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 26th September 2022

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฿42 to one Pound Sterling
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฿25 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Eric

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 100,000 - 170,000 baht a month

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

My base salary is 72,000 after deductions. I supplement this with private lessons. In a good month I can rake in an additional 100,000. In light months I earn as little as 20,000. I'd say the private teaching averages over the year at something like 60,000.

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

I generally save my salary and I use my private tuition. My school auto-deposits my salary into a bank account. The private tuition is usually cash in hand. Some months I take money out of my bank account and other months I put some cash into it.

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

I live in a one bedroom condo with my wife and newborn. It's kind of tight but it's quite livable for now. I'm planning on moving to a larger place soon, mostly for the kid to have more space. My rent is 10,000 including utilities.

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

Transportation

I walk to work and take other types of transportation 2-3 times per week. I also have a motorcycle. About 700 for me. But my wife has a long commute. About 4,000 for her.

Utility bills

Telephones are about 1,000 between the two of us for top up slips. Nursery for the baby is 10,000 per month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to eat cheap but good. Usually it's pad gra pao or some similar fare but a couple times per week we go mid-scale (B400++). Baby milk isn't cheap either. My little family eats for about 20,000 per month.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out too often. As I teach on a Saturday, Friday nights are not going to be late nights. I'll go out just a couple times spending about B3,000 per month. More than drinking I'll spend my money on travel. In the trips I took around Thailand this past year I spent a collective total of about B100,000.

Books, computers

This year I've spent about B30,000 on some new video games. It's a mini-fortune for video games, but I like games now and then. This year has also seen other large costs paid like: tuition (B60,000), baby delivery (B45,000), baby stuff (B30,000) and add-on construction to the family-in-law's home (B50,000).

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

I wouldn't want to work like this forever but I'm happy at present to earn big and save.

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

Transportation is really cheap. Street food is cheap. Clothes can be cheap. Electronics are not cheap.

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

I lived quite happily on 45k for years as a single man. I had enough savings at that time to take some months off just for traveling and also to support myself for a while when I returned to the west when I decided to upgrade to a BEd. Now that I have my BEd and a young family I'm aiming to earn as much as possible to eventually invest in a property.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! A teacher who can sometimes earn 100,000 baht a month from private teaching! Although Eric didn't say how much he charges per hour for private tuition, he did have the following to say about his workload -

"The "good" months are very busy months where I work 12-hour days from Monday to Friday and another 8 hours on Saturdays. I like tutoring as much as possible, but Sunday is a work-free day, even though I could earn another 40k per month if I was open for lessons then. My BEd has paid off but not in the way that I thought that it would. Instead of earning a much increased salary, I got a somewhat increased salary and a much increased opportunity for well paying private tuition"

I take my hat off to someone who can hold down a full-time job and juggle around all those well-paid private lessons. That's an incredible achievement. 

Eric didn't actually state where in Thailand he works, but I'm assuming he's in Bangkok.


Shayan

Working in Pathum Thani

Monthly Earnings 30,000 - 50,000

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

I’m not a teacher, which is funny because whenever I tell people I work at AIT, they automatically assume that I am. I earn 30k after tax as a marketing professional. I also work as a freelance writer and marketer which earns me another 15-20k a month, depending on the frequency of projects and work completed.

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

I had hoped to save at least 50% of what I earn but since getting married and wanting to travel more, it is a lot less. Almost 10-20%. My aim is to save more and alter my lifestyle a little.

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

I live with my parents in Bangkok

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

Transportation

I take the MRT and then the van to work. That’s 2,400B/month. Sometimes it is higher because I end up driving. So realistically, it is around 5,000B.

Utility bills

ok, so I live with my parents still. Despite being married, we live in a culture where it is about being in an extended family. It isn’t by choice. So I get to save by not paying utility or accommodation.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Both restaurants and supermarket shopping – we buy our own groceries, however. I try to have a healthier lifestyle than my parents so I get a lot of organic stuff, which costs a lot. This comes up to be 3000-4000B a month.

Nightlife and drinking

The bulk of where my money goes but something I’m looking to decrease so my wife and I can travel more. We recently started a travel and lifestyle blog so we want to save or money for trips. Realistically, I spend close to 7000/month

Books, computers

I read online a lot. I have a mac from years ago. I spend a bit on phone accessories, camera equipment and other travel electronics. Around 2k/month probably

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

It’s really open and free. I think I spend way more than I should. Trying to adjust my standard of living. Go out to bars and restaurants less unless it’s for our blog or some big event. I would summarize it between luxury and casual. Very outgoing, taking trips, doing weekly adventures and seeing new places.

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

Bangkok has become more expensive over the years. Real bargains are all over the place but you have to explore a bit to find them. Eating roadside food is your best option. There are some great restaurants and bars that have happy hours that can be really light on your wallet.

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

30k is not enough by a long shot, even if I was single and not going out at all. Rent alone for a good decent apartment is no less than 7-10k. Combine grocery, transportation, utilities and a bit of outing, you’re down another 15k leaving you with about 5k. Is that enough saving? I would say to live comfortably; you need to earn at least 50k - 70k depending on your lifestyle. If you earn close to 100k, you’re life is set here.

Phil's analysis and comment

Shayan is not a teacher (in fact he's the first non-teacher we've featured in the cost of living section) but he asked me very nicely if he could complete the survey and I thought well, why not? He earns a monthly salary that is comparable with a teacher's. However, things are skewed a little by the fact that he lives with his parents so there are no accommodation outgoings each month. I do like his numbers in the final question though and I agree with him 100%.


AJ

Working in Pathum Thani

Monthly Earnings 75,000 baht averaged over 12 months

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

It really all depends if I have corporate work included on top of my teaching at the language center, or just the language center. My best month was just a bit over 90000 baht (granted I do work 7 days), and my worst was probably around 55000. So, it really just depends how many students you have (private students are pivotal).

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

I can save about 70% of my monthly income. Sometimes I buy flight tickets and other times I furnish my apartment. Realistically, 50% at the absolute worse.

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

I stay in a pretty nice apartment with fantastic services. Also, I use the air quite a bit. So, base rent is about 4,600 baht a month, but air and utilities included…the total sum can be between 7,000 - 8,000 baht.

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

Transportation

It really all depends if I head into Bangkok or not (30 baht minivan trip) which happens probably 3-4 times a month. Other than that, the bus from where I live to my job can be as cheap as 7 baht and go up to a whopping 13. When there’s a heavy downpour, I take the taxi home (happened only once in one year) and that was 50 baht.

Utility bills

Air-con and water included can be a bit costly, regardless if it’s at 7 baht per unit. Nonetheless, these utilities add up to around 3,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Phew….I love Thai food, but the sodium is remarkably high (thinking of my long-term health) and it puts me to sleep often. So, I live on a green salad, tuna, supplement type diet. On days I work 8 hours, I would spend upwards to 300 baht that specific day, but luckily those don’t come too often. So, let’s just be safe and say about 6000-9000 (included some goodies and cheat days).

Nightlife and drinking

Zero nightlife within these borders for me. I’ve been here for 2.5 years and I’ve met the shadiest, dodgiest, and most vile people all across Thailand. I’ve been pushed away from bars while seeing other foreigners walk in right past me. I’ve been ignored drinks and food while others get theirs. Therefore, I RARELY go out. Perhaps once every 3-6 months. I’d rather save my spirit money for a great time in Tokyo or in the CBD of Melbourne, Australia. So, let’s just say maybe 3000 baht A YEAR!

Books, computers

I will probably buy a book every three months. I normally rent movies from iTunes, but that’s about it.

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

Absolutely wonderful. Being able to make $3000 USD a month compared to $1800 back in America or $3200 in Australia goes a long way.

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

Being able to pay virtually pennies for rent and saving just loads for investments, online business, publicist, etc is wonderful. The bargain is saving. There’s not another place on the planet where you can make $3000 USD a month while coming out-of-pocket $500 for monthly expenses.

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

In Pathumthani, 30,000 is fine. I’ve lived in Chanthaburi on a “highway robbery” salary of 18,000 baht at one point (free housing) and I still saved several thousand baht a month. In Pathumthani, you can pay 5,000-7,000 baht for an apartment, and depending on your leisure activities and “being smart”….it’s a sustainable salary. If you’re a part animal, I recommend looking for outside work to fulfill the financial needs associated with nightlife.

Phil's analysis and comment

AJ describes his standard of living as 'absolutely wonderful' and it's not difficult to see why. These are impressive figures. Although AJ is clearly 'a saver' - he saves his money for the things in life that HE enjoys doing such as travelling to places like Japan and Australia whenever the fancy takes him. He does admit to working 7 days a week but you don't mind that so much when you are young and full of energy. I'm sure the thoughts of those regular vacations keep him going.


Bob

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000 baht a month averaged over 12 months

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

It's very difficult to put an exact figure on what I earn each month because I juggle around private language school work at two different schools (which pays about 400-500 baht an hour) and corporate work (which pays 800 baht an hour)

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

I don't save any of it. I am in my late fifties and have a few investments and pension plans that provide me with a modest monthly income. The money I earn from teaching goes towards covering all my monthly living costs.

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

I rent an 8,000 baht studio apartment in a modern building about 5 minutes walk from the MRT station in Saphan Kwai. I've lived there five years and the rent has never increased in that time.

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

Transportation

I go everywhere by MRT and BTS because it's so convenient. Probably about 2-3,000 baht a month I guess.

Utility bills

The air-con goes on the moment I walk in the door and stays on until I leave. I couldn't live without my air-conditioning. The electricity, water and phone bills come to about 4,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to either eat out at local Thai restaurants or snack on what I call 'fridge food' - stuff that's easy to put together like ham and cheese sandwiches or salads. I've got one of those sandwich toasters but that's as far as actual cooking anything goes. I probably spend about 8,000 a month on food.

Nightlife and drinking

Could be as much as 16,000 baht. I tend to limit myself to a big night out on Saturdays and I can easily drop 3-4,000 baht. Saturday is a very busy day at one of the language centers so I limit myself to a couple of beers on Friday nights. I would love to go out more but I've got used to just going out once a week. On weekdays, I'll often be teaching corporate classes until well after 8pm. After that I just want to go home and relax.

Books, computers

Almost nothing. I have a nice laptop but mostly use the computers at school. I download e-books for free. Does anyone actually pay for books anymore?

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

Very comfortable indeed but I might be singing a different song if I didn't have my other incomes. But a single guy should be able to live fairly well on 50,000 a month.

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

I don't think anything is ridiculously cheap in Bangkok anymore but none of it is outrageously expensive either. I suppose imported foodstuffs cost silly money. I often pick up something from a supermarket shelf and think 'who on earth is stupid enough to pay that?' But people obviously do.

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

In Bangkok, I would say a minimum of 40K a month. But 50K is better. That extra 10,000 baht makes all the difference.

Phil's analysis and comment

Ah, the life of the private language school teacher who's also doing a bit of evening corporate work as well. I juggled language school and corporate work around for many years and it's not a bad combination if you hit it right.

Two other things that Bob told me. Firstly, the two language schools that Bob works at and the office of the company who provide him with corporate work, are all within ten minutes of each other by skytrain. That's smart! Why commute from one side of the city to the other if you don't have to?

Secondly, the two private language schools offer Bob more work than he can handle. Why? Two magic words - student requests. Private language schools are businesses. They are there to make money and put bums on seats. The popular teacher who goes that extra mile to kep students happy (and re-enrolling on courses) will always do well. 


Daniel

Working in Samut Prakarn

Monthly Earnings 42 - 55,000 baht

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

My basic salary is 35,000 baht a month for 12 contact hours. We also have something called ‘special pay’ (Mon-Thu 3.30pm-4.30pm) for extra classes and I get 7K a month for that on top. I also do worksheet-based classes for 3 hours on Saturday mornings at school for 3 hours for another 8K. I think I’m quite well-paid for what I consider fairly light and easy work. I’ve been working just about every weekend, but sometimes it’s not on or I can’t work it. Most months, I’ve had full pay.

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

20k-25k. To be honest, I could probably save 30k some months, if I felt like it. It’s mainly one-off purchases that dictate what I have left at the end of the month, but it’s never less than 20k. Before I came to Thailand, I wasn’t earning much more than I am now, and I know, even with living at home, I could not save almost half my wage each month.

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

I live in a new condo with my girlfriend, which costs 10,000 per month. We split that, as she is also working. There are cheaper options available, but as I’ve heard Phil say many times - it’s important to be happy with what you’re coming home to at the end of the day.

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

Transportation

My transport to and from work is between 2000-2500 p/m. The variation is because of how I choose to come home. I sometimes get a moto taxi, or sometimes get the songtaew. It really depends on my eagerness to get home or wherever I am going. I find myself getting a moto taxi more often than not, just because I don’t see the need to save money on this aspect of life.

Utility bills

I pay the internet (850 p/m) and water (>150 p/m), girlfriend pays the electric (700-600 p/m). We don’t always have the air con on in an evening, but will have it on for a few hours while we sleep, and it’s always on during the weekend. I pay 89 baht a week for my phone too.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend a lot on food and it’s definitely my biggest spend (probably 10-15K) I usually cook for both of us during the week and it’s often a chicken dish. I’m always going to Big C after school to buy food to cook. My girlfriend sometimes gets sick of eating the same thing but I love my spicy chicken and tuna, so she brings home her own stuff. On weekends, we either go out to eat or have food delivered.

Nightlife and drinking

I no longer drink late in to the evening, so big nights out are a fat zero. I do however play football with friends once a week and basketball on after school with teachers on a Friday. Both of which will result in the spend of a few 100 baht. 1000-1500 would probably go on social activities.

Books, computers

I bought a cheap Thai language kids book so I could start learning to read and write Thai. This is the only book I’ve bought in years. My laptop is 4 years old and has nothing wrong with it. Not looking forward to the day it pops its clogs, but on average, I spend nothing on tech.

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

The increase in salary from my first year is certainly affording me greater financial security, but I don’t feel like my spending habits have changed much. I like my life, and I’m happy living here. I don’t have to worry about anything, but I don’t typically like spending my money. My main goal at the minute is just to see some capital build up. My girlfriend has her own job so that’s good for me, but I still find myself spending what I’d say is enough of my own money on her.

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

I’d say everything is a bargain outside of booze and some groceries (milk… expensive). I particularly love how cheap chicken is here. Transport is cheap, too. I Don’t think you could pay £7 back home to get a taxi for 20 miles.

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

I’d say 30k is comfortable outside of the busy cities and 40K if you live in them. It all depends on the person you are. When I first came to Thailand, I was earning about 18k a month and got by for 5 months by adjusting accordingly. I do think that has helped set the tone for the rest of my time here though. Then I saved a bit of money (5-15k) each month on a 30k salary out in the sticks. Now I believe living from pay cheque to pay cheque is not the way to live - even if you’re young.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Daniel. First of all, it's nice to hear that someone listens to my advice and takes it on board :) I'll repeat it - living in a cheap apartment is a false economy. ALWAYS rent the best apartment you can afford! If you have a home environment that you are happy with, then you won't mind spending time there. Rent a noisy, cheap apartment that you hate and you'll be spending more and more time outside to get away from it. And you'll be going through spending money like water.

Yes, I love the cheap chicken here as well. There are always three or four big chicken breast fillets go into my supermarket trolley each week. I think I pay about 30 baht a fillet. Grill or fry in a little olive oil and with a baked potato and a nice salad, you have a fantastic meal for about 60 - 70 baht.

You've also come up with another interesting point. Who pays for what when you live with a working Thai partner? For some reason, my wife and I have never sat down and come up with a plan and said I'll pay for this and you'll pay for that.

I pay for the electricity and water (about 5,000 a month) because I'm the one who's at home all day sucking on the air-con. I pay the supermarket shopping bills (about 10,000 a month) because 75% of the food goes in my stomach. My wife buys her own breakfast and lunch at work.

We go half each on the laundry bill and when we go out to eat, we'll take turns to pay. When we travel abroad, my wife pays for her plane ticket and visa and I'll take care of the rest.

It's all about fairness and coming up with a system that works for you both. But it's a very interesting point. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 392 total

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