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 30th March 2020

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿20 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Matthew

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

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

I make 38k (after taxes) teaching prathom and another 20k at a language school across the street. My Thai wife is also a teacher and she adds another 15k or so all told (I suppose we should count that as it all goes into the same pot). Over the last few years I've held various combinations of jobs...sometimes making more (up to 100k), sometimes less (down to 35k), but basically maintained the salary level I'm at now

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

These days about 12-19k, most of which goes into a special file labeled 'dowery dosh' (we're hitched but've not had the bash, or sale, depending on your perspective).

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

We've got a one-bedroom condo on Ram for 7,600. It ain't flashy, but we find it roomy enough and I like being one of only a handful of foreigners around (not including my African brothers, who make a pretty good showing themselves). It's only a 7-12 baht 10 minute bus ride to work, which is good and saves cash

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

Transportation

a few thousand baht. When out for pleasure, I don't blink at taking taxis.

Utility bills

Maybe 2,600.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Probably 6,000, maybe more. Off to Greyhound tonight. You know.

Nightlife and drinking

4,000. sometimes twice that if I'm feeling the thirst for the carbonated depressant more than usual.

Books, computers

2000. (An addiction to the New Yorker (weekly) magazine doesn't come cheap. We also send money to my wife's mom every month since she covered the cost of a surgery a couple years back, and spend regular money on things like short trips to Amphawa or new glasses or whatever comes up. It's very different than the early days when all I did was teach, sleep, and wander around the urban circus of Bangkok stopping occasionally to spend 5 bucks here or there.

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

I'd say I (we) live pretty well. We both work a lot but find time to do cultural stuff, get out of Bangkok for weekends every now and then, go out with friends, and fill the fridge with tasty food

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

Foot massage, clothing for the missus, high-speed internet, and food. Also DVDs on the street, travelling by air (usually), and taxis. Taxis are almost always a good value if I can't take a bus or BTS or whatnot.

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

30k. But that's just 'survive'. For his soul to survive, add at least 10k. A guy needs a proper riceless feast, a brand new hardcover book, and a decent hotel on travels every once in a while. Then there's tickets to a show, a talk, entrance to a club. At a certain point the (free) fascination of Bangkok street life loses it's power to please the mind. It also all changes when you make the transition from travelling teacher to local foreign teacher.

Phil's analysis and comment

To use one of my grandmother's favorite expressions - here's a bloke with his head screwed on. Matthew knows his numbers and he's got a very set idea on the kind of lifestyle he wants to lead and the kind of lifestyle he deserves. When you work as much as Matthew does, you're entitled to treat yourself in the odd snazzy restaurant and escape to the beaches for the occasional weekend. Why the hell not? However much Matthew is earning, he knows that the potential is there to earn 100K a month. How does he know? Because he's already done it. It's all about juggling around a combination of jobs. But reading between the lines - it doesn't sound as if Matt is into 'killing himself' any more with those punishing schedules that he took on when he was a younger man.


Linda

Working in Khorat

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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

35,000

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

10,000 - 12,000 provided that no real big issues come up

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

I live in a large 3 bedroom house for 5,000 per month

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

Transportation

9,000

Utility bills

2,500

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

11,000

Nightlife and drinking

500

Books, computers

300

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

I don't really want for anything...(but a trip home ) I live a middle class life.

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

Food and housing

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

To survive 25000, to live over 30,000

Phil's analysis and comment

Linda shares my opinion about the difference between living and surviving - 5,000 baht a month can make all the difference. I haven't been to Khorat in a while but there never strikes me as being very much to spend your money on. I'm not surprised that the nightlife bill only comes to about 500 a month. Linda's transportation bill includes running her very own truck and when it comes to food, she certainly doesn't go hungry. She sounds as though all in all, she lives well. And manages to put a few quid in the bank each month. Nice one


Joey

Working in Nonthaburi

Monthly Earnings 25-40,000

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

25,000-40,000 baht per month private teaching Monday thru Friday 2-4 hours per day

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

5,000 baht

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

3,300 baht per month for an apartment rental. Room dimension: 15’x15’. Includes refrigerator, microwave, screen door to 3 ½ x 6’ balcony, and daily announcements, dogs barking, tuk-tuk traffic

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

Transportation

(private teaching lots of traveling) 3,600 baht teaching and another 400 for social.

Utility bills

2,300 baht electricity/air-conditioning (Note: for one year I had no air condition. Four months ago by a doctor’s order I was told air conditioning was necessary).

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Average 5,000 baht per month. 1,000 baht per week at the supermarket: Only fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and water. Every fourth week of the month I spend 2,000 baht for cleaning supplies, lotions, soaps, detergents etc.

Nightlife and drinking

0 baht per month. Jogging, yoga, tai chi, swimming 70 baht per day

Books, computers

200 baht books, and 300 baht internet

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

Undeniably frugal!!!

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

In general, food! But, I live for fruits and vegetables, and lots of them; they are not so much ‘bargain’ items

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

The first six months to a year 35,000-40,000 baht per month minimum. When you begin to create a support network, then MAYBE you could “SURVIVE” on 25,000 baht per month - doubtful. You will not enjoy 25,000 baht per month! 30,000 baht per month is fun for the first 3 months, then reality will suck you dry of all your ambitions. 40-50,000 baht would be a conservative, but relatively OK living situation. Above 60,000 and you may actually be living socially, while taking part in activities which are not free.

Phil's analysis and comment

There's a huge difference in what you can achieve between a salary of 25,000 a month and a take-home of 40,000 a month but I like Joey's honest summary. It sounds as if 60K a month is his target. Given that he only teaches 2-4 hours a day there's certainly ample opportunity to get out there and earn more.


John

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 29,000

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

29,000 (most schools in Chiang Mai offer B25,000 as the norm!)

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

Zero

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

6,000

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

Transportation

3,000

Utility bills

2,500

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

12,000

Nightlife and drinking

4,000

Books, computers

500

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

I exist.

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

Crap food.

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

For a single person who doesn't have a life B20,000. To have a life then B30,000. For a family with a good lifestyle at least B40,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

John sounds a little bit jaded and I don't blame him. I would hate to live in Chiang Mai on 29,000 baht a month. Numerous people have tried to convince me down the years that Chiang Mai is substantially cheaper to live in than Bangkok but I've never bought into it. And any teacher with the experience of looking for work in Chiang Mai will tell you how low the salaries seem to be (generally)
Chiang Mai would be a fantastic place to retire to for someone who's made their money but surviving up there as a common or garden TEFLer can't be easy.


Dave

Working in Chacheongsaw

Monthly Earnings 34,000

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

34,000

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

10,000

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

4,500 – a big old two-bedroom house with huge gardens, a circular driveway gates garage outside rooms, covered area basement (too scared to go down as the trapdoor is very small) – no BS its nice.

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

Transportation

3,000

Utility bills

1,300

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

3,000

Nightlife and drinking

3,000

Books, computers

120 on games

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

I know I have no future but for the time being life is not to bad.

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

Food

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

Honestly I don’t know – If you make 50k you spend 50k you make 30k you spend 30k. My mate who was out here on an expat salary was making 2500 quid a month with no rent or bills and he spent it all every month

Phil's analysis and comment

For those who don't know it, Chacheungsaw (where Dave lives) is about an hour's commute from Bangkok. I'm sure Dave will forgive me when I say that it's hardly the Las Vegas of Eastern Thailand. In fact I sometimes think its only claim to fame is that you can spell the name fifty different ways! A teacher's salary of 34,000 will go a long way in Chachoengsaw (there's another one)
It's worth pointing out that Dave runs a motorcycle (probably an essential) and sounds a bit like a health food freak. Most of his food spending seems to go on milk and muesli. Have I got that right Dave?


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 318 total

Page 60 of 64


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