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 16th September 2019

฿30 to one US Dollar
฿38 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.59 THB to one Philippine Peso

Richard

Working in Hat Yai

Monthly Earnings 30,000 - 40,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a private school in Hat Yai that pays a salary of 28,000 baht but on a very good month, I can boost that salary to about 40,000 baht with a mix of overtime and private teaching. It means I'm in for an exhausting month though with very little free time for myself.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Very little. Possibly about 5,000 baht. Any spare money I have gets put towards a flight home to see the family - and thankfully they look after me financially when I'm there.

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

I share a house with two other teachers. It's a very nice three-bedroom place which costs 6,000 baht a month plus bills. So just 2,000 each in rent.

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

Transportation

Fortunately I can take a local songthaew to near the school and then walk the final five minutes. So transportation is probably 500 baht a month. If that.

Utility bills

We have three aircon units in the house but we're all pretty frugal when it comes to turning them on LOL. I think our last electricity bill was about 3,000 baht. Again, shared three ways, it's not too bad.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to eat out almost all the time whether it be on the streets or in a medium-standard restaurant. I hate the whole communal fridge idea. It reminds me of my student days. "which one of you bastards stole my last yoghurt?" I couldn't deal with that so I avoid the hassle by eating out. I guess I spend mabe 8,000 a month of filling my stomach up.

Nightlife and drinking

Very, very little. I got tired of the bars and the pub scene very quickly. I prefer to stay at home and watch a movie on my notebook. I bet I don't spend a thousand baht a month on entertainment. In fact I only venture out when a group of teachers is having a little get-together.

Books, computers

I'm not a great reader so very little on books and I have an internet package that costs around 700 baht a month.

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

It's not bad. I eat well and I have a nice roof over my head. It's really that annual trip home that eats into any savings.

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

Streetfood is still reasonable, although I have noticed the size of the portions are going down. Local transportation is also very cheap. Just a few baht to go miles!

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

To survive? I would say in a big city like Hat Yai, at least 30,000 baht a month. I couldn't survive on my basic salary so it's quite stressful to go from month to month having to rely on the extra teaching hours or wondering whether they will even be there, especially if it's a quiet month like December or April.

Phil's analysis and comment

Richard's story is quite an interesting one I think because it hilights the financial 'burden' that can be put on you if there is a need to return home to see the family every year. With flights currently running at 40-50,000 baht for a flight back to England (more to the USA I would imagine) then you are talking a fair chunk of your annual salary just to get on the plane. Then you have to factor in spending money when you return home. As I think I've said before in these 'cost of living' comments, you don't want to return home and start pleading poverty and come across as desperate. You want to be able to take your friends and family out for drinks or a meal and cut the Mr Big once in a while. But financially it all adds up. I suppose this whole scenario is one of the great downsides of moving to teach on the other side of the world - at least for some folks. 


Davis

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 38,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

38,000 for a full-time job at a bilingual school teaching English 20 hours per week.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

20,000. Maybe a little more or less depending on the entertainment category.

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

I paid 24,000 for 6 months rent in a condo. It has a living room and a bedroom that are separate, a large wrap-around balcony, an outdoor-kitchen, and a great, unobstructed view of the mountains. I really had to haggle with the lady because she wanted 7,000 per month.

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

Transportation

500 for gas. I already purchased a motorbike for 20,000.

Utility bills

Roughly 1,800. 500 for water and electric, 850 for cell phone and internet, and 400 for laundry. No TV.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

8,000. 6,000 for restaurants and 2,000 at the supermarket.

Nightlife and drinking

Roughly 6,000

Books, computers

Zero. I have enough books already and I also have a Kindle. I don’t pay for anything in the computer category either.

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

My standard of living is better than it was in the US.

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

Getting paid for a job that’s fun, cheap food, massage, muay Thai fights for free (sometimes) when I show a Thai license and school ID.

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

15,000 to survive, 25,000 to spend, and 35,000+ to spend and save. I think it’s a good idea to take care of some start-up costs like paying for your rent upfront and buying a used motorbike from an auction.

Phil's analysis and comment

When someone says their standard of living is better in Thailand than it was in their homeland, you can't really argue with that. In fact there is very little I can pick apart in Davis' no-nonsene approach to living and teaching in Chiang Mai. His salary of 38K is a lot better than many teachers do in that part of the world so as long as Davis acts sensibly - which he clearly does - he's going to do well up there. Well done that man for negotiating his rent down from 7,000 to 4,000 and then paying six months upfront. There's a recession on! The bargains are there if you ask people to sharpen their pencils. 


Jacob

Working in Phuket (at a beach resort)

Monthly Earnings Almost 60,000 baht plus great benefits.

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

50,000 baht plus an 8,000 baht food allowance plus free accommodation near the beach and use of resort facilities.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

On average about 40,000 baht.

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

The resort provides a studio apartment. It's small and pretty old and the walls are a bit thin - but it does the job. I'm only a hop and a step from probably the nicest beach in Phuket, where I can surf, boogie board and practice tai chi under the stars.

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

Transportation

About 550 baht a month but I never go very far from base.

Utility bills

All utility bills are covered by my employer.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Because the resort provides me with 'three hots and a cot', I spend very little on supermarket shopping - probably about 3,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

Being part of the hospitality industry is cool because many restaurants or clubs can give me a VIP card with discounts or free entry. I also know when the happy hours are and have a few friends running bars and clubs. Personally, I am more into meditation and Buddhism than I am into nightlife, however I end up going out approximately once every two weeks or so. In total I spend no more than 600 baht/month on nightlife so it’s a very small part of my budget.

Books, computers

Virtually nothing. I'm not into material possessions that much - although I do have a 10,000 baht smartphone.

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

Sometimes humble, sometimes extravagant. Salaries can be low in the hotel business but the benefits can be great. I think I'm very lucky to have such a nice job in such a nice location but I do work hard six days a week so I'd like to think I deserve it.

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

Even though Phuket can be expensive, I know where to go fot the best and cheapest food (if I don't eat at the hotel) Clothes are also a bargain.

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

In Phuket, I would say 20-30,000 baht a month. But you certainly wouldn't save anything.

Phil's analysis and comment

A nice job at a five-star resort. Free accommodation a stone's throw from one of the most beautiful beaches in Phuket. An 8,000 baht hotel restaurant allowance every month. VIP cards that allow him to get into the nightclubs for free. Plenty of friends running bars with happy hours. Oh and he manages to save 40,000 baht a month. Who's jealous? Can we have a show of hands?  


Stephen

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 73,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

73,000 baht a month teaching IGCSE maths and physics in an international school in the middle of Bangers.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

40,000 baht

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

I pay 3,400 baht a month for a Thai-style apartment near Praram 9 MRT where I am the only westerner.

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

Transportation

200 baht a month on fuel for my motorbike to ride the 3kms each way to school and about 500 baht a month on taxis and public transportation when I'm mincing around town.

Utility bills

Electric and water are 100 baht a month each and I use the free internet at school.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Roughly 5,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

20,000 baht

Books, computers

300 baht for a couple of paperbacks.

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

I want for nothing but I live a very simple, minimalist life. I aim to retire in 2013 shortly before my 40th birthday hence the huge savings. See www.earlyretirementextreme.com.

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

Food. You can still get chicken on rice with soup for 30 baht - and no dishes to wash either. Bangkok taxis are cheap too!

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

I have lived in Thailand for over three years. I've lived in rural areas and in cities and tourist traps. I would say out of all of them, Bangkok is the priciest.. In the sticks, 15K a month would be survival and you'd live like a king on 40k. In Bangkok you need 20K to just about survive and 100K to live like a king.

Phil's analysis and comment

When I read that Stephen earned 73,000 baht a month and spent less than 4,000 baht of it on rent and only a hundred baht on electricity (and let's not forget the use of free internet at school) I did wonder if we had finally found the man who switches his windscreen wipers off when he's driving under a bridge. Is this a man who only breathes in? Is this a man who would find a wooden crutch in the attic and go downstairs and break his son's leg? Then I read about his plans to retire at a ridiculously young age and the whole scenario fell into place. Well it kind of fell into place I suppose. It's certainly a very minimalistic lifestyle but who am I to knock it?

20,000 baht a month on nightlife though eh Steve? And he also offered this advice in his e-mail to me - "If you want to save cash here stay away from the local women. Thai women are the fastest money-reducing agents known to man!"

Steve, I'm putting two and two together and definitely coming up with four. 


Ben

Working in Rayong

Monthly Earnings 78,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

78,000 baht a month

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

10,000 baht

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 big 3-bedroom house. It's old but really spacious and comfortable to live in. My three cats love it as they can run everywhere!

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

Transportation

I have 12,000 baht car payments that finish in September. I also spend 4,000 a month on petrol. In addition to the car, I rent a motorcycle that costs about 2,500 baht a month with gas. So a total of about 18,500 baht.

Utility bills

About 3,600 baht in total. My electric bill is 2,000 baht, my internet 750, water is 200, and I pay 500 baht a month to the laundry lady.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

When you add up both supermatket shopping and restaurant bills, it must be at least 10,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

About 10,000 baht.

Books, computers

No more than a thousand a month.

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

I have everything I need except for savings. My problem is that I tend to impulse buy. I could save much more but I just need to be more disciplined. This will happen once my car loans have been paid off. I have already reduced my outgoings by getting rid of the maid (2500 baht a month) and cable TV (1800). I want for nothing and also enjoy regular scuba diving trips but money does seem to just slip through my fingers. In England I was a saver but here I'm a spender.

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

KFC. I can get a bucket of chicken here for the price of a single meal in England. Cinema tickets and popcorn are also cheap. Everything else seems reasonably cheap but it still saps my money.

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

To survive – 25,000 if you don’t mind living in a little place and only having a motorbike to pootle around on. Probably 40,000 to have a good lifestyle but not be able to make big rash purchases or be able to afford to go home. 60,000+ to be able to buy want you want when you want and not really worry too much.

Phil's analysis and comment

Ben believes in enjoying life - there's no doubt about that. When I first started to read his figures, my initial thought was 'how the hell is one guy and three cats getting through 68,000 baht a month In Rayong? But surround yourself with flat-screen TVs, the latest Apple technology, maids, cable TV, new cars, motorcycles and regular scuba-diving trips, and I guess it's easily done. 

One enormous saving grace though is that Ben knows exactly where he's going wrong and he knows exactly what he has to do to put it right - start saving a little more. I've worked with people who just like Ben, tended to surround themselves with endless material possessions - but never saw it as a problem - even when they would run out of money well before the month's end.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 295 total

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