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.

Submit your own Cost of Living survey

Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 22nd September 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿23 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

David

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

My full-time monthly salary is 40,000 before taxes and medical insurance deductions. The salary is calculated based on a 30-day monthly calendar. Medical insurance (through employer) is 385 baht per month for AETNA. Taxes are 665 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

10,000 baht ($310.88) as of March 2020

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

My one-bedroom condo costs 15,000 baht a month (including electricity, water, internet, and washing machine). The condo also normally has a rooftop pool, sauna, and gym in operation prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

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

Transportation

BTS sky train (40 trips) is just over a thousand baht a month.
*Note: sometimes I need to refill the BTS rabbit card amount before the month ends, so that would cost another 1,080 baht for an additional 40 trips
Grab trips (ride share): 300 baht (occasionally)
Motorbike taxis: 20 baht per 2.2 km

Utility bills

Included in rent but if separated:
- water: 100 baht
- electricity: 1,000 baht (when at work Monday to Friday), 2,500 baht if running the air-con all the time and at home most of the time
- Home internet / wifi: 480 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket shopping comes to 8,000 baht a month and I spend about 2,000 baht a month on restaurant bills.

Nightlife and drinking

1,000 baht (4 craft beers). I don't participate in the nightlife on a regular basis

Books, computers

I use my laptop for work and at home. E-books are the way to go. If you would like to purchase books, then you should check Dasa books on Sukhumvit Road or one of the book stores at the Emquartier shopping mall near Phrom Phong BTS station or one of the book stores at Central World shopping mall near the Chit Lom BTS station.

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

I am able to live modestly and save the equivalent of a few hundred dollars per month. Bangkok is an expensive city, so a monthly salary of 80,000 baht would provide me with more of a Western lifestyle and the chance to eat at restaurants more often, enjoy craft beer, take weekend excursions, and save more money each month.

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

If you can find a meal for 40 baht or less that fills you up, then that's a great deal!

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

When moving to Bangkok, you should have at least $5,000 saved, have a job lined up within 1-2 months, and then you should aim for a salary of 60,000 baht monthly minimum, although a monthly salary of 80,000 baht or more is preferable.

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice to hear from someone earning a more 'common' teacher salary for a change - 40,000 in Bangkok. 

The thing that leapt out at me from this survey is spending 15,000 baht on accommodation, getting on for half of your salary. Thankfully that includes the bills. 

However, as I've said many times in these surveys, 'going over budget' on a place to live can actually save you money in the long run. When you have a nice place that's simply a joy to come back to each day, you're far less likely to wander the streets looking for entertainment and ways to pass the time. 


Thomas

Working in Sakon Nakhon

Monthly Earnings 115,000-125,000 (+15,000 to 30,000 from other businesses) = around 130,000 to 150,000

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

All of my work and teaching comes from online. I have about 25 private students and I work for two online companies. I still work about 35-45 hours a week online and sometimes work on weekends doing private students.
My wife and I own two businesses and income from those ranges from 15-30K.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

It really depends because I have a baby daughter and sometimes it ranges from 50,000 to 100,000. This is because my wife and I opened two coffee shops and a coin laundry shop recently which can bring in revenues of 15,000 to 30,000 in good months. It is often hard to predict in these businesses.

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

My wife and I built and paid for our own house so nothing for this.

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

Transportation

7,000 baht per month. We have a lease on a car.

Utility bills

It ranges from 750-1,200 depending on how hot it is and how much air conditioning we use

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This can range from 5,000 to 10,000 per month. Every once in a while I might splurge on foreign food or restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

To be honest none. Never really liked drinking and taking care of a baby daughter and working has made our lives a bit too busy for this.

Books, computers

I have two laptops that I bought a year ago. Both were about 5,000 baht each. I only read e-books and I spend maybe 500 baht per month on this.

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

I wouldn't say it's a life of luxury but it is very comfortable. Owning our house and working full time from home and managing two businesses with my wife has been a great experience here in Thailand. I never expected this when I moved here 18 months ago.

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

Being Japanese and having worked in Tokyo, I feel almost everything is cheaper. If I used the air-conditioner and electricity as much as I did in Tokyo for example it would cost me over 3.000 baht per month.

I will admit the fact that I don't have many expenses help, but it works because in Tokyo if I was renting the same size home, it would certainly cost me at least 80,000-120,000 baht. On top of that, we would need to pay for parking every month.

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

It truly depends on your lifestyle. Here in Sakon Nakhon, if you are single, I am sure you can get by with less than 35,000. On top of that, I don't go out to drink or party. But if you are into partying and want to eat out often, I would say 50,000 might be good to make even for a place that is the countryside such as Sakon Nakhon because nothing is close unless you live in the city or town.

In my case, I would like to send my daughter to an international school and provide the best education I can, so saving and managing her money for the future becomes critical. One note, I do pay 9,000 baht for family insurance that includes my wife, my daughter and myself.

If saving isn't a priority, even for a couple, I'm sure you could survive on less. But for me, I have a goal to save as much as possible and invest in a portfolio to grow my family's wealth through the diversification of that portfolio. My hope is to have 10-15 million saved when my daughter becomes 8, so we have 7 years left.

I hope I can make it. Thank you for reading.

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like you and your wife both work very hard. I don't know the ins and outs of online work but organising 25 individual students can't be easy, Fair play to you if online teaching is bringing in well other 100K a month though. I'm not sure if I had to teach 35-45 hours a week, I could be bothered with running coffee shops and laundries. Where do you find the time? I remember teaching 38 contact hours a week and hardly having the time to eat and sleep.   


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?  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 337 total

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