Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 - 32,000

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

I work at a Thai secondary school and after tax I take home around 30-32K a month. Just for the record, this was a one-year contract position which I set up while I was in England and is arranged through a placement agency.

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

I've been in the job for six months now and I think I've had one month where I managed to save about 5,000 baht. The rest of the months I've saved nothing at all.

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

The school arranged the accommodation for me. I live in a studio apartment and pay 4,000 baht a month rent. It's basically four walls, a small bathroom, a bed, a dressing table and a wardrobe. It's in a relatively old building in a very Thai neighborhood. You see very few other foreign faces. But it's only a five-minute walk from the school.

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


Very little. The occasional taxi fare or skytrain / subway ride at the weekend and that's really it. Probably less than 1,000 baht a month.

Utility bills

The apartment I live in has both air-conditioning and hot water but I find I can do without them most of the time, especially during the cooler months. Air-conditioning always gives me a sore throat and hot water tends to make my skin dry. My last electricity and water bills barely came to 500 baht between them.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My neighborhood, being a very Thai area, is great for street-food and small mom and pop restaurants. From Monday to Friday, I have lunch at school (around 20 baht a dish) and I'll eat near to my apartment in the evening. I try to limit my spending to 100 baht a day or less during the week but at weekends I'll go out with friends and eat at Western places. In total I would say probably about 8,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out on Friday and Saturday nights and that's it. The rest of the week I'm too tired from teaching and will just relax at home. A night out with a few drinks and a bit of food can cost up to 1,500 so I would say maybe 10,000 baht a month goes on entertainment.

Books, computers

I'm a huge fan of Dasa Bookstore near The Emporium and love to spend an hour or so in there browsing the paperbacks. They also buy the books back for a good price when I've finished reading them. I use the internet for free at school. I don't have a laptop and even my phone is pretty basic. I've never been much of a gadget person.

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

I find this a very difficult question to answer. Can I say "OK at best?" I'm only here for a year and I did my research and knew what I would be letting myself in for before I got here. I knew that 30,000 baht would just about be enough and that's exactly what it's turned out to be.

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

Thai food is excellent value, especially if you shop local at the markets and food-stalls. Western food is way overpriced - and not even that great.

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

I've been quite shocked at just how expensive Bangkok can be. The moment you start craving some of those Western comforts is the moment you can start hemorrhaging money. 'Living like a Thai' might save you loads of cash, but it wears you down after a while. If I was looking to make a long-term career out of teaching AND settling in Bangkok, I couldn't imagine doing it on less than 50K a month. And even that probably wouldn't be enough.

Phil's analysis and comment

Melody sounds like a sensible girl and she lives 'within her means'. I never forget the first full-time job I had back in the UK and my boss gave me advice I've never forgetten - 'you always have to live within your means'. 

I've worked with many teachers down the years who always tried to live a 50K lifestyle on a 30-40K salary. It can't be done.

Recently, I've had a few conversations with expats who have never had anything to do with the TEFL profession or ever will. But naturally they are interested in the lifestyles of teachers abroad if only because there are so many here. When I tell these expats that many teachers earn around 30K a month, the reaction is always the same. There is silence for a moment before one of them will ask the question 'and teachers can actually survive on that?'

I've just returned from the supermarket. My weekly shopping bill came to just under 3,000 baht. Admittedly, it was one of those weeks where I needed to buy a few cleaning products but overall, my shopping trolley was nothing if not modest. There are no expensive imported cheeses or bottles of wine going in there. It's all staples like bread, milk, yoghurts, coffee, fruit, vegetables, etc. Most of those provisions are for me I might add. My wife eats a strict 'clean food' diet and has special meals delivered to the house (which she pays for out of her own pocket)

Before tackling the supermarket shopping, my wife and I enjoyed a spot of lunch at a local restaurant. Nothing lavish. We don't live on Sukhumwit Road or in some expat neighborhood. The restaurant bill still came to 700 baht for the two of us - for a starter, a main dish and a couple of banana smoothies.

So in conclusion, a bit of shopping and a bit of lunch and I've blown hole in well over 3,000 baht (I've deducted the price of my wife's lunch as well and assumed just the costs for me)

A month can be a long old stretch. There are at least four weeks in it. So multiplying my weekly spend by four and that's about 13,000 baht on food alone. AND that's not counting Sunday lunch (we sometimes go out on Sundays as well) and all those small ticket items that I will buy during the week at 7-11 or the local fruit market.

Actually, I find that when you analyze costs in detail, it gets quite frightening when you realise just how little 30,000 baht is. 

If anyone fancies doing a cost of living survey, I've now put the questions on-line to make it easier and quicker for you. Please spare half an hour if you can. 

Submit your own Cost of Living survey

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