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 25th 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

Patrizio

Working in Hong Kong

Monthly Earnings 275,000 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary is 200,000 baht, which is a huge step up from what I used to make in a small international school in Bangkok. I also have a 75K housing allowance.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 120K every month. My wife has a steady income stream of 50K a month and saves all of that. Most of my end-of-year bonus, which is 375K, I save as well.

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

Hong Kong is very expensive to rent. My wife and I rent a small two-bedroom apartment close to the school. I technically don't pay for this at all, because the cost (60K) fits well into my housing allowance (75K)

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

Transportation

Hong Kong has fantastic public transportation (and infrastructure), which is a big thing after coming from Bangkok. I think we spend about 3,500 bath a month on this

Utility bills

My internet, phone, electricity, and water all add up to about 10K, which I pay with the leftovers from my housing allowance

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Restaurants can be very expensive. My wife and I are absolute foodies, though she now cooks 6 days a week. We spend about 20K a month on groceries. We go out to restaurants once a week and we spend about 30K on this.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to go out quite a lot when I lived in Bangkok, but now that I am married with a rapidly developing career, I find that I prefer staying in much more. I also limit myself to only drinking at home once a month. So I guess I might spend about 1-2K a month on this.

Books, computers

I own a very good computer which my job bought for me. I also have an Xbox, for which I probably pay about 500 baht a month. I am an avid reader but I download my books for free.

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

I think my wife and I have an extraordinarily high standard of living. We do not have to really think about any expenses, but we are both very sensible with money and like to save. We can afford to do the things we like and still save more money yearly than most people back in Europe would earn in that same time-frame.

Hong Kong is such an amazing location to live, especially after being exposed to blatant Thai discrimination and racism towards foreigners. In Hong Kong, every person is what he or she brings to the table. We have access to completely free, top quality healthcare within a city state that has very sound infrastructure. On top of that, Hong Kong isn't nearly as expensive as some people think. It is certainly not that much more expensive than Bangkok.

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

Transportation is something I absolutely fell in love with. Being able to traverse the city in less than 30 minutes for bottom barrel costs is something you could only dream of in Bangkok.

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

That is a tough one to answer and it all depends on your priorities. If your employer pays for your housing, then you would live pretty well on 85K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Patrizio. It sounds like you have a wonderful lifestyle out there in Hong Kong, a wonderful place I've been lucky to visit at least seven or eight times. As you say, the public transportation system is second to none. 

One thing that did shock me about your figures was dropping 30K a month on restaurants and you only dine out once a week. Those must be some pretty swanky joints you eat at!  


Chantelle

Working in Ban Chang, Rayong

Monthly Earnings 71,500 baht

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I get a 61,500 baht baseline salary and then around 10k baht for extra classes. (45 minutes x 4 days a week)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 30,000 baht each month. This is after I have deducted my vacation costs and spending money.

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

I live in a studio apartment, overlooking the Gulf of Thailand, with a modern kitchenette (induction stove, small oven and washing machine). This costs 7,000 baht a month. We also have a 3-bedroom house that we rent out for 15K a month.

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

Transportation

I rent a bike for 2,500 a month and fuel costs about 250 depending on how much I ride around. I avoid paying for private taxis by getting lifts from friends with cars.

Utility bills

Utility bills are usually under 1,000 baht a month but it has been higher during the summer months due to increased use of the air-conditioning.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Groceries are around 1,000 baht per week and I enjoy ordering from restaurants. I would say I spend around 600 baht a week on restaurants take-aways. I have to confess that I enjoy chocolate so a big portion of my spending is on that. I also get a free lunch at school so I do not have to cook much. I also prefer Western food that you can buy at Tops or our local Expat shop.

Nightlife and drinking

My town doesn't have a nightlife scene and I don't drink so no money there.

Books, computers

I download pdf books so no expense there and I use my old laptop.

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

I think I live very comfortably. I take vacations when Covid allows it during holidays and I could easily afford a car and a bigger flat if I wanted to.

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

There are quite a few things that are more expensive than back home but I would say your day-to-day living costs are the real bargain if you don't spend money on luxury items like a car.

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

I don't hold back on spending my money and I get by with around 25k to 30k a month. This covers my living expenses and my shopping, travelling and restaurant meals.

Phil's analysis and comment

In what sounds like a very peaceful town, 71,000 baht must feel like a small fortune so no surprise you are able to live as well as you do. You've got a nice passive income of 15,000 baht from the house rental too. By my reckoning, you're saving around half a milllion baht a year so I bet you've built up a good safety net. 


Steve

Working in Nakhon Ratchisima (Khorat)

Monthly Earnings 30,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work for a medium-sized Thai school and my full-time salary is 30,000. I used to make another 5,000 - 10,000 baht a month working a couple of nights a week at a private language school but due to the Co-vid situation, there hasn't been any work there for months! I was pretty low down the pecking order so I tended to get the evening scraps and the students nobody else wanted. However, so many students cancelled their courses, there isn't enough work to go around.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Very little. I might stash away 5,000 in a good month but that's quite rare.

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

I've moved in with my Thai girlfriend to try and cut down on the expenses. I was living in a nice studio apartment and paying around 6,000 a month plus bills but that's down to 3,000 now I've moved in with her. It's not an ideal situation though; two people living in a tiny studio apartment can get ridiculous, especially as I'm a big guy anyway. Plus I hate living 'the Thai way' - cooking food on a tiny balcony, showering with cold water, etc.

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

Transportation

I have a small motorcycle, which you really need to have to get around Khorat. We live in the city centre and my school is about five kilometres away. Public transportation isn't really an option. I suppose gas costs a few hundred baht a month.

Utility bills

No more than a few hundred baht a month for electricity and water. We do have air-con but don't switch it on much. My girlfriend says the air-con gives her a cold so whenever I'm home during the hot season, I strip down to my boxer shorts and tough it out.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Being a person of ample proportions, I do like my grub! I spend easily 10,000 baht a month on meals out and supermarket shopping for the two of us although most of our eating is done at moderately priced Thai restaurants. Khorat has plenty of opportunities for a Western food splurge but they're generally too expensive for me. I can't afford to drop 700-1,000 baht on a meal for two.

Nightlife and drinking

Gave that stuff up several years ago. It's a shame really because Khorat is a terrific night-time city with plenty going on. Oh to be a single fella again because I sometimes overhear other male teachers discussing going out on the Friday night lash and do feel as if I'm missing out.

Books, computers

Naaah. Nothing to see here. Even my smartphone is about four years old. Hopefully it won't conk out before I get to the end of this survey.

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

Khorat is a cheaper city to live in than Bangkok of course but only just. It's got all the opportunities to spend money that the capital has, so 30,000 baht a month isn't really enough. That extra 10,000 baht I used to make from teaching in the evenings made all the difference.

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

Running a motorcycle is cheap (both for gas and repairs) and eating out at those moderately priced Thai restaurants (hole-in-the-wall places) only comes to a couple of hundred baht for two people.

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

I suppose at a push I could live on 20-25K if I were a single fella but that would be just an existence. I dream of making 50-60K a month; that would be nice! It would allow me to go home and see my family because I haven't been home for several years.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Steve for another brutally honest cost of living survey. It's important to get a balance in these surveys and the teachers 'surviving' on 30,000 are just as essential to hear from as the international school teachers raking in the big bucks. As far as your survey goes, Steve, I've said it many times before - that extra 10,000 baht can make all the difference! Hopefully the Co-vid situation will improve in the not-too-distant future and you can get back to doing some evening work. Hang on in there! 

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


James

Working in Shanghai

Monthly Earnings 182,500 (including a housing allowance)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My full-time salary is 140,200 baht and I get a housing allowance of 42,700.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I usually send 80,000 baht out of China every month.

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

The housing allowance covers the rent, so I pay zero. Rent in Shanghai is comparable to places like London and New York. I wouldn't take a job here without the school/company providing housing. I live in a modern ground floor 3-bedroom apartment in a beautiful compound full of trees.

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

Transportation

The school bus takes me to and from work. The subway never costs more than 5 RMB (23 baht) a trip. It's cheaper than the BTS!

Utility bills

Electric 200 RMB (950 baht)
Gas 200 RMB (950 baht)
Water 100 RMB (475 baht)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We live on 10,000 RMB (47,500 baht) a month in China. That covers all shopping, restaurants and other purchases.

Nightlife and drinking

Taobao provides all the craft beer I require. There is a huge selection of great beer and depending on what you buy, it is cheaper than buying the same stuff in places like Tops Supermarket.

A Brewdog opened here recently! We also have Stone brewery and other local craft breweries.

About 1000 - 1500 RMB goes on this, but it if we do visit one of these places it comes out of the 10,000 rmb we live on here.

Books, computers

I have a Kindle so got all my books for free, but more recently have got back into hard copy books. Once again Taobao is the place to go, never more than 200 - 300 RMB a month.

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

Middle-class

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

Taxis, online shopping events (11/11 is a huge sales day), craft beer, subway, little import mom and pop shops where you can find gems like Cadburys chocolate, Walkers crisps, etc. and the biggest of all NO IMPORT TAX! Bottles of Ribena don't cost £7!

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

I know people here on 20,000 RMB (94,000 baht) and they get by and perhaps save some, but I would say you need to hit the 27-30,000 rmb a month mark with a housing allowance to save for your future here.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you James. Always good to hear from teachers in China and by your references to Thailand, I'm guessing you worked here for a while as well. That sure is a tasty housing allowance by the way. 


Tommy

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 150,000 baht (give or take)

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

125,000 is my full time net salary from a fairly decent international school. The other 25,000 isn't fixed and comes from tutoring students in the run up to their exams (IGCSEs and A-levels).

There are some months where I receive significantly more - August for example when I receive a 13th month bonus and May when I get my flight allowance. 150k is a 'typical month'

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

80 -100,000 a month, occasionally more when the 'extras' are paid. To me, this feels like a lot. I used to teach in the UK and saved the equivalent of 10k a month (although I suppose I was paying into the teachers' pension scheme).

For a professionally qualified teacher (QTS or equivalent), I can't see a financial reason to work in the UK. Despite the lack of a proper pension, a person with zero savings can comfortably fund a reasonable retirement of indefinite length with 20 years of savings (in my opinion anyway).

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

I pay 13K (my girlfriend pays another 13K). We've got a 2-bedroom condo in a building with nice facilities within walking distance of Mo Chit BTS. My girlfriend is Thai and works as an auditor. She earns more than I do and we generally keep our finances separate, which suits us both.

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

Transportation

The BTS to work and back (80 baht per day) and an occasional taxi comes to a few thousand a month. Not a major expense.

Utility bills

1,000 for electricity, 100 for water, 350 for internet (these numbers are low as 50% of the bills are met by the girfriend) and 500 for my phone. So about 2,000 per month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

A lot. I like food, a lot. Breakfast is cheap and lunch is free at work. Dinner and weekend meals are usually expensive though. I'd guess 20 - 25K a month covers an average month. During the long school holidays however....

Nightlife and drinking

A like a pint (several pints), but only do this a couple of times a month. I'm north of 40 now so am happier having a few in the Black Swan than in the bars and clubs around Sukhumvit. So maybe 2,000 a month?

Books, computers

I buy books when I go away on holiday, but it's not a major expense. Neither are computers (I've never seen computers as a monthly expense - you buy one every few years right?)

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

Incredible. I have a comfortable life in a world-class city and save well, especially at these uncertain times. A lot of expats I know in other fields of work have lost jobs and returned to their home countries. Whilst I am aware of teachers being affected financially, everyone in my circle of friends has kept their jobs, and the money has kept flowing. We who work in international education are lucky, very lucky.

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

Everything that isn't imported specifically for the expat market, and even these products aren't the kind of things that eat up the salary (I'm thinking of cheese, sausages and the like that cost several times the price they would back home). Otherwise, rent, local food, utilities, transport (apart from buying a car), home help etc. are all favourably priced.

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

I think you could live here (Bangkok) relatively comfortably for 50,000 per month. Don't do it though unless you are already independently wealthy. For everyone else, I'd suggest investing money and time into a professional teaching qualification (not a PGCEi or CELTA) that allows you to work in state schools in countries who export their systems of education (UK, USA, France etc). Once you have this then salaries of 100-200,000 per month are the norm and you can build a real life in Thailand.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Tommy. I guess when a foreign teacher earns 150,000 baht a month and his partner earns even more, it's going to result in a fantastic standard of living.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 392 total

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