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 19th February 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.62 THB to one Philippine Peso

Karl

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 80,000 baht

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

I earn 80,000 baht per month teaching at an international school in Bangkok

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

Realistically I could save 25-30k baht per month but I am yet to save anything. I have just paid back a 60,000 baht start up loan and have bought a computer and new phone.

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

I pay 17k excluding bills for a nice Condo in Silom. It is close to my school and comes with a pool and gym. It is also right next to the BTS.

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

Transportation

I use the BTS and taxis frequently going around Bangkok. I spend around 3k baht in total each month.

Utility bills

My water bill is 150 baht a month and my electric usually is around 1000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I am not fond of eating out every day after work as I am usually tired and just want to watch some TV. Eating in tends to be more expensive and I usually spend around 4k a month on eating in. When out I normally get street food or western fast food which is fairly inexpensive and adds around 1,500 baht to the bill. Total spend around 5,500.

Nightlife and drinking

I spend quite a bit on the weekend and usually go out on Friday and Saturday night, plus I normally have a can in the evening after work. The bill will come to around 15,000 baht a month

Books, computers

Unfortunately I was pick pocketed a couple of weeks ago and lost my new phone that I had just spent 20k baht on. Generally I spend a few thousand baht on gadgets a month but it varies dependent on what I want.

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

I come from London and I get paid the same in Bangkok but with half the living costs. I love the city, its variety and the heat. I am five times happier here than I was in the UK.

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

Cigarettes, food and the rent. I pay more than most people for my rent but I love the convenience of the location. I just went on a great holiday, hiking through jungles, riding elephants and white water rafting and it only cost me 3,000 baht.

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

Well, if you don’t have my rent and you didn’t go out drinking every weekend I think that you would be able to live on 30K. After all, many Thai people live on a lot less than 30k a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Karl says that he's 'five times happier than when he lived in London" and that says it all really. But as a single guy pulling in 80,000 baht a month, you're always going to live well in Bangkok. Although Karl's 17,000 baht a month rent will be deemed as 'excessive' by a good many teachers, it's still less than a quarter of his monthly salary. In addition, his utility bills are not too high and he doesn't overspend on food. He clearly enjoys a night out though - 15K on entertainment every month is a fair chunk of his salary. I'm sure Karl would like to save something from that 80K a month as well - and I'm sure he will in time. But there's little doubt about it - Karl's leading a very comfortable existence at the present time. 

If I can be allowed to home in on a couple of details. An ex-colleague once said to me "you don't save that much money by cooking and eating at home compared to buying streetfood, but by God, you certainly eat better" - and I agree with that 100%. If you're fortunate enough to live somewhere with a decent cooking space, learn how to cook if you can't already. Last night I boiled some pasta with a few spoonfuls of pasta sauce. I added some spicy cooked meat that I get from a quality deli counter and get them to slice thickly so I can cut the meat into cubes. Sprinkle in some chopped dried chilli and voila! - a filling, tasty meal for probably about 60-70 baht.

Streetfood is not what it was. And if you go on the Thai discussion forums, even the Thais themselves are moaning about it. Streetfood favorites like "khaw Man Gai' and 'Khaw Na Ped' are all creeping up in price. And I'm convinced that the portions are getting smaller as well. No, streetfood is not the value it once was. Learn to cook and cook at home! 

Interestingly, Karl puts cigarettes in his 'bargains' section. I'm not sure I agree with that anymore. The retail price of a packet of Marlboro is now 90 baht - and they seem to be creeping up in price every couple of months. Let's do the maths for the smokers out there. 90 baht is almost two pounds sterling. I consider the cost of living in Thailand to be a third of what it is in the UK. So therefore two pounds for a packet of fags in Thailand is equivalent to about six pounds in the UK. Well, a packet of cigarettes is currently about 7.50 in England so it's all becoming fairly 'relative' . A twenty-a-day-smoker is still going to puff their way through 2,000 baht a month in Thailand. If you're one of the many 30K-a-month teachers, that's a decent part of your salary going up in smoke.


Ted

Working in Khon Kaen

Monthly Earnings 33,000 baht per month

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

I work at a government school from 8am-4pm Monday to Friday. Up to this point I haven’t done any extra teaching outside of this, but I am considering checking out language centres now that I have my work permit. I know there is tutoring available too at KKU, but I haven’t tutored before, so I need to gain experience first, I think.

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

I can save 10,000 baht per month (or more depending). I usually send $300 USD home each month via Western Union and my parents deposit it for me in my US bank account. After that I usually have extra money at the end of the month, so I’d say I could save closer to 12,000 baht per month.

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

I have a nice and quiet apartment (except for some nights when the dogs bark) and my own room is 3800 baht per month, plus utilities. I know I could find cheaper in the area, but I’d probably be unhappy if I moved to a “cheap apartment.”

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

Transportation

I take a songtaew to school each day and if I go downtown on the weekends, I take a tuk-tuk home. So, the songtaew is around 500 baht a month and the tuk-tuks are 300 a month. I eschewed renting a motorbike or renting one, since I live close to the school and the songtaew goes to the city center.

Utility bills

My water bill is 200 baht a month and my electric usually is around 1500 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Usually I always eat out for dinner, but I either go to a Thai place where dinner costs 35 baht or I get a big salad for 50 baht or I get a ½ chicken for 65 baht. I have toast for breakfast and I eat lunch at school. So, I’d guesstimate I spend around 3,750-4,000 baht a month on food.

Nightlife and drinking

I spend around 2000 baht on alcohol for the month usually, but lately I’ve been cutting back, so the number probably has dropped. I also spend around 2500 baht for my “dating” life each month.

Books, computers

I lost my kindle, which sucks, so if I need more books I sometimes go to a book swap place. But, I haven’t bought a new book in a while, since I loaded up when I was in Chiang Mai at a cheap bookstore.

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

It’s better and more comfortable than back home in America. Even though I send money home each month, I still live well enough. But, I am a single 27 year old male, so I don’t have a girlfriend or kids to support.

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

The street food and taxis are cheap. Even the tuk-tuks are okay, since a 5 km ride can cost you 70 baht, which isn’t a great deal, but compared to back home, it’s real cheap.

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

To survive? I would say here in Khon Kaen, you could survive on 15,000 baht a month, but it would be scrimpy living. To live comfortably, I’d say 20,000 baht, assuming you don’t have debt to pay back home.

Phil's analysis and comment

I have been to Khon Kaen a couple of times and it has always struck me as a nice town to live in. Ted certainly sounds organised - he sends a bit of money home, he enjoys a night out, feeds himself well, etc - and he certainly sounds very happy. I probably wouldn't go along with his idea of 20,000 baht being 'enough to live comfortably' but I live in the big city and of course, there's always going to be more temptations and more to spend your money on.

What's most interesting is that Ted is now looking to 'increase his earning potential' by doing extra work at language centers or whatever he can find. At the moment, he's in an ideal situation. He's working Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 4.00pm so he's got plenty of spare time on his hands. Ted's got five evenings a week and all day Saturday and Sunday to maximize his earning potential. But despite being a young man with plenty of energy (I assume) he doesn't want to kill himself! If I were in Ted's shoes, I would have a plan A and a plan B.

My plan A would be to give up maybe 2-3 evenings a week to extra teaching work and keep my weekends free. The longer I live and the older I get, the more I seem to appreciate my weekends off. I always hated working weekends. It's easier said than done of course because so many language centers are only busy at the weekend - especially if you are going to teach kids. Personally, I would be tapping into the evening adult student market before I entertained the idea of giving up Saturdays and/or Sundays.

My plan B would be to bite the bullet and accept weekend work but I would want make it worth my while. Forget the bullshit two hours on a Saturday afternoon stuff (ruining my whole day for a few hundred baht) If a language center is going to drag me into work on a Saturday or Sunday, then give me at least 5-6 hours of teaching. That's going to be maybe an extra 8,000 baht a month plus. That's worth my while! And I still have my evenings and one day at the weekend free.

If Ted lives very comfortably on the 33,000 baht a month he earns now (and he clearly does) - imagine what it's going to feel like with an extra 8,000 in his pocket?  

  


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?  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 312 total

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