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 3rd July 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿39 to one Pound Sterling
฿35 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

Bodhi

Working in Samut Prakan

Monthly Earnings 110,000

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

I make 100,000 a month working at an international school and another 10,000 baht tutoring at home on the weekends.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

20,000-30,000 a month depending on if there are any surprise expenses. Having a wife and two kids, there are always surprise expenses. My school also offers a Provident Retirement Fund where they invest 5,000 baht of my salary every month and the school matches it with another 5,000.

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

I pay 17,000 baht a month for a 100 sq meter condo.

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

Transportation

400 baht a month on gas for my motorbike and another 1,000 for taxis on the weekends.

Utility bills

3,500 a month for electric and water. 2,000 a month for cellphone, wifi and Netflix.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

30,000 a month. I've lived in Thailand for 10 years, and the days of my wife and I living off 500 baht a day are long gone now that we have two kids. We cook a lot, eat at Thai markets and order Western food a few times a week. I have tried to save money here but with a family, it always seems to average 1,000 baht a day - especially after you make some weekend trips to the mall.

Nightlife and drinking

Almost zero unless friends are visiting from out of town.

Books, computers

Zero, except for an 800 baht a month wi-fi bill.

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

My standard of living is very good in Thailand and a dream compared to what I would have back home.

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

Housing costs, health insurance, transportation, Thai food and weekend trips to the beach are all bargains in Thailand!

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

I would say 50,000 baht if you're single, but that doesn't quite cut it if you have a family. I worked at mid-level private schools for 8 years, making 50+ a month with my bachelors degree and TEFL and it was a struggle after I had kids.

My advice - if you're in Thailand for the long term, spend the money and take the time to get a degree in education or a professional teaching certification and get a Thai teachers license.
After I did that, my salary doubled and my employers don't have to look for loopholes to renew my visa and work permit - plus I no longer get discouraging looks from the immigration officers!

Phil's analysis and comment

I always have maximum respect for foreign teachers who are also family men (or women) at the same time. With the cost of more mouths to feed (and numerous other things), overall monthly expenses must skyrocket. Well done on getting qualified, putting yourself in the higher earnings bracket, and taking good care of the family!   


Scott

Working in Prakanong / On Nut

Monthly Earnings 170,000 (before tax)

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

I earn a salary of 125,000 baht and receive a housing allowance of 45,000. If you deduct tax and housing, I'm left with 104,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Usually around 65,000 - 70,000 but during April and with the Covid outbreak, I managed to save 88,000.

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

I live in a fairly large and modern 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom condo with a European-style kitchen in the T77 Community that overlooks the Prakanong Canal. The condo building also has a pool, gym, co-working space and a library. The school housing allowance covers the rent.

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

Transportation

Very little on transport as there is a school bus to work each day. Maybe 500 baht a month on the BTS ride and occasional taxi at the weekend.

Utility bills

2,600 baht a month. 900 for internet, TV and phone. 1,500 for electricity and 200 for water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I usually eat at home during the week then eat at restaurants or order a delivery on Saturday and Sunday. Usually it is Western Food but occasionally I will eat Thai food from one of the nearby restaurants.

I buy the week's food from Tesco or Big C which costs around 1,200 baht a week.

If I add it all up, probably 12,000 per month (supermarkets 4,500 and restaurants 7,500)

Nightlife and drinking

I enjoy after-work drinks on a Friday and usually a Saturday on most weekends, but it's very usual for me to drink during the week. I'm a big fan of craft beers and the nicer bars in Bangkok. This component comes to around 10,000 a month.

Books, computers

Very little. I occasionally get books at the Neilson Hays Library or borrow them from work.

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

I have an excellent standard of living. I live a great life in Bangkok. I travel during every holiday, eat out often, and have no worries about money.

When you earn the equivalent of a UK teacher's salary, saving money in Bangkok is easy without ever scrimping on anything.

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

Transportation (taxis, BTS, MRT and domestic flights), utilities (certainly compared to the UK), local Thai food, and drinks in bars outside of Central Bangkok.

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

In Bangkok, including rent, I would say 45,000. Surviving and living are two very different things though.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! That is a nice housing allowance. Imagine being told to go out there and find something to the value of 45,000 a month? It sounds like you have as well. 


Davey

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 150,000

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

This is my full-time salary from a good (mostly) international school. I have no need or desire, to do any extra classes beyond that but have full respect for those that do after a long day or tiring week. I’ve been there before. I get flights home and some bonuses on top of that salary as well.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 100K but of course that can fluctuate hugely. Travel (not happening much just now) and odd splurges can eat into that amount. Costs back home and supporting some of the family can also be unexpected expenses.

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

I pay 36K for a large 2-bedroom condo. My wife earns a similar amount to me and we split everything down the middle. It’s two minutes from the BTS and in a great (I think) area of Bangkok

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

Transportation

I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to work. Taxis and BTS add up to 1-2K a month.

Utility bills

I’m currently teaching from home and have a huge air-con fan so I’m nervously awaiting the upcoming lekky bill. Normally the bill is about 2,000 a month though. Another 1,000 for internet and phone. Water is so low that it doesn’t really enter the budget.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We eat out a lot and we (the wife) likes to buy groceries from the fancier supermarkets. Maybe 7,000 a month but not too sure. I tend to skip the school lunch - it’s not great.

Nightlife and drinking

Bangkok does this well and I like to think I do too. Must be about 10,000 a month, maybe more. Watching the footy and having post work beers are important to me and are key to relaxing. I enjoy craft beer which unfortunately is an absolute fortune out here. I also end up occasionally at a few of the higher-so cocktail bars, sitting awkwardly in the corner.

Books, computers

I occasionally buy the odd book for the kindle but not much more than that really. Not a gamer at all and work provides me with a laptop.

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

Very high, much better than it could possibly be back home in London doing the same job.

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

The normal - transport, water and Thai food. I think there can be (in the days of travel) some really quality hotels at great prices. Cinemas are worth a shout too. Some condo buildings also, especially if the gym is good enough to save you a gym membership. I can speak a bit of Thai which always helps avoid some of the random price increases too.

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

I’ll say what many others have before, it depends on your definition of survival. I don’t live miles and miles away from home just to survive, but Bangkok attracts them all. I’d say 50K in Bangkok if you plan on going home occasionally and not eating street food for every meal. Horses for courses though. I know people who live on less and those who couldn’t come close to doing it here on 50,000. Up north, loads less but I’ve kind of last track of Isaan prices.

My teaching career began in darkest Isaan over a decade ago. I was working in the small town’s government school being the farang they wheeled out for special occasions. As much as we had a CELTA, it was honestly more like child-minding than teaching. 25,000 a month with some weekend tutoring and being hit on by bored middle-class Isaan mums. I went home, saved up, got a PGCE and a bunch of experience and it was the best career choice I have ever made.

It’s worth pointing out in the COVID times the importance of a good school with a good contract. I will be watching with interest as to how Thai schools recruit farang staff with the proposed plan of the first few holidays in the academic year being cancelled. Regardless what “educational experts” may be saying on Thai Twitter, there is no chance of term dates being altered in international schools (good ones at least). Recruitment cycles are tied in with the global pattern of international schools and contracts are multi-year with clear start and end dates. It’s quite a relief in these uncertain times and a benefit that equals a financial one.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Davey. What caught my eye in that survey is that you financially support other members of your family. We know that nationalities like Filipinos often send money home, even when earning relatively low salaries, but I wonder just how many Westerners also do this? I've spoken to a couple of middle-aged expats recently (neither of them teachers) and they have both found themselves in a position of having to support their children from afar. It's quite a responsibility isn't it?  


Brian

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 90,000

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

My income is a full-time salary including a housing allowance of 16,000. I work for a mid-level international school in Bangkok. I may consider online teaching in the future.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can save approx 40,000 baht per month. Sometimes when I'm going on holiday its more like 20,000 or 30,000 baht. I do have a lot of mini weekend breaks and usually jet off somewhere each half term break.

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

22,000. I live in a one-bedroom duplex condo.

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

Transportation

I get a taxi to school each day, which costs 1,200 baht a week, which equates to approx 5,000 a month.

Utility bills

Electricity - 1,000 baht a month
Water - 100 baht a month
Internet - 900 baht a month

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Most of my money goes on food as I spend a lot on eating out in both budget restaurants and more expensive restaurants, which I usually go to at weekends.
I would approximate around 10,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I usually have after-work drinks on a Friday, but wouldn't spend more than 2,000 baht on alcohol. In terms of nightlife, I usually go to the cinema at least once a week, this equates to 1,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

I may buy one new book a month, approx 300 baht.

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

I feel I have an average standard of living, but it allows me to have a good quality of life out here.

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

Food is really cheap, with so many amazing tastes and dishes.

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

I think approx 50,000-60,000 a month to have a good quality of life.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Brian. I agree that 50,000 - 60,000 baht a month in Bangkok would give you a decent standard of living if you were a single guy, but you wouldn't be spending 22,000 on accommodation of course. 


Alan

Working in Bang Na

Monthly Earnings 80,000

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

I earn 65K after tax from my low-level international school. I also earn 15K passively from my side business. My wife earns 30K from the same school (no tax since we had the baby), but as she supports family members and has other expenses, I pay all the living costs of the three of us.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Before: 44K minus shock expenses, and believe you me, having a baby leads to a lot of them, just the home essentials plus hospital bills put me back two whole months.
Now: Maybe 10K or more. The nanny isn't coming and we don't go to restaurants. Getting deliveries just means another 200-300 in fees.

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

8,000 for a 2-room apartment (plus bathroom) with about 50m total. We live within walking distance of our mutual workplace, which makes things a lot easier but it's not so much fun to see it out the window or every time you go outside. Having more than one room is very important when you're living with someone, especially now.

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

Transportation

At the moment, almost nothing. We're keeping indoors as much as possible.
Before, around 100-200 per month for petrol, and maybe a bit more for taxis. I have my own 125cc bike, which I bought about 5 years ago (32,000, second hand), and that covers most of our transport needs - shopping and park visits mostly.

Utility bills

3,500 baht for electricity and water, which is a bit much but having a baby means that even before the lock down we were running both air-con units most of the day. Wifi is included with rent. 9,000 baht a month for a daytime nanny and she'll be back when normalcy returns.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I budget for 15,000 baht a month for all consumables and all non-rent, non-utility bills, and then divide this into weeks. This means that I have 3,500 per week, plus 1,000 for the additional days (4 weeks is 28 days). This gives me the flexibility to stock up on long-lasting items which are on special offer. If I overspend, I simply know to withdraw less the next week.

In case you think this is very little for two adults, I was doing 3,000 per week for a year until the baby came.

We mostly cook at home. Besides the usual fridge we have hot plates, a small oven and a grill; allowing us to make virtually anything. We'll add a blender once the baby starts eating. It cost a bit to set this all up but it has paid for itself many times over. This is where my wife really saves us money because she's a great cook and we'll often cook up large portions that last us many days. A mild curry might cost us 200 baht, but that's ten man-sized portions. Since we're using fresh ingredients it comes out better than all but what the most expensive restaurants offer.

Because we're getting good Western food, we don't feel the urge to splurge. I probably should mention that before I met her, I spent more as a single guy, just from the increased costs of frequently eating quality food at restaurants.

Before, we would allow ourselves one trip to a cheap restaurant per week or one take away; just as a change of pace. On birthdays and anniversaries we'd do the 5-star hotel buffets, but that would fall under shock expenses.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero. Even before the baby came along, we weren't too much for that scene.

Books, computers

Zero. I bought a top of the line gaming computer about three years ago for 40K and I'm still spending the 10K I put on Steam then. A bit of a splurge it's true, I was celebrating finally having an international salary.

While I was studying, I had to have textbooks shipped from overseas. The sheer space requirement quickly added up, not to mention the weight if they had to be moved.
Physical books are not a good idea here.

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

Very well established. This is my 10th year in Thailand, and for more than half of them I was a TEFLer with the standard salary. Getting qualified took me a long time, since I had to start from scratch, but it was more than worth it for the quality of life and job opportunities. I wouldn't want to start a family on the income one gets without a teaching degree.

Unfortunately, since we're both foreigners, we have to make a move sometime. We can never be citizens and having a child means we need to keep an eye towards the future. The plan is to emigrate at the end of this year if hopefully, larger events don't impede this.

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

I had never worked full-time before I came to Thailand (yeah I was that young) so I'm not sure.
Quality Western sauces, spices and liquor though are overpriced. I make sure to stock up on those whenever I'm back home.

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

A little strategic capital can go a long way in saving you money. Cooking appliances are the most obvious, but having your own wheels (especially outside of Bangkok) can save you a lot. Even 100 baht a week quickly adds up. I'm always looking for ways to shave down our living costs without lessening our quality of life.

If you live in a small apartment, cook and store food, don't blast the air-con all day, and live fairly close to your workplace and off the BTS line; you could survive in Bangkok on 15K per month or less, or 20,000 for a couple. More spending means more comfort if you do it right. But you should always look to save a good portion of your salary - you never know when disaster might strike.

Phil's analysis and comment

"You should always look to save a good portion of your salary because you never know when disaster might strike".  That's a very timely piece of advice there Alan. Thank you for such a detailed salary. I think the main message within what you wrote is how starting a family can be a real game changer. It's a huge decision. However, it sounds like you keep a very close watch on the purse strings. Good luck with wherever you both decide to move on to in the future.   


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 330 total

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