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 21st September 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.66 THB to one Philippine Peso

Stu

Working in Chanthaburi

Monthly Earnings 43,000-55,000

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

My base salary is 35,000. On top of that, I do after school classes twice a week and tutoring on Saturdays. The reason I put between 43-55,000 is that there has never been a month where I’ve done a full month of after-school plus a full month of tutoring. If the stars align, 55,000 is the maximum, but it’s normally just shy of 50,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Easily half of my salary, and even more now with COVID limiting travel.

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

Myself and my girlfriend live in a fairly large apartment, with a bathroom, living room, bedroom and a balcony. Rent is 5,500 and bills are never more than a thousand.

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

Transportation

2,000 for a bike, with maybe 200-300 baht on petrol. Maybe a couple of hundred on Grab taxis if we go somewhere to drink so that we don’t have to drive home.

Utility bills

1,000 for electricity water and wi-fi.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We spend about 6,000 in total, with that divided between groceries and restaurants. In normal times, we get lunch at school, and we have a few cooking appliances at home as well.

Nightlife and drinking

We don’t drink in the week (apart from when I watch football and then just a couple to settle the nerves). At the weekend, with bars and the clubs shut, a few beers or a bottle of whiskey is enough for a night in or at a friends house. I’m praying this number rises when places re-open.

Books, computers

A few kindle books a month, so maybe 1,000 at most.

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

Awesome. Having gone pay cheque to pay cheque when I lived in Bangkok and Lopburi, Chanthaburi is by far the best place to be in Thailand. 30 minutes in the one direction and you’re in the mountains for hiking and waterfall treks. 30 minutes the other way, you’re at the beach. The salary plus tutoring allows me to save a lot, and a girlfriend who’s in charge of the money allows me to save even more!

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

Relative to England, what isn’t a bargain here? Rent and food bills , gym membership, petrol prices; everything! The only annoyance is the two-price policy at national parks and waterfalls. Some places are 20 baht entry for locals, but 200 for foreigners. It lends to a divisive “us and them” mentality in my opinion.

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

In Chanthaburi, a salary of 35,000 is enough to survive and save a little bit. If your schedule allows it, a tutoring job can give you the spending money for weekends away or for trips to the islands.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Stu. You're singing the praises of Chantaburi there and I don't blame you. It really is a wonderful little province and probably my favourite place in Thailand when it comes to two or three-day getaways from Bangkok. What always strikes me is how much pride the locals take in Chantaburi; for starters, you rarely see a scrap of litter anywhere. You've got the magnificent church, that interesting old town part down by the riverside and the bustling gemstone neighborhood. If you've never been to Chantaburi, then put it on your list! I know Stu will back me up there. 


Don

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 60,000

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

I work at a private Thai school, fairly close to central Bangkok, and my full-time salary is 60,000. At the moment, due to the Covid situation, all lessons are being taught on-line so I'm working from home (and that's certainly been a steep learning curve)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Well, at the moment, after deducting money for rent, I feel as though I'm saving almost all of the rest. There's very little to spend my money on and it's been that way for quite some time. I guess in a normal month (pre-Covid) I would be happy to save 20,000 a month but it's certainly more than that right now.

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

I've got a very nice studio apartment just a couple of skytrain stops from the school. Although it's technically only a bedroom and a bathroom, the living space is designed in a way to give the feel of being a bit more spacious than a 'bedsit'. I love living there and I'm so glad I chose somewhere a little more upmarket now that I have to spend so much time at home. The rent is 15,000 per month.

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

Transportation

About 500 baht a month on skytrain fares. I'll even walk the 10 minutes to work if the weather is not too hot and because I leave the house around 7.00 am each morning, that's often the case.

Utility bills

Electricity, water and internet barely break a couple of thousand. I'm obviously using the air-con a bit more now I'm teaching from home but only for 2-3 hours more each day.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I live entirely on Thai food and have most of my meals delivered by a restaurant next door, where the average dish is around 50-70 baht for a lovely big portion. Bit of toast or cereal for breakfast and my monthly food bill rarely exceeds 5-6,000 baht. I get school lunches for free when I'm actually on the school premises.

You often talk about Western food fixes in your comments section, Phil, but actually not only do I never eat Western food, I never get a craving for it either. Once I eat Asian food for a decent length of time, I find Western food is too heavy. It makes me feel too bloated and sluggish. There's always a feeling of 'I wish I hadn't done that' after woofing down a pizza or burger.

Nightlife and drinking

I've never been much of a drinker or a party animal so this category is hardly worth a discussion. I might join colleagues for a beer or two on the occasional Friday night and that's about it. Even on Saturdays, I'd rather stay in and watch a good movie. I'm just happy with my own company and I've always been this way. It's a useful character trait to have during partial lockdowns as well!

Books, computers

I enjoy reading and I download about 3-4 books a month to read on my Kindle so this might be around 1,000 baht a month.

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

I'm perfectly satisfied with it. 60K is only an average salary in Bangkok I guess, but it's more than enough to do what I want and save a bit into the bargain. The big worry at the moment is how long the Covid situation will go on for, especially in Bangkok. I have no desire to stay here for any great length of time and teach online so I'm monitoring the situation day-by-day and trying to formulate a plan B. If things haven't improved by March of next year, I'll head back home to sunny Derbyshire just in time for Spring.

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

Thai food from the small restaurant next to my apartment building.

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

I wouldn't entertain living in Bangkok on less than 50,000 a month unless you are willing to seriously downgrade your accommodation. I just couldn't do that personally. My living environment is so important to me!

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Don, good survey. It's good to get the opinions of a teacher having to adjust his lifestyle due to Covid but in your case, it sounds like you're thriving! As someone who enjoys being at home in his own company, it hasn't really made a big difference has it? And of course, you're saving a lot more money to boot. 

Spending money on nice accommodation is something I've banged on about for years. The nicer the living environment you create, the less time you'll need to spend 'outside' in search of entertainment and pleasure.


Albert

Working in Chachoengsao

Monthly Earnings About 45,000 baht per month

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

My full-time salary is 37,500 and then I make another 7-8,000 per month teaching evening classes.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Normally 7,000-15,000 depending on the time of year.

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

4,000 baht per month. It is a two-bedroom house that I share with a mate/fellow teacher.

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

Transportation

I bought a scooter for 15,000 about a year ago and I'm now happy not to pay rental money every month for someone else's bike. It's only about 150-200 baht per month for petrol. However, add another 200 baht per return minivan trip to Bangkok should we plan a weekend over there every other month or so.

Utility bills

I do enjoy the air-conditioner too much sometimes and I most definitely need to cut back. Electricity can be anything from 1,000 to 2,000 baht per month (shared between two) depending how often I laze on the couch in the middle of a scorching day. Internet is shared and costs me 400 baht / month. I set aside a maximum of 1,500 baht per month for utilities but it rarely gets that much.

Also, not sure if it falls into this category but I also pay 1,600 baht per month for health insurance which covers me internationally.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love to cook. I spend loads on Thai and Western ingredients. It can easily be between 10,000 and 15,000 per month. That includes dining out in restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

I try to keep the drinking aspect of socialising limited to a maximum of only every other weekend. A proper night out in Chachoengsao would cost me no more than 500 baht whereas in Bangkok it probably would get up to several thousand baht easy. Overall I budget 3,000-6,000 per month for these things but it's getting much less as I am trying to get into some other hobbies besides just boozing with the mates!

Books, computers

Not too much. I have my Xbox live account which is about 250 baht per month which is mostly only activated during the rainy season. I buy the odd game here and there, but the budget for this category never succeeds 500 baht on average

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

Its grand! I teach in a fairly relaxed school and love my kids. I teach on average around 3-4 hours per day during school hours. After teaching at this school for a while now (and proving that I am reliable and take the teaching part seriously) I am allowed to come and go as I please. I live super close to school which makes life even easier. Going to hit some golf balls on the driving range, hitting the gym or having a dip in the nearby hotel pool is easy done on a Tuesday between the morning and afternoon class, for example. Sorry, this has become way more than one sentence, but to summarize, life is good!

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

Transport, food and also rent if you find the right spot.

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

In my experience thus far, I would say I can easily survive and even thrive on 45,000 per month. The problem comes when I'm trying to put enough away for flights and visits back home to South Africa - or exploring the rest of the world.

Another chunk of money is needed to put something away for retirement, as it has unfortunately become clear that once you hit the age of 65 as a farang in Thailand, you are not particularly wanted anymore unless you have $$$. (Luckily I have some time yet before that age). However, I would say for where I live, 60K per month would be the bare minimum to cover all those bases.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Albert. Life sounds good - but would be even better if you could hit that 60K target.  You hit on a good point in this survey inasmuch as you've been at the school for a while and you've become 'part of the furniture'. The school management trusts you and you can come and go as you please along as you're on time for your lessons. That's worth its weight in gold because you can slip away to do things like hit the gym or play golf, etc and it all makes for a much happier teacher and a more enjoyable lifestyle compared to someone who has to be on the premises the whole time. 

Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here. 


Kuma

Working in Japan

Monthly Earnings 220,000 Baht (all in)

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

I teach in a university and earn about 180,000 for my classes. I also do testing on the side (Cambridge Assessment, IELTS etc.) which accounts for the rest.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

These days, I would say in the 50,000 baht range.

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

My wife and I rent a house in the 'burbs for 30,000 baht. It's a nice quiet place with a little garden, elderly neighbors, an oasis from the city. I don't mind the drive to work at all!

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

Transportation

My car is paid up but other things are expensive here. Car tax and mandatory insurance etc. is about 5,000 a month. I also spend about 5,000 on gas and another 5,000 on highway tolls.

Utility bills

See above re expensive! Electricity about 4,000 baht, gas the same, water about 1,000, communications (cell phone plans, home wifi) about 7,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket bills come to about 40,000 baht for the two of us. We don't do a lot of restaurants but we do takeout once or twice a week, so add about 5,000 for that. I usually eat out for lunch too so another 5,000 for lunches.

Nightlife and drinking

At my age? No thanks. I can hear my coworkers whine and moan at work for free; why would I spend money to hear them do it at night? I probably spend about 5,000 baht for wine and beer to enjoy at home.

Books, computers

My Kindle is my friend so less than a thousand here. I included the cell phone and internet hookup costs above.

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

We live well, don't have to worry about money at all (no kids at home anymore), and can travel when we want (my schedule has 4 months free time built in) - or could until the 'Rona'.

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

In Japan? You gotta be kidding.

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

In my opinion, a couple with no kids needs at least 100,000 baht a month to live well. A single person with no obligations could get by on 70,000 if they watch their wallet.

Phil's analysis and comment

Back in the early 90's (when I started teaching in Thailand) Japan was always the promised land, the land of milk and honey, the country you moved to if you were a serious teacher who wanted to make some serious dough. Countries like China and Vietnam (which are now seen as more lucrative alternatives to Thailand) rarely got a mention. But over the years, Japan's popularity as a TEFL destination seems to have diminished considerably. 

It's always had that reputation as an expensive place to live and there are some big numbers in Kuma's survey. North of 40,000 baht a month for rent and utilities. 15,000 baht a month to run a car. 40,000 baht for supermarket bills for a couple, ouch!  

Still, 220,000 is a decent salary and you do well to save about 25% of it.   


Patrizio

Working in Hong Kong

Monthly Earnings 275,000 baht

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

My full-time salary is 200,000 baht, which is a huge step up from what I used to make in a small international school in Bangkok. I also have a 75K housing allowance.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 120K every month. My wife has a steady income stream of 50K a month and saves all of that. Most of my end-of-year bonus, which is 375K, I save as well.

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

Hong Kong is very expensive to rent. My wife and I rent a small two-bedroom apartment close to the school. I technically don't pay for this at all, because the cost (60K) fits well into my housing allowance (75K)

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

Transportation

Hong Kong has fantastic public transportation (and infrastructure), which is a big thing after coming from Bangkok. I think we spend about 3,500 bath a month on this

Utility bills

My internet, phone, electricity, and water all add up to about 10K, which I pay with the leftovers from my housing allowance

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Restaurants can be very expensive. My wife and I are absolute foodies, though she now cooks 6 days a week. We spend about 20K a month on groceries. We go out to restaurants once a week and we spend about 30K on this.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to go out quite a lot when I lived in Bangkok, but now that I am married with a rapidly developing career, I find that I prefer staying in much more. I also limit myself to only drinking at home once a month. So I guess I might spend about 1-2K a month on this.

Books, computers

I own a very good computer which my job bought for me. I also have an Xbox, for which I probably pay about 500 baht a month. I am an avid reader but I download my books for free.

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

I think my wife and I have an extraordinarily high standard of living. We do not have to really think about any expenses, but we are both very sensible with money and like to save. We can afford to do the things we like and still save more money yearly than most people back in Europe would earn in that same time-frame.

Hong Kong is such an amazing location to live, especially after being exposed to blatant Thai discrimination and racism towards foreigners. In Hong Kong, every person is what he or she brings to the table. We have access to completely free, top quality healthcare within a city state that has very sound infrastructure. On top of that, Hong Kong isn't nearly as expensive as some people think. It is certainly not that much more expensive than Bangkok.

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

Transportation is something I absolutely fell in love with. Being able to traverse the city in less than 30 minutes for bottom barrel costs is something you could only dream of in Bangkok.

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

That is a tough one to answer and it all depends on your priorities. If your employer pays for your housing, then you would live pretty well on 85K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Patrizio. It sounds like you have a wonderful lifestyle out there in Hong Kong, a wonderful place I've been lucky to visit at least seven or eight times. As you say, the public transportation system is second to none. 

One thing that did shock me about your figures was dropping 30K a month on restaurants and you only dine out once a week. Those must be some pretty swanky joints you eat at!  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 366 total

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