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

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Daniel

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 37,000 baht

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

I earn exactly 34,250 baht (after tax) from my full-time job at a prestigious Thai government high school in Bangkok, Thailand. I earn around 3,000 baht average per month from part-time tutoring (usually only 1-2 hours per week).

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

I put back 7,500 to 10,000 baht per month. That number mostly depends on how many “extras” I buy during said month. “Extras” are basically anything besides the essentials (food, shelter, and clothing). I should note that all of my housing expenses are shared by both me and my girlfriend. I pay 100% of the rent, and she pays 100% of the utilities. We’re both foreigners working as teachers.

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

Our rent is exactly 9,500 baht a month (excluding utilities). Our home is a rather spacious, clean studio apartment in a Thai-style apartment building geared towards local Thais. The building is essentially a five-story house where each of the rooms are rented out to different individuals. It feels more like an apartment building than a house, though. It’s just a stone’s throw from Convent Road and Silom Road. It takes approximately five to ten minutes to walk to the nearest skytrain and MRT stations.

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

Transportation

I walk to and from work. I take the BTS, BRT, MRT and/or the riverboat a few times per week. The average price per trip is thirty baht each way. I also take public buses occasionally, averaging about ten baht per trip each way. I’m going to say this adds up to about 750 baht per month. I rarely take taxis, but sometimes they’re the only transportation available . I might take a taxi three to five times a month. Total transportation cost per month = 1,000 baht.

Utility bills

As mentioned before, my girlfriend covers all of the utilities and I cover all of the rent. So I don’t personally pay for any of the below utilities. My electricity is five baht per unit and comes to about 2,000 baht per month. The AC runs constantly any time we’re home. Water is almost always 200 baht per month. We have a 10 Mbps DSL internet connection via True, (690 baht per month) We also have the True Gold HD cable TV package (1,000 baht per month)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is possibly my biggest expense each month. I eat a mostly healthy diet and each visit to the supermarket will give me a week’s worth of groceries. I generally eat a light breakfast on the go, eat lunch at my school (50 baht), cook dinner at home 3 nights a week, and eat outside maybe 5 times a week or so. It’s really hard to calculate, but all in all, I suppose I pay from 7,500 to 10,000 baht per month on food. Yes, I eat like a king, but it’s mostly healthy food that helps me stay in shape.

Nightlife and drinking

I’m not a heavy drinker. However, I do like to have a few nights out each month with my buds. Said nights usually include a nice dinner, a few beers and a taxi home. I rarely drink more than 5 beers per night out. My buds and I generally go to somewhere like Khao San Road . One night out usually costs me about 500 baht. I’d say those nights out average to about 1,500 baht a month total.

Books, computers

I pretty much never buy books, maybe only two or three per year maximum. I might buy a new computer every two to three years. Let’s just suppose a new laptop costs 15,000 baht. 15,000 baht divided by 36 months equals 417 baht per month. Let’s just say 450 per month after the few book purchases each year.

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

One sentence: I live in a comfortable home, eat extremely well, put back some money each month, have a low-stress job with months of vacation time each year, I travel domestically within Thailand and also internationally at least a few times each year, my apartment is decent, though not awesome, and my life is generally quite worry-free.

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

The fact that you can buy food in small portions for a low price. The Export Shop, which can be found in many Thai shopping malls, is also a great bargain. Rent can also be cheap if you know where to look. I pay roughly the same here in Bangkok for rent as I did in a second-tier, far less international northeastern Chinese city.

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

In order to afford only the bare essentials I would say 20,000 baht. This person would have to have practically no social life and a lot of skill in resisting temptation. However, this number could be lower if they split their expenses with another person. However, even if rent and utilities were split with another person, their lifestyle still wouldn’t be very glamorous. In order to live “acceptably,” I would say 30,000 baht is the bare minimum for Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Daniel for a very detailed cost of living survey. In fact so detailed, I had to cut some of it out because unfortunately we have limited character space for the answers. OK, what we have here is clearly a guy living well within his means and living very happily on less than 40K a month in Bangkok (which I am always saying is the bare minimum I would want to earn)

I notice Daniel only 'tops up' his salary with 1-2 hours of private teaching each week, so there's little doubt he could push himself harder in that area and earn more money - but I'm guessing he simply doesn't want to - he's happy with his lot. He goes out a few nights a month, lives in a decent place close to all the transportation links and eats very well indeed. Life is happy and simple so why rock the boat and have the stress of taking on extra work?

He's also stashing away about 100-120,000 baht a year. It's not a fortune - and I hope he's got health insurance covered - but it's probably enough for a trip home once a year.


Christopher

Working in Thung Song (Nakhon Si Thammarat Province)

Monthly Earnings 34,000 baht

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

I earn 34.000 baht per month teaching at a private school in Thung Song

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

Realistically I could save 10k baht per month, but cancel out partying and expensive accommodation and I could save up to 20k per month.

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

I share a house with one friend, each of us pays about 7k baht per month and this is including bills. It’s a real fancy house, but one could easily find accommodation for 2-3k per month

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

Transportation

My motorcycle rent costs me 2500 baht per month, and I spend another 1k on petrol. Thung Song is a small town so I never really drive very far to get around.

Utility bills

Our water bill is 150 baht a month and our electric bill is usually around 2000-2500 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We tend to eat out nearly every night of the week, as it is more expensive to cook your own meals, and as one can get decent meals for 50 baht, it’s just so much more convenient to go eat out and be social. I am fortunate enough to get lunch at school, so that saves a few bucks at the end of the day. For breakfast I usually have eggs and toast at home. I do buy fruit from the market every week, and sometimes a few things from the supermarket. At the end of the day I spend about 5500 baht on eating per month

Nightlife and drinking

I do spent a lot of money on going out and partying, it is quite expensive to drink in a bar or pub here, as you have the choice to take your own booze into the club, but you still have to pay corkage - and the price of mixers are absurd. If we go out every weekend I probably spend between 8000 and 10 000 baht a month.

Books, computers

I’m fortunate to have a computer and don’t spend too much cash on reading, as I brought books along if I feel the need to read. So no, I don’t spend anything on books and PCs.

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

Yeah we as foreigners are in a real fortunate position, as we earn much more than the local Thai people and they manage to live rather comfortably with the “little” cash they earn. That just proves that we have it real easy here, if you are not sending cash back home or paying off some kind of dept you can basically live as you wish. I never have any trouble or stress about cash, and that is quite a satisfying feeling.

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

I feel that this will differ from person to person, as people that come from countries where the currency is so much stronger than the Thai baht might find everything a huge bargain. I think food is pretty cheap, and one can get good accommodation for a fair price. Any service where labour is involved is pretty cheap. Medical care in town is a bargain, as one can go see the doctor and get treated for 400 baht. Transportation is a real bargain, especially travel by minivan to nearby towns.

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

Realistically one can survive on 15,000 baht per month, you will have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, but without any luxuries.

Phil's analysis and comment

I don't agree with Chris that you could survive on 15,000 baht a month but Chris isn't the one doing the 'surviving' here anyway. He's earning an OK salary for rural Thailand and it seems to afford him a good lifestyle. "I never have any trouble or stress about cash, and that's a very satisfying feeling" You bet it is Chris and I bet there would be millions of people around the world who would be happy to change places with you. Not just because you're in Thailand but also free from money worry.

Chris says that he can save 10K a month (which is OK) but he could save 20K if he moved to cheaper accommodation and cut down on the partying. However, this is one 'cost of living' survey where I would say don't lower your living standards. I bet you've got a wonderful place there for 14,000 baht a month - plenty of rooms and a nice leafy compound. It must be a joy to come back to at the end of a hard day's teaching.

Good on you Chris. You clearly enjoy life down there in Thung Song. 


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. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 319 total

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