Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok
Monthly Earnings 35,000
Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
I earn 30,000 baht a month as the only foreign teacher at a small Thai school and I do about four hours a week at a private language school in the evenings for 300 baht an hour.
Q2. How much money can you save each month?
Very little. If I'm left with 5,000 baht then I would consider that a decent month. I seriously don't think I've ever had more than 50,000 baht in my savings account at any one time and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a worry.
Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
I pay 5,000 baht a month for a studio apartment in a fairly newish building that has gone rapidly downhill in the past 12 months. I'm probably the only foreigner here amid all the Thais living two and three to a room. In the early days, I used to try and befriend as many neighbours as possible because I just thought it would be a good idea to have Thai friends (practice the language, etc) Wrong! It wasn't long before I was constantly getting tapped up for short-term loans which were rarely paid back. And if it's just a few hundred baht, you often feel embarrassed asking for it and have to chalk it up as yet another loss. Now I just drift in and out of the building like a phantom, keeping my head down and limiting my social interactions to a nod if anyone says hello. Thai 'friends' from the lower rungs of the economic ladder can be bloody hard work.
Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
I take the bus to and from work. The bus stop is virtually right outside the apartment building and it's a five-minute ride to school. So this is just a couple of hundred baht a month.
Water is about a hundred baht and electricity comes to another thousand. I try to avoid using the air-con whenever possible to keep the costs down.
Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping
I find it very difficult to keep the food and supermarket costs down but you've got to eat, you'll always need cleaning stuff for your apartment and toiletries like shaving gel, razors and deodorant I find very expensive here. I can rack up 10,000 a month on this category easily and that's without even venturing into the likes of KFC, Starbucks, etc. On 35K a month you just can't afford those Western fast food prices. Thai food is simply much better value.
Nightlife and drinking
I haven't been out for a beer for the best part of two years (since Covid hit) and I guess I've got out of the habit now. I'll sometimes buy a couple of cans from 7-11 while I'm enjoying my usual evening in with Netflix but that's as far as my drinking goes nowadays.
I download reading material for free and my trusty 5-year-old Lenovo laptop is still going strong.
Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
I live from month-to-month, there's certainly no hiding that fact. I'm a lot better off than many other people though. I can feel the desperation around me as many of the residents in my building have lost jobs, struggled to get benefits from the government, etc. At least I'm still working and can pay my bills.
Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?
Oh, Thai food without a doubt. You can pick up a decent meal on my neighborhood streets for 40 baht and carry it home in the little plastic bag. A couple of minutes in the microwave and that's your evening meal sorted.
Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
More than what I'm earning. Another 10-15,000 baht would be nice. I'm sure you can live on far less out in the rural towns and cities but you need 40-50K in Bangkok as an absolute minimum I would say. I've been working in Bangkok for five years now and I'm seriously wondering if it's time to move away to somewhere in the north-east perhaps, where the money is bound to go further.
Phil's analysis and comment
Thanks Ricky for a rather sobering cost of living survey. That's a very interesting point you bring up about getting 'tapped up for loans' and I'm surprised in a way that it's never been raised before. We all know how many lower income Thais use loan sharks so who could resist a nice interest-free loan from the friendly foreigner who lives down the hall? You don't want to be that man.
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