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.

If you would like to submit a Cost of Living survey, you can answer the questions on line - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9S6HQCD

Approximate conversion rates as of November 24th, 2017

33 Baht to one US Dollar
43 Baht to one Pound Sterling
39 Baht to one Euro
25 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.65 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Paul

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 170,000

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

I work at an international school in Bangkok and my salary is 130K after tax for a Monday to Friday position. I also do part-time Saturday teaching and the occasional evening and whilst this amount varies greatly, it averages about 40,000 baht a month extra.

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

It varies from month to month but I average about 100,000.

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

I live with two other teachers. We share a three-bedroom condo near Asoke. It's 35,000 baht a month plus utilities, so my share is usually about 13,000.

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

a) Transportation

Asoke is great - we have the BTS, MRT, airport link and canal boats within walking distance. Which is great because the traffic is a nightmare! I rely on public transport and probably spend about 2,000 baht per month.

b) Utility bills

Utility bills are shared between three and usually come to 2,000 - 3,000 baht each (mostly for electricity).

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Again, Soi Asoke is great! Every cuisine I could imagine is within reach, unfortunately I have to pay for it and it comes to 15 - 20,000 a month.

d) Nightlife and drinking

It's Asoke... clubs and bars of ALL types are here! I have one night out a week and spend a few thousand, so probably 15.000 - 20,000.

e) Books, computers

I spend almost nothing on books and computers as I have a school laptop and the library there is great.

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

Fantastic! I work hard (6 days a week) but enjoy life too. Then again, during the school holidays I usually only work Saturdays.

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

Accommodation - a large 3-bedroom condo in the middle of London (my home) would cost a LOT more! Taxis too, especially if you're sharing.

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

Who knows? Everyone is different. I'm sure it's possible to live on 30,000 and many locals clearly live on a lot less. As a qualified professional however, I wouldn't want to. I've recently turned thirty and realised I need to start saving for the future. The question I often ask myself is... how much should I be saving in order to survive in the future? My calculations tell me to save at least 60,000 a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

You are clearly doing well Paul and you obviously love that Asoke area of Bangkok.

I would be very interested (as I'm sure would many others) on how sharing a place with two other teachers works out. 

Personally, I never think humans are built to share living spaces, except with those we choose as our life partner and of course any children that may come along. 

I shared a small condo with an old schoolfriend many years ago. We moved in as best friends but after nine excruciatingly long months, I was on the verge of committing murder. It started with small things. He would blow his nose on a tissue and then leave the tissue on the dining room table. WHY? He would clean his stinky sports shoes in the bathroom. He would make a cup of tea and never wash his cup up after him. Over time, the small annoyances started to stack up and sharing a living space became a living nightmare. 

That was over 25 years ago. We haven't spoken since. 


Lloyd

Working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Monthly Earnings 90,000

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

I earn the equivalent of 90,000 baht (before tax) working at a mid-tier international school on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

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

It really depends on the month. If I have a weekend away, I save almost nothing but I think I regularly save around 25,000 baht in a normal month.

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

I live in a nice modern condo in a KL suburb and pay 13,500 baht a month. It takes just ten minutes to walk to the nearest MRT train station, so it's in a good location. The building also has a rooftop pool and gym.

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

a) Transportation

I don't have a car so I take Grab and Uber to most places. This is cheap at first but can add up after a while. I think maybe 1,000-1,500 baht a month.

b) Utility bills

Lloyd did not answer this question.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Local food is very cheap and I will often eat this sort of stuff at school and also for breakfast but then I usually eat Western food in the evening. I eat mostly take-aways which adds another 10-12,000 baht to my food bill.

d) Nightlife and drinking

The nightlife in KL is fairly average and also expensive. I will often have a few beers on a Friday or Saturday and if you end up drinking after the happy hours have finished, this can end up expensive - maybe around 10,000 per month. I also play golf once a week for 750 baht and joined a gym and taekwondo club for around 1,500.

e) Books, computers

Lloyd did not answer this question.

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

I live a very Western lifestyle I guess, I can buy most Western items that I want at around the same price as back home. The lifestyle is more relaxed and the weather is sunny all year round. The biggest difference for me is the price of housing. I wouldn't be able to afford my own condo for the price I would need to pay back home.

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

Housing and street food

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

I would say you can live on maybe 60,000 baht a month here and not live too different a lifestyle to back home.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think you are our very first cost of living survey from Malaysia, Lloyd. 

I haven't been for many years but I always liked what I saw in KL and I can imagine it being a place where you can live a very Western lifestyle - if that's what you're after. 


Jo

Working in Shanghai

Monthly Earnings 116,000

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

I earn the equivalent of 116,000 Thai baht a month. This includes working full-time at an international school and 4,000 baht/week is from doing two hours of private tutoring a week.

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

I save approximately 45,000 baht a month.

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

Rents are quite high in Shanghai. I get 35,000 baht a month on top of my salary I quoted for housing. I use all of that rent subsidy to rent a one-bedroom apartment and that isn't downtown Shanghai.

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

a) Transportation

I bicycle to my job and choose to live 20 minutes away. The subway is very cost efficient (20 baht on average) and goes everywhere as well

b) Utility bills

I have to pay approximately 4,000 baht for utilities (electricity, water, gas). Internet is cheap and you usually pay a fee for the entire year which is about 10,000 Thai baht a year. Electricity, water and gas are relatively inexpensive (800-1000 baht per month).

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My school pays for my lunch, which saves me some money. I eat out two to three times a week and mostly eat Western food. I spend quite a bit on Western food, about 2000 baht a week. I don't eat much Chinese food but it is cheaper than Western food. Food at the market can be costly for meat and imported food. Easily spend about 4-5000 baht a month on food from the market.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I go out a few times a month. Beer can be expensive (175 for local beer and up to 300 baht for imported beer)

e) Books, computers

I don't really buy English books in China as they are hard to find.

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

My standard of living is pretty good as I don't worry too much about spending. I don't go partying every weekend but spend money on travelling on holidays. I can still afford to save and travel some. I travel once or twice a year out of country. I do think the cost of living in Shanghai is high and it is very easy to overspend on entertainment and nightlife if you wanted to. You can easily spend money on drinks and food as well. Rents are high especially if you live closer to the center of the city.

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

Jo did not answer this question.

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

You need at least 75,000 baht a month to live a decent life in my opinion, but I'm sure people live on less.

Phil's analysis and comment

Always good to hear from a teacher in China because it's quite often a popular next destination for those who have grown tired of Thailand.

You've suprised me with your 'at least 75,000 baht' figure Jo. I would have thought about 55-60k might be enough but you're the expert. 

It sounds like you live a very comfortable life there. Not much more I can add.


James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75,000

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

I work at an international school in Bangkok and my full-time salary is 75K

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

20,000. I could save more but I enjoy my lifestyle.

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

The rent on my condo is 9,000 baht a month and I get this as an allowance from the school on top of my salary.

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

a) Transportation

I live only a two-minute walk from school so no costs here. However i would estimate my trips into the centre of Bangkok would be around 500 per month.

b) Utility bills

Electricity no more than 1,000 baht (I use the air-conditioning all the time whilst I am in my room). Water is 70 baht per month. Internet/phone/TV 800 per month.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is probably my biggest spend which can range anything from 4,000 - 14,000 depending if I eat local or sample some of the many exotic hotels here. Supermarket shopping I rarely do as I eat out or eat street food. I just visit the 7/11 or Tops for convenience items so I would guess around 2,000 per month on that as well.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I do enjoy the weekends whether it be at a sky bar or some other bars in the Sukhumvit area. I would guess around 8-12,000 here - just a young teacher living the dream!.

e) Books, computers

I had to purchase a new laptop recently due to mine breaking down so that was around 8,000. The school has a comprehensive library so I do not need to buy books.

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

Comfortable. I live in Bangkok so things are generally more expensive here but I still have enough money left over at the end of the month to save or keep for emergency costs. I can see myself staying here for quite some time.

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

Everything such as housing / food can be found significantly cheaper here than in the UK.

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

I guess if I adjusted my lifestyle I could generally live off around 35-40,000 in Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think you've got the numbers right James for a young man who still enjoys the lure of those Sukhumwit neon lights. Saving 20,000 out of a 75,000 salary is not bad going and there's always the opportunity to save more with a few lufestyle adjustm,ents here and there.

The school paying for a 9,000 baht apartment is obviously a huge bonus as well. And just a two-minute walk to work. I bet that's nice.


Cliff

Working in Pak Chong

Monthly Earnings 70,000

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

I work at a government school in Pak Chong. I make 33,000 baht a month working at the school and another 35-40,000 baht a month teaching private lessons.

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

I can save the vast majority of it. I'd say 50,000 easy, maybe 60,000 if I really skimped. But, everything's so cheap out here that it's honestly difficult to spend money. I know plenty of teachers who live very well on 30,000 a month here.

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

I pay 3,500 baht/month for a very nice studio apartment near my school. Even with utilities my bill is rarely over 4,000 baht since Pak Chong is in the mountains & naturally quite a bit cooler than most of Thailand. I rarely have to use the AC.

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

a) Transportation

I bought a secondhand bike when I got here & that set me back 11,000 baht. I probably spend another few hundred a month on gas.

b) Utility bills

My utility bill is rarely over 400 baht.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The canteen at my school has excellent dishes for 20 baht and the local restaurants rarely charge more than 40 baht. A huge dish of pad gra prao & a large Chang will set you back 85 baht. I haven't eaten Western food since I've been here, but I'd imagine it would be at least double the local prices

d) Nightlife and drinking

Honestly, since I teach from 8 to 4 at a government school and then 5 to 8 with private students, I haven't exactly checked out a lot of the nightlife here. There's a huge night market in the middle of town and some other teachers have said there are a lot of hidden gems around

e) Books, computers

1,000 baht - I have Amazon Prime, which gives me access to tons of free books and discounts on e-books.

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

My standard of living is much higher than it was in America and I don't have to constantly worry about how I'll pay the rent here. (answer continued below)

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

Compared to America, pretty much everything. (answer continued below)

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

You could get by on 20,000 a month here & still live pretty well. I'm talking Western-level apartment with super-fast wifi & all the bells and whistles. Most schools in the area pay around 35,000/month & that's way more than enough to live on and put some in savings for later. If you can pick up extra work you'll be putting most of your paycheck right into the bank every month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks a lot Cliff. 

Cliff also had the following to say about his standard of living - "Back in America I was working 60+ hour weeks just to afford my apartment, car, & insurance. Here, I have free BUPA health insurance, which is actually pretty nice. My bills are almost non-existent, and if I want to pick up extra work it's always available. I'm saving plenty of money, thoroughly enjoying the lifestyle I'm living, and chipping away at a Masters degree that I never could have afforded in the U.S. without taking on crippling debt"

On the topic of Thailand bargains, Cliff says - "Even the cheapest apartments in the most dangerous neighborhoods in my home town will cost you $500/month plus utilities, which are also incredibly expensive. Here my entire cost of living is less than half that. Food is ultra-cheap and if I want to pop down to Bangkok for a weekend I can just hop in a van & be there in two hours. Also, since I'm already in asia, travel during breaks is super cheap. Especially if I stay in the land o' smiles"

Cliff sounds like a man who won't be heading back to America any time soon LOL. He's clearly doing very nicely indeed. 

For those who aren't familiar with it, Pak Chong is a lovely area of 'Central Thailand', mid-way between Bangkok and Khorat. My wife and I go quite often because it's possibly the nicest day trip you can do from the capital and a fairly easy two-hour drive. You've got lush green countryside and plenty of 'tourist attractions' such as sheep farms, Italian-style shopping arcades and quirky independent coffee shops and restaurants. It's an area that really draws in the Thai daytrippers and overnight campers whenever there's a public holiday or long weekend to be had. I'm sure it's a wonderful place for a teacher to live and work.

One word of warning though Cliff. Don't be led astray by those colleagues who promise you 'hidden gems after dark'. Keep to the path; don't stray on to the moors. You just keep your head down and keep squirreling away that 50K a month in the bank.    

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