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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Michael

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120-130,000

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

Approximately 120-130,000 baht per month. I make around 60,000 from my job teaching to adults in a language school and 60-70,000 baht as an IELTS examiner.

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

30-40,000

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

I pay 17,000 baht for a one-bedroom apartment in Sathorn.

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

a) Transportation

I probably spend around 1500 - 2000 baht on BTS, MRT and taxis.

b) Utility bills

My utility bills are around 1,500, my phone bill is around 500 and wi-fi around 900.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My girlfriend and I enjoy eating out, probably two or three times a week at mid-range places, and once or twice a month at higher end. Probably about 20,000 baht in total a month combined with food shopping.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I love the nightlife in Bangkok and lead a healthy social life. I'm out two or three times a week and probably spend 20,000 a month or more.

e) Books, computers

I read avidly, but my father sends me a mountain of books every birthday and Christmas so I rarely spend much on books. I bought a new laptop last year for about 20,000 and hope it'll last a few years.

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

I have a great standard of living here, I have 2 or 3 decent holidays a year as well as a trip back home. I'm able to stay in 5-star hotels over Christmas / New Year and my birthday every year, something I wouldn't be able to do in the UK on a £3,000 a month salary.

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

Hotels without a doubt, especially the high-end options during the low-season.

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

There are clearly different definitions of surviving. I wouldn't personally recommend anyone to earn less than 40,000 baht a month but I appreciate people here for the short-term aren't too concerned about that. I've been here for almost 10 years now, this is my life and I need to earn a decent income and put some away for the future.

Phil's analysis and comment

Michael also said "my main reason for completing this survey is to try and remove the stigma of all or most private language school teachers being paupers; if you do a good job and work hard, and try hard to meet the right people, you'll succeed and earn a good living"

Fair comment Michael. I would have also said that 60,000 is possible for a private language school teacher who is valued by the school, gets plenty of student requests (as I'm sure you do) and gets plenty of hours.

But let's not brush over the extra 60K you make as an IELTS examiner. Way back in the 90's, I used to hear of teachers making crazy money as IELTS examiners but I never really investigated further. However, I did know one teacher who regularly flew to Hong Kong to do a weekend of IELTS testing. Even with the cost of flights and hotel, the hourly IELTS rate made it all worthwhile.

All in all, it sounds like you're doing very nicely indeed.


James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 155,000

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

My all-in average monthly income (after tax) is 155,000. The vast majority of this comes from my main job at a fairly decent international school where I work as an EAL teacher (117,000). The remainder comes from teaching small group exam prep courses on Saturdays (1,500 baht per hour which is paid at the end of every course <45,000 baht every 5th Saturday>).

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

100,000 - and it's the Saturday work that makes all the difference (without that I'd be saving half as much). I was seriously considering giving up Saturdays until I thought about retirement. If I don't work Saturdays, I'll need to do another 25 years before I have enough money to retire. With Saturdays that amount of time is reduced to less than 15 years. Right now I'm 37.

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

17,000 for a fully furnished one-bedroom condo (80sqm). It's a fairly old building but in great condition. The location is great for work but it's a couple of kilometres to the nearest BTS/MRT stations. Strictly speaking I only pay 8,500 baht as my partner pays half the rent.

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

a) Transportation

Very little. I live close enough to work to walk and run a little scooter that drinks about 50 Baht of 91 a week.

b) Utility bills

About 3,000 baht. This includes electricity, water and internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'd guess about 10,000 baht per month. Meals are free at school (Thai / Western buffet) which means that I usually only have to pay for dinner.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Maybe 2,000 a month. I used to be out on Sukhumvit at least twice a week wasting my money and liver. Thankfully, gradually aging and working Saturdays have put a stop to that. I now go out perhaps once a month

e) Books, computers

Generally nothing. I have a computer but don't spend anything on it unless it breaks. As for books, there is a great book exchange at work that is free.

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

Busy but fun. Working 6 days a week is a lot, but I genuinely enjoy the Saturday classes. Teaching young adults who have actually chosen to be there is a refreshing experience. I also feel quite lucky that my (wonderful) Thai partner earns a decent salary by local standards (80k+), pays half the rent and generally takes care of herself. The only thing that we really do spend money on is travelling, this year alone we've been back to Europe twice, Japan once and are planning a break to Taiwan in October.

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

Tax! Back in the UK, income tax, national insurance, council tax, VAT and duties really added up!

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

I spend about 40,000 baht per month including rent. If I travelled less I could cut this back to 30,000 but life would be dull. And I'd be in trouble when I hit 65.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! Here's a guy that's feathering his nest and looking to retire in his early 50's. Way to go James! 

I was going to ask what you intended doing once you have put away your board-markers for good. I guess it might be a lot more travelling eh? but you do a good bit already. James also mentioned that one of the reasons he loves to travel is because of the favorable exchange rate between the Thai Baht and other currencies. I'm with you there James. All hail the mighty Baht.

James earns a fine teacher salary. We can all see and appreciate that. But what I would like to highlight is the fact that James has a Thai partner who also brings home the bacon and pays her way. A half share of the accommodation rental being just one example.

I'm also lucky enough to have a Thai partner who earns an excellent salary by local standards and it goes without saying how much easier and more comfortable life becomes. "Let me pay for dinner. It must be my turn" or "I'll just go to the gas station to fill up with petrol before we drive down to Hua Hin"

I've also been on the flipside of the coin, albeit many years ago. I've had the Thai partner who sells a little bit of food here and there and moves from one hare-brained, money-losing scheme to another. Most of the time, she would rather just lie on the sofa, watching Thai comedy shows and cackling like a nutter. Let me tell you - the first type of partner is better.     


Sai

Working in Nonthaburi

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht

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

I make 30,000 a month from my full time job (which includes a 5,000 baht housing allowance). I have to be at school for 40 hours a week (25 hours of that is teaching and there is also some office / admin work) I haven't looked at teaching private students or teaching on-line yet but that time may not be too far away.

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

3,000 to 5,000 a month.

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

I pay 6,000 a month for a 23 square metre condo with a fridge, a microwave, a sink, a small closet, a little table, a sofa and a queen-size bed. For a single guy the accommodation is fine but the open air sewage from the canal outside makes it a very ugly place.

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

a) Transportation

As I live outside of Bangkok, I spend around 600 baht on train fares to go back and forth, at least on the weekends, plus around other 1,000 baht for taxis and such.

b) Utility bills

As I am careful with air-conditioning, electricity comes at around 300 per month

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat a rigorous diet of Thai food and fruit, I am not used to a so-called western diet anyway as I grew up in Italy.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Virtually nothing because the area I live in is devoid of any real night-time entertainment.

e) Books, computers

Sai did not answer this question.

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

It could be improved a lot. I am planning to move anyway and hopefully find something better.

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

Petrol, taxis and spa treatments.

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

Certainly not less than 30,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

The life of the non-native English speaker on 30K a month. Top marks anyway for looking to improve your lot. It sounds like you do a lot of hours Sai for that 25,000 baht full-time salary. 25 contact hours a week is not to be sniffed at and then you've got your admin work on top. Have you ever worked out what you are getting paid an hour? 

"but the open air sewage from the canal outside makes it a very ugly place" 

Yes, I lived in an apartment for three years next to Klong Saen Saeb in the Ramkhamhaeng area of Bangkok. It wasn't so much the state of the canal that bothered me but you did get canal boat taxis going by about every ten minutes with their engines buzzing. It was something I guess I got used to. You could actually catch a canal taxi at the pier right next to the apartment building but I never used it so there was no advantage there. I like to keep my feet firmly on dry land whenever possible. 


Anton

Working in Shanghai

Monthly Earnings 90,000

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

I work at a regular language centre for kids. My basic pay is 60,000 baht a month but we also get a 20,000 baht housing allowance and 10,000 baht travel allowance. There are also bonuses but I haven't included those.

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

45,000

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

I pay 12,000 baht for a nice, clean but VERY small shoe-box. It's not close to the city center but near to my work so I don't really mind. Most of my colleagues pay almost double what I pay to be closer to the city center.

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

a) Transportation

I have a bicycle that I use to get around. If it is raining I will use the subway. Probably not more than 300 baht a month

b) Utility bills

With the air-con running, utility bills are around 2,000 baht a month

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't cook food at home. I live on mainly fruit and protein shakes during the day and I buy dinner in the evenings. Probably around 10,000 baht a month including my protein shakes

d) Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out much at all so this expense is next to zero.

e) Books, computers

I pay around 500 baht a month for my internet and download whatever I need.

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

I am very comfortable. I tend to spend a lot of my money doing online shopping. That said, my accommodation is VERY cheap compared to others in the city and I don't go out drinking, so I save a lot there.

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

Shoes! I buy so many pairs of shoes online (the fake ones) But be careful because they have different level of "fakeness" if I can say it like that. The really cheap ones are horrible, but I bought a pair of the latest Nike Airmax for just 1,000 baht and they look exactly the same as from a proper Nike shop. So many good fake products for really cheap prices.

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

Well, my Chinese colleagues earn a lot less than I do but I would say 40,000 baht a month for a foreign teacher as an absolute minimum, but even that would not be very comfortable. I am actually very close to the bottom of comfortable, but I want to save a lot. Still comfortable, but living any tighter and I would hate it. I keep myself happy with buying little luxuries online.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Anton. We don't get too many cost of living surveys from China but it's nice to know what teachers earn there. No place seems to divide opinion quite like China. Teachers seem to love it or hate it!


Chris

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 41,000 baht

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

I teach at a private bilingual school on the outskirts of Bangkok. I earn 33,000 baht a month as a full-time salary and I earn another 8,000 baht a month at a private language school on Saturdays.

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

A maximum of 10,000 baht.

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

Accommodation is a tiny apartment close to the school. It costs about 3,500 baht a month.

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

a) Transportation

Transportation is roughly 1,000 baht a month as I can walk to school. It's my daily exercise. The transportation is purely for any buses and taxis that I take.

b) Utility bills

Chris did not answer this question so we'll assume it's covered in the 3,500 baht a month rent.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat out every chance I get, so at least once a week. Western food is expensive here. Eating out and groceries probably come to 8,000 baht a month

d) Nightlife and drinking

I did the nightlife thing in my twenties. I'm now so over it.

e) Books, computers

I pay about 1,000 baht a month on data for when I'm not at home or at school. I buy at least one or two books a month but under 1,000 baht.

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

My standard of living is pretty decent but I don't need to stay in a luxury apartment. I do stay in the outskirts of Bangkok though so I don't end up buying or spending money on needless things on a daily basis and I don't eat out every day either. School provides a decent lunch for free during weekdays. They also pay for holidays once you've completed a full year's service, so that helps. I do work through half of my holidays at the school doing Summer School for new students.

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

Taxis (when they run the meter) and rent. Also electronic products are cheaper than South Africa (not sure compared to USA / UK), flights, street food.

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

At least 35,000 baht a month. I struggled a bit before I started the extra work at the language school, as you sometimes have unexpected expenses like doctor's visits, replacing your old laptop for a new one once it starts giving you problems, buying black shirts for everyday use during mourning periods, etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

I felt a tinge of sadness reading Chris's survey because it reminded me of me. A life where you are working all the hours Godsend so you can make ends meet. The dreaded six days a week! I've been there Chris. I did it for ten years or more. And what you end up doing is cramming all the shopping and those weekly chores into your one solitary day off and before you know it, you're back on the six-day treadmill.

I am yet to meet a Thai person or a farang who says that one day off a week gives them enough time to organize their life properly. It doesn't. 

My wife works for a Japanese company and it is written in their contract that they have to work 13 Saturdays a year. So on the Saturdays she has to work, she gets up, gets changed into her company uniform, let's out a deep and audible sigh and says "six days a week is bullshit!" - and I couldn't agree more. In fact, show me a petition calling for a four-day working week and I'll sign it. We'll probably all get just as much done as well.

Chris, what I did was start teaching privately in the evenings two or three nights a week. OK it made for some very long and tiring days but when you get to Friday night and you're looking forward to a whole weekend off, it becomes well worth it. 

As I've said before in these surveys, if you truly enjoy teaching and you're young and energetic, you can cope. But that six days a week is not for me. 

Page 5 of 47 (showing 5 entries out of 233 total)

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