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 23rd June 2024

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฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.62 THB to one Philippine Peso

Bob

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000 baht a month averaged over 12 months

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

It's very difficult to put an exact figure on what I earn each month because I juggle around private language school work at two different schools (which pays about 400-500 baht an hour) and corporate work (which pays 800 baht an hour)

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

I don't save any of it. I am in my late fifties and have a few investments and pension plans that provide me with a modest monthly income. The money I earn from teaching goes towards covering all my monthly living costs.

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

I rent an 8,000 baht studio apartment in a modern building about 5 minutes walk from the MRT station in Saphan Kwai. I've lived there five years and the rent has never increased in that time.

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

Transportation

I go everywhere by MRT and BTS because it's so convenient. Probably about 2-3,000 baht a month I guess.

Utility bills

The air-con goes on the moment I walk in the door and stays on until I leave. I couldn't live without my air-conditioning. The electricity, water and phone bills come to about 4,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to either eat out at local Thai restaurants or snack on what I call 'fridge food' - stuff that's easy to put together like ham and cheese sandwiches or salads. I've got one of those sandwich toasters but that's as far as actual cooking anything goes. I probably spend about 8,000 a month on food.

Nightlife and drinking

Could be as much as 16,000 baht. I tend to limit myself to a big night out on Saturdays and I can easily drop 3-4,000 baht. Saturday is a very busy day at one of the language centers so I limit myself to a couple of beers on Friday nights. I would love to go out more but I've got used to just going out once a week. On weekdays, I'll often be teaching corporate classes until well after 8pm. After that I just want to go home and relax.

Books, computers

Almost nothing. I have a nice laptop but mostly use the computers at school. I download e-books for free. Does anyone actually pay for books anymore?

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

Very comfortable indeed but I might be singing a different song if I didn't have my other incomes. But a single guy should be able to live fairly well on 50,000 a month.

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

I don't think anything is ridiculously cheap in Bangkok anymore but none of it is outrageously expensive either. I suppose imported foodstuffs cost silly money. I often pick up something from a supermarket shelf and think 'who on earth is stupid enough to pay that?' But people obviously do.

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

In Bangkok, I would say a minimum of 40K a month. But 50K is better. That extra 10,000 baht makes all the difference.

Phil's analysis and comment

Ah, the life of the private language school teacher who's also doing a bit of evening corporate work as well. I juggled language school and corporate work around for many years and it's not a bad combination if you hit it right.

Two other things that Bob told me. Firstly, the two language schools that Bob works at and the office of the company who provide him with corporate work, are all within ten minutes of each other by skytrain. That's smart! Why commute from one side of the city to the other if you don't have to?

Secondly, the two private language schools offer Bob more work than he can handle. Why? Two magic words - student requests. Private language schools are businesses. They are there to make money and put bums on seats. The popular teacher who goes that extra mile to kep students happy (and re-enrolling on courses) will always do well. 


Daniel

Working in Samut Prakarn

Monthly Earnings 42 - 55,000 baht

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

My basic salary is 35,000 baht a month for 12 contact hours. We also have something called ‘special pay’ (Mon-Thu 3.30pm-4.30pm) for extra classes and I get 7K a month for that on top. I also do worksheet-based classes for 3 hours on Saturday mornings at school for 3 hours for another 8K. I think I’m quite well-paid for what I consider fairly light and easy work. I’ve been working just about every weekend, but sometimes it’s not on or I can’t work it. Most months, I’ve had full pay.

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

20k-25k. To be honest, I could probably save 30k some months, if I felt like it. It’s mainly one-off purchases that dictate what I have left at the end of the month, but it’s never less than 20k. Before I came to Thailand, I wasn’t earning much more than I am now, and I know, even with living at home, I could not save almost half my wage 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 new condo with my girlfriend, which costs 10,000 per month. We split that, as she is also working. There are cheaper options available, but as I’ve heard Phil say many times - it’s important to be happy with what you’re coming home to at the end of the day.

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

Transportation

My transport to and from work is between 2000-2500 p/m. The variation is because of how I choose to come home. I sometimes get a moto taxi, or sometimes get the songtaew. It really depends on my eagerness to get home or wherever I am going. I find myself getting a moto taxi more often than not, just because I don’t see the need to save money on this aspect of life.

Utility bills

I pay the internet (850 p/m) and water (>150 p/m), girlfriend pays the electric (700-600 p/m). We don’t always have the air con on in an evening, but will have it on for a few hours while we sleep, and it’s always on during the weekend. I pay 89 baht a week for my phone too.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend a lot on food and it’s definitely my biggest spend (probably 10-15K) I usually cook for both of us during the week and it’s often a chicken dish. I’m always going to Big C after school to buy food to cook. My girlfriend sometimes gets sick of eating the same thing but I love my spicy chicken and tuna, so she brings home her own stuff. On weekends, we either go out to eat or have food delivered.

Nightlife and drinking

I no longer drink late in to the evening, so big nights out are a fat zero. I do however play football with friends once a week and basketball on after school with teachers on a Friday. Both of which will result in the spend of a few 100 baht. 1000-1500 would probably go on social activities.

Books, computers

I bought a cheap Thai language kids book so I could start learning to read and write Thai. This is the only book I’ve bought in years. My laptop is 4 years old and has nothing wrong with it. Not looking forward to the day it pops its clogs, but on average, I spend nothing on tech.

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

The increase in salary from my first year is certainly affording me greater financial security, but I don’t feel like my spending habits have changed much. I like my life, and I’m happy living here. I don’t have to worry about anything, but I don’t typically like spending my money. My main goal at the minute is just to see some capital build up. My girlfriend has her own job so that’s good for me, but I still find myself spending what I’d say is enough of my own money on her.

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

I’d say everything is a bargain outside of booze and some groceries (milk… expensive). I particularly love how cheap chicken is here. Transport is cheap, too. I Don’t think you could pay £7 back home to get a taxi for 20 miles.

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

I’d say 30k is comfortable outside of the busy cities and 40K if you live in them. It all depends on the person you are. When I first came to Thailand, I was earning about 18k a month and got by for 5 months by adjusting accordingly. I do think that has helped set the tone for the rest of my time here though. Then I saved a bit of money (5-15k) each month on a 30k salary out in the sticks. Now I believe living from pay cheque to pay cheque is not the way to live - even if you’re young.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Daniel. First of all, it's nice to hear that someone listens to my advice and takes it on board :) I'll repeat it - living in a cheap apartment is a false economy. ALWAYS rent the best apartment you can afford! If you have a home environment that you are happy with, then you won't mind spending time there. Rent a noisy, cheap apartment that you hate and you'll be spending more and more time outside to get away from it. And you'll be going through spending money like water.

Yes, I love the cheap chicken here as well. There are always three or four big chicken breast fillets go into my supermarket trolley each week. I think I pay about 30 baht a fillet. Grill or fry in a little olive oil and with a baked potato and a nice salad, you have a fantastic meal for about 60 - 70 baht.

You've also come up with another interesting point. Who pays for what when you live with a working Thai partner? For some reason, my wife and I have never sat down and come up with a plan and said I'll pay for this and you'll pay for that.

I pay for the electricity and water (about 5,000 a month) because I'm the one who's at home all day sucking on the air-con. I pay the supermarket shopping bills (about 10,000 a month) because 75% of the food goes in my stomach. My wife buys her own breakfast and lunch at work.

We go half each on the laundry bill and when we go out to eat, we'll take turns to pay. When we travel abroad, my wife pays for her plane ticket and visa and I'll take care of the rest.

It's all about fairness and coming up with a system that works for you both. But it's a very interesting point. 


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.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 429 total

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