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 20th September 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿23 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Hansie

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 65,000

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

65,000 is my salary for working 4 days a week as a general manager in a language school in central Bangkok. I used to work in an A-tier international school as a sport coach but decided to work less, start a business online and work just 4 days a week. My salary dropped by half, but I just work 25 hours a week now and do not teach anymore. We have a 1-year-old daughter, so I like spending time with her and to work from home too.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On my salary nothing, but I'm married and my wife earns a great income (220K nett per month as a director for an advertising company). Also we bought a couple of condos as investments. We also bought a house next to the BTS in the suburbs of Bangkok. As a couple, we can save maybe 60K a month after all expenses.

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

We have a 25K mortgage for our house and about the same for the two condos, which we rent out.

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

Transportation

We have a car and I use the BTS. I would say about 6,000 baht a month.

Utility bills

About 3,000 for electric bills and another 1,000 for internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'd say about 10-15,000 a month on dining out and 10,000 a month for our monthly shopping at Tesco Lotus.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to be a nightlife fan, but after marriage and now with a child, I go out maybe once a month. We'll call that about 3,000.

Books, computers

I use a 4-year old laptop at home.

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

Compared to when I arrived in Thailand a decade ago, I would say I lead an upper middle class lifestyle.

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

Eating Thai food, luxury hotels and anything that is labor intensive.

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

Hard to say because it depends on the person. For someone here on a 1-2 year adventure, I guess 40-50K a month would do but that would be just a break-even figure.

If you take yourself seriously as a teacher and think about the future - healthcare, pension, savings, kids, trips home, full-time nanny etc, you are coming closer to a minimum of 120K a month and with a family even more. Anything less than that and in my opinion you shouldn't be here. I pay 70,000 a year for health insurance alone.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Hansie. I guess 65K a month for 4 days is a week is not too bad, especially if it allows you to spend more quality time with your daughter. It helps no end when you have a wife bringing in over 200K a month but I'd be interested in knowing how stressful and time-consuming that position is. Do you wish you saw more of her? Does she often bring her work home? etc.

Buying a condo or two as an investment (and then renting them out) is something my wife has considered many times but as yet, she hasn't taken the plunge. 


RJ

Working in Central Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 53,000 - 65,000

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

My standard monthly salary is 53,000. During term time I also teach 'after school' lessons (during school hours) which make me another 8-12K a month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'm more than happy living a 'Thai lifestyle', eating street food and enjoying a simple day to day life. My rent, bills and monthly expenses are low, and I *could* comfortably save half of my salary each month. That's not to say I have. Since 2015 I have traveled extensively, visiting almost all Asian countries. I've had the most amazing four and a half years and wouldn't change it for the world, but it has come at a cost of having almost no savings.

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

I pay 10,000 baht for a fairly modern studio apartment with amazing views overlooking Sukhumvit. The condo has a swimming pool, decent gym and a sauna.

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

Transportation

I own a motorcycle and use it to ride to work, as well as the odd trip to the shopping malls. I spend approximately 100 baht every two weeks on fuel.

Utility bills

Government rates electricity 800 - 1,500 a month.
Internet and phone contract - 800 baht
Water - 50 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I much prefer Thai food to Western food and most of the time I'm happy eating 50 baht street food, so food expenses are fairly low.

Nightlife and drinking

I find drinking in bars to be more expensive than back home in the UK. Fortunately I rarely drink these days, and will only drink in bars if there is a special sports occasion.
Maximum 2,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Maximum 1,000 baht a month.

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

I often hear expats moaning about living in Thailand, but apart from the pollution in Bangkok I can't find many complaints. I love it. My standard of living is far better than it was back in the UK.

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

If booked in advance, air fares to other countries in Asia.

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

If you're a single guy with no dependents and you're happy to live a simple life, I'd say 40,000 baht is enough to live a relatively comfortable life in Bangkok. Of course you would have to prioritize what to spend your money on, as it wouldn't allow for a nice condo, travel, regularly eating out and other luxuries - and certainly not savings for the future.

My 'live for today' attitude, prioritizing travel over saving, will probably be seen as irresponsible by most, and I'd tend to agree. But do I regret it? Not really, as I've had the time of my life over the past four years, and you never know what the future holds.

That being said, having recently reached the big 30, I realise it would be a foolish move not to plan for the future. For this reason I am (reluctantly) returning home next year to gain my professional teaching qualifications, in order to return to Bangkok on a much higher salary. For a young guy 50-60k is fine, but I wouldn't want to live on that kind of salary for the rest of my working life.

Phil's analysis and comment

RJ, I'd love to introduce you to my sister-in-law because I think you would get on famously. She's probably a good few years older than you but she has travelled all over the world. If you tell a travel story, she's got a travel story to top it. Her mantra is 'spend life gathering experiences and creating memories you'll never forget. One day you will be too old to do these things. Don't worry about the future because it will generally take care of itself'

I suppose many cautious folks will see that attitude as reckless but I often think she has a point. I think it's great that you've done loads of travelling and seen so many places. They are memories no one can take away from you. 

We're a long time dead! 


Nick

Working in Suphanburi

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

34,000 is my full-time salary with the rest coming from private students. I live with my Filipina girlfriend who is also a teacher and she makes around 21,000 baht a month. We split expenses on a lot of things.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

15-20,000. We tend to plan a large trip once a month because we like to explore the world. That can change the amount that we save 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 well kept apartment complex that costs me around 4,000-4,500 a month, split between me and my girlfriend. This includes water and electric (a/c).

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

Transportation

I rent a scooter from a Suzuki shop and I pay 1,800 a month, plus about 100 baht a week for gas. We take the minibus around the region once a month or so for 200 baht total.

Utility bills

Included in accommodation as mentioned above.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We spend about 6.000 baht a month on food, about 500 baht a week for groceries, and about 1,000 a week for eating out at various places. We tend to eat at a 'fancy' place once a week or so, i.e. pizza, sushi, McDonald's.

Nightlife and drinking

We rarely go out for entertainment and we spend a minimal amount on drinking, only buying a case of Leos to split with our Filipino friends once or twice a month.

Books, computers

We don't purchase much of this to consider it.

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

We live a good life, planning our trips out and always being conscious with our spending, but not too much that we don't enjoy our luxuries.

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

Food, rent, beer. You name it.

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

If you are able to 'do as the Thais do', then you can earn around 30,000 with no sweat for an individual.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Nick. So what we have here is a couple of teachers living together with a joint income of over 60,000 baht. With less than 5,000 being spent on accommodation and 6,000 on food (the main expenses) you're both left with almost 50,000 in the kitty to spend in Suphanburi. Doesn't surprise me at all that you enjoy 'a good life'.

My best Thai friend comes from Suphanburi and he's fiercely proud of it. I've been there with my wife several times and I think it's a lovely town. Yes, it's quiet and there isn't an awful lot to do but I've always admired the polite, softly spoken locals and the whole place is kept immaculately clean. I could quite easily live in Suphanburi. It's not too far from Bangkok either. 


Tim

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)

My wife and I work together and have a combined salary of 50,000 per month. We both work Monday to Friday from 7:30 am till 4:30 pm. Sometimes on the weekend, my wife tutors children in both English and Thai. With the extra tutoring, we are able to maybe bring about 3,000 baht extra a month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We are able to save between 15,000 - 20,000 per month. We have a 2-year-old daughter that will be starting school soon, so we might possibly save a little less. Also, we are going to have another baby in the next 7 months. After that baby is born, we have to put him or her in nursery till 5:00 p.m. or have a family member take care of him or her for about 5,000 a month.

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

The cost of our condo is 5,000 per month. It's roughly 25 sqm, with a small living room, kitchen, and medium-sized bedroom. Also, there is a balcony looking over the horizon of the Chao Phayra river.

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

Transportation

I have been driving a car for the past two years. The roads are quite tricky to drive on in Thailand, therefore, you can constantly have to be aware of your surroundings. The cost of our car payment is roughly 8,500 per month. Each year, we have to pay car registration / tax of about 2,000 baht and 1st class car insurance of around 11,000 baht. The cost of fuel is 2,000 a month, because I constantly have to drive my family around.

Utility bills

Electricity cost 1,000 per month. I can't live without the air conditioner, because I always sweat a lot from the high amount of humidity. Water costs about 100 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Each week, my wife and I go shopping at local Big C. We pay 4,000 each month. We cook meals each day and bring our own cooked food to work.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't have much of a night life, and usually just buy a beer or a bottle of wine sometimes. Sometimes I walk around a local Thai market.

Books, computers

We bought a used laptop for about 3,600 baht a few years ago. Throughout the week, we share it together.

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

The standard of living seems stable. My wife and I are able to have our needs met and are able to save. However, I would like to relocate to a rural area of Thailand. After years of living in a concrete jungle, it wears you down. There is always constant noise and the sound of ambulances racing around. The smell of the air has hints of oil and other toxic smells. Where I live, there is an oil refinery factory. Each day of the week, a mask has to be worn to try to block out some of the harmful smells.

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

The cost of rent is quite cheap in Thailand, compared to the U.S. By driving a car, I don't have to worry about a taxi fare, a shady tuktuk driver, or a hell-bent van driver. I like the freedom of driving and being able to go where I want. However, I can't throw caution to the wind and must be careful of other drivers' reckless behavior. Motorcycles seem to swap lanes a lot and get into my blind spots.

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

In order to survive and live a minimalist, barebones lifestyle and still have all needs met, a person would need to make between 30,000 to 40,000 a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think you do very well Tim to be raising two children (well, soon to be two children), run a car and still save a decent percentage each month on a joint income of 50,000. I would imagine it means keeping your food and accommodation bills as low as possible but I guess it can be done!


Jardel

Working in South Korea

Monthly Earnings A little over 60,000 baht

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

This is my full salary before taxes or any deductions. All of it is coming from my one and only job at a public middle school. It's also noteworthy that in Korea you're not allowed to make money elsewhere. You're only allowed to be in Korea for what your visa allows.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At least 25,000 baht without even trying, which I regularly don't. If I was frugal that month about 35,000 baht. The two months out of the year I'm on vacation I save a little over 15,000 baht.

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

I had the option of getting free housing or taking housing allowance of about 10,000 baht. I chose the former so I didn't have to deal directly with the landlord who doesn't speak English or have to put a hefty deposit down which my school took care of.

The place itself is a studio apartment but with proper compartments, not like the room and washroom you get in Thailand.

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

Transportation

I live close enough to walk to work. The subway and bus costs about 32 baht which is my main form of transportation. The only time I use taxis are on the weekends when I'm out late past operating subway hours. It's about 400 baht getting to my place from the bars/clubs.

A month sets me back about 2,000 baht

Utility bills

Korea is seasonal so on average 500 baht for the power (air-con or heating) bill and only 130 baht for water. So 630 baht I guess.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

A monthly deduction of about 2,000 baht covers breakfast and lunch at school. I eat out the rest of the time because it costs just as much to cook it at home. A refrigerated meal at a convenience store costs 90 baht. Eating out at the weekends with friends is 250 per meal. So a total of about 6,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm honestly out almost every weekend to socialize. Most clubs are cover free, the few that have fees will set you back no more than 200-300 baht. I mainly drink beer and the occasional cocktail. Domestic beers are 90 baht, imported beer 170 baht and cocktails 130-180 baht. In a month I spend about 7,000 baht.

Books, computers

I'd say nothing. My computer works fine and I only bought one text book to learn Korean that cost 460 baht.

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

I'd say good. I don't pay rent and my utility bills are cheap. I can eat out everyday if I want and I can go out every weekend if I want. The weekends I don't go out is because I may want to sleep in and not because of money.

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

I guess rent. Although not as cheap as Thailand, still half the price of back home.

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

Assuming your employer does not cover the 10,000 baht housing for you, I'd say 40,000 baht for all your basic needs met plus spoiling yourself on the weekend.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Jardel. I'm quite surprised you could survive in South Korea on the equivalent of 40,000 baht a month. But the 60,000 a month you are earning certainly sounds like enough to meet your needs. We'll also be having a 'great escape' interview with Jardel in the coming week so look out for that one. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 337 total

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