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 3rd December 2020

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฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

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) 


Nate

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000

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

I work at a private language school and earn 50,000 baht per month. Keep in mind I work long hours, generally totaling around 46 hours a week.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

If I focus on being incredibly frugal, I could be putting away up to 20 thousand baht per month, but realistically I like to shoot for about 5K - 10K baht per month as a general goal.

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

I live in a studio apartment located only a couple minutes away from the BTS by foot. The apartment is nice and modern and located in Onnut, which is a nice and well-developed area in Bangkok. The apartment is relatively expensive at 10,000 baht per month. This doesn't include my utility costs either.

Rent takes up 1/5th of my total salary, although once again my apartment is quite nice, modern and conveniently located.

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

Transportation

I take the train to my work's nearest station for 15 baht, and then a motorcycle taxi the rest of the way for 50 baht. Then I do this in reverse in order to get back home. This amounts to 130 baht per working day for transport. At 20 working days per month, that's 2,600 baht per month for transport.

Utility bills

On average my electricity bill amounts to around 2,000 baht per month. I try to be conservative with my air-conditioner and only use it during essential periods, but that's easier said than done in the Thai climate.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I have takeaways for all my meals. At work we order from a local restaurant and a dish is 50 baht. After work I'll typically eat at my local food court for around 40 baht. I can quite comfortable survive on about 90 baht per day for my meals. These are tasty, nutritious and filling meals as well.

Of course on occasion I like to treat myself to Western food when the craving strikes me, but I'm quite a simple guy and find myself happy to subsist on Thai food for the most part.

Nightlife and drinking

When I first arrived in Thailand I drank frequently and to excess, but now I've largely grown out of it. I find you can only drink so often before you get bored of it. These days I rarely go out or drink much at all, however I still do have the rare beer or two when I'm hanging out with a mate, or the mood strikes me.

I largely tend to go to my local bar and have a coke and play pool instead now though. A coke only costs 40 baht, whereas a beer will run you about 100 baht.

Books, computers

I don't spend too much money on physical books as I tend to consume all my information/entertainment from my laptop. I'm on my laptop virtually all the time during my time off from work, but this isn't really a regular cost as I already own it.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living?

I try to be mindful of the way that I spend my money, but overall I live pretty comfortably/safely. I can treat myself whenever I want, I just prefer to live a conservative lifestyle, I don't see the appeal in blowing all my cash, and I don't think it'd make me any happier. I did happen to get lucky with the job I landed and get paid about 10,000 more than the average teacher with the same qualifications. However, once again, as mentioned earlier, keep in mind the hours I work are relatively long.

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

I find that the food here is very reasonably priced, but really everything is significantly cheaper compared to my home country of Australia.

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

The average salary of around 38K is enough to live on, but you're not going to have too much fun doing it or have much of a chance to save. I think my salary of 50K is quite comfortable and provides me with the option to both have some fun when I feel like it and also stow away a bit of cash.

If you're going to move to Thailand you're really moving here for the lifestyle, so you want a wage that you can at least afford to go out a few times a week on.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Nate. The most ever  classroom contact hours I used to do was back in the mid 90's when I would regularly do 38 hours a week. It included 6 hours during the day from Monday to Friday, a conversation class a couple of evenings a week and a five-hour TOEFL prep course on a Sunday. Then there was the preparation on top but thankfully I had got that down to a fine art and it wasn't too time-consuming.

But I used to treasure those Saturdays off I can tell you. When you are younger and have more energy, you can do those sort of punishing schedules but there were some days, particularly after those evening conversation classes that would finish at 8.30 pm, when I would crawl home with barely the strength to make a sandwich. The extra money is always nice but sometimes you find yourself with no time to spend it. Striking a good work/life balance is not always easy. I found teaching too many hours for too long led to almost a mild depression. Take care of yourself!  


Gus

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 48,000

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

I work full-time Monday to Friday and clock in before 7.48 am and clock out by 4,00 pm.
I teach 20 contracted hours (much better than where I was teaching before) I also tutor on the side from Tuesday to Thursday which brings in 900 baht/hour but there are occasionally things that come up with my client, warranting a cancellation. My good Thai friend got me this gig so I’m pretty open with my scheduling “policy” but to be honest, I’m pretty much anytime after I finish my “day job” so I could care less what time I get 'booked' by my client. Then again, I just teach one client. LOL
I was also doing some online tutoring but have given that up for a while.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Honestly, after having read all of these posts in the cost of living section, I don’t know what the hell you all are drinking, but if you’re a single guy or woman, you CAN most definitely live on MUCH less of an income than what people on here are preaching. I can assure you that. I have an earning potential of about 55K a month and after bills, I can easily save 30-34K.

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

I pay 9,500 baht a month for a brand spanking new condo near the BTS.

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

Transportation

1,080 Baht for a 40-ride rabbit pass, which covers my to and from school expense just fine. I only take the BTS and never really find myself taking the MRT. Of course, since I do go to the gym (aside of the gym I have in my condo) in Phrom pong I do eat into those passes so sometimes I may spend a little more (500 baht) on an extra pass.

Utility bills

700 baht/month on electric as I do like to run the air-con a bit when I’m home or if I forget some days to turn it off when leave for the gym. 599 on internet and 500 on my local phone bill. Then about 3,000 on my credit card bill.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't skimp on food. I pay for breakfast at the school but they include free lunch, which is usually great. I end up cooking my own dinner and an additional meal since I do training. In that 6,000 a month, I spend about 600-700 on protein drinks after the gym. I also try and eat 4-5 meals a day

Nightlife and drinking

I don’t really go out at all to party. Maybe 1-2 weekends out of the month. I'm not much of a drinker to be honest.

Books, computers

I have my own MacBook. The school I work at provides laptops too and plenty of office amenities to work with.

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

I’m honestly really happy. I simply don’t understand (and find it comical) how people can sit and write this stuff — saying you won’t/can’t live well with anything less than 40 or 35K. I was living well enough with 35K at the old school I was teaching at and that was even before I was tutoring. All while eating well, commuting and having a gym membership. Oh yeah, and I live in the city! You guys are crazy.

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

Food, rent and utilities. I used to live in Hawaii since I was both stationed there in the military and went to college there. And I was spending 50% of my income on rent. So I can tell you right now, I’m living the dream. Then again, I’m just a simple dude.

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

35K will do just fine. 48K will do you more than just fine. 50-55K (like me) is honestly more than enough. My recommendation is to have a little side hustle. It won’t hurt. Thanks for reading!

Phil's analysis and comment

Some pretty strong opinions there from Gus but I think he sums it up in one of his answers - he's a simple guy. His food bill is a fairly modest 6,000 baht a month (that's only 200 baht a day), his living accommodation is 9,000 and apart from those two expenses - what else? he goes to the gym. I'm not knocking the lifestyle at all but I'm guessing there are plenty of folks out there (the ones who say 35K isn't enough) who like to do some travelling, go home to see the family once a year etc. And that can add 10,000 baht a month to expenses. 

900 baht an hour for a private student is not too bad. Quite a nice lucrative sideline there.   


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 340 total

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