a lot more comfortable.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is the first time we've had a cost of living survey done in the past tense but it's clear that Seb really enjoyed life in Thailand on 46k a month and is itching to get back at some stage. I bet he finds the UK a lot more expensive! For the record, Rangsit is a suburb in North Bangkok but quite a distance from the city itself. A very well-balanced survey from someone who lived well within their means.

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