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.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 21st September 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.66 THB to one Philippine Peso

Sean

Working in Lopburi

Monthly Earnings 36,500 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary per month is 37,000 baht but after tax it comes to 36,500.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I started this job in September 2020 and at first, I didn’t really save too much, maybe 5,000 baht a month until February 2021 - and if I had any other money left over that was a bonus. From February to now, I have been able to save 15,000 - 20,000 baht a month, which is a big difference.

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

Accommodation is 3,300 baht a month and with water and electric it works out to no more than 4,200 a month including using the AC. The room is basic, I have a bathroom, a large balcony and a lovely view of the school when I open my door. I live in an apartment opposite school so it's easy to walk to.

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

Transportation

Transport here is so cheap. if I venture into the old town, it costs me 8 baht using the songthaew. I don’t have a scooter but it would help so much as the public transport in Lopburi seems to stop running after 7-8pm but you still see the odd songthaew driving around so you can flag them down. Motorbike taxis from the old town back to my room cost about 50-60 baht.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to around 900 baht, phone, AIS unlimited internet with fast speeds adds another 450 baht. I use my hot spot mostly as the wifi is very poor at the apartment. A True premier league package is another 299 baht per month and it’s great watching the football in HD. I use Netflix but that payment comes from my English bank account so not sure about the price - maybe 500 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is cheap here like most places in Thailand but sometimes it’s so easy to buy Western food using delivery services like Food Panda. I live on krapow, which costs 55 baht and Thai tea. I don’t really eat much and that’s surprising as most people like to spend a lot of money on food. Supermarkets are the same, I don’t really buy a lot of things. I try to do a 'big shop' after every pay day and if I see anything else I need I will buy it. I think I could spend about 5,000-6,000 a month on both restaurant food and supermarket shopping.

Nightlife and drinking

If I could add up all the money I have spent on beer and whiskey since being here, I could cry. In Lopburi there weren't many places to drink even before Covid came along and most places are hard to reach if you don’t have a motorbike or car. It’s easy to go to 7/11 and Big C to buy beers and while the price is cheap, it adds up fast. I like to drink beer so I don’t mind spending money on it but I always know when to stop. Since Covid, everywhere is closed so I have managed to save so much money and slowly starting to ease off on the drinking sessions - but I don’t mind drinking in my room while watching a TV series or playing on the PlayStation.

Books, computers

I don’t pay for either. I brought my laptop and an iPad from home. I don’t use books much, only the books I get from school to write lesson plans.

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

My life is good in Lopburi. I never have to worry about money each month as I am good at saving and since Covid, I have saved a lot for when the country slowly opens again.

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

Food and public transport

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

I see this question a lot but I don’t think there is a correct answer because it depends on your lifestyle. I would like more money as would everyone else, but I think in this province, 36,000 is enough to live a good life.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Sean. It's always good to hear from teachers living and working in rural towns and cities, where according to many, money goes much further than it would in a big city like Bangkok. It certainly sounds like you do OK on 36,000 a month and manage to save a reasonable amount as well. Living opposite the school saves you money and more importantly, time. Are there any downsides to living so close though?   


Steve

Working in Phitsanaloke

Monthly Earnings 35,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work at a large government school in Phitsanaloke (which for those who have never heard of it, is about 5 hours north of Bangkok) My full-time salary is 35K and there is little chance to earn anything above that so 35K is what I need to survive on and budget for.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to put away at least 5-10,000 baht a month, which in pre-Covid times was very doable. It hasn't happened for a number of months though.

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

Accommodation here can be very cheap and I live in a 3,500 baht a month studio apartment. The building owner is connected to the school I believe so it was the school who recommended this place to me when I arrived in Thailand several years ago. It's nothing special but it has hot water and the air-con is decent. The building itself is very old though and starting to crumble in places.

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

Transportation

I bought my own second-hand motorcycle a couple of years ago so I spend just a few hundred baht a month on gas and maintenance. You need a motorcycle to get around in these rural Thai towns. Only a fool or someone with plenty of time on their hands, relies on the public transport system. Unless you live next door to the school of course. Having your own motorcycle makes life so much easier.

Utility bills

Never much more than a thousand baht for water, electricity and internet. I only turn on the AC for half an hour in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening to take the humidity out of the room.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I budget for around 300 baht a day on food and I find with that amount I can eat out twice a day ad make breakfast in the apartment. So let's call that 9-10K.

Nightlife and drinking

This is a quiet town and most of the nightlife is what I would call a Thai scene. That's not to say I don't go out with Thai staff from time to time (I'm only one of three foreign teachers at the school) but we all split the bill when we go out for a meal and a few drinks. My share never comes to more than about 700 baht so if I go out once a week, then that's 3,000 a month I guess.

Books, computers

Almost nothing. Although I did just buy a new desktop computer for around 30,000. This category tends to be the odd large purchase so difficult to give it a monthly figure.

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

I work through an agency and have a sort of misguided loyalty towards them because they found me this job and I love the school. However, I'm still waiting for last term's bonus and my 35K isn't always paid as promptly as it should be. I live a very month-to-month existence and it's not an idea situation. When my rent is due on the second of each month, and my salary gets paid into the bank a week late, I'm relying on savings to cover the rent.

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

Most things to be honest. I live a very Thai lifestyle and there are not that many Western temptations up here.

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

As ridiculous as it sounds, you could survive on 10,000 baht and not go hungry. That doesn't mean I would like to try it though.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Steve. Yes, I've known a few teachers in the same boat as you, where they stay loyal to a particular agent who found them a decent job. But at the end of the day, the employer has a responsibilty to make sure your well-earned paycheck goes into the bank on the same day every month. OK, sometimes one or two days late is acceptable but it shouldn't happen very often. I hope you manage to sort things out. 


David

Working in Chonburi

Monthly Earnings 50,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work in a large secondary school in Chonburi and my full-time pay is about 50,000 a month after tax. Obviously with the Covid situation in this province being particularly bad, the school is closed and tuition has switched to completely online (I could rant about this for pages and pages but of course this isn't the place)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At the moment I'm saving about half of my salary but in normal times, that would go down to about 10K if I'm lucky. I'm not particularly good at saving.

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

I live in a studio apartment in a typical 'lower-end' apartment building and pay 5,000 baht a month rent. I keep saying I'll look for something nicer but I'm going to have to spend at least double on the kind of place I want. It's quite nice only spending 10% of your income to put a roof over your head.

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

Transportation

I take motorcycle taxis to and from work (they are plentiful in this neighborhood) and that's 40 baht a day - so maybe 800-1,000 a month. I've thought about buying my own bike but never taken the plunge.

Utility bills

This bill has doubled now I'm spending virtually all my time at home and now comes to around 2,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I've actually found that I'm eating less and spending less on food at the moment with restaurants closed and not going to school and popping into 7-11s en route for an ice cream or a chocolate bar. I've got my food spending down to around 5,000 a month and order most of my meals from a local Mom and Pop restaurant. They charge just 50 baht a dish.

Nightlife and drinking

That's been zero for months. I only drink if I socialize and there are no opportunities to do that right now. I do miss a good night out in Pattaya!

Books, computers

I buy the odd book from Amazon but it's hardly worth taking into consideration. I had to spend a few thousand on upgrading my equipment to teach online but that's just a one-off investment.

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

Well at the moment, it's a 'forced way of living'. I don't like it but I've got used to it. I certainly miss seeing people and the excitement of being in a live classroom. I'm praying we don't have to live like this for too much longer.

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

Most things really but especially food from neighborhood hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

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

50,000 is a decent amount. I'd love to earn more but with 50K I never feel I go without.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Dave. You seem to be using the lockdown and teaching online situation as an opportunity to save some money. I think there will be plenty of others who are reaching for those apps and ordering expensive food deliveries and generally buying stuff online. And of course it's up to the individual how they live their lives.  


Tim

Working in Hanoi

Monthly Earnings 150,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

150,000 baht equivalent is my full-time salary. I also occasionally earn free booze by playing guitar in bars.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I aim for half and always slightly underachieve it. Let's say 70K.

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

My rent is 17,000 baht a month for a two-bedroom apartment.

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

Transportation

I have two motorbikes. Petrol costs 2,000 per month. I usually take taxis when trapising around some evenings, which come to about 2,000 per month. I cycle and walk a lot too.

Utility bills

About 3,000 a month for electricity, air-con and water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Regular weekly shopping comes to about 4,000 baht a month with some convenience store pop-ins adding an extra thousand. Restaurants and/or delivery a couple nights a week add another 6,000. So that's about 11K a month I think.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out 2-3 nights a week (very light on weekdays but not on weekends) Those nights out cost about 30,000 baht monthly.

Books, computers

I have my kindle and only use free books. There are lots of free books ! I have a 3-year old personal laptop that has survived me well and a school laptop - so no cost there. Average Western book is about 500 baht and I buy 2 or 3 a month.

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

It is an excellent standard of living when you work hard although you could survive here on a lot less.

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

Food and drink are inexpensive if you stick to local products (local beer and street food). Taxis are cheap. Normal motorbikes ( not vanity purchases) are also very good value by Western standards.

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

I know some people who earn maybe 40,000 baht per month. If you are young it's fine I suppose.

Phil's analysis and comment

I'm not very familiar at all with the teaching scene in Vietnam but not sure we've had anyone in our cost of living surveys earning as much as 150,000 baht a month. Rent only costing 11-12% of your salary is always going to be a bonus. It sounds like you've got a great lifestyle out there Tim but it would be interesting to know exactly how hard you work for it though.   


David

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 100,000 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I get 100,000 baht a month as a full time teacher at a mid-range international school.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 30,000

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

I pay 13,000 a month for a 2-bedroom condo in Dao Kanong.

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

Transportation

I used to get taxis to and from work for 4,000 baht (not anymore as I am working from home.) Grab taxis to go downtown add up to another 2,000 ( this is less now as I am not really leaving home)

Utility bills

1,500 baht for electricity (it’s usually less when I am at work) 100 baht for water and 600 baht for the phone + internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Due to the pandemic, I am ordering in a lot more so anywhere between 5,000-6,000 baht on Grab Food/ Food Panda, otherwise I get breakfast and lunch at school. Shopping at Tops / Big C every fortnight comes to about 600-1,200 baht. I also spend about a thousand baht at 7-11 every few days, buying things I don’t need but just want. I can most definitely spend less on food but I choose to order from the more expensive restaurants, etc.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to go downtown (pre- lockdown) once a week. A night out with good wine and food typically cost about 2,000 baht. A staycation downtown for two nights at a fancy hotel costs 3-4 thousand baht. I used to do this once a month pre-lockdown days.

Books, computers

I buy a few books on kindle every time I go to the beach but that feels like a long time ago.

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

My condo is small for the rent I pay. However, everything else is cheaper than back home.

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

Food (if you eat local), hotel costs (you get some really good deals if you look around)

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

Anything above 50,000 baht is good, however you won’t be saving much and will have to go on budget holidays and eat and drink more locally. No wine or cheese from supermarkets for you.

Phil's analysis and comment

In terms of living costs, working from home creates a swings and roundabouts situation doesn't it? You probably spend more on food because you order more expensive delivery options and of course, your electricity bill is going to increase. But as we can see in David's case, he's saving a considerable amount of money by not taking taxis to and from work and he's not doing any socializing.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 366 total

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