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 15th December 2019

฿30 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.60 THB to one Philippine Peso

DJ

Working in Nagoya (Japan)

Monthly Earnings 80,000

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

75,000 baht for my salary and a further 5,000 baht for private tuition. I'm planning to do more private tuition in the future but the transport costs in Japan can eat into the hourly pay and unless the client is close, it's not so economically viable.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

A good month would be 40,000 baht but it's usually 28-35,000.

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

I'm fortunate to be staying with my partner at her parent's 3-bedroom house. They charge me 15,000 baht a month for board.

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

Transportation

6,300 baht. I gave up my car when I moved here and have been using the train. I'm thinking of getting a bike which is also very popular with Japanese people. My wife has an automatic, hybrid car but I can't get use to the sensitive brakes!

Utility bills

All included in my board.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is in my board but I do pay for my own lunch. Bentos aren't cheap so maybe 3,000 baht a month for lunch. There are many restaurants that are reasonably priced, certainly not as expensive as I anticipated. There's a range from budget to mid value to fine dining ¥¥¥. We eat out at least once a week and alternate the bill. Possibly 2,700-3,000 a month. A monthly food shop would probably cost around 5,000 baht

Nightlife and drinking

I once bought a Guinness in Tokyo for £5 and Stella Artois in Japan is ridiculously expensive. Thankfully, I've developed a taste for the local brews and found cheaper bottled Guinness and imports. Shop around and use discount vouchers in newspapers. I've just passed my sell by date for nightclubbing so 1,600 baht a month.

Books, computers

The school gives me any books I ask for. However, I like to read and develop my language skills. 250 baht a month. My phone bill is 1,400 a month.

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

It's comfortable but I earned more money in England as a supply teacher and private tutor. Japan can be expensive if you allow it to be. Shop around and use second hand stores and there's money to save. The delicious food, low crime rate, pleasant natives, warmer climate and beautiful women does make for a more tranquil life. I feel that I need at least another year to immerse myself in order to judge the standard of living. There's definitely more for me to experience.

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

Clothing. Good quality material clothes are relatively inexpensive and second hand phones can be as well. Furthermore, old rusting bikes are ten a penny and can be had cheaply.

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

In order to survive with few luxuries I would estimate approximately 180,000 yen (51,000 baht) a month. To feel like your getting ahead, maybe 245,000 yen (70,000 baht). 300,000 - 350,000 yen (85,000 - 100,000 baht) and you are very comfortable. However, this is all subjective.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you DJ for an interesting and honest survey there. 

In the 90's you used to hear a lot from teachers in Japan and in many ways, it always felt liked the streets were paved with gold for the TEFLer wandering around Asia.  However, Japan seems to have slipped under the radar over the last decade or so as a TEFL destination.  You hear plenty about China and the countries bordering Thailand, etc but no so much Japan.

I have always found Japan to be very reasonable for getting around, eating out, etc but of course, I have only seen it through the eyes of a tourist. I'm sure that if you are living and working there, your figure of 85,000 to 100,000 baht a month is what you would ultimately be aiming for. 


Cor Verhoef

Working in Nonthaburi

Monthly Earnings 60,000 baht per month

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

60,000 is my monthly salary at the government school where I work. I rarely teach extra classes as I have a two-year old boy that I want to be with as much as possible.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 5,000 baht per month

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

We bought a 3-bedroom house in Nonthaburi and we pay 12,000 baht a month on our mortgage. I'm not the sole breadwinner though. My wife brings in another 25,000 baht per month as a teacher.

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

Transportation

4,000 baht on taxis all over the place.

Utility bills

electricity: 2,000 baht
water: 150 baht
garbage collection: 600 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Restaurants: about 6,000 baht. We like to eat out
Shopping: another 10,000 baht

Nightlife and drinking

We're not bar-hoppers (anymore). Probably 1,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

500 baht per month

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

We're well off and don't feel that we have to worry about money.

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

Housing, hands down, whether you rent or buy. In many countries, including some Asian countries, real estate prices have gone through the roof.

Food is still cheap and so are taxis. The flag-down rate of a cab is still 35 baht in Bangkok, just like it was when I moved here 18 years ago. I feel for these cabbies so I give them big tips.

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

I think if you're single, 40,000 baht is required to live a decent life in a city like Bangkok. You could probably survive on 25,000, but that's surviving, not living. If you live in the sticks 30,000 would probably do.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Cor. With that very useful 25,000 baht that your partner brings in, then a combined 85,000 baht a month for a couple with a very young child must be OK for Nonthaburi. And only 14% of that combined income is going on a nice three-bedroom property that will eventually be yours outright.  

Thanks for giving a shout out to the cabbies of Bangkok as well.  I feel the same as you. That 35 baht flagfall should have increased years ago. I just don't know how those guys survive; in fact, I'm sure in many cases they don't.  I always like to tip well too for those reasons.


Eric

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 60,000

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

20-25 hours a week teaching English online with one company. That brings in about 40,000 baht. My real estate investment from the US brings in another 20,000 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Nothing, I have a newborn baby and stay at home with my fiancé preparing to go to America next month.

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

We pay about 9,500 baht for our 2-bedroom, 2 bath-room house with parking and views of a private farm and small stream.

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

Transportation

7,000 baht a month on our used car payments
3,200 baht a month on gas (we drive at least two hours a day including the commute for classes)

Utility bills

400 baht for electricity
620 baht for high speed internet
Nothing for water

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

8,000 baht a month shopping at track.
10,000 baht a month eating out at mid-priced restaurants.
6,000 baht a month eating out cheap.
Remember this is for 2 people.
Nothing for alcohol.

Nightlife and drinking

Nothing.

Books, computers

I spend at least $600 baht on books, electronics and paperbacks.

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

Upper middle class lifestyle.

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

Accommodation and Thai food. In Boston where I’m from this house alone would be more than 75,000 baht a month at least. Thai food in Boston is 300 baht or more for pad Thai or any Thai meal.
Also buying a condo or house, if you can get a home equity loan or any loan from America that can be amortized, it is a real bargain. The monthly amount is the same or less than renting the same place.

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

I always thought this was a weird question. As a single person you could probably survive in Thailand on less than 10,000 baht a month if you have a small room with no AC, cooked and ate rice every day, slept most of the day, walked everywhere, didn’t drink, and got your water from the cheap refill stations around the city.

If you want to have a family and live a Western style middle-class lifestyle, you need more than 60,000 baht since doctor bills, baby costs, emergencies, and other random costs come up a lot. You could “survive” for less but to me surviving isn’t as good as enjoying life.

Phil's analysis and comment

I don't personally think there's anything 'weird' about the question 'how much do you need to earn to survive as a teacher in Thailand?'  The question implies how much would you need to earn to live a basic lifestyle.  Eating rice, drinking cheap water and lying on a bed all day is not living a basic lifestyle, that's barely existing. Good luck back in America anyway.


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.    


Jay

Working in Lampang

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

I teach full time at an international kindergarten. Unfortunately the salary is not up to international standards as I do not have a postgraduate in education but schools up here don't pay the big bucks anyway.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I guess 10,000 baht a month would be easy. I just moved up here last month and had some moving expenses but I think this figure would be possible. I live with my Thai partner who sells beauty products on-line. Sometimes she does OK and does contribute a fair amount but she is currently setting up her own laundry business and cleaning service as well so I should be able to save at least 10K when that takes off.

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

We have a 38 square metred condo in the centre of Lampang for 4,000 a month. It's very nice and compact. We will move into a 2-bedroom house for 6,000 a month in a few months time.

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

Transportation

I drive a motorbike which is an automatic. I spend about 70 baht a week on petrol.

Utility bills

I don't like air-con because it interferes with my asthma and allergies so electricity is around 300 to 400 baht a month and the water was 240 baht last month and my girlfriend and I shower at least twice a day.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Lampang actually is a hidden gem. There are some amazing restaurants here at much cheaper prices than Chang Mai and Bangkok. We are foodies also so it's great.

There are also several markets. One is open every evening and has a great selection of food. The weekend market on Walking Street is fantastic. I would say 15,000 a month for two people.

Nightlife and drinking

The Hangout Cafe in Lampang is where all the expats hang out. We go eating and drinking there in the middle of the week and at weekends twice a month we will go to Chang Mai and twice a month we will hang out in Lampang so I would say around 10,000 baht for two people.

Books, computers

I just bought a Dell laptop which is great for just under 16,000 and Chang Mai has many cheap second hand bookstores.

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

Comfortable but I need to start saving more. Once my girl has a steady income it will be easier. She's not lazy but Thai people who don't have a degree struggle to find fair and decent work (at least in my opinion) and I don't want her working so hard that I never see her ( and for what - 300 baht a day?)

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

I would say rent and hotel rooms. And also gyms in Lampang are 50 baht anytime!

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

If you are single with no family and have a partner with a steady income I would say 25,000 to 30,000 a month - but no teacher should work for that. Life is a lot easier and cheaper here than in Bangkok though. I lived in Bangkok on and off for six years and hated it despite earning decent money.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Jay. First off, you've picked a nice part of Thailand to live in. I was very impressed with Lampang when I went a few years ago. I thought it was a lovely town with a very laid-back atmosphere (I'm sure it's a lot busier now though) - plus you have always got the option of going into big city Chiang Mai if you fancy a change of scenery and a different vibe. 

We're getting reports down here that the pollution situation in the north is not too good at the moment though so please be careful with your asthma and allergies. Make sure you've got a proper mask on! 

What interested me most about your survey was your Thai partner's story. She's clearly someone who despite a lack of qualifications, is more than determined to make up for it with hard work. Running a laundry and doing some online selling sounds like an ideal combo and as you say - why go out and slave away in some office or factory for 300 baht a day and work such long hours that you never see her. That's no life for either of you! 

Actually, down here in Bangkok, there are more and more young people (both qualified and unqualified) who are trying their hands at online commerce and turning their backs on the daily grind of a 9 to 5. Many of them have been very successful because Thais can make great online customers once your name gets out there.     


Govis

Working in Chengdu, China

Monthly Earnings 100,000

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

That's a full-time salary. Occasionally I may do an extra private class that usually brings in an extra 10,000 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save on average around 35,000 baht. Unfortunately, I have grown to have expensive taste and I enjoy traveling.

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 apartment which costs about 20,000 baht (including property management fee) My apartment is decorated in a very modern high-end style with a large outside area.

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

Transportation

I spend no more than 300 baht on transport. The bus and metro system are both efficient and cheap.

Utility bills

Electricity: 350 baht, Gas: 200 baht, Internet / Phone: 1,000 baht (That includes two mobile phone contacts, 200mbs internet, and TV service.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

12,000 baht. That includes the supermarket and eating out. I eat out three to four times a week.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero

Books, computers

I'm a member of an ebook group, so I only read on my Kindle.

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

Occasionally extravagant, middle class, almost perfect.

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

Dining out.

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

40,000 baht will offer you a very reasonable standard of living.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Govis. Not knowing anything about Chengdu, I turned to Google and was surprised to discover it's one of the three most populated cities in Western China. It looks an interesting place with lots of history attached to it. It's also the home of the giant panda. 

Back to your cost of living figures, you must be living very well if you earn the equivalent of 100,000 baht a month but reckon 40,000 would be enough to allow for a decent living.  

It would be interesting to compare two teachers, both say earning 40,000 baht a month - one in Bangkok and one in a large Chinese city. I wonder which one would have the better standard of living in these current times? 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 302 total

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