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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Gareth

Working in Ayuthaya

Monthly Earnings 45,000

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

45,000 baht is my take home salary from my teaching position at a Thai secondary school in Ayuthaya. I've been working at the same school for four years.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Generally around 15,000 baht per month.

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

I share a small townhouse with another teacher from the same school and the rent is 8,000 baht a month, so 4,000 each. We split everything 50/50 from utility bills down to improvements that we know aren't really the landlord's responsibility. The house has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a nice garden and sun terrace. I love living here because there's enough space for two people without ever getting on top of each other.

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

Transportation

Next to nothing. I invested in a fairly spiffy mountain bike and it's about a 5-minute cycle to school. Not much fun during a heavy downpour but it's certainly a great way to stay fit and save money. During the weekends, I'll take it out for a longer ride and explore the province (although I know it pretty well now)

Utility bills

Around 5,000 baht a month. It's fairly high because we both sleep in our respective rooms with the air-con on and we'll turn it on in the living room when we are both at home at the weekend. Water and Netflix come to about 600 baht but I've included that in the 5K.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I used to eat out at local Thai restaurants and food courts quite often and although it was only 30-40 baht a meal, the portions were too small and I never felt full. Now I've mastered the art of 'Thai food pimping'. I buy a load of cheap chicken and vegetables at the market, cook it all up in one go and then store it in the freezer. Then I buy my Thai meals to take away and add a little bit of my own cooking to basically double the size of the meal. I bet the overall cost of the meal still doesn't break 60 baht. I never touch western food at all. I just got bored with it a long time ago. So I guess my food and supermarket bill comes to around 6K.

Nightlife and drinking

What nightlife is available in Ayuthaya doesn't really appeal to me anymore and despite the bright lights of Bangkok being only an hour or so away, I can rarely / never work up the enthusiasm. I'll have the ocassional bottle of wine or glass of craft beer at home but I'm not the sort to have a fridge full of Leo and just sit and drink myself into a stupor. If I averaged a thousand baht a month, I'd be surprised.

Books, computers

I do enjoy computer games and I probably spend 3-4,000 baht a month on games and computer-related stuff. I'd much rather have a night in with the Playstation than a night on the tiles.

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

It's pretty basic. I always say 'I live like a Thai but with a few luxuries thrown in'. And that's just how I like it. I'm all about reducing life to a stress-free minimum and I've gone a long way to accomplishing that.

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

Food at the market. It's unbelievable how cheaply you can pick up a bunch of asparagus compared to the crazy money they want in the supermarket

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

I can live very comfortably in Ayuthaya on 30K but then again, my needs are few. 30K would be my absolute minimum though. The 45K I earn certainly gives me money on top to treat myself whenever I want.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Gareth. 'Thai food pimping' is something I do as well (adding a bit of your own home-cooked food to flesh out the meagre portion size of a Thai street food take away) That aside, it seems you live happily in Ayuthaya on 45K. 'Living like a Thai with a few luxuries thrown in' is probably a very good way to describe things. 


William

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75K (after tax)

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

55K salary plus 20K housing allowance for full time teaching in a Satit school (Mon-Fri). There was opportunity to earn more with extra classes at the school, but I valued my free time. It was my first year after gaining QTS back in the UK. I was definitely underpaid for my qualifications but I feel it was a fair salary given my teaching hours and workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Early on, I was saving 40K baht a month, but as my food habits changed, this decreased over the year. By the last month I was probably saving 25K baht/month. I finished the year with 400K baht saved in my Thai account over 12 months which works out to 33K/month. However, this doesn't take into account flights I paid for from my British account though, which included some international trips.

Overall, I'm about £4,000 up for the year which isn't great, hence why I've decided to move on.

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

20K Baht month for a 45 square metre condo in an expensive part of Bangkok. It was only 10-minute walk from my school though. I was told by the lady at the bank when I went to deposit my rent every month that it was expensive.

I liked my condo (apart from the horrific noise from traffic 24/7). Back in the UK I was paying £1,000 (all in) a month for an apartment at basement level with limited natural sunlight in a city in the Midlands. So in comparison, Bangkok felt like a bargain.

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

Transportation

I spent 100 baht every week on grab bikes to get to locations where my hobbies were at. I would occasionally get the BTS one stop when I was feeling lazy or it was too hot/rainy to walk. About 1,080 baht/month in total.

Utility bills

From September to December my electricity bills started off very low. It went crazy from January time. Last electricity bill was 1,800 baht/month.

Water - Really cheap like 150 baht month?

Internet - Was set up for me at 680 baht/month.

Sim card - I paid 1,800 baht for the whole year back in August. Never run out of data, but couldn't make phone calls on it. There was never a moment when I had to make a phone call throughout the year.

800 baht month for condo cleaning (I know it could have been cheaper but I didn't mind tipping the cleaning maids for making my condo look brand new.)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is where I spent most of my money. In the first three months I ate a lot at the food courts and was barely spending anything. The novelty wore off, and then the realisation that the food wasn't the best quality. During these three months I was probably spending 10K baht/month on food.

I went through a stage of buying food from Big C to eat at home, but I found that to be just as expensive as buying groceries back in the UK. Especially for my imported fruits such as grapes, avocados, strawberries & apples.

By the end of my time in Bangkok I was probably spending 20K-25K baht/month on food which involved a lot of eating out with a drink. Any normal restaurant that isn't a food court seemed to be 300 baht for food + 100 baht drink.

The impulsive snack buys from 7/11 didn't do my savings (or my waist line) any good though.

I generally felt a lot healthier towards the end of my stay in Bangkok.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't drink alcohol. If I did, I probably wouldn't have saved anything.
Dates would probably cost a couple of thousand baht for food & drinks on at a rooftop bar. My mocktails would cost 200-300 baht/drink. A couple of dates went up to 4,000 baht, which was bruising.

Books, computers

Nothing really. I spent £3 a month on netflix (brought it when living in Latin America years ago), but it so negligible I forget about it. I would cancel it but I wouldn't get Netflix so cheap again.
I should read more, I brought a kindle before coming to Bangkok with the intention of reading more..... good intentions but poor execution.

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

Comfortable and stress-free while knowing that my future self would struggle financially if I stayed.

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

Rent. The housing market in the UK is just broken, and makes it impossible to justify moving back. Next door in my condo building was empty all year. Supply outstrips demands here.

Other than that I don't see Thailand as a cheap country. Even the holidays I went in while living in Thailand weren't cheap. A good hotel in most destination will cost 1,500 - 2,000 baht/night. That quickly eats into your monthly salary.

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

50K baht - you could survive but I feel that life wouldn't be much fun.
75K baht - I was comfortable but aware that I wasn't going anywhere fast.
115K baht - I feel like you could start saving some decent money for the future.

I would return to Thailand if I landed a job that paid 130k baht + which with more international teaching experience I hope I will be able to compete for.

I spent 9 years as a TEFL teacher around the world (not in Thailand) and always felt comfortable on my TEFL salary wherever I lived. I wouldn't recommend living in Bangkok on the TEFL salaries I see advertised unless you absolutely have to live in Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you William. This survey shows just how expensive Bangkok is getting if a teacher can't really make the numbers work on a 75K salary. There was a day when 30K was considered the minimum salary required to work in the capital but those days are long gone. Then a figure of 40-50K became the minimum. Should we be revising that to an even higher number now is the question? A lot of teachers seem to think so!  


Christopher

Working in Suphanburi

Monthly Earnings 50,000

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

I teach at a large secondary school in Suphanburi, which is about two hours from Bangkok on a good day. My full-time salary is around 32,000 baht but I bump it up to 50K with overtime and private tuition, which is organised through the school. I taught in Bangkok for several years and was earning about 40-50K during that time. My interest in doing this survey was to highlight the contrast between living in the capital and then moving away.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Easily 20,000 baht a month, sometimes a good bit more if I don't have any major purchases that month.

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

I live in a very run-of-the-mill apartment building near the centre of Suphanburi and pay 4,500 baht a month. It's quite an oldish building so doesn't have any of the facilities that newer builds have like gym and swimming pool and co-working spaces etc, but I've made my studio apartment comfortable and it's a nice place to retire to at the end of the day.

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

Transportation

I can walk to school in less than ten minutes but if it's a rainy day, I'll hop on a songthaew. Suphanburi has an excellent public songthaew service that goes up and down the main roads. You can get anywhere in the city for 10-20 baht once you know it all works. This expense probably comes to 100 baht at most.

Utility bills

About a thousand baht a month depending on bhow much I use the air-conditioning but most times I find a couple of good stand-up fans to be enough.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is one of the big lifestyle differences once you leave the big bad city and move out to the rural backwaters. You seem to have far more time on your hands, so I enjoy ambling around Suphanburi's main markets and picking up the essentials. I buy and eat a lot of fruit and I eat mainly 'bag meals' where I take them home and heat them up in the microwave. They cost around 40 baht a portion and are excellent value. I don't eat out all that often. Even though Suphanburi has all the western fast food attractions like KFC and McDonalds dotted around the city, I don't find them particularly inviting. And frankly speaking, I moved from Bangkok to get away from all that - the overspending on food. I would say food and supermarket shopping comes in at about 6,000-8,000.

Nightlife and drinking

I'll ocassionally go out for a Friday or Saturday night drink with colleagues but Suphanburi isn't much of a nightlife city. In Bangkok I was doing 20K a month on socializing and little wonder I was skint before the month's end. Here that expense is maybe a couple of thousand.

Books, computers

I subscribe to Netflix (about 400 baht a month) but most of what I want in terms of films and books, I download for free.

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

I absolutely love the slower pace of life here with what feels like so many more hours in a day. Bangkok was crushing me. I just couldn't survive there on what I was earning and something needed to change. When a Thai teacher and good friend moved to work at my current school in Suphanburi, he called me up and poached me to go and work there. "At least come out here for the weekend and see what the city has to offer. Then you can make your mind up" So I caught the minivan to Suphanburi one Saturday morning and by Sunday evening, I knew this was the place for me. And it's only a couple of hours from Bangkok if I ever need the bright lights for any reason (not that I do)

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

Food at the fresh markets. I can fill up a huge shopping bag with fruit, vegetables and goodies for a few hundred baht..

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

In Suphanburi, you can live well enough on 30K provided you don't spend too much on accommodation and avoid too many late nights out. That extra 20K that I earn means I can put money away for travel, etc. I know it's not a sutainable future though and my plan is to move on in a couple of years. If we're talking about Bangkok, I can't imagine any foreign teacher trying to get by on less than 60K and even then, there would be little money left over at the end of each month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Chris. Here's a great example of a teacher who found life in Bangkok simply getting too expensive so he moved somewhere quieter, with a slower pace of life and fewer temptations. It sounds like Chris has truly embraced the lifestyle! Well done. 50K obviously goes a hell of a lot further once you remove all those Bangkok temptations. 

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. 



Jim

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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

I work at a small Thai secondary school just outside Chiang Mai and my full-time salary is 35,000. I don't do any other work on the side.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Little to nothing but I only teach to cover my living expenses and 35K is about what I need to maintain an OK lifestyle in Chiang Mai.

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

I bought my own small one-bedroom condo a couple of years ago for 1.8 million baht and it's relatively near the centre of town. I didn't figure on it being an investment but it was nice to purchase my own place and not have to worry about rent or needing to move around.

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

Transportation

I have a small motorcycle (as most long-term expats seem to do) because getting around Chiang Mai is so much easier on two wheels. I guess this costs me about 1000 baht a month on gas and minor repairs, etc. I've never really thought about it to be honest.

Utility bills

I like to run the air-con whenever I'm home so this is what really bumps the bill up, especially in the hot season. The bill usually comes to around 2-3,000 baht but money well spent!

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat out all the time but not at expensive places or western food joints. I have about half a dozen places where I go for my main meal after school and it never comes to more than about 80 baht with a soft drink. I guess if you throw in the weekly supermarket trip and popping into 7-11 for snacks, this bill comes to around 7-8,000 baht a month. I'm not a huge eater.

Nightlife and drinking

Virtually zero. I have the odd beer at home but don't go out much at night unless I'm invited to someone's leaving or birthday do. I bet this doesn't break a couple of thousand a month. I generally live a quiet life.

Books, computers

I'm not much of a gadget / IT person but I do enjoy reading. I probably spend a couple of thousand baht a month on books off Amazon. An evening in with a good book is my idea of a perfect evening.

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

It's as good as I want to be. I'm not a night owl or someone who throws money away. I have decent savings stashed away after I took early redundancy from my job in Europe and teaching is really just something to keep me busy (not that I don't care about the job I do) Teaching pays the bills and gives me enough spending money on top.

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

Meals in local restaurants and hotel rooms once you move outside of the big cities.

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

Despite what I hear many people say, Chiang Mai is not a cheap city to live in. I burn through 35K even with my extremely modest lifestyle. If I was a younger person and my salary was my only source of income, with maybe no real savings to speak of, I'd want at least 50-60K. I don't speak to many teachers earning that kind of coin up here though.

Phil's analysis and comment

It's a nice position to be in Jim, to have feathered your nest elsewhere and just teaching for something to do and to provide you with your basic living expenses and a bit on top. I've worked with a number of teachers in the same boat and they always seemed like the happiest teachers to work alongside. It's a life almost with no stresses! 


Peter

Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75,000

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

Let's begin by saying I work extremely hard and I work long hours. I have a full-time job at a Thai secondary school that pays me a salary of 45K a month but on top of that I do some corporate work for a couple of local Thai companies and charge 1,500 an hour, and also some private weekend teaching on nearby housing estates and charge anything from 800-1,500 an hour depending on whether it's one-to-one or a group of four.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Not enough is probably the simple, straightforward answer to that one but I try to stash around 20-30,000 away.

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

I rent a small three-story townhouse for 8,000 baht a month. It was originally my plan to turn one of the upstairs rooms into a classroom and invite students to study at my home but it just feels like less hassle to get on my motorcycle and go to their place.

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

Transportation

I have my own motorcycle (I was something of a bike enthusiast back in the UK) and I zip around on that. I do sometimes use taxis in the rainy season but averaged out over a year, this isn't really a figure worth even mentioning.

Utility bills

I'm hardly ever at home LOL so bills are quite low. I think my electricity bill comes to around 1,000 a month and water another couple of hundred. I don't have internet or Netflix or any of that stuff.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I grab food on the go and wherever I am. I rarely even need to do a supermarket shop. I'm fortunate that my school provides lunch and I generally skip breakfast. I try to eat a substantial meal around six in the evening but it's only at a very simple Thai restaurant. I don't do fast food or take-aways, I never even get a craving for them. This monthly expense probably comes to around 6,000 a month. 200 baht a day, yes that sounds about right.

Nightlife and drinking

I have a night out with friends a couple of times a month but very often I have such a busy teaching schedule at the weekend that it would be foolish for me to go out pouring ale down my throat the night before. Even when I go out, I always drink in moderation and I'm not afraid to call it a night when the party is getting into full swing. It's one of the sacrifices I have to make to hit my monthly income target.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

I don't go short of anything but I certainly don't have much free time either. While I've got the energy and motivation to teach 30 hours a week (sometimes more) I'll keep going. Hopefully in a few years' time, I will have saved enough to take life a little easier.

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

Thai food at small family-run restaurants. I rarely pay more than 60 baht for a decent meal.

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

If you're in Bangkok, you need at least 75K, and that's why I set that as my target. I turn down an awful lot of work simply because I just don't have the time to take on new jobs. There is so much work out there in Pathum Thani, it's unreal. I would like to take on more corporate work because it pays better, but it's more difficult to find and getting the HR or training manager to commit to a course and sign on the dotted line can take an awful long time.

Phil's analysis and comment

I've been in this situation Peter, working all the hours that you can get in order to reach a monthly 'target' and then you're left with no time to spend or enjoy your money. Whilst your motivation and energy are both commendable, be very careful of teacher burnout is all I can say. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 423 total

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