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 23rd July 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿45 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.66 THB to one Philippine Peso

Bill

Working in Middle of nowhere (North East Thailand)

Monthly Earnings 32,000 (in a good month)

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

I work for a large Thai government school and my take-home salary after tax is around 30,000 - 32,000 baht. I'm not really sure how the deductions are worked out and I've never bothered to ask. I am employed through a small teacher placement agency (the sort who suddenly becomes impossible to contact when a problem arises) At the end of the day, I'm 'qualification challenged' and now well into my 50s. I know I'm not a prime candidate for the best teaching jobs so I muddle along as best I can.

I used to earn an extra 5,000 baht a month from private students but I found dealing with cancellations and trying to get students to a particular place at a particular time far too much hassle.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

If I manage to save 5,000 - 10,000 baht, then that's been a decent month. They don't come around too often though.

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

I rent the second floor of a small shophouse unit for 5,000 baht a month. I've got a living room, a kitchen area that's partitioned off to look like a separate room and a bathroom with a squat toilet. I've never got around to putting a Western style khazi in there but it's something I want to do as the old knees get creakier. I rent the property off the export company that occupies the ground floor. I've been here two years and still have no idea what they export. I like it here. It's in a very quiet part of town with not much traffic noise and as evening falls, I like to go up on the roof with a ciggy and a beer to admire the sunset.

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

Transportation

My school is barely five minutes away by motorcycle and I have a small beat-up scooter that I bought when I arrived, so a few hundred baht's worth of gas in the tank every month. It's a lot of fun in the rainy season when the heavens open as I'm en route and I get to school so wet you can almost wring out my cheap black slip-ons.

Utility bills

I have one large air-con unit but I try to avoid using it as much as I can and just rely on a couple of stand-up fans to keep the fetid air moving. My leccy bill is never more than a few hundred baht and water is next to nothing. Maybe 100 baht or so.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

There are no Western food options for miles around so basically it's eat Thai or die! I've got several restaurants that I use and they know me well. Most of the time, I only have to sit down and within minutes, there's a plate of my favourite grub and a big Singha beer in front of me. I go once a week to the nearest Big C minimart to stock up on a few treats. I never cook at home. Re-heating a pizza slice from 7-11 or throwing a slice of ham and a bit of tomato between two slices of bread is about as adventurous as it gets. This probably comes to around 8,000 baht a month. I find it very difficult to bring this expense down and doubt that I can.

Nightlife and drinking

There is no nightlife or pubs in the neighborhood but I do like a beer. Probably 4,000 a month on the amber liquid.

Books, computers

I love reading but download most of my books for free. I'll read anything that passes away the night-time hours. But there is no real expense here. I've got a desktop pc that's served me well for five years and counting.

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

It's OK for a middle-aged, qualification-challenged guy who escaped the Western rat race to live in this amazing country. I don't earn a huge salary but my living expenses aren't very high either. I also live alone. I've had a number of relationships but they've all fizzled out eventually. I just prefer living alone. I also like to send my Mum a few bob from time to time so she can treat herself. Well into her eighties now, she lives on her own back in the north of England and I'm still the number one son. My brother hasn't been to see her for years. Mind you, it's three years since I was last home as well.

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

Nothing is expensive if you live in rural Thailand and more importantly, you make friends with the locals. I could name a dozen Thai friends who have always got my back and I can call them up anytime.

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

Honestly, you could survive where I live on 15,000 baht a month and many Thais in these parts exist on far less. 30,000 baht a month is plenty. There's really nothing to spend your money on but of course you're not putting anything away for the future either. I've got a small UK pension that kicks in in a few years and that will help matters.

Phil's analysis and comment

These are the cost of living surveys I love most of all. Gritty, grimy, Northern, Albert Finney-esque kitchen sink dramas that play out before us. The weekly highlight of the trip to the Big C minimart on a battered old scooter, the Singha beer sunsets from the rooftop, swigged directly from the bottle as you contemplate a dump on the squat toilet. And all the while, mysterious figures glide in and out of the 'export company' on the ground floor.

I'm not knocking it Bill, not for a second. You've got more than enough money in your back pocket to live reasonably well. You prove the point that there's a place for everyone who wants it in Thailand. And I bet it beats living in England in the depths of Winter, worrying whether you can turn on another bar of the electric fire and hurling another losing Euromillions scratch card across the living room, muttering 'mug's game' for the umpteenth 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.          


Chris

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 70,000

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

70,000 baht is my full-time salary.

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)?

I pay 13,000 baht a month for a 30 square metre condo outside the city centre.

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

Transportation

I use public transportation and pay about 1,800 baht per month.

Utility bills

1,000 baht/month on electricity and water and 500 baht on my mobile phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

9,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

4,000 a month.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

Low standard with minimum expenses, while going out and counting every coin in my pocket!

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

Street food

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

To survive: 30,000 baht a month.
To live a basic life: 50,000 baht a month
To live a fairly decent life: 60,000 baht a month
To live comfortable with all kinds of insurance: 90,000 baht a month

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Chris. So from that you consider yourself to be living a fairly basic lifestyle in Bangkok on 50K a month (you save 20K from the 70K salary) It sounds like another 10,000 might make a big difference. I would agree that 50K in an increasingly expensive Bangkok is OK but not great. As you say, you might be counting those coins in your pocket.    


Stephen

Working in Jomtien, Pattaya

Monthly Earnings 80,000

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

80,000 is my full-time salary from a private school. I don't do any other work since I value my work-life balance and therefore wish to keep weekends and the bulk of evenings to myself.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 30,000. Actually somewhat more during Covid but these are of course exceptional times.

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

I pay 10,000 baht a month for a studio apartment with a shared pool and gym.

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

Transportation

2,000 baht.

Utility bills

Another 2,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

15,000. I make my own breakfast, generally have street food for lunch (two dishes for never more than 150 baht) and dinner for 300 baht maximum (often Western food such as fish and chips at an Irish pub).

Nightlife and drinking

13,000 for drinking and travel (my equivalent to nightlife). 6,000 baht goes on drinking. I try and restrict drinking to no more than two bottles of beer a day. With snacks, 6,000 is as high as things get per month. But I also have a travel budget of 7,000 baht per month, which does not get spent every month but which averages out to 7,000 monthly over the year.

Books, computers

500. I am an avid reader but things are cheap on Kindle.

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

Given the weather, the access to beaches and the fact that I am always eating lunches and dinners out, my lifestyle is hugely better than it would be back in Europe.

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

Accommodation and eating out.

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

'Survive?' Well if I had to simply scrimp by, I reckon I could eat street food, downgrade to a cheaper area for my condo and quit drinking. Then I think I could get things down to around 30,000 per month, but then I may as well stay in Europe! So to have a decent lifestyle in Jomtien / Pattaya, you would need around 50,000, as long as you remember that you are not here to party. If you are partying and going to bars all the time, then you need 100,000 as a baseline. That's what I think the tourists are spending here.

Phil's analysis and comment

I always think it must be difficult to live in a place like Pattaya and resist the temptation to go out partying every other night, but Stephen seems to manage it pretty well. 

Stephen also mentions the fact that he's saving more money during these Co-vid times and I think if there's just one advantage to be gained from this mess, it's probably that one. 


Ray

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120,000

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

This is purely my full-time salary for teaching at an international school.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

70,000

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

I do not see the need to overspend here. I rent a studio within easy reach of the BTS for 10,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I use the BTS to get to work so pretty minimal.

Utility bills

1,500

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

OK, this one is interesting. Recognising the necessity to save money, I have devised a system where I do not overspend. The rule is to never have more than one 300 baht+ meal per day. Breakfast is Western and never comes to more than 150 baht. Lunch is generally street food so 100 baht including a bottle of water. Evenings are either circa 300 baht for Western food when I am eating alone or if I am dating one of my Thai girlfriends, it's around 200 baht for local food - a spread of dishes which we share because they generally hate Western food. Cheap local food is a babe magnet. Total no more than 25,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I do not dig clubbing. My idea of a good night is a dinner date with a Thai girl (including food above) or if by myself, no more than 150 baht per night on booze. 5,000 baht a month tops.

Books, computers

I can download anything I want for free.

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

Great food, great women, great life.

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

Food and cheap, effective dating.

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

Assuming no saving and some control, then 50,000 baht per month is ample.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like you enjoy the ladies. How do you get away with 150 baht for beer on a night out unless it's slugging cans while sat on the steps of a Family Mart? Your food spend is pretty impressive but what do you eat on the street that costs 100 baht? 


Ch

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)

That 60K is my full-time salary with no additional extras. I started many years ago on a 40K salary and over the years, it's increased in smal increments. I don’t do online teaching or take on private students as I do not want to take the risk of being deporting over something so silly. If a part time employer doesn’t add their name to my work permit, I won’t work, Which 90% don’t do anyway. I faced a lot of hurdles this way, where as most of my friends are working better jobs and pulling in 20-30k extra each month. Some are in tier 3 international schools making 80K and pulling in 30k from part time work, pushing them well into tier 1 category without the tier 1 workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Usually 35-40,000. I am Asian so I can adapt myself to levels most foreigners here can’t. I live the most frugal life there is. I seek out food promotions, shopee flash sales, buy things from thrift stores, and I even skip food at times. However I spend significantly on alcohol. I don’t spend on holidays either or on fancy restaurants every other day like most expats I know.

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

I pay 8,000 a month for a fairly decent sized 37 sqm studio. Everything is a studio at this price, and the walls are just fiber glass or a thin cardboard piece dividing your studio into a one-bed room. That’s the story with most modern high rise condos.

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

Transportation

A thousand on my motorbike fuel and a thousand on taxis for occasionally getting me home when I am intoxicated. I haven’t bought a car because I see my colleagues spend a fortune on repairs and maintenance. When I did the math on the cost of car ownership, taxis worked out cheaper!

Utility bills

1,000 to 2,000 a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is my guilty pleasure. On weekends, I love eating gourmet burgers, fancy New York large slice pizzas, and Italian fine dining once every few months. I don’t cook at all so for my day-to-day needs, it’s whatever meat on a stick for 5 -10 baht and 40 baht noodle/rice dishes I can find.

Nightlife and drinking

During my first year, I spent about 10-20k a month. This was in low key Thai bars dotted around the suburbs or the occasional Khao San Road / Sukhumwit joint with colleagues. Now I’m hitting my 30s and get no joy from doing that. So an occasional Guinness it is and drinking costs me no more about 5,000/month. .

Books, computers

I spend around 30K on a laptop every 3-5 years. I do not buy books except the occasional kindle PDF.

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

It’s okay. I try to save hard, but my life isn’t that great. There are people earning half my income and have a slick instagram account , with rooftop bars and fancy breakfasts. I always felt guilty indulging in those things. If I don’t save and live that kind of life, I will have nothing for retirement. There is no pension here, no retirement gratuity in most schools. If one doesn’t plan for it, or has a medical emergency, every penny of your savings is wiped out.

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

Premium accommodation can be had for a good price. This is hard to find in places such as Vietnam or Taipei or Japan( (each for a different reason)

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

40K to survive and 80K to live a normal life and save a bit for hospital emergencies, flights home and of course, your retirement.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ch. You partied hard in your younger days and then got to your late twenties and thought 'hold on, I need to think about my retirement years if I'm going to stick around as a teacher in Asia'. I think it's a path that many teachers go down. It sounds like you're heading in the right direction but take care of your health. Skipping meals to save money doesn't sound ideal. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 362 total

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