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.


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.


Monique and Husband

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 95,000 baht

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

I work for a private company primarily teaching standardized test preparation (TOEFL, IELTS, etc). I am guaranteed 48,000 per month but lately I have averaged about 10,000 per month more than that. My husband works as an English teacher at a Thai high school and earns 37,000 per month.

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

We try to live on only my salary and save my husband’s salary. We haven’t always been successful but we’ve managed to send home 50,000 every two or three months (to pay off credit card debt, ugh). This is after paying for a 20,000 baht holiday every three months and several smaller daytrips/overnights in between, so if we cut those out we could save more (but what’s the fun in living in Thailand if you don’t take the opportunity to explore?).

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

We have a two bedroom condo in a nice building with gym/swimming pool. We’re in downtown Bangkok three minutes by foot from the BTS. We have a roommate and split rent equally with her; the apartment costs 28,000 per month and our share is 14,000.

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

a) Transportation

I walk to work every day, but occasionally take a motorcycle or taxi or hop on the BTS. I estimate that costs no more than 1000 per month. My husband takes a motorcycle and the MRT to work each day – about 2500 per month.

b) Utility bills

We pay two thirds of our apartment utilities, and our share comes to 400 per month for internet, 150 per month for water, and around 1300 per month for electricity. We try to use a fan rather than the aircon, but during the summer our share of the bill can get as high as 2200. We pay 650 baht per month for our phones.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We almost exclusively eat out and try to limit ourselves to 500 baht per person per day, so about 30,000 per month. Some days we eat mostly street food, but we also have go to a fair number of sit down restaurants and have many Western meals (just not necessarily very good ones!)

d) Nightlife and drinking

We’ve cut back a lot lately, but we probably average about 3,000 baht per month. We don’t go out much, though, as we prefer to drink at home with friends.

e) Books, computers

We recently purchased my husband his first smartphone which ended up being 16,000 baht – at least 4,000 more than it would have cost in the States! This has been our only major purchase, although we’re eyeing tablets for around 8,000 each. We access almost all of our media online (no TV or paper books), but we like to go to the movies about once a month or so – less than 300 baht including drinks and popcorn.

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

With my relatively useless undergraduate psychology degree, there’s no way I’d be able to live in a building this nice or eat out as often as I do if I were working an entry-level job in the US.

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

Transportation. Sometimes I get annoyed when cabbies won’t take me with the meter running, but then I realize they’re only asking me to pay the equivalent of $3 (even if it is double the meter price!). We’ve also been able to explore a lot of Thailand via minibus and, although we really hate the cramped space and the fact that they always make the farang squeeze into the smallest seat, we still feel lucky to have the option of paying only 300 baht or so for a daytrip outside of the city of smog.

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

We have to watch ourselves during months when we’re trying to survive on only 48,000 and we often end up dipping in to the 37,000 that we’re trying to save. You should really have some wiggle room in case of emergencies (like when I accidentally dyed all my clothes blue in the washing machine) so I think 60,000 for a couple is probably the minimum to survive but not save anything. For an individual, 45,000 will be comfortable but you could probably do it on less by finding a cheaper apartment.

Phil's analysis and comment

I like this survey. It raises a lot of interesting points. Thanks for giving us such an honest insight into your financial world Monique.

OK, we've got two teachers here (a married couple) earning 95,000 baht a month. Monique is earning what I would call an 'above average' teacher salary and her husband earns slightly below average. I would have said straight off the bat that a married couple with no kids should be living 'fairly comfortably' on 95,000 baht a month in Bangkok - but it's certainly not a fortune, especially when you have credit card debts back in your homeland.

One aspect of the survey that really caught my eye was the 30,000 baht a month they spend on food. Wow! That strikes me as a lot of money for a couple - even a very hungry couple. I bet if Monique and her husband could find their way to the kitchen, start planning meals together and buying fresh produce at the supermarket, they could cut 10,000 baht a month off that expense easily. No one's saying give up the occasional splurge on Western food, but strike a happy medium and eat at home a few nights a week.

Only yesterday, I bought an enormous chicken breast fillet at the supermarket for 40 baht (which I grilled in the oven), A large bag of salad stuff (lettuce, tomatoes, raisins, boiled eggs, peppers, chopped fruit) which cost 65 baht - and a couple of baking sized potatoes for another 40 baht. I will get two very filling meals out of that for just 150 baht (75 baht a meal) - and Monique's daily food budget for two people is 1,000 baht. See what I mean? You can save a fortune by cooking at home and you eat far better than you do by buying those bags of streetfood as well.  

Page 1 of 14 (showing 5 entries out of 69 total)

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