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 26th September 2020

฿32 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.65 THB to one Philippine Peso

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.   


Mike

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)

I have a full time salary of about 80,000 at a mid-level international school with a bonus that averages out to another 10-15K a month. I currently don't have any additional private or online teaching but may add some extra hours in the near future.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can realistically save anywhere between 30-50K per month but it depends on how much I go out in any given month. I aim to save at least 40K.

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

I live in a new 35sqm 1-bedroom condo next to the MRT and that costs 12,000 per month.

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

Transportation

Probably around 2,000-2,500. I average about 70 baht per day on workday MRT trips - so about 1,400 per month. I probably spend about 500-1000 more on taxis, again depending on how much I go out in any given month.

Utility bills

My utilities are quite cheap. I pay about 500 for electric and water per month and I run all my internet off my phone on a really good plan that an AIS rep set me up with for 200 baht per month that allows me to stream Netflix, talk on Skype etc in perfect quality. That being said, I will probably add a wired connection to do some online teaching. But all in 700 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to cook healthy food a lot. At the supermarket I probably spend about 1,500 per week. I also like to go out for dinner occasionally and probably add another 500 baht per week there. Let's say 8,000 per month. This is probably one expense that I should track more closely, as I am having difficulty adding it up in my head haha.

Nightlife and drinking

I have lived in Thailand for a while and while it probably ate up a large percentage of my salary before, I don't go out that much anymore. I'd say I get out maybe once a week with friends, but I still usually don't spend that much. Let's say 5,000 per month.

Books, computers

I have a laptop and tablet at home and a laptop at school. I usually just download stuff that interests me to read on the tablet. Overall pretty much zero here.

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

My quality of life here is quite good. My workload isn't too large, and costs of living are quite low. My salary is probably lower than I earned in my home country, but the taxes are much lower so it works out to a relatively similar amount. Expats in Thailand generally like to enjoy life a little bit more, and that makes for a nice social environment. Dating is easy and relatively inexpensive as well. That being said, I've lived in Thailand for a few years and a certain amount of the initial shine has worn off. It's still a great place, but I think once a place becomes too familiar it can be easy to settle into more boring routines.

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

Accommodation is much cheaper here than back home.. For a similar one bedroom condo at home, it would cost about four times as much as I pay here. Taxis are also very cheap. Sometimes I wonder how the taxi drivers survive on those fares. Going out for drinks is also cheaper, but I've noticed that prices in the last few years have skyrocketed as all the areas gentrify and target the same hi-so and tourist money. This prices a lot of more interesting people (both Thais and foreigners) out of the market and has made a lot of scenes somewhat boring and pretentious. This perception may also stem somewhat from my own biases as the shine of the new environment that I arrived in 5 years ago has worn off.

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

Somebody could technically survive on about 30,000 but that would involve a lot of financial trade-offs. I arrived here in my 20s and earned not much more than that at a very relaxed job with low hours. It was very nice for the time, and I had some savings that allowed me a slight cushion on that salary. I spent most days partying with friends and meeting girls. I had a great time and that wouldn't have been possible with my current job. Long story short, I think it really depends where somebody is at in life and why they are here. I know another guy who survived on 20,000 although he wasn't partying or doing much of anything beyond surviving. Don't much see the point of that, but to each their own!

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Mike. This is the story of a man earning a decent salary and living well within his means. He doesn't go without and still manages to stash away 40,000 each month. A single guy can do those things on a 90K salary. 

One recurring theme we've seen in these surveys is how the longer term expat grows tired of the bar-hopping nights out and 'casual dating' scene, etc. Giving those things up or at the very least, cutting back on them, can save you a small fortune each month.   


Mark

Working in Chachoengsao

Monthly Earnings 53,000

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

I get 35,000 as base salary and another 6,000 from my school’s extra classes. I also tutor outside school which on average gets me another 12,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Not much really. I go home to see my family once a year, usually for Christmas, and that cleans out my savings. Also I have unexpected expenses at least twice a year that additionally prevents me from saving.

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

I live in a three-bedroom house in a gated community with a roommate. Monthly rent is 6,000. Yeah, I know, it’s dirt cheap, but that’s the benefit of living in suburbia.

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

Transportation

I own my own motorbike that I bought on 12 installments. I still have another 5 months to go and a monthly installment is 3,000. With 1,000 for petrol costs it adds up to about 4,000 a month.

Utility bills

I like to run my two air-cons all night so the electric bill is around 3,000. We pay another 1,000 for water and internet. My share is about 2,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I really love to eat well and since I’m trying to buff up, I’m eating a lot of beef and protein in general. I both eat out and cook at home. My food budget is about 15,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I’m a very sociable guy so I do go out often with friends for a couple of beers at a local bar. It adds up to 5,000 a month. If I go out to Bangkok, I usually spend 3,000 in a single night.

Books, computers

I own a MacBook and an iPad. I have a monthly subscription for Scribd which is 300 baht.

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

I really can’t complain. Although I work a lot of hours it does provide me with a good standard of living. I only wish I was able to perhaps budget myself more carefully so I’d have bigger savings.

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

I really can’t say what is a real bargain here. I wanna say food, but good quality stuff is pretty pricey. Sometimes even pricier than in Europe.

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

I’d say not less than 35,000. Anything under that is a real struggle.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Mark for a very straightforward and honest survey. 53,000 baht a month is not bad at all for Chachaengsao and you manage to keep your accommodation overheads pretty low (even with running those air-con units all night) It's really the 15,000 baht a month on food that eats into your monthly package isn't it? That's quite a big expense for a single guy!

Going back to your rented house, I bet it's nice to have all that space where you can disappear to for a bit of peace and quiet. I think that's important when you share a house or apartment. No matter how well you get on with your house-mate, opportunity to spend time alone will preserve your sanity. I remember many years ago, sharing a studio apartment with a school-friend. After six months, we were ready to kill each other. 


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.          


Andy

Working in Pak Phanang Town in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

30,000 is my monthly salary from a Thai government school. I work Monday-Friday, 8 am - 3 pm, with some flexibility in there. I also have extra income from my home in USA that I rent out while I am here. That gives me an extra $650 USD per month. I'm sure I could find money another way and not even teach, but the teaching gives me a work permit so I don't have to cruise to Malaysia doing visa runs every year. Plus I love these little kids, it's just fun messing around with them all day at school. English is also taught by their Thai teacher and they go hard in there, so in my class we just play games to reiterate the lesson they have already learned. So again, it's more fun than a money deal.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

It changes every month. I like to travel a lot so when I'm not working I spend my money. I really don't spend my extra income, but do get through the 30,000.

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

I rent a town-house for 3,500 baht per month. with water and electric included.

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

Transportation

I have two motorbikes, which I bought cash. One is a used 125cc scooter and then a bigger 250 cc bike that was deal from a small bike shop, it was maybe in several accidents or something but I keep it running clean nowadays. Gas costs around 800 baht a month.

Utility bills

They are included in the rent mentioned above.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat out a lot, but also go to Tesco often. I live with my wife and she can cook really well. I pay a food bill for two people and still only spend 8,000 a month. Seafood is very cheap here, plus fishing is free and we fish weekly.

Nightlife and drinking

Maybe 3,000 baht a month. Nightlife is Thai karaoke or food spots with booze. There is a sports bar I hit with my wife's brothers often as well - Go Liverpool!

Books, computers

I pay for data and wi-fi and it's about 1,500 a month for my wife and I.

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

I really like it or else I wouldn't do it. I am also living here for my wife. Her grandmother raised her as a child and is now very old. Being able to spend time together is nice and what's important in our lives. My wife has three brothers and an uncle who gets faded all day long and go fishing off the nearby pier, - so that's a lot of fun for me.

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

Rent, seafood and Thai food. Also traveling around is very cheap within Thailand and to other nearby countries.

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

Living in Pak Phanang could range from 15,000 - 50,000 baht a month. I know people here spending both amounts monthly and both doing just fine in different ways. Even the guy doing 15,000 a month could reduce that by drinking fewer lemon teas each day!

Phil's analysis and comment

Andy, I think you could be the first teacher in our cost of living section who catches his own dinner. Also, I kind of admire the way you have integrated with your wife's family, be it cheering on Liverpool in a sports bar or fishing off the pier with the faded uncle (I assume 'faded' means stoned or drunk? I'm not familiar with the expression) 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 337 total

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