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 April 2024

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฿46 to one Pound Sterling
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฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

John

Working in Hat Yai

Monthly Earnings 32,000 baht

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

My full-time salary from a government school is 32,000 baht

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

About 20,000. Sometimes even a bit more.

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

I rent a two-bedroom townhouse for 3,500 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I have my own scooter so depending how many miles I do, my gas costs are between 200 baht and a thousand.

Utility bills

Usually less than 400 baht a month - even when I turn the air-conditioning on.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I mostly eat out but as I am in a small non-touristic area, I would put my daily food expenses (including supermarket shopping) at a "high" 150 baht a day so 3,000 - 4,500 for the month.

Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife is cheap in these parts and a beer only costs 50-100 baht, so about 2,000 for the month

Books, computers

I don't buy books and haven't bought a computer in a few years.

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

I live in a small town but I go to the city on weekends to see friends and hang out. Due to the nature of my living environment, I live a simple and relaxing life with the ability to go "wandering" into nature with my motorbike. I manage to save about 60% of my salary without even trying or missing out on much. The money I save I spend on going long weekends whenever there is a school holiday.

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

Obviously food is the biggest bargain followed by clothing. I smoke only one pack a week or so but I would also add cigarettes into the "bargain" category - especially if you are a heavy smoker.

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

To survive? About 50 baht a day.

Phil's analysis and comment

Saving 20,000 baht from a 32,000 baht salary is impressive to say the least. So that means John manages to rent a house, run a motorcycle, feed and clothe himself and enjoy a beer or two - all on 400 baht a day. The man's a walking miracle!

And well done John for giving a shout out to the smokers! 

If anyone fancies doing a cost of living survey, I've now put the questions on-line to make it easier and quicker for you so you've got no excuses. Come on! What are you waiting for?


Mick

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

My agency pays me 30,000 baht a month less a few hundred for tax.

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

Hahahahaha. That's a good one.

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

I live in a 5,000 baht a month studio in the posher part of Klong Toey. It's basically a concrete block with rooms fashioned into it. There are no facilities of note. I would just be happy if the lift worked more often. I'm surrounded by Thais sharing three and four to a room. Hardly any of them seem to work. They sit in the corridors and stare at me with blank expressions as I make my way to work each morning. I know not what they want only I probably can't give it to them.

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

Transportation

Just a return fare on the BTS every day so probably about 2,000 baht a month. Once I get to the other end, I can walk to school from there. Well actually it's more of a shuffle than a walk.

Utility bills

I try to avoid using the air-conditioning if I can. It's an old machine and makes strange noises and I'm sure it uses up twice as much leccy as a modern unit. Unfortunately I live on the second floor, so I don't have the benefit of a breeze coming in from the balcony, Just a strange smell from the outside drains if it's a particularly hot day. My water, electricity and phone bill rarely cost more than a thousand.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to budget for about 100 baht a day on food so I survive on a diet of street food and ham sandwiches from 7-11. I get a subsidized lunch at school, which is edible if you keep your eyes closed and your expectations low. So I guess 3,000 baht a month on food. I eat quite a lot of fruit from a nearby fresh market as well.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out once a week on a Saturday. A small group of us hit the local happy hours and finish off with beers at an open-air Thai restaurant. I avoid the touristy areas because you can just hemorrhage cash if you're not careful. I spend about 4,000 baht a month on going out and drinking, which I don't think is excessive.

Books, computers

Nothing. I use the internet at school and I download free books off the net.

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

It's definitely just survival. I've told my agency that either they offer me 40K when the next school year starts or I'm walking. I don't think 40K jobs in Bangkok are hard to find but time will tell.

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

Food and transportation.

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

I hate the word 'survive'. Honestly, who comes here to just 'survive'? You are not asking to live in the lap of luxury but you should be able to treat yourself now again. On 30K a month, you can't even do that. Once my accommodation, utiliity bills, transportation, entertainment and food are factored in, I'm left with about 500 baht a day.

Phil's analysis and comment

30,000 baht a month in Bangkok? Forget it. Don't even go there if you have a choice. Even five years ago a 30K salary wasn't enough and I'm surprised each and every day at how much certain essentials have gone up in price.

As Mick rightly points out, he's left with 500 baht a day - and it's not as if he even spends a great deal on accommodation etc. That 500 baht a day has to cover laundry, dry-cleaning, toiletries, cleaning stuff, possibly health insurance, dentistry, clothing, weekends away (surely an unobtainable luxury) etc, etc etc.

I regularly chat to a bunch of Thai guys at my gym and the conversation often turns to money. When I ask them if 30,000 baht a month is enough for a single guy living in Bangkok, not one of them will answer without carefully choosing their words. That tells you everything. Even a Thai has to think twice about the prospects of surviving on that sort of dough in Bangers. 


Gareth

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 60,000

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

I take home 60,000 baht a month from my full-time job at a large Thai secondary school. I used to teach private students at the weekend and that added another 10-15K a month but I gave them up because I valued my free time and wanted my weekends free.

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

Usually between 10 and 15K a month and I mainly put that money towards the annual trip home to England and any unexpected expenses. There are always expenses around the corner. Only last week I had to fork out on a new laptop that cost me 20,000.

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

I know I go against what you are always preaching Phil but I was always brought up to believe that rent is 'dead money' so I don't splash out on accommodation. I live in a very basic studio apartment that costs me 5,000 baht a month. It's good enough for me. I'm a keen photographer so I actually like to spend a lot of time outside.

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

Transportation

I take an air-conditioned bus to work and back every day and I get the odd taxi at the weekend. Probably a thousand baht a month at most.

Utility bills

I'm not at home that often but the air-con is always on when I'm there. My electricity bill is about 3,000 baht a month and I pay a couple of hundred baht for water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is something I have great trouble organising and do worry sometimes that I don't eat well enough. Breakfast is a bowl of cereal and a couple of slices of toast (if I have time) Lunch is provided at the school canteen (the quality isn't great but it fills a gap) and I'll normally stop off at a mid-range Thai restaurant for what I consider my main meal of the day in the evening. I grab a few things from 7-11 rather than do supermarkets. I bet I spend less than 5,000 baht a month on food in total.

Nightlife and drinking

With having weekends off, Friday night and Saturday night are my drinking nights. I probably burn through 10,000 a month on beers with the boys. I've got a good set of drinking pals and they keep me sane when the going gets tough and Thailand gets on top of me (as it can do with all of us)

Books, computers

Just a replacement laptop every few years. I know every coffee shop with free wi-fi for miles around and I can use the free internet at school. I'm not a great reader. I prefer to watch movies or play computer games.

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

Very good. I should probably save a lot more money than I do but at the moment as long as I've got enough to travel home once a year I'm happy.

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

I think eating out is a bargain if you know where to go. I can get a great evening meal with a soft drink for less than a hundred baht. Obviously beer will always push the costs up but I don't touch alcohol during the week.

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

If you're only spending 5,000 baht a month on accommodation as I do, then I think you could live OK on an income of 40K. I've got used to earning 60,000 a month though and wouldn't want to drop below that now.

Phil's analysis and comment

A 60K salary with only 10,000 baht a month going on the essentials (apartment, food and transportation) means there's 50,000 baht left over. A single guy is always going to live well with that sort of disposable income. No wonder Gareth gave up the private students at the weekends. Sometimes that extra effort and losing one of your precious days off just isn't worth it to add another 10,000 baht to the coffers. Not if you are doing well enough as it is. 


Mae

Working in Phuket

Monthly Earnings 39,000 to 50,000 Baht

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

I am a teacher/training manager in a 5-star hotel in Phuket. I earn the minimum of 39,000 baht in the low season (+ service charge soaring up to 10,000 baht during the high season) I also have an average 4,000 baht extra income from private students.

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

30,000 baht goes straight into my savings account each month towards my future wedding.

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

I live in a studio-type condo and the rent is 5000 baht per month.

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

Transportation

None. The hotel provides free transportation for the staff. From the town to the hotel, everyday, back and forth. There are also two big shopping malls and a fresh food market just a few minutes walk from my condo.

Utility bills

Electricity is about 700 to 1000 baht, water 100 baht, and internet 800 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

From zero to 2,000 baht. I get two free meals from our hotel’s canteen (breakfast and lunch). On top of my salary, I also have an officer’s check amounting to 8000 baht per month which I can spend at the hotel’s restaurant. This covers my evening and weekend meals. Sadly though, this cannot be converted to cash if I cannot fully utilize it in a month. I spend more on toiletries and cosmetics to be honest.

Nightlife and drinking

No nightlife, no drinking. Done with it. As I mentioned in my cost of living survey last 12 months ago, my money would go on healthy fruit shakes at the beach with a relaxing massage and a nice manicure or pedicure, and a trip to the movie theater.

Books, computers

Nothing. I have everything that I need.

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

I am living a great life, working at a beautiful place in Phuket. The hotel provides fantastic benefits – delicious food, free transport, free spas, uniform, trips to islands, free laundry, etc. I only work Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm (3-4 hours of teaching) and get weekends off. I have no lesson plans to prepare or grades to compute - just a monthly report to submit and that is so easy to do. I’m provided with all the materials to use in my training and I’m away from stressful, annoying, noisy students.

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

Food and clothes are cheap.

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

I really don’t know but I guess it depends on the lifestyle you want. I’ve lived on 18,000Baht/month and I can remember living comfortably and not just surviving. However, on an 18k income, you can’t really afford trips back home.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is a survey that will make a fair number of teachers green with envy. It's not just the fact that Mae earns a decent salary but also that so many of life's other essential expenses are taken care of by her employer. Mae has secured herself a remarkable deal here. 5-star hotel quality food twice a day - need I say more?

I'm pleasantly surprised at Mae's basic salary as well. Thailand's hotels, even the 5-star joints, have always been notorious tightwads when it comes to rewarding in-house teachers. 25K salaries are not uncommon.

As Mae mentioned, she's no stranger to our cost of living section and she first featured in January of last year. Back then she was earning 18K a month. What a difference a year can make!   

Mae also sent me this message with her survey.

Hi Phil! This is my second time doing your cost of living survey. I think it's nice to give you a little background about myself. And hope you remember me.  The first survey was last January 2015 when I was working in Sattahip. I worked there in a private school for 7months (Nov 2014 to May 2015) and moved to Phuket last June for a new job as a training manager in a 5 star hotel.

I'm a Filipina and same with the rest of the Filipinos out there, I experience the Thai discrimination when picking a good and skillful teacher.

I think I am just blessed to have found employers who appreciate the skills of a person, and picking employees not based on skin color. So here I am happy with my new job.

I just also hope that my survey will open the minds of many Filipinos. I would like to give them a message that teaching is not only limited at schools. There are other opportunities out there that offers a better pay (I know my pay is not that big compared to other farangs, albeit, better than other Filipinos).

All you have to do is be aggressively ambitious diligent to search for opportunities and to run after your goals, by no means a hopeless daydreamer. Sell yourselves well in a job interview and show them what you got.

By the way, I'm 39 years old, getting married to a longtime French boyfriend in France. I am not a teacher by education. I am a graduate of BS Biology, and Bachelor of Laws.

Thank you, Phil. Your website helped me find those jobs. More power to you!


Niall

Working in North-east Thailand

Monthly Earnings Up to 40,000 baht a month

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

35K a month, including end of year bonus for my current teaching post at a rural government school. This includes private health care. I also sometimes teach at my local village community hall at weekends for between 300-600 baht an hour.

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

I put aside 10-15,000 baht a month to pay off some UK bills.

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

Nothing. I live in a bungalow that we designed and built last year on my wife's property. We laid the foundations 7 years ago and it cost us £10k in materials for the build. I have a Thai brother-in-law in the trade.

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

Transportation

I bought a new car so pay petrol at 2,000 baht a month Commute is 50-minutes each way. The car costs me 6,000 baht a month.

Utility bills

Electric is about 800-1000 baht per month. Internet is 750 baht. As for water, we have our own well.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Probably 800-1,000 baht a week for house food from Macro/Tesco Lotus. We save a lot on rice and fresh produce from our own farm. Don't go out to eat because my wife is the best cook in town ;)

Nightlife and drinking

Don't drink much and don't dig the nightlife. About 500 baht in the odd month on a crate of Leo is about the extent of my nightlife and drinking.

Books, computers

Mostly kindle books and I have a very good PC I brought over from the UK. I read a lot so spend about 500 -1,000 baht a month on books

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

Rich in lifestyle, stress-free job, zero mortgage.

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

Has to be the food. Also the fuel prices have dropped considerably of late. I also enjoy some of the free transport Thailand has to offer. I would also say some of the clothing is pretty well-priced if you know what to look for.

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

I've only been in Thailand for six months and it appears 30,000 baht is the average for teaching. It really depends on the lifestyle you wish to lead. My wife and I are not very materialistic here. As a foreigner you have to be able to adapt and just go with the flow here in Thailand.

Phil's analysis and comment

Niall, I'm surprised that you spend up to a thousand baht a month on books. I thought you would have made your own board games out of bits of wood and played them by candlelight.

I'm pulling your leg Niall. I genuinely like what I read here. A bungalow built on your own land. Water drawn from the well. Fruit and veggies fresh from your own farm. There's something wonderfully uncomplicated and 'wholesome' about your lifestyle.

You sound like one of those guys who dropped out of the rat race to be 'close to the land'. There ain't nothing wrong with that! The idea even appeals to me more and more as I get older.

I don't know about 40,000 baht a month, it sounds like you could live on a lot less. What are you going to do with all that extra cash once the UK loans and the car are paid off? :) 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 426 total

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