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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Cedric

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 65,000

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

I've been at the same large Thai secondary school for six years now and risen through the ranks you might say. Back in 2017, I started here on around 30,000 baht a month but with the odd annual bonus here and there, I now pull in 65K. There is no opportunity to earn extra income though but to be fair, I don't go looking for it either.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Probably around 15,000 a month. I only say that because last year I saved 180,000 baht so 15K is what it averages out at. 180,000? It's not a great deal to show for a long, hard twelve months work is it? It doesn't feel like it to me.

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

I was always brought up to believe that rent is 'dead money' (everyone in my family is a homeowner in Europe) so I rent a studio apartment for 10,000 baht a month, which I found is about the minimum you need to spend for something 'nice and homely'. The apartment building is only five years old, the staff are great, and it's not too far from the school.

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

Transportation

I generally walk the kilometre to work unless it's raining or ridiculously hot, in which case I'll jump in a taxi for 50 baht. That doesn't happen very often though. Throw in the odd weekend skytrain ride or cab fare and this expense barely breaks a thousand a month.

Utility bills

The air-con is always on when I'm at home (and through the night) I simply couldn't survive without it. So the electricity bill can be as much as 3,000 baht a month. I think water is around 500 baht (yes, I get ripped off on that I know)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is an expense I find very difficult to keep under about 15,000 baht a month if you throw in supermarket purchases and all those 7-11 impulse buys. Even though I'm a single guy living alone, I can spend 300 baht a day on food easily and even more at the weekends. That's 10K plus right there.

I'm a somewhat finicky eater when it comes to Thai food so that doesn't help either. I could save a bit by eating school lunches for free but the sight of it genuinely turns my stomach. So I have to seek out a local restaurant and lunch can run me 100-150 baht. It's nice to have a break from the school though in the middle of the day.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out probably three nights a week, nothing excessive but maybe three or four beers with friends. Sometimes I would merely class it as 'after work drinks' when a colleague will utter those fateful words 'fancy a quick one?' This expense is probably another 12-15K a month easily.

Books, computers

I don't really bother with books and computers, I'm more of a Netflix guy.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living?

65,000 baht a month is a strange salary. It's neither here nor there. Yes, you are far better off than the numerous teachers in the 30-40K bracket (or at least you should be) but you still find yourself having to watch the pennies each month. You start to dream about what it would be like to earn 100K plus or those big international school salaries. I guess I'll just never be satisfied.

I've just booked a flight back home for August because I haven't seen my family since Covid came along and that's cost an arm and a leg. There are always expenses around every corner and they can eat into a 65K salary, let me tell you.

I used to hang around with a couple of guys who were here on expat packages with oil companies. That's a very dangerous game to get sucked into if they're ordering bottles of craft beer at 250 baht a pop and imported prime steaks. One of my biggest pieces of advice would be 'if you're going to hang out, hang out with your own kind'

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

In Bangkok? Seriously? Nothing instantly springs to mind. It's as expensive as any other major city in my book. OK, maybe accommodation is reasonable.

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

I'd consider my standard of living as a couple of levels above simply 'surviving' but I wouldn't want to do Bangkok on less than 50K. No way! In fact, I don't know how those teachers earning less than 35K actually manage. It must be so tough. I managed it five years ago but this city feels at least 50% more expensive than those good old days.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Cedric. You made me chuckle with that bit about 'hanging out with your own kind'. Back in the early 90s, I was earning around 28,000 baht a month as a teacher (and believe me that wasn't a bad salary at the time) I used to play snooker once a week with one of those expat salary fat cats - a lovely guy from Scotland. While we enjoyed a session on the green baize, his personal driver would wait for him in the car park. The rent on his apartment was three times my salary. One night we went for a couple of beers after our snooker and I told him how much I earned. His jaw almost hit the floor. He genuinely had no idea that some teachers were working for such a pitiful amount. We sadly drifted apart as 'snooker buddies' soon after, purely because we were opposite ends of the expat social scale. Perhaps we both just started to feel a little uneasy about the situation.  

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here. 


Martin

Working in Near Seoul, South Korea

Monthly Earnings 124,000-140,000

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

I have a permanent position with the public sector in Korea that pays around 125,000 baht a month, plus I do freelance assignments (when I get them) that can net me just a few thousand to 27,643 baht or more.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'm not saving money at all because I have a family with a special needs child. I'm also short sometimes 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 what they call a villa and I started off by putting a big lump sum down that required no rent. As the sum went up over the years, I opted to pay the difference in rent. So I put down 1,935,068 baht and pay 4,146 in monthly rent.

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

Transportation

I pay around 1,935 baht for the subway and bus, plus a few taxi rides.

Utility bills

Korea has winter, so my gas bill can be as high as 7,000 baht when it's cold and far less at 1,100 baht in summer. Electricity is OK, as I pay around 1,200 baht except in summer, when it can get higher because of the humidity.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We usually get groceries online and I spend a fair amount of money on them, around 30,000-40,000 baht since I have a wife and child. We also eat out and that can be costly in Korea, though bargains are there.

Nightlife and drinking

I occasionally hang with people but don't really go out as I spend most of my free time with my family, so this cost is negligible.

Books, computers

I stopped buying books given the big backlog I have, and I pay around 1,100 baht a month for uber-fast broadband that Korea is famous for.

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

Honestly, I'm just getting by and seeking more methods of earning money. Inflation in Korea is bad and I'm worried about my future.

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

I'd say public transit and bargain places to eat, if you know where to look. Oh, and the health care system is good and not going to ruin you financially if you get sick.

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

If you're single with no dependents, a salary of 70,000 baht is the minimum. I have heard of people who live on less but that would be really scrimping and not enjoying life. I don't teach English but Korea has drastically waned as an ESL destination despite the boom in Korean content worldwide, and you must be a native speaker of English from one of seven designated countries to teach English here.

Phil's analysis and comment

No disrespect but I'm not really sure what value a cost of living survey brings to the party when the person is not a teacher, either in Thailand or further afield. However, your comments on foreign teacher salaries and the current job market in South Korea are interesting.  


Bren

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 66,000

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

My full-time salary is 56,000 per month and 10,000 from trading online, but that is getting more difficult. I work in the English program of a large Thai private school. Unfortunately there have not been many opportunities to pick up extra work due to the C-19 pandemic.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

This is my first year in Thailand, and I haven’t been saving much, but I am determined to change that as we go into the new academic year. It is very easy to spend your money here if you’re not careful.

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

Rent is 8,500 for a 42 square metre condo on the outskirts of Bangkok. The condo is located near the BTS and has a well furnished gym as well as a nice swimming pool and co-working space.

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

Transportation

I live within walking distance to my school which saves me a lot of money in this regard. Other than that, I spend maybe 500-100 baht each month on taxis and BTS fares. Here's a tip for newcomers, download Bolt or Grab on your phone, it will save you money and time.

Utility bills

My average electricity bill has been 670 baht over the 12 months. I have three air-con units but I only use one air-con unit when I am trying to sleep. Water is roughly 100 baht every 3 months.

For internet and phone I got a great deal with True, for which I pay 1150 baht for unlimited high speed home broadband, and 10gb of data for my phone. This is a real bargain in my opinion.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The price of food shopping in Thailand is not cheap, especially if you buy from the main supermarkets, and even more expensive if you want to buy things like milk, cheese, and home comforts. I spend maybe 8,000 baht on food shopping and a further 5,000 baht on eating out. If you want to eat decent Western food, then you will need to pay for it.

Nightlife and drinking

This seems to be where I seem to be spending too much money. I have been going away on weekend trips once a month and this adds up to maybe 8,000 baht each trip. Throw in a night out around On Nut or lower Sukhumvit each week and that’s another 3,000. I’m starting to cut this right down and I will only be going away on weekend trips every few months. To summarise, a night out in Bangkok is not cheap, but it sure is fun.

Books, computers

Nothing in this column for me.

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

I have a very nice lifestyle here, a nicer lifestyle than what I really should be living on my wages. Therefore, I am going to cut out some unnecessary nights out and start to look for more things to do during the day which don’t cost as much money.

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

The basics for living here are still very cheap compared to many countries. Look at rental prices in much of Europe and North America. You couldn’t rent a car parking space for $300 dollars a month, let alone a condo.

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

I think you could survive on 35,000 baht a month but that would be a very boring life. If you want to enjoy some entertainment and indulge in the odd home comfort, then I think you need 50,000 baht as a minimum, but I can see that becoming 60,000 next year.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Bren. 66,000 is not a bad salary at all in Bangkok and I'm quite surprised you're not saving much. But as you say, it's your first year in Thailand and you're probably still in a sort of 'holiday mode'.  What you might find as time goes by - and we see it a lot in these surveys - is that the attraction of the nightlife wears off, so you'll certainly start saving more money in that department. Your spend on rent and utliity bills and food shopping, etc is certainly nothing out of the ordinary.   


Patrick

Working in Hong Kong

Monthly Earnings 370,000

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

I have a full-time job in an international school which pays me 250,000 baht a month. My wife works at the same school and earns 50,000 baht as a TA. I also do some tutoring which brings in an additional 50,000 bath. I consider my tutor money my play money. I charge between 2,000-4,000 baht per hour.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save around 135,000 bath a month. My wife saves half of her salary as well. We place a lot of value on putting a bit away for a rainy day. We don't really feel like we are shorting ourselves though. Hong Kong isn't nearly as expensive as people think

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

Our apartment, which has three bedrooms and is brand new, costs about 70,000 baht.

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

Transportation

We spend around 1,000 to 2,000 baht a month. Public transport is dirt cheap in HK and is so remarkably efficient and well run!

Utility bills

Utilities are paid every two months in HK. For gas, we pay 2,000 baht every two months and for electricity 3,000, water is every two months as well and for this, we pay 1,000 baht. We have the best internet package we could find at 1,200 a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We go out to eat at least once a week, which will cost us around 1000 baht (per week mind you). Food shopping will cost us around 30,000 I suppose, because we are past that stage were we like to eat shit haha!

Nightlife and drinking

I love to party in Thailand, but HK is really just a place for me to live and work, so I don't spend any money on that at all. We do enjoy a nice bottle of wine every once in a while, so maybe 2,000 baht? By the way, alcohol in HK is actually way cheaper than in Bangkok.

Books, computers

I download my books and have a laptop from work, so nothing

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

I think we have a great life here. Could we spend more? Of course, but you need to have goals. We are saving what could be considered a few salaries back in Europe every month. As a 29 year old that isn't too bad. HK is incredibly well organized, safe and exciting. It kinda makes me wish I had left Thailand earlier.

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

The public transport system is very cheap and efficient. Healthcare as well is just fantastic and for free!

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

I would say you could do so on 80,000 baht but would you want to? I suppose it all depends on your priorities. As a married man I feel the need to provide for the future, but if I was a single man I'd perhaps give it a crack

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like an amazing life in Hong Kong on that sort of salary. I've been at least seven or eight times and it was certainly an amazing city in the past. As Patrick says, very well organised with a great public transport system. Not sure I ever fancied living and working there though. But a fantastic place for a four-day city break.  


Justin

Working in Rural Chaiyaphum (in Isaan)

Monthly Earnings About 85,000 - 90,000 baht (my wife makes another 15,000 baht)

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

Me: I work as an independent, online tutor, teaching 17 hours a week to Chinese and Russian students. I charge between 1,000-1,500 baht per hour and make 85,000-90,000 baht per month.

My wife: She's a Thai government teacher. Her net salary is about 15,000 baht. (this is important since we share expenses)

I live with my wife and son, so the expenses are based on a family of three who live in Isaan long term.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Monthly savings for a family of 3: 50,000-60,000 baht per month.

Me: My bank statements over the last year reveal I have spent 27,000 baht per month. Meaning I'm saving about 50,000-60,000 baht per month.

My wife: She earns 15,000 baht per month and spends all of it. However, as a local teacher she gets yearly pay rises and a great pension when she retires so she's fairly secure.

I think many new teachers in Thailand fall into the trap where they look at how much they saved last month and think they can do the same every month for year. It's often the once a year, adhoc costs which can eat into your savings.

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

9,000 baht per month. A year ago I bought a 3-bedroom house in a small town in Isaan. I put down a 20% deposit using past savings from teaching at schools and online here. I pay the mortgage and it comes to about 9,000 baht per month.

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

Transportation

Total: 6300 baht per month.
- Fuel - 4,800 baht
- Car insurance - just 1,000 baht on average
- Car and scooter maintenance - about 500 baht on average.

I own a car which I finished paying of a couple of years ago, and a scooter here. My wife's school is a 60 km round trip and she pays the fuel for the car. The fuel prices have obviously skyrocketed. If you have a kid and want to live here long term, then you're going to need to get a car at some point.

Utility bills

Total for 3 people - up to 4,000 baht per month.

My wife pays most of the utility bills:
Electric - about 1,000-1,500 baht per month.
Water - about 200-300 baht per month.
Internet - 750 baht per month.
Wife's phone - 400 baht per month.

My phone - 1,000 baht per month (I have super fast, unlimited internet so I can teach away from my home)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Total food and household expenses for 3 people: 17,000 per month. For regular food and household expenses for the 3 of us, we're spending about 15,000 baht per month. Once a week, we'll go out for a nice hot pot, mookata, or some nice Western food at an awesome Western resort 20 km away from my home. This is another 2,000 baht or so.

Nightlife and drinking

Total - 2,000 baht
I buy a 24 bottle box of really nice Thai cider (called Moose if anyone's interested). This lasts me about a month, and costs 1,500 baht. I sometimes have a beer if we go to a nice restaurant. So that adds another 500 baht per month.

Books, computers

Hardly anything, so I'll include miscellaneous and adhoc expenses here:

Total - 3,000 baht per month

1. School fees - 2000 baht per month.
He goes to a good private school in the town we live in. The fees include tuition, extra class at the end of the day, transport etc.

2. Gym - 750 baht per month.
I pay a monthly subscription to use a gym and pool at a hotel.

3. Laptop - Averages at 300-400 baht per month
An adhoc expense which I only need to pay every 5 years or so. But, it's essential for me to have a good computer.

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

We're certainly comfortable and I can save well. I'm 31 years old and have lived in Thailand for nearly 10 years, so my priority is to build a decent nest egg for retirement and pay off the mortgage.

Thailand is a great place to forget about your worries....until it's too late to fix your problems.

Living in Isaan, I've seen so many retirees get into financial problems here with stricter visa regulations, not having a retirement fund, as well as many teachers having issues getting a permanent teacher's license. That's why I studied for an iPGCE, switched to a marriage visa and started building a student base to tutor independently online.

However, I have friends in China encouraging me to go back there where I could more than double my current salary. Meaning after a few years, I wouldn't need to save any more money.

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

The basics that you need to survive by yourself are cheap. What you want to be happy and what you need in order to build a family and live here the rest of your life is expensive.

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

It depends on how long you want to live here for.

I once only spent 3,500 baht in a whole month (not including rent or utilities) It was horrible. If a teacher is in dire straights then you could do that for a month...but not every month.

I've worked and lived here as a single person before getting married here in Isaan, so these are my thoughts:

For a single person in Isaan living 6 months - about 15,000-20,000 baht per month
For a single person in Isaan living 3 years plus - about 25-30,000 baht per month.
For a family of three like my family - about 40,000 baht per month.

The important thing though, is if you want to live here for the rest of your life and don't own your house or have any other assets or income, then you probably need to save another 30-40% on top of your monthly expenses, and place them into long term investments.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Justin for the detailed breakdown of the income and spending for both you and your wife. Very interesting. You sound like you have a very good handle on all things financial.

"It's often the once a year, adhoc costs which can eat into your savings". Very true. And that's coming from someone who had to just spend 45,000 baht on a new air-conditioner.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 388 total

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