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?


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.  

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