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 17th December 2018

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.62 THB to one Philippine Peso

Julie

Working in Udon Thani

Monthly Earnings 80,000 (after tax)

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

I make 80,000 Baht after taxes per month working for an international school. I could make some money on the side by teaching private students but decide not too.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Around 10,000- 40,000 baht depending on if I'm traveling or not.

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

I pay 11,000 for a nice one-bedroom condo and an additional 3,000 baht for cell phone, internet, water and electricity (I use the AC a lot.)

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

Transportation

I ride a cheap scooter to work (paid 20,000 for it.) and an additional 1,000 baht per month for gas.

Utility bills

3000 (see above.)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat a lot and like to eat organic foods. On weekends I go out and eat at Western type restaurants plus a couple of beers. So my food bill is my biggest expense (15,000 per month)

Nightlife and drinking

Included above.

Books, computers

I bought a new laptop when i arrived in Udon Thani (25,000 baht.)

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

Overall, I live very well. However, if I need to travel, visit family back home, or make a big purchase then I don't really save as much as the other months. I usually save about 35,000 baht per month if I stay in Udon Thani and don't make any big purchases.

However, the salary is still very low compared to the larger international schools. In addition, Udon Thani (Issan) is a lot more expensive then what people think it is. Living in downtown Udon Thani would be equivalent to living in the suburbs of Bangkok (Bang Wa or the ends of the BTS line) to give you an idea.

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

Thai massages and Thai food. In addition, the metered taxis (the taxi situation is improving here.)

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

To survive? Maybe 40,000, which would be enough to save in case of an emergency. (Thais live off 10,000-15,000 here so you can too if necessary.

Phil's analysis and comment

80,000 baht a month in Udon Thani is a heck of a salary. I certainly wouldn't feel guilty about spending 26,000 baht on accommodation and food. There's still plenty left over at the end of each month. You must have a very comfortable life there, Julie!


Henning

Working in Chaiyaphum

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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

I earn a 30,000 baht salary from my full-time teaching job and I make another 5,000 from teaching private students.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 20,000

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

My apartment rent is 3,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

About 500 baht.

Utility bills

Another 500 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This comes to no more than 3,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out all that often. Probably a thousand baht a month.

Books, computers

I don't spend anything on these things.

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

Very good. I have more than I need and often feel overwhelmed with what I have.

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

Food. My collegues and neighbours often bring fresh fruit or snacks as little gifts. My private student's parents often invite me round for a meal as well.

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

Living and working in Chaiyaphum, 15,000 baht is largely enough. I often spend money on stupid things and still end up saving almost two thirds of my salary

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like a very simple life out there in rural Thailand. It wouldn't be for everyone but it's all about what makes you happy. Henning keeps his food bill relatively low and that always helps with the monthly budget.


Walter

Working in Just outside Pattaya

Monthly Earnings Around 15,000 baht most months

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

I work for a small private language school teaching conversation to small groups. The school pays me 250 baht an hour and I take however many hours they can give me (usually between one and three hours per day) You can't be choosy in your early 70's - and I'm not.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

If I've got a couple of thousand baht left over at the end of the month, I've done well.

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 small town-house a couple of kilometres outside Pattaya (well away from the bright lights) and we pay 5,000 baht a month. We're lucky inasmuch as we have a good relationship with the landlord and he hasn't increased the rent in the five years that we have lived here. It's a roof over our heads but that's really all it is. It's in a very Thai neighborhood with no Western temptations.

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

Transportation

This isn't really an expense at all because I don't go anywhere. I can walk to the local market, etc.

Utility bills

Around 1,000 baht a month for electricity, water and phone bills.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We have to keep this as low as possible so we always cook at home. Even a meal in a local Thai restaurant is a luxury. We buy meat, fruit and veg from the local Thai market and it's very cheap. Western treats like McDonalds, KFC are out of the question. I guess the total comes out at about 6,000 baht. My wife and I try to keep our daily eating to 200 baht a day or less.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero. Chance would be a fine thing!

Books, computers

I spend nothing on this. I have a five-year old laptop that's still going strong.

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

I got in touch because I'm one of those 'poor, starving' British retirees that seem to be the hot topic lately on Thai websites and discussion forums. And yes, life is tough at the moment. I get a state pension and a small works pension from the UK but it amounts to little more than survival money. The money I make from my part-time job at the language school is a life-saver! I really don't care how much the school messes me around or whether students cancel at the last minute and I don't get paid. As long as I can walk out at the end of the day with a few hundred baht in my pocket, then that's good enough.

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

Fresh food from the market. You can eat very cheaply if you shop where the local working classes shop.

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

It depends on the individual's situation of course but for me I would like around 60,000 because I have myself, my wife and her school-age son to support. He doesn't live with us by the way. Yes, about 65,000 would be nice. At the moment I exist on nowhere near that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Ajarn sometimes gets criticized for displaying job ads from employers paying nothing more than survival money, however, I'm a great believer in that there is always someone, somewhere who desperately needs that teaching job. Walter is a prime example. That few hundred baht a day that he makes at a backstreet language school is probably the difference between staying in Thailand with his family and having to return home. 


Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the 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.    


Dani

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 80,000

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

My full-time salary is 80,000 baht a month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Maximum of 10,000 baht.

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

I pay 12,000 baht for a two-bedroom condo.

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

Transportation

My journey to and from work costs 18 baht. At weekends I may spend up to 500 baht on taxis, and I’ll occasionally grab a taxi to or from work if it’s raining or I’m running late or feeling lazy. So, no more than 3,000 per month.

Utility bills

5,000 for TV, wifi, mobile phone, water and electricity. Water and electricity are both on government rate but I do use air-con constantly during the day and during the night for my pets.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is where it goes downhill - the food provided by my school isn’t as healthy as I’d like and I’d much prefer to use organic vegetables. I find shopping at markets very busy and stressful so I easily drop around 10,000 per month on food for the condo - probably more! I’d say I eat out once per week and with drinks and tips for the two of us, probably around 4,000 baht per month. So a total of 14,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

I rarely drink but when I do, I tend to go over the top. I go out maybe once per month but this night can cost up to 5,000.

Books, computers

My laptop I came over with is ticking over nicely and I only ever download free or cheap online books from Kindle.

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

Boring!

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

Taxis and rent!

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

To survive? I just about survived on my previous job earning 40,000 a month, but I gained weight from eating school food and street food and I never had the money for travel. 80,000 is in my eyes, a livable salary.

Phil's analysis and comment

Be nice to know what you do each month with that money you are saving, Dani. By my reckoning, you barely spend half of your salary. Where's that spare half a million baht a year going? 


Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the 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.    


Christopher

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 55,000

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

I work full-time (five days a week including weekends) at a private kindergarten in Bangkok and my take-home pay is around 55,000 baht a month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Not enough is the simple answer to that one. I returned to England last month for a two-week holiday and that wiped out virtually all I had saved over the previous 12 months.

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

I pay 13,000 baht a month for a one-bedroom apartment in a newish apartment building near to a sky-train station. I live alone so there is no one to share the bills with.

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

Transportation

I take the sky-train to and from work every day and I might use taxis on my days off. I guess this comes to around 3,000 a month.

Utility bills

Electricity, water and phone, etc come to about 4,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is the one expense that I would love to reduce / keep down but I just don't seem to be able to. I live in an area that's full of nice cafes and trendy Western restaurants so it's always tempting to just drop in to one of these places after work rather than cook at home. As a result I can easily drop 400 baht on an evening meal with a beer or two. Even more at weekends. When you factor in supermarket shopping (breakfast food, snacks, etc) I get through 15,000 baht a month on food and eating out very easily

Nightlife and drinking

The main 'problem' for me is that I drink with a crowd who all earn significantly more than I do. None of them are teachers by the way. They will think nothing of going out on a Friday and Saturday night and dropping a thousand baht in a Bangkok Britpub (and that's just a warm-up for whatever we do afterwards) Sometimes we'll go on to some trendy rooftop bar and it'll be goodbye to another thousand. I would say 'socializing in Bangkok' costs between 15,000 and 20,000.

Books, computers

I don't really bother much with that stuff.

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

When I did my research before coming to work here, I jumped at the offer of 55,000 baht a month for a full-time job. I read that many teachers were surviving on 30K so I was earning double that!

It feels to me as though Bangkok gets more and more expensive every week and while you can live OK on 55,000 baht, I feel that there's plenty I just can't afford to do.

I've tried to analyze where I could save money. For instance, I could move to a cheaper apartment and I have looked at many places over the past six months but paying even 5,000 baht a month less would mean a serious downgrade in my accommodation standards. I could save money by eating Thai food or cutting down on my nights out, but I work hard five days a week. If a guy can't have a couple of nights out with friends, then there seems to be little point to being here.

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

Taxi fares is the only thing that comes to mind. Everything else is on a par or just below the costs in other cities I've lived in. I've been quite shocked at how expensive Bangkok is if you strive to live at a certain level.

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

I'm surviving now - on 55,000. To be really comfortable, even as a single guy, I would say you need to be aiming at 80,000-100,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

Interesting survey there Chris.  Firstly, I agree you 100% about Bangkok becoming more and more expensive.  As one pal of mine said on social media recently - "price-wise, what we are seeing now is Bangkok slowly but surely coming into line with other international cities"

One of the first things an old boss back in England said to me though, Chris - "you always have to live within your means". You're spending 15,000 (with bills) on accommodation, 15,000 baht on food and 20,000 baht on nights out. That's virtually your whole salary gone right there.  Nothing saved! It's a lifestyle that you simply can't sustain, tough though it is to admit. 

That's interesting what you say about having a circle of friends that all earn significantly more than you. It sounds quite stressful. It reminds me of when I earned a very basic teacher salary and I would get visitors come from overseas and meet up with them in the evenings after work. They didn't care about costs. They were on holiday with a big fat wallet riding on their hip.  I couldn't afford 200 baht a drink in some Thong Lor cocktail lounge (this was the early 90's by the way) but they thought nothing of it.  In the end, I had to break off contact with certain people just to avoid having to meet up with them.  I guess I could've pleaded poverty - but who wants to do that?


Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the 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.    


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 272 total

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