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 26th August 2019

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฿38 to one Pound Sterling
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Paul

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

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

I teach at a medium-size Thai school near the centre of Bangkok and my take-home pay after tax is around 38,000 baht. I do not teach any extra classes or do private students so I try to live on that 38K as best I can.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Virtually nothing. I find that 38K just about covers my basic living costs. I should explain that I am a new (ish) TEFLer in my late fifties and I've already had a successful business career in Europe so managed to save a fair amount during that time. I could have retired in Thailand and lived off my savings but needed something to do.

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

I rent a studio apartment fairly near my school for 10,000 baht a month. It's comfortable enough for one but still feels a bit basic because I haven't got around to fully furnishing it yet. It's a newish building and has all the facilities such as gym and swimming pool. I get on well with the staff and enjoy living there.

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

Transportation

I can walk to my school in 10-15 minutes so my only transportation expenses are sky-train and taxi fares at the weekend, depending on what I'm up to.

Utility bills

This comes to about 2,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The apartment building has a solid restaurant on the ground floor that does Thai meals (and the odd Western offering) for about 60-80 baht a dish. I eat here most nights from Monday to Friday. I'll have maybe one fast food splurge at the weekend. I make breakfast in my apartment each morning and also prepare a salad for lunch, which I take to school in a plastic container. I could eat at the school but don't really like the food they prepare. Probably around 7-8,000 baht a month in total.

Nightlife and drinking

This sets me back about 12,000 baht a month. I like to go out a couple of nights a week, usually on a Friday or Saturday. Now the football season has started, I enjoy getting together with a group of friends and watching a match on TV. If you can limit yourself to 3-4 beers, it's still a relatively cheap evening.

Books, computers

I have a five-year old laptop and I tend to download books for free, so this isn't much of an expense at all.

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

w

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

It's enjoyable enough, but on months where I fancy doing some travelling, I will more often than not have to dip into my savings. I also go back to Europe at least twice a year. I couldn't afford to do that on my 38K salary either.

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

In Bangkok, I would consider myself at the very bottom end, so I'm going to say 35-40K a month. That's enough to put a decent roof over your head, eat fairly well and have a few nights out. But it doesn't leave an awful lot of money for much else.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Paul. I've worked with a few guys like you down the years. Gentlemen in their fifties and sixties who have already made their coin and are teaching for basically 'something to do' but that doesn't mean they don't care about the job they do in the classroom. It's a nice position to be in, knowing that you aren't that reliant on your monthly paycheck. I've always found guys like Paul to be the most relaxed, easygoing teachers to work with. There's no pressure on them! 


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. 


Trevor

Working in Pathum Thani

Monthly Earnings At least 50,000

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

I work at a medium-sized government school in Pathum Thani, which is about an hour or less from central Bangkok. My take-home salary is just 42,000 a month but I can boost that to at least 50,000 with private students depending on how motivated I am or how many students want lessons in any given month. You cannot rely on private students for guaranteed income though. The numbers fluctuate especially during holiday periods like Songkran and Christmas / New Year.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

That varies depending on if I do any travelling or I have a 'larger' purchase to make, but I always like to save in the region of 10,000-20,000 if I can. I'm saving for a trip back to England at the moment because I haven't been home for several years.

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

I share a very large four-bedroom house with two other teachers (one guy works at the same school and the other one doesn't) I know that house-sharing is often a disaster and I've got horrible memories of doing it in my student days back in England, but the three of us get on really well and we all have similar characters. The rent is 12,000 baht a month (but looking at the price of other properties in the area, I think it's worth a lot more) - and we split the rent three ways, so 4,000 baht each.

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

Transportation

My journey to and from school involves a 10 baht motorcycle taxi to the main road (our house is a long way up a quiet soi) and then either a short taxi ride or a 12 baht bus fare. Probably no more than 3,000 a month for work-related travel but of course there will be taxi fares at the weekend on top. Taxis are so cheap here that I can just never be bothered to wait around at bus-stops.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to about a thousand baht a month each. I suppose we're fortunate that all three of us like to have the air-con on when we are at home.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

It's a crying shame that we share a lovely, big kitchen and just don't make any use of it other than a place to make coffee or get a cold beer from the fridge. Food is one area where I could really save money on if I wanted to but I'm a hopeless cook. So I'm a real fiend for home deliveries and when you are ordering Western food, this can get quite expensive. I reckon I spend 10,000 a month on food and probably more.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out much but do enjoy a beer and whisky at home, especially if I'm on the computer games console and the three of us are having a session well into the early hours (only at weekends of course) Probably 5,000 a month I guess if you include a couple of nights out.

Books, computers

I spend a decent amount of money on computer gaming and I do like my gadgets. This could be well in excess of 5,000 a month if you tot it up over a year. Actually by doing this survey I'm beginning to understand why I only save 10,000 a month.

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

Very happy with it. I could work harder, have less free time and make more money but for me that's not what life is about.

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

Taxi fares without a doubt. And if there are two of you to share the ride, so much the better. In a few year's time, I'll be able to use the sky-train more when the latest extension is completed.

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

Obviously it depends on your lifestyle but Pathum Thani is not Bangkok and there are fewer temptations here. I could get by on 30,000 a month at a push but wouldn't really want to. 50-60,000 is a nice amount of income because it allows to put some away for a rainy day.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Trevor. I always break into a wry smile when I hear of friends or colleagues sharing a house or apartment in Thailand. It goes without saying that it's so important you get along. 

I remember many years ago sharing a studio apartment on Sukhumwit (yes, crazy I know) with my best friend from school. We entered into the agreement as best friends but after six months, we were ready to kill each other and one bone of contention was always the air-conditioning. I wanted it turned on whenever I was in the room, but he liked it off purely to save money. I'm amazed we lasted six months in all honesty.


Come on! 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. 


Nathan

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 45,000

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

I teach at a private Thai school in Chiang Mai and my take home salary after tax is 34,000. I top things up by teaching private students at the weekend and sometimes do a bit of language centre work, which is steady work but doesn't pay as good an hourly rate as when you organise your own private students.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to save at least 10,000 baht, which is doable in Chiang Mai if you can hit 45,000 a month.

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

My girlfriend and I rent a one-bedroom apartment about 5 kilometres from the city centre and that costs 8,000 baht a month plus bills. My girlfriend was paying half of the rent up until a couple of months ago because she's between jobs at the moment.

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

Transportation

I have my own motorcycle and my school and all my private students are within a five-mile radius, so this isn't a great expense at all. Just a few hundred a month for gas and the odd running repair.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to about 1,000 baht a month. We only have the air-con on in the evening when we are both at home. My girlfriend never turns it on if she's home alone during the day. She says it affects her sinuses or something like that.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My girlfriend is a fantastic cook and whips up some great meals in the wok. She'll spend about 1,000 baht a week buying fresh ingredients from a nearby market. We do like to go out a couple of times a week for a meal (she'll eat Thai food and I'll go for something Western) but that never comes to more than about 500 baht for the two of us. So I would say when you add it all up, our monthly food bill is about 8,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

My nightlife days are behind me and frankly, I don't miss the scene at all. I got bored of it very quickly. I would much rather stay in and watch a movie with a nice big plate of popcorn.

Books, computers

I do like my technology and my gadgets but difficult to put a figure on this, although a couple of thousand baht a month sounds about right.

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

I'm satisfied with it. OK, it's hardly what you would call a rock 'n' roll lifestyle but we don't feel as if we go without anything. It's not like we are even missing the 20K that my partner used to earn either. Chiang Mai is a big city and there are numerous temptations and no limit to what you could spend, but we are not night owls, we don't do spas and massages, and we eat well but quite cheap. I often refer to it as a Thai lifestyle with a few Western treats included.

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

Fresh meat, fruit and vegetables from the local markets. Shop where the locals go and you can't go wrong!

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

Most teaching jobs in Chiang Mai still pay in the neighbourhood of 30,000-40,000 and I would say that's more than enough for most folks. You might not save a great deal but you won't go short of anything.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Nathan. As you say, it's not the most exciting of lifestyles but who cares as long as you and your partner are both happy? You are certainly not alone when it comes to getting bored of the nightlife. Many of these cost of living surveys are from expats echoing your thoughts entirely. I think it's an aspect of life in Thailand that many guys get out of their system after a year or two.

Keep your woman on the job hunt though or she'll get too comfortable with lazing around all day watching Thai soap operas on the idiot's lantern. Hmmmm.......she's a good cook though isn't she? LOL 


Joseph

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

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

I teach at a private Thai school in Bangkok and my salary after tax is around 38,000. I teach about 16 hours a week but I'm at the school considerably longer than that of course.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Almost nothing. Even a fairly modest lifestyle uses up the 38,000 baht I earn.

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

I've only been here for several months and this is my first teaching gig so I'm still on the first rung of the ladder so to speak. I stayed in a cheap guesthouse at first but soon realized I needed my own place. I currently share a one-bedroom apartment with a Thai colleague (which he owns) and I give him 5,000 baht a month to cover rent and utilities, etc. It's not an ideal situation by any means, and I'm looking for my own place at the moment but don't really want to spend more than about 8,000 a month. I haven't found anything yet in that price bracket that I have fallen in love with though.

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

Transportation

I get the air-conditioned bus to work and it's only a ten-minute journey so this expense is barely 500 baht a month.

Utility bills

Those bills are covered in the 5,000 baht 'rent'. The air-conditioning always seems to be on when I'm home so I can't complain at that amount.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This seems to be the one area where I struggle to keep costs down. Because I share a flat, I don't feel like cooking when my flat-mate is at home, even though we share a decent size kitchen. It just feels awkward. So I grab a bite on the way home and I tend to find myself in Western or fast food restaurants that I can't really afford. I bet when you throw in the cost of buying supermarket essentials, this is at least 12,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I will meet some other farang colleagues at a downtown sports bar once a week and we'll have a few beers and watch a football match on TV. It's very easy to burn through 1,000 - 1,500 in a single evening so this is probably around 6,000 a month.

Books, computers

Nothing really. I use the computers at school.

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

It's OK at best. I would love another 10-15,000 baht a month. Now that would make all the difference! After I take out my rent, food and modest entertainment costs, I'm left with barely 500 baht a day as excess pocket money. Certainly not enough to think about having nice weekends away, etc. Even after such a short time, It's beginning to feel like merely an existence. When I did my research, I knew living in Bangkok on this sort of income wouldn't be easy but I've still been shocked at how pricey Bangkok is once you move away from 'Thai-style' living.

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

Bus fares and taxis.

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

I think this is a difficult and 'grey' question because I am certainly surviving on 38K and could probably survive on less. Perhaps a better question might be 'how much would be enough for the kind of lifestyle you'd like to have?' and for me the answer would be around 50-60,000.
I'm going to see out the current school year and then see if I can find a better-paying job.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Joseph. You said something important in that survey - the fact that you're on the first rung of the ladder. As an inexperienced, new arrival, most of us had to start somewhere. We've all been on that first rung, living in less than ideal apartments and not quite having enough money in our pocket to do the things we want.  But trust me, things do get better as you move from job to job and chances are that you'll eventually reach your financial goal. Don't give up!


Come on! 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.       


Dan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 130k - 175k

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

I work in a fairly decent international school that pays 130k per month including housing and after deductions. 130k is therefore my minimum take home monthly pay. I also have a part time job that pays well, adding up to 45k per month for only one day's work per week. There are occasional months when flight allowances and other bonuses further add to my pay.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On average, 100k per month. This varies from month to month depending on how much extra pay I receive over and above my regular salary. As the Thai welfare system provides a feeble safety net, I feel the need to save as much as possible now, to allow for a comfortable retirement. I would like to have enough to be able to wind down by the age of 55 (14 years away).

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

12,000 - This is 50% of the rent of a 2-bedroom condo that I live in with my Thai partner (who pays the other 50%). She works as an engineer and earns a salary similar to mine). We live in a quiet Soi in Sathorn not far from Lumphini Park and the MRT / BTS

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

Transportation

Not a lot really, I bought a motorbike for about 100k five years ago and it costs almost nothing to maintain. The ride to work is only a few kms which means gas rarely comes to more than 150 baht a week. Including the occasional taxi I don't think I've ever spent more than 2,000,

Utility bills

About 1,500, As we share bills, this is 50% of the cost of electricity and water, plus a 500 baht monthly charge for my cell phone package.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

A lot less during term time. School provides free snacks and a buffet lunch for all staff. This means that I only have to pay for dinner, which I usually spend about 250 baht on and never prepare myself. So, when school is open probably no more than 10,000 per month, but during the long holidays that number goes up by 50%

Nightlife and drinking

5 years ago... A LOT. But not so much these days. On Friday I'll have a few beers with friends or take my girl to the cinema. That's about it. Maybe 5k a month.

Books, computers

Nothing really. My PC is a few years old and won't need replacing for at least a few more. As for reading material - I also have access to an awesome library at school - for free.

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

Thailand is one of the few countries in the world where you can enjoy a great standard of living in the capital city on a teacher's salary (as long as you're professionally qualified in a country that 'exports' its education system). However, right now I'm more concerned with my standard of living in the future, once I've put the chalk away for the final time. I want to retire here and think I'll need to have saved enough to provide a living allowance of 80 to 100k per month.

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

Bangkok feels a lot more expensive than when I first arrived. Everything used to be cheap but now I find myself shopping around more. Despite this, public transport is still great value and Coke in 7-11 is cheap too!

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

The minimum wage in Bangkok works out at about 10k per month and the people earning this figure seem to avoid death. But who comes here aiming just to stave off death? If I didn't need to save I could maintain my current standard of living on about 50k per month. However, I DO need to save as I have no teacher's pension or inheritance coming my way. So, if I was earning less than 100k per month I think I'd need to think about going elsewhere.

Phil's analysis and comment

I guess to those teachers out there earning 30-40k a month, it must feel like Dan exists in another universe. But it's all about different strokes for different folks. There are many qualified teachers out there pulling in the megabucks at international schools and saving 100,000 a month.

There is much to admire about Dan's survey. 

I particularly like the way he's totally focused on retiring at 55 with an income of 80-100,000 baht a month. And I would agree with that figure. At 55, Dan's going to have 10-15 golden years ahead of him when he can travel the world, play golf and do all the nice things in life. 

He's got a partner earning the same amount of money. That doesn't do any harm at all. A potential 350,000 baht a month coming into the household and only 12,000 of that going on rent. Way to go! 

Dan clearly doesn't 'waste' money on stuff. He's got a motorcycle that costs peanuts to fill up and maintain. He's cut down on any past drinking habits. He takes advantage of the free school meals. And he's not averse to shopping around for bargains in a city that's becoming more expensive by the week. What's the old saying? - look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.  


Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the 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.      


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 293 total

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