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 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

Brent

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings Base salary 43,000 baht a month plus 10-30K from corporate work.

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

I usually end up around 60,000 - 65,000 or so.

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

I save every satang from the corporate work. I only touch that account when I go back home annually to visit my family and when I bought my 50” Plasma TV. My goal is to buy a condo, but the laws are tough for a mortgage, so I have to do it with hard work.

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

I have a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, two-story townhouse in the On Nut part of town. My monthly rent is 6,000 baht per month. I live with my girlfriend.

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

Transportation

I spend about 600 baht a month on gasoline for my Yamaha Nuevo.

Utility bills

Nothing. My girlfriend pays the electricity and water bills. I pay 300 baht for internet shared amongst 3 neighbors. I pay something like 1,500 baht for True Visions Gold Package.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I am a light eater, so I don’t eat much. My diet is primarily western food. I would say I spend about 15,000 per month.

Nightlife and drinking

I mostly drink at home, and I buy beer by the box. So, about 15,000 baht is my estimate. Cigarettes add up to another 2,000 baht.

Books, computers

Well, I tend to buy things impulsively. XBOX, etc. It varies from month to month, but I usually blow my base salary on such things. DVDs, games, professional ironing, etc. This doesn’t really always happen in one month, but the money in my main account starts adding up, and I splurge at Khlong Thom or the like.

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

Life here is wonderful, but I work a lot and haven’t got a lot of free time.

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

My rent is shockingly cheap! My transportation costs are next to nothing because I drive everywhere.

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

I know people making 25,000 a month or less and surviving. I know of apartments for 1,500 baht. To be reasonably happy, I wouldn’t live here on less than 40,000 per month.

Phil's analysis and comment

I like this guy and I like his strategy. Brent manages to live very comfortably on his 43,000 baht a month base salary, and he's saying that any money he earns from extra corporate work - usually in the region of 20,000 baht a month - is going straight into the bank. That's 240,000 baht a year so more than enough for those annual trips home. In fact he could probably afford to go twice! Brent's lifestyle cost is uncannily similar to my own. The numbers are almost identical. If I factor in a couple of holidays a year, I figure on spending about 65,000 baht a month. You can have a very decent life here on 60K plus, especially if your partner is working and paying a few bills - and in Brent's case, if you've got a great big house that costs you peanuts to rent. I would certainly keep that location a secret.


Craig

Working in Surat Thani

Monthly Earnings Less than 30,000 baht

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

After tax I end up with about 29,000 a month.

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

Now I'm single I don't really save money anymore, especially as Koh Samui is just a ferry trip away every weekend. I can burn over half my wages in two nights on that Island, lol.

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

I share a house with other foreign teachers. It took me three years to furnish it and it still looks empty. Every month the rent costs a 1,000 baht. But I don't usually sleep there. I tend to sleep in my Thai friend's air-conditioned house across the road. The area I live in is nice and peaceful. All my Thai neighbors are great. I get free internet as well - a perk of having a friend that works in the local TOT office.

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

Transportation

For transportation I'd say I use about 400 bahts worth of gas in my fino each month.

Utility bills

Water 86 baht a month and electricity about 150 baht every 3 months or so. (If you don't use over a certain amount of electricity you don't get a bill)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I guess about 2-3000 baht. School dinners are 20-25 baht, I serve myself so I make sure I get a good deal. Usually my friends wife prepares spicy curries for dinner every evening.

Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife and drinking can be expensive if I leave Don Sak, which at the moment is most weekends to Samui or Phuket, so I'd have to say roughly about 15,000 baht on partying a month. (Occasionally my salary does run out , but it's not what you know, it's who you know. I'll never go hungry that's for sure)

Books, computers

My mum sends me lots of books that I sell on after reading. She bought me a new laptop as well, so I guess I make money in that category, lol.

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

I'm happy with what I have here in Thailand, I have a lot of great Thai friends, the school I teach at is nice and relaxed, and generally life is easy.

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

All the basic necessities you need to get by are so much cheaper here.

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

I've only ever worked in the sticks, but I did live in Bangkok for 6 months prior and I know it's easy to go out and spend lots of money in the big city. I guess it depends on the type of person you are, I think I would struggle to get by if I lived in Bangkok on 29,000 a month. A lot of the people I met while I stayed in Bangkok gradually got more hard up for money and ended up going home. Getting out of Bangkok benefitted me a lot.

Phil's analysis and comment

Hmmm....an interesting scenario. Although getting away from the temptations of Bangkok may have been a good idea at the time, Craig still has the lure of Koh Samui to contend with - and it's sucking up nigh on half his salary every month. Would Bangkok still have been a better option considering there's more, better-paid work available? Simply put - 29,000 baht is not enough to live on anywhere in Thailand - not in my opinion. Not when you factor in medical bills, flights home to see the family and hopefully stashing a bit away for your future. It's just an existence. It's nice to do for a couple of years when you are young but the reality has to kick in eventually. 

Update - After reading my comments in the above paragraph, Craig got in touch to say he felt I had been a little harsh on him. It's only fair I let Craig have his say and put his points across and he gave me a little more info about himself. For starters he's only 28. He has no credit card debts or stuff like that. His motorcycle is paid for. He goes on to say that he'll worry about the future when it comes and he's also had no trouble adapting to the Thai way of life. As a final comment, Craig reminded me that Koh Samui is the reason his salary disappears so quickly and were it not for the bright lights of the tropical islands, 29,000 baht would be more than enough to live on. 

I accept that these are good points Craig. But be warned by an old fart like me. The future can look very different when you are 28 compared to when you are 40. I was the 30,000 baht a month teacher 'living it large' in Bangkok - and I enjoyed the lifestyle for many years. Then one day, you wake up and you are approaching middle-aged and you do a few sums and you realise that you can't sustain that lifestyle forever. I still say 29,000 baht is not enough but we can always agree to disagree.  


Stephen

Working in Phuket

Monthly Earnings 60,000

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

60,000 after tax – I teach IGCSE maths at an international school in Phuket. Could do more but too lazy. Value my free time too much.

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

25,000 to 30,000 (I am single)

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

5,000 (incl bills). Apartment complex with hot shower, fan, TV, balcony (nice view), swimming pool and fridge in Phuket Town.

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

Transportation

1,500 baht petrol for my chopper (paid for).

Utility bills

Steve did not say but probably about 1,000 baht I guess

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Never cook at home. About 5,000

Nightlife and drinking

Too much. Around 15,000 - 20,000.

Books, computers

600 internet as above.

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

Excellent. I earn the same as I did as an IT engineer in Northern England in 2005. Compounding this is the lower living costs of Thailand! The Quality of Life is superb here. However, I have just spent £2900 (about 140,000) on a PGCE course at Nottingham University - that should pay for itself in less than a year.

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

Food. Motorbike insurance and tax. Accommodation.

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

I earned less than 30,000 teaching in the sticks (2 years ago) and was able to live well. I reckon one could live well in the sticks for 30,000 (40.000 for Phuket). Add 10K to those figures and I'd imogen you could live like a premier league footballer - perhaps someone like Ryan Giggs.

Phil's analysis and comment

Steve first posted in the ajarn cost of living section back in 2009, when he worked in Trang and was earning 29,000 baht a month. Now he teaches maths in an international school in Phuket and has nigh on doubled his salary since then. Well done sir! But 20,000 baht a month on entertainment? Take more care of that liver Steve! 


Mike

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 69,000

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

69.000 after tax – I work at an international school in Bangkok (Mon to Fri, 8 am to 4 pm) + 1.500 - 3.000 internet income (spouse's income is a separate "thing")

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

15,000 baht goes into my off-shore retirement fund; 5,000 baht into my Thailand 3-year savings account, and 10,000 baht into my Thailand money-for-travel account.

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

6,500 baht – a 20-something year mortgage on a one-bedroom condo.

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

Transportation

2.000 baht / month in gas for my car + 100 baht / month in petrol for my Honda Wave

Utility bills

1.200 internet, 100 water, about 1,000 for electricity

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

both restaurants and supermarket shopping 100 baht / day for weekday food and drinks + 2.000 baht / month for weekend meals + 1.000 baht / month for "fridge food" – I rarely cook at home.

Nightlife and drinking

No time for such things: I keep myself busy with sports and hobbies

Books, computers

1,000 baht / month

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

Comfortable with few worries.

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

Cost of food.

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

I earned less than 30.000 teaching in the provinces (8 years ago) and less than 35.000 teaching in Bangkok (6 years ago) and was able to live decently. I reckon that one could do that with the same amount in the provinces and 45.000 for Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

Look up the word 'organized' in the dictionary and there won't be a definition; there will just be a photo of Mike. He's got a mortgage on a condo as a nice investment. He stashes a bit of money off-shore. He runs a car and a motorcycle. And he puts 10,000 baht a month into a travel fund. 120,000 baht a year should certainly get you a very nice annual holiday somewhere. On top of all that, the fleshpots of sin city might be winking and beckoning, but Mike's not the sort to be tempted. He's got better things to spend his hard-earned cash on. Let's be under no illusion though - 69,000 baht a month is a very decent salary for a teacher. I'm sure Mike appreciates it but he knows what it's like to survive on much less.


David

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 57,000

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

57,000 from work at a kindergarten Monday to Friday and some private and Saturday work. My wife also earns 20,000 baht a month so her money is hers and mine is mine.

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

20,000. If nothing pops up. (trip away etc etc.)

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

7,000 baht including bills. I live in a 38 square metre condo in central Bangkok.

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

Transportation

About 800b per week for gas in my CB400. Including a long Sunday roadtrip

Utility bills

1,300, on top of 5,700b rent. For electricity, water, and internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 3,000 to 4,000 baht per week. We usually cook nice food that will do for a few days twice a week or so. Nice, clean Thai restaurants for lunch at 60 baht. I generally eat well.

Nightlife and drinking

Usually stay at home with some scotch or box of wine as opposed to going out. About 1,500b per month. Maybe a few pints to watch the football at the weekend once or twice a month. Add 1000b

Books, computers

Books, maybe 500 baht per month. Download everything I want from my computer for free.

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

A happy one.

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

Massages. Both nice and naughty.

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

Depends on the definition of survive. I don't want for anything but I live a quiet life. I don't like sacrifice. I'm also not happy if I'm not putting money away every month. With everything set up - rental deposit, motorbike, clothes etc. a living wage of 35,000 might cut it, but there'd be no money put away and no feeling of security. I need both of these.

Phil's analysis and comment

Worth adding that Dave is only 30 years old. He went on to tell me that in the future, inherited property will earn him similar to what he's earning now, so he generally doesn't have to worry about security in his 60s. Dave sees retirement as living in rural Thailand helping to run small family businesses. By which time he will hopefully have bought his own property with cash saved. As for now, a 77,000 baht joint income is not too bad for a couple with presumably no kids. He spends 16,000 baht a month on food. He certainly eats well. No doubt about that.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 295 total

Page 52 of 59


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