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 17th December 2018

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.62 THB to one Philippine Peso

Bill

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

I work at a private bilingual school with two hours tutoring a week on the side. I make 36,000 baht a month from my regular salary plus 4,000 from tutoring.

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

I try to save 10,000 baht most months which is not difficult. If I really tried I could save at least 20,000 though this would be limiting myself to only 40 baht Thai meals and frugal living.

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

I live in a decent condo on the 12th floor, which I pay 7,000 a month for.

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

Transportation

Roughly 1,000 baht a month on petrol and ubers on average. I drive a scooter.

Utility bills

1,680. Mobile data is 500 a month, internet 680. Power and water bills vary but they generally end up at 500 in total.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

By far my biggest expense after rent. I typically spend 8,000 baht a month on food, sometimes more. I eat cheap (30-60 baht) Thai food for lunch and dinner most days though I am a sucker for pricier western dining. I'll have three or four 200 baht meals on a normal week.

Nightlife and drinking

I've saved a lot more money after cutting down on this, though on average I'll still spend 5,000 a month on drinking, mainly large Leos.

Books, computers

Zero. Most books I read I borrow from friends or bring from home. I don't spend money on computers.

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

My standard of living is easy and carefree. I can afford to eat out every night and enjoy a life of comfort without having to worry about money.

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

Food! Even burgers and pizza are cheaper than my home country, and Thai food (by western standards) is incredibly cheap. Stationary and art supplies are also a great bargain.

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

It depends what type of lifestyle you lead. To live in Chiang Mai comfortably and be able to save and/or travel in the holidays, 30,000 is fine.

Phil's analysis and comment

I have heard many teachers living in Chiang Mai say that the average salary is somewhere in the region of 30,000 baht (but I'm not sure if things are changing and perhaps salaries are increasing) so Bill sounds like he's doing OK making 40,000 baht a month. As we've said many times in these surveys, an extra 10,000 baht a month can make such a difference to your standard of living, especially somewhere like Chiang Mai I guess.


Cassafina

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

I work at a private school and my full-time salary is 25K plus I get a 5,000 baht housing allowance.

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

Basically nothing. I always send all of my money back home to the Philippines.

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

I lived in an apartment for 3,500 baht before and it was all good until some crazy drunken man kept knocking on our door for no reason. I had to move out as soon as possible because he was really creepy and scared the hell out of me. I am now renting a 6,000 baht room in a condominium near to my school.

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

Transportation

My school is very near to where I live. 1,000 baht would be more than enough.

Utility bills

I used to pay 1,000 baht for water and electricity in my old apartment. I haven't had my first bill in this condominium that I just moved to. Hopefully, it will be around the same range. For internet and phone bills, I pay around 1,000 baht per month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I love cooking Filipino dishes so always end up cooking by myself. If I eat out, it will probably be once or twice a month with my boyfriend and that would usually cost about 2,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't do this.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

Compared to back home, my cost of living here is much more cheaper. I can live comfortably here.

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

Thais are really friendly and helpful. Cost of living is cheap. It is also so much safer compared to the streets of Manila.

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

I have a lot of Filipino friends who earn 20,000 baht and below and they can still live well and even send money home. I believe it really depends on your chosen lifestyle. If you know how to handle your income well, no salary is not enough to survive.

Phil's analysis and comment

I always say that an apartment building is only ever as good as your neighbors that live there. And it's a fact that the lower your rent, the more chance you have of assholes moving in next door. 

I lived in a nice apartment building on Rama 9 Road for three years. I never heard a peep out of my next-door-neighbors and I was very happy there. That all changed overnight when a huge American guy and his girlfriend moved in and every Friday and Saturday night without fail, they would go out to a club and get drunk, return home in the small hours of the morning and have the most terrible fights. I would cower under the bedclothes while the paper-thin dividing wall shook around me. I checked out within the month. 

I notice Cassafina doesn't spend any money on nightlife / going out. In fact most of the Filipino teachers I ever worked with would often get together with other Filipinos and sit around and chat in someone's apartment. I guess that's the advantage of having a tight-knit community compared to most Westerners, who tend to remain more isolated. 


Chris

Working in Samut Prakarn

Monthly Earnings 25,852 baht

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

I work at a government school and my full-time salary is ฿17,852 (after taxes) with an ฿8,000 housing allowance

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

For me personally, I can pinch about ฿9,000+, but I wouldn't expect other foreigners from a Western society to get near what I save.

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

I've lived in a condo for ฿6,500 and a studio (room with bathroom) for ฿3,000.

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

Transportation

The cheapest way is to use songthaews and that would come to about 600 baht a month. I could also use motorcycle taxis or regular taxis but you are at the mercy of traffic jams and doing things this way could come in at 2,500 baht a month. It really depends on the situation.

Utility bills

Depends on where you live again, but ฿600-1,000 electricity depending on how often you're home and use the air-conditioning and ฿90-200 water, although water can greatly change depending on how wasteful you are. I think water is priced about ฿18 per cubic unit at the ฿6,500 condo.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

For me, eating twice a day, and very conservative on spending, around ฿200-400 per day. So you'd be looking at ฿5,600-11,200 per month. On the low end price this is eating at local restaurants where one meal is about ฿55-65 and drinking water, while also getting street food to take home where one meal can be ฿30-40. Adding in some shop snacks or fruits I'd generally stay around ฿200-250 myself, but not many people could adapt to my cheap lifestyle.

Nightlife and drinking

I work 8 hr first shift Friday, 12 hr graveyard shift Friday, 12 hr graveyard shift Saturday and sometimes day or graveyard shift Sunday. I've also been called in a few hours after I fell asleep to work a day shift during an emergency. So, it is no lie when I say most people couldn't live my life, especially with the low income.

Books, computers

Cell phone bill with a plan is about ฿250 per month where a 30 day card at 7/11 for just apps access you can get for about ฿90. For 50mbps internet you'd be looking at around ฿700 and 30mbps around ฿500.

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

I enjoy my life. If I had more money I'd just end up helping others more. I can say that I still live a good life even on a low budget. Remember, this is from my experience and my standards, so others might not say the same.

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

Since I work for the government I get free healthcare. I really love the fact many Thai people as well as myself don't have to worry about their health. Street food, small local restaurants, and housing is also a great bargain if you are a low budget hunter.

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

I will say you can live a much more normal and comfortable life at around 40-60k. If you're someone who can live off the land or likes to really fall into the common class of another culture then you should try 20-25k per month. If you like to party you'd hate a salary like mine. I know many Thai people who live on 15-20k per month, some as little as 8-10k per month. It really depends on you as a person and how you want to or can live your life.

Phil's analysis and comment

Hi Chris, sorry mate but there was much of that survey I just couldn't understand. It seems like you are talking about figures in general rather than how they apply to you or what you actually spend? 

Do you live in two places (a condo and a studio)? What do you mean by 'living off the land'? Where I come from that usually means you have your own vegetable patch or you nip into a farmer's field after dark and pull up his turnips.


Nick

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 52,500

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

I work in the English program at a government school. My basic salary is 45,000 baht and I make an extra 7,500 for teaching three hours on a Sunday.

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

I save my state pension, which is about 28,000 baht, my RAF pension, which is another 45,000 and generally about 25,000 baht of salary.

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

I used to pay just 3,000 baht per month for a basic apartment but I have recently moved to a new condo that costs 8,000. It has a swimming pool, gym and good security, etc. It's a lot better than the old place.

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

Transportation

I have my own car which with insurance, maintenance and fuel costs adds up to about 5,000 per month.

Utility bills

Electricity is 900 baht per month and water 300 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I usually cook at home because I have a kitchen now but if I do eat out, then it's local restaurants all the way at around 100 baht a meal.

Nightlife and drinking

I have a girlfriend who works shifts so often one or other of us are working. We'll perhaps go out together once a month and spend a couple of thousand.

Books, computers

I use internet and android TV so the only costs are for the internet at 390 baht per month

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

Much better than the UK. I would probably spend most of my income there whereas I spend less than 1/5th of my income here.

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

Accommodation, utilities and food . You have to be careful though as you can get ripped off as a foreigner. It's best to let your Thai friend do the negotiating and then appear when its time to sign the documents!

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

I survive on around 26,000 a month. Of course I could spend a lot more showing off and being a Jack the Lad but I am happy being me - enjoying the Thai lifestyle and being grateful to be a part of this wonderful country.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Nick. With almost a hundred thousand baht a month getting put away for a rainy day, I was beginning to wonder why you didn't treat yourself a bit more. But it sounds like you are happy to lead the simple Thai lifestyle. Not everyone can, but good luck to you if it works for you.

Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers help there. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey'


Matthew

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120,000 - 165,000 baht

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

I work at a fairly decent international school and also give regular private lessons. 120K is my regular, after tax salary (including housing allowance). I usually receive an extra 45K per month for one day per week of exam preparation classes (either Saturday or Sunday). The 45K is sometimes less as classes can be cancelled on special days, such as Mother's Day.

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

It varies, but over the last year I've averaged 85K a month.

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

I live in a one-bedroom, partially furnished condo close to the BTS & MRT. It costs 15K per month. The building is newish and has a nice pool & views. No complaints!

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

Transportation

Not a lot really. I used to take a BTS / taxi combo to work, but now I've bought a decent motorbike and transport is cheap. Whilst I realise I may one day die on Thailand's crazy roads, I love the bike and am not giving it up! I'd guess 400 baht a month in petrol and the occasional taxi. Total about 1,000.

Utility bills

The condo isn't huge (60sqm) so doesn't cost too much to cool (especially since I'm never there). Luckily the building doesn't pad the electricity bill, which I pay at 7-11. I do the cleaning myself so no maid bill (is a maid a utility?). Total for electricity & water is usually about 1,000 baht, plus another 1,000 for mobile phone and internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food at school is free, decent, and relatively healthy, so I fill my belly at lunchtime. Dinner is rarely more than a couple of hundred baht unless I'm treating a friend. Whilst I've never actually added up all the receipts, I'd guess I go through about 10K a month (and more during school holidays)

Nightlife and drinking

I'm a keen footballer and play or train most days. This means that I'm usually tired in the evenings and in bed before 10.00pm. Once or twice a month I go out with the boys, and when I do I generally drink a lot and don't care what I spend. Probably 5 - 10K a month.

Books, computers

This is covered by school. All the international schools seem to have libraries that are better than most of Bangkok's bookshops and mine is free for teachers to use (they even let me take a stack of books to read in the holidays). I have an aging CPU at home which will need replacing soon but it's not a priority as my school provides all teachers with laptops.

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

It's great. A combination of work (6 days during term time), sport and socialising means I'm never at a loose end. I've lived in Bangkok for 5 years now and love the place. When I think about the prospect of moving home (Birmingham, England), I cringe! The real kickers here are the holidays (two weeks more than UK schools) and the savings (in England I saved about 200 GBP a month but here I save almost 10 times as much).

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

Rent & bills - in Birmingham approximately 40% of my salary went in direct debits. Here it is more like 10%. I also like the happy 'hours' in Bangkok British pubs that are generally about 8 hours long.

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

I think I'd be OK on 50K a month. But would that cover trips home and big purchases like computers or motorbikes? I see a lot of jobs on your website offering salaries of 30 to 40K a month and wonder what kind of life that entails. To be honest I'm not sure why people apply for these jobs. If you are qualified then you can do SO much better... and if you aren't qualified, you shouldn't be teaching.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Matt - and great to hear from a fellow Brummie! Do you get to go back home every year to see what you're most definitely NOT missing?

What can I say? Matt describes his standard of living as 'great'. 

85,000 a month being stashed away in the bank. Free meals and laptops from the school. Plenty of books on offer at the school library. Well-paid overtime. Life sounds a damn sight better than 'great'. It sure beats going back to a bedsit in Edgbaston after a hard day's work in a Birmingham school. Right, Matt?


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 272 total

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