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

Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 26th September 2022

฿38 to one US Dollar
฿42 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿25 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

George

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 55-60,000 baht a month

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

I earn 55,000 to 60,000 per month as a private tutor, working 20 hours per week. Being a private tutor means my mornings are free. I don’t swing into action until students finish school at 14.30. They are all at international schools and the tutoring centre is a short hop on the bus from where I live.

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

I can save about 20K. However, I enjoy spending money on trips away and a comfortable lifestyle, so in reality I have been saving less than this. Being paid hourly, instead of getting a fixed salary, also means there are good months, and a few not-so-good months. On the up-side, I get to determine when I work and when I don’t.

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

I share an apartment in Sathorn with my wife. It is about 9,000/month, including bills. The bills amount to very little, since we rarely use the air-con. We’ve lived in the area for about 10 years and wouldn’t want to consider moving.

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

Transportation

30 baht per day on public buses, (sometimes they are free!) I also spend 100 – 150 baht/week on the MRT/BTS. I enjoy the convenience. I do own a mountain bike, but it lives in our little coastal retreat, after I discovered that cycling in Bangkok is ridiculous. We also used to have a car, but decided to get rid of it a couple of years ago after using it primarily for business. We don’t feel we need one at the present time.

Utility bills

Water 200 baht/month. Electric 500 baht/month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We live in an area that is becoming increasingly popular on the food scene – and we both love to eat out. We have a wide range of options like Italian, French, Indian – even Mexican, but we prefer Thai street food or my wife cooks from fresh ingredients purchased at the local market. We are moderately health conscious and we don’t use the supermarkets very much. We’ll have lunch at a restaurant (400 - 500 baht). Once a month, we like to splurge at a nice hotel buffet. Monthly food spend - 12,000 to 15,000

Nightlife and drinking

We don’t go out very often in the evenings, other than to eat. The missus doesn’t drink but, at weekends, I like to enjoy a few Leos with the boys. Our downstairs food-court sells big ones at 95 baht/bottle. I often run up a tab of 1,000 baht/week. I consider it good value and therefore try to avoid pubs as I am loathe to pay 4 quid for a pint.

Books, computers

I actually enjoy poking around in second-hand bookshops and will hunt for bargains. I also keep my eyes open for good teaching material at places like Asia Books or Kinokuniya. I have an almost-new laptop that cost 20,000 baht and my internet connection costs me about 500/month. I also have a mini laptop which I take in to the office. My wife, being Thai, has a rather snazzy smartphone (of course…) but I am a bit old-fashioned like that, and prefer my trusty old Nokia which has never let me down.

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

We live well and have money saved for unforeseen expenses, holidays etc. That said, however, we are reasonably frugal, my wife especially.

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

Food is cheap and good. Travel is also very inexpensive – we can be hanging out on a beach in around 2 hours from home (as we often do), yet the bus fare is less than 200 baht each!

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

My first ever job in Thailand paid me 15,000 plus ‘bonuses’ (a dodgy call-centre). That was in 2012 and it was almost impossible to survive on that. My next job (at a government school) paid 35,000 and it was just about do-able, but I had no spare money. For a 40-something married couple to live comfortably in downtown Bangkok, I’d suggest a minimum of 50,000 is required. We don’t have kids.

Phil's analysis and comment

55-60,000 baht a month from a private language school is certainly not to be sniffed at. My first reaction was "George must be doing an awful lot of contact hours" but he doesn't start work until 2.30pm. I'd be interested to know what time he finishes and how many hours of teaching does he squeeze into that late afternoon / evening period. Also, does this include having to work at weekends?

But 55-60,000 is not too bad for a married couple who watch the pennies (by nature rather than by necessity) and don't have children, especially if the wife is working as well.


Alan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75-85,000 baht a month

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

Monthly Earnings 75,500 baht after tax, if there’s some OT going I can add in another 10,000. I’m contracted to work 37.5 hours a week. This works out at 21 hours of teaching plus 3 hours of cover or placement testing, the rest is planning time, admin and personal development. We also have full health insurance which over the last year saved us in excess of 200,000 for me and my wife, this is a total godsend.

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

I participate in my employers provident fund, which automatically saves 9% of my gross salary and is matched by my employer. So that’s 14,000 a month. The provident fund reduces your income tax, so I pay about 1000 baht less a month in income tax. I usually try to save about 20,000 on top of that.

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

14,500 for a 100 sqm older two-bedroom apartment. It doesn’t have a pool or a gym, but the owner is excellent and the neighbours all say hello to each other and stop to chat.

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

Transportation

About 3,000 - depends how many times we have to visit the mother-in-law. We take the BTS/MRT/buses when it makes sense, otherwise it’s a taxi.

Utility bills

Internet is free at our condo. We like our air-con at night so that puts our leccy up to about 2000 and I like to have a bath or two so, water is another 250.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 16,000 in total, we like to eat out and we shop at Tops as it has a good range of fresh vegetables and we can get most things we want in one stop.

Nightlife and drinking

Neither of us drink, so we spend our money on restaurants and holidays.

Books, computers

Books about 1000 a month, I pick up an occasional new title, but most of my purchases are second hand from Dasa. I’m not a big techno geek, I bought a cheap PC a few years ago, all I need it for is email, word processing and the internet, so why pay big bucks?

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

Comfortable. We save what we can and we enjoy our lives here. Going to the islands a couple of times a year, is something we couldn’t imagine doing from the UK.

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

Taxis, hotel buffet lunches and massages.

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

I think this depends on who you are, how old you are and your financial security. My early 20-something self would be happy as Larry getting by on 25-30k, eating street food, drinking in cheap bars and living in a 6,000 baht shoebox. My now 40-something self wouldn’t want to do it for less than I currently earn. This provides me with a comfortable life and allows me to save for the child that’s on the way, buying a car, trips back to the UK, pension etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

Alan's a teacher who earns very decent money but lives well within his means. He's obviously with one of the 'better' employers as well and enjoys the benefits of a nice savings scheme. The most interesting part of the survey for me - and something I completely agree with - is how your mindset can change as you get older. You hit your thirties or perhaps your forties and find you don't want to go the cheap accommodation and the cheap food routes anymore. Perhaps you feel that at a more mature age, you deserve something better.   


Isaiah

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 67.000 baht after tax.

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

All of it. At my school, I'm there 50 hours a week for 53K. I also tutor a group of 9 nannies and their manager for 3.5 hours on one of my days off for 4,200 a session.

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

This is my first month making this much and I have had a lot of big expenses, but I estimate that I should be able to save about 23K a month easily.

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

I stay in a modern 50 square meter, one bedroom condo with my girlfriend. I pay the rent, which is 13K a month. Good security, fitness, pool, washing machine in room, kitchen, etc.

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

Transportation

About 3,000. BTS and MRT to and from work every day, and then taxis on the weekend.

Utility bills

Electricity: 1,400 a month. Insulation is not great, so the air gets left on all night at 22-24 degrees, but we don't use it during the day since we don't need it or are not home. Water: 260 a month. We do laundry almost every day or two. Internet: 600 a month. Cable TV: I think 140 / month. AIS 3G plan for phone: 440 / month. Total is about 2,840.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to budget myself about 8,000 a month for both of us but that will probably increase now I’m making more money. I usually eat Thai food or bagels for breakfast, big homemade sandwiches or Thai food for lunch and Thai food in the evening. On weekends, we might go out to a restaurant and spend between 250-600 baht. I also eat about 1,000 baht worth of chocolate and other foreign foods a month (included in the 8,000)

Nightlife and drinking

Traditionally I have drunk 2-3 big cans of Cheers beer pretty much every night, but recently I have been exercising more and only drinking 2 cans maybe 3 times a week. I don't go out and my girlfriend doesn't drink, so it comes out to 1,500 to 3,000 a month usually.

Books, computers

0-1,000 on books. Nothing on computers.

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

With my new job on weekends, my standard of living is great. I'm finally able to eat whatever I want, not constantly eat reduced price food, treat my girlfriend to nicer things, and save a significant amount of money.

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

Vegetables. They are super fricking cheap if you don't buy them at a foreign grocery store. I don't understand why Thai people don't eat more of them given how cheap they are.

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

Basic survival I would say 23k, but surviving with a shred of dignity would be 28-30k. 40K is pretty okay for a person with no debt or dependents, but 50k is the minimum I would ever settle for.

Phil's analysis and comment

You heard it here first - "50K is the minimum I would settle for in Bangkok" And I think Isaiah is right. I used to think that 40K was the amount to aim for but as prices in Bangkok increase at an astounding rate, I'm leaning towards 50K as well - especially if you want to live in a 13K condo and put 23K a month away for a rainy day.

I guess a lot of people reading this will say there's no need to spend that much on an apartment, etc - and that's a fair point. But Isaiah works hard. He does a 50-hour week at school and then a few more hours of private tutoring on one of his days off. He deserves to come home to a nice place in the evening.


Kenneth

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht

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

I earn exactly 30,000 baht a month. Not a baht more and not a baht less.

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

None. If I've got 2-3,000 baht left over at the end of a month, then I live better the following month.

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

I've got a studio apartment about 10 minutes walk from BTS Onnud. I pay 6,000 baht a month. When I came to teach here almost a year ago, 6,000 baht was the absolute maximum I wanted to spend on rent. This was the best place I could find in that price range and trust me, I looked at an awful lot of rooms.

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

Transportation

I use the sky-train twice a day and I'll take the odd taxi at weekends if I'm really in a hurry to get somewhere. Probably about 1,500 a month I guess.

Utility bills

I've got air-conditioning at the apartment but I rarely use it. I simply couldn't afford to have a utility bill of more than 2,000 baht on top of the 6,000 baht rent. During the cooler season, I find the room is cool enough with the balcony doors open and during the hot season, I'll either sit in my boxer shorts and suffer or treat myself to an hour of two of A/C.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to limit myself to 200 baht a day on food (even less if I can) On Monday to Friday I manage that quite easily (but eat only Thai street-food or grab something from the market) I find that by having a good breakfast (toast, eggs and cereal) I can keep lunch and dinner light. I do like a fast food splurge at the weekend though and that just knocks your budget for six.

Nightlife and drinking

I do love my Friday and Saturday night out and I can easily spend 1,000 baht in a night. Bloody hell - that's 8,000 baht a month on entertainment. And they're only normal beer bars as well. There are no ladies involved. Honestly.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

Surviving in Bangkok on 30,000 baht a month is not easy. Every one hundred baht note is precious. I could dip into my savings if I wanted but why should I? I came here to live on 30K baht a month and that's exactly what I'm going to do. Probably for another year at least.

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

Food is a real bargain - especially if you know which markets and food-stalls to go to and become a regular customer.

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

I haven't got an answer to this question because I don't think there's a limit on how much you can spend in a big city. Big cities all over the world have a horrible knack of sucking up money. The problem with 'surviving' on X baht a month is that an 'unexpected bill' can cripple you. I needed some emergency dentistry work done last month and that cost me almost 20,000 baht. I had to dip into my savings for that. I had no choice!

Phil's analysis and comment

Having to raid the piggy bank to pay a dentist's bill. Eating a large breakfast so he can skip on the day's other two meals. Sitting and sweltering on the sofa because he can't afford the electricity bill. Is this a prime example of what it's like to try and survive in Bangers on 30 large a month? OK, I could suggest that Ken cuts down on the entertainment - but going out on the lash twice a week is not excessive and neither is 1,000 baht a night. Wouldn't that be about 2 beers and some bar snacks in a nice Sukhumwit jazz club these days? 

Why don't you tell us how much you spend each month and what lifestyle you lead on a teacher's salary in Thailand. Just e-mail me the answers to the questions above. We would love to hear from you.


Darren

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 59,000

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

59,000 baht a month total. Salary of 46,000 baht per month, plus additional 13,000 per month for after school private tutoring 2 days a week (3:30-5:00).

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

I save on average 30,000 baht a month.

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

I stay in a studio apartment with my Thai girlfriend, 300 meters from BTS station. Rent is 7500 per month, and my girlfriend pays half of all bills. My cost : 3,750 / month.

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

Transportation

1000 per month on BTS, and maybe 2000 per month on taxis. I take a combo of taxi and BTS to work everyday. Add in a few trips on weekends for shopping or going out, I would estimate about 3000 baht a month.

Utility bills

Electricity: 800 / month. Water: 100 / month. Internet: 600 / month. These are split with my girlfriend. My share would be about 750 per month. Also I spend about 500 - 700 per month on cellphone. Total cost utilities : 1,500 / month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My lunch is provided by the school and weeknight meals are picked up by my girlfriend on her way home. I buy meals when we go out on weekends usually (or if the bill comes to more than 300-400 baht if we go out during the week). We go to the supermarket twice a month and my girlfriend will go to the fresh market once a week. About 10,000 baht a month total, of which I pay the lion’s share.

Nightlife and drinking

I spend most of my time at home or at friends' homes. I do have an occasional (5 - 10 drinks a month) beer or drink, usually with dinner. Let's say 1,000 - 2,000 / month.

Books, computers

I just bought a new laptop at fortune town for about 20,000 baht. I have a kindle, but mostly read free books available through Amazon. Budget about 500 / month for replacement costs.

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

One word – Simple! I live on about 25,000 baht a month, and save the rest (about 30,000 per month). I do have a safety net of income from home, but since I have been teaching, I have not touched that money except to invest it in the stock market via online.

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

I think transportation is a bargain here and also the fresh fruit / vegetables and meats at market. Rents are starting to creep up in Bangkok, especially in expat areas. My advice is to get out and walk around the sois close to where you want to live. The newer developments may rent a studio for 20,000 baht, but there will be a building close by that is about 10-12 years old offering the same thing for half the price.

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

In Bangkok, you should be able to find employment with a school paying over 40,000 no problem. I think the minimum one needs to survive is 20-25,000 for a simple life, and 35,000 plus if you go out often and enjoy the night life. If you do not have obligations at home (student loans, etc) one should be able to save enough for a trip home every year (think 5,000 baht a month) or more.

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice one! Here's something else that Darren said about his cost of living and lifestyle in Bangkok - and it struck a chord with me.

"I have had the cars, house, boat, toys, electronics, etc. when I lived in the USA. I used to spend all my time working to pay for my toys and trying to keep up with the Joneses. Now I work to pay for experiences. I enjoy the walk to the market and temples, the 15-20 baht train ride to Ayutthaya and finding a new restaurant near my condo. Since I have shifted my priorities, I have never been happier"

I think a lot more of us are starting to adopt this mindset in today's complex world aren't we? I know that I am and I applaud Darren for his attitude. It's funny but the more technology we surround ourselves with, it seems like the less time we have. We spend too much time trying to be everything to everyone instead of looking after number one first. There's nothing wrong at all with trying to keep life simple.

What about the other aspects of this survey I liked? Well, it's always nice to have a Thai partner who pays his or her way (and that's clearly the case here) and I also love that Darren adds a nice 13,000 baht to his slary for some after school tutoring but is still done and dusted by 5 pm and has the rest of the evening to enjoy. 

Good survey! I don't know Darren's age but this sounds like a wiser, older head. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 392 total

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