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 27th October 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿38 to one Euro
฿25 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.65 THB to one Philippine Peso

Stephen

Working in Jomtien, Pattaya

Monthly Earnings 80,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

80,000 is my full-time salary from a private school. I don't do any other work since I value my work-life balance and therefore wish to keep weekends and the bulk of evenings to myself.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 30,000. Actually somewhat more during Covid but these are of course exceptional times.

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 studio apartment with a shared pool and gym.

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

Transportation

2,000 baht.

Utility bills

Another 2,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

15,000. I make my own breakfast, generally have street food for lunch (two dishes for never more than 150 baht) and dinner for 300 baht maximum (often Western food such as fish and chips at an Irish pub).

Nightlife and drinking

13,000 for drinking and travel (my equivalent to nightlife). 6,000 baht goes on drinking. I try and restrict drinking to no more than two bottles of beer a day. With snacks, 6,000 is as high as things get per month. But I also have a travel budget of 7,000 baht per month, which does not get spent every month but which averages out to 7,000 monthly over the year.

Books, computers

500. I am an avid reader but things are cheap on Kindle.

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

Given the weather, the access to beaches and the fact that I am always eating lunches and dinners out, my lifestyle is hugely better than it would be back in Europe.

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

Accommodation and eating out.

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

'Survive?' Well if I had to simply scrimp by, I reckon I could eat street food, downgrade to a cheaper area for my condo and quit drinking. Then I think I could get things down to around 30,000 per month, but then I may as well stay in Europe! So to have a decent lifestyle in Jomtien / Pattaya, you would need around 50,000, as long as you remember that you are not here to party. If you are partying and going to bars all the time, then you need 100,000 as a baseline. That's what I think the tourists are spending here.

Phil's analysis and comment

I always think it must be difficult to live in a place like Pattaya and resist the temptation to go out partying every other night, but Stephen seems to manage it pretty well. 

Stephen also mentions the fact that he's saving more money during these Co-vid times and I think if there's just one advantage to be gained from this mess, it's probably that one. 


Ray

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

This is purely my full-time salary for teaching at an international school.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

70,000

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

I do not see the need to overspend here. I rent a studio within easy reach of the BTS for 10,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I use the BTS to get to work so pretty minimal.

Utility bills

1,500

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

OK, this one is interesting. Recognising the necessity to save money, I have devised a system where I do not overspend. The rule is to never have more than one 300 baht+ meal per day. Breakfast is Western and never comes to more than 150 baht. Lunch is generally street food so 100 baht including a bottle of water. Evenings are either circa 300 baht for Western food when I am eating alone or if I am dating one of my Thai girlfriends, it's around 200 baht for local food - a spread of dishes which we share because they generally hate Western food. Cheap local food is a babe magnet. Total no more than 25,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I do not dig clubbing. My idea of a good night is a dinner date with a Thai girl (including food above) or if by myself, no more than 150 baht per night on booze. 5,000 baht a month tops.

Books, computers

I can download anything I want for free.

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

Great food, great women, great life.

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

Food and cheap, effective dating.

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

Assuming no saving and some control, then 50,000 baht per month is ample.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like you enjoy the ladies. How do you get away with 150 baht for beer on a night out unless it's slugging cans while sat on the steps of a Family Mart? Your food spend is pretty impressive but what do you eat on the street that costs 100 baht? 


Ch

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 60,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

That 60K is my full-time salary with no additional extras. I started many years ago on a 40K salary and over the years, it's increased in smal increments. I don’t do online teaching or take on private students as I do not want to take the risk of being deporting over something so silly. If a part time employer doesn’t add their name to my work permit, I won’t work, Which 90% don’t do anyway. I faced a lot of hurdles this way, where as most of my friends are working better jobs and pulling in 20-30k extra each month. Some are in tier 3 international schools making 80K and pulling in 30k from part time work, pushing them well into tier 1 category without the tier 1 workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Usually 35-40,000. I am Asian so I can adapt myself to levels most foreigners here can’t. I live the most frugal life there is. I seek out food promotions, shopee flash sales, buy things from thrift stores, and I even skip food at times. However I spend significantly on alcohol. I don’t spend on holidays either or on fancy restaurants every other day like most expats I know.

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

I pay 8,000 a month for a fairly decent sized 37 sqm studio. Everything is a studio at this price, and the walls are just fiber glass or a thin cardboard piece dividing your studio into a one-bed room. That’s the story with most modern high rise condos.

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

Transportation

A thousand on my motorbike fuel and a thousand on taxis for occasionally getting me home when I am intoxicated. I haven’t bought a car because I see my colleagues spend a fortune on repairs and maintenance. When I did the math on the cost of car ownership, taxis worked out cheaper!

Utility bills

1,000 to 2,000 a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is my guilty pleasure. On weekends, I love eating gourmet burgers, fancy New York large slice pizzas, and Italian fine dining once every few months. I don’t cook at all so for my day-to-day needs, it’s whatever meat on a stick for 5 -10 baht and 40 baht noodle/rice dishes I can find.

Nightlife and drinking

During my first year, I spent about 10-20k a month. This was in low key Thai bars dotted around the suburbs or the occasional Khao San Road / Sukhumwit joint with colleagues. Now I’m hitting my 30s and get no joy from doing that. So an occasional Guinness it is and drinking costs me no more about 5,000/month. .

Books, computers

I spend around 30K on a laptop every 3-5 years. I do not buy books except the occasional kindle PDF.

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

It’s okay. I try to save hard, but my life isn’t that great. There are people earning half my income and have a slick instagram account , with rooftop bars and fancy breakfasts. I always felt guilty indulging in those things. If I don’t save and live that kind of life, I will have nothing for retirement. There is no pension here, no retirement gratuity in most schools. If one doesn’t plan for it, or has a medical emergency, every penny of your savings is wiped out.

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

Premium accommodation can be had for a good price. This is hard to find in places such as Vietnam or Taipei or Japan( (each for a different reason)

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

40K to survive and 80K to live a normal life and save a bit for hospital emergencies, flights home and of course, your retirement.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ch. You partied hard in your younger days and then got to your late twenties and thought 'hold on, I need to think about my retirement years if I'm going to stick around as a teacher in Asia'. I think it's a path that many teachers go down. It sounds like you're heading in the right direction but take care of your health. Skipping meals to save money doesn't sound ideal. 


Ni Luh Kim

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 42,000 (before tax)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work full-time (Wednesday - Sunday) for an English learning center. I do not have any private or online gigs. After tax and social security the net pay is around 39,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

It is only my first year in Bangkok. My husband and I work for the same English school (different branches of course). We manage to save around 5,000 baht a month. Bearing in mind, we have just moved to Bangkok and are settling in and have acquired a new rental apartment closer to our centers in Lad Phrao. Once we are settled, I’m sure that we will be able to save 10,000 baht easily.

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

We share our expenses. Our apartment which is actually a monthly hotel room is 16,000 baht per month with electricity at 1,000 baht and 45 baht for water.

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

Transportation

We purchased a rent to buy scooter when we arrived at the beginning of the year. We have one more payment and then it will be ours. The rent to buy has been 2,800 baht per month and petrol is around 400 baht for the month since moving closer to work.

Utility bills

Our electricity cost is roughly 1,000 baht. We’ve noticed that having a timer on the AC has been a huge saver. My husband is also a gamer and with a newer style TV - it has been energy efficient. At our previous condo, the electricity bill would go up to 3,000 baht per month. I also enjoying cooking at least three times a week.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Our supermarket shopping is roughly 600-800 baht per week. We shop weekly so we also have fresh fruit and vegetables. We usually purchase lunch and dinner on the weekends around 50-80 baht per meal from Saturday - Tuesday.

Nightlife and drinking

We haven’t really experienced night life due to COVID regulations. Alcohol is quite pricey but when we do have a little something-something we head to the 7/11 downstairs and could spend around 300 baht on beers and ciders or 800 baht on a bottle of vodka and enjoy ourselves at the hotel

Books, computers

I’m a real bookworm. I enjoy a book store in Siam which is a real journey. When we head to the bookstore, I usually purchase 3-4 books at a time around 250-550 baht a book.

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

Our standard of living is pleasant but simple. We have learnt to save for some of the things which are more costly or align with our interests. For example, I enjoy spas so I save around 6,000 baht for 2 months and enjoyed a quiet afternoon at a spa at the St Regis hotel. My husband on the other hand is able to purchase PS4 games regularly.

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

A real bargain is definitely heading down to a fresh food market and packing your basket with a whole broccoli, three potatoes, an onion, a tomato and some garlic for only 50 baht. It’s always a really huge shock. I come from South Africa and these things are five times the price back home compared to over here.

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

If you’re a simple person (not having many lavish dinners or alcohol parties) you could survive on 35,000-40,000 baht. I think it’s important to enjoy the little pleasures and every occasion does not have to a be spending spree.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ni. I guess you could save a bit of money by moving out of hotel accommodation couldn't you? That part of your survey reminded me of a teacher I worked with in the mid-90s at a private language center. He also lived in a hotel but it was one of those short-time joints where people pay by the hour and are at the busiest once the bars and pubs close. He stayed there for a whole year if I recall and never once got a decent night's sleep due to all the comings and goings in the wee small hours. Strange times indeed.   


Kenneth

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work full-time at a large Thai private school and take home around 50,000 baht after tax and various deductions. I don't do any private or online work or have any other sources of income. I find my full-time job tiring enough and value my weekends off.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

In a good month, I can save around 10,000 baht but looking at my bank balance this year, I've managed to save around 85K since January, so it's averaged out at less than 8,000 baht a month. Much depends on if I decide to have a weekend away and do some travelling.

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

I live in a large studio apartment in a newish development and pay 8,000 baht a month (excluding bills) Having worked in Bangkok for several years, lived in three different apartments and looked at many others, I think 8,000 is about the minimum you need to spend for somewhere half decent. The apartment comes with a large balcony and a really good bathroom (both of those things are important to me) I'm up on the 18th floor so it's nice to come home from a tough day at work and sit out on the balcony and watch the sun go down.

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

Transportation

I use motorcycle taxis just to zip up and down the soi and then the BTS to get to work. It takes me about half an hour door-to-door and it's always nice not to have to rely on buses or taxis and never be sure how long your morning commute is going to be. I spend about a thousand baht a month on transportation.

Utility bills

I avoid turning on the air-conditioning whenever possible, in fact I can't remember the last time I used it. Even on humid days, I'll keep it switched off and just lounge around in my boxer shorts. There's only me here! So again, this comes to barely a thousand baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is the one area of an average teacher's expenditure that fascinates me because I think controlling it is a real challenge. It's very easy to give in to your Western cravings and splash serious cash on pizzas and fast food. I try to stick to Thai food and street food as much as possible and allow myself a Western splurge just once at the weekend. I actually find the less you eat Western food, the more you can go without it. I have teaching colleagues who order sausages and pies and all sorts from delivery companies and I swear half their salaries must disappear on 'tastes of home'. It feels such an unnecessary waste of money to me. But even my Thai food diet, the odd 7-11 snack and supermarket shopping must set me back 12,000 baht a month. Yes, 300-400 baht a day sounds about right.

Nightlife and drinking

I'd go as far as to say I can't afford it. There isn't much of a drinking culture at the school among the foreign staff anyway. I probably go out a couple of times a month and always try and keep the bill down to a sensible level.

Books, computers

Zero. My trusty laptop is still going strong so I download as much as I need for free.

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

It's OK but I often feel as if I'm just 'treading water'. If I put my mind to it, I could probably add another 10-20K to my monthly income but I value my evenings and weekends off too much. I am starting to think of maybe heading off to pastures new once the Co-vid situation is over to a place where I can earn perhaps a bit more. Vietnam sounds quite appealing.

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

Anything I pick up on my Sunday jaunts down to my local Thai fresh market. You can buy fruit and ready meals for less than half of what you'd pay at the supermarket. The quality may not be as good but even so, it's a huge saving.

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

Well, I 'survive' on 50,000 but I certainly wouldn't like to drop below that. If you are serious about teaching as a career and want to put some coin away for the future, then I think you should be aiming at a minimum of 70-80K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ken. I like this survey because it comes from what I would class as 'a teacher on an average Bangkok salary' (probably above above average in fact) and yet you still avoid turning on the a/c, can't really afford to go out drinking that much and view Western food as only a 'weekend treat'. But I do get where you are coming from. 

I agree with what you say about food. This is an expense that can spiral out of control if you are constantly giving into your Western cravings. In fact, I was looking at the delivery websites just last night and who doesn't fancy a bit of proper sausage or some nice bacon or an Indian curry? But once you start totting up the contents of your shopping cart, it can be silly money.  


Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.        


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