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 August 19th, 2017

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43 Baht to one Pound Sterling
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0.65 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Nathaniel

Working in Samut Prakarn

Monthly Earnings 45,000

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

I work at a large private Thai secondary school and my take-home salary is about 45,000 a month. I could do extra work if I wanted but I can live very comfortably on 45K so why do more?

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

I save between 10 and 15K a month and I use that 150,000 baht a year to either go home or do some travelling in Thailand.

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

I share a two-bedroom house with another teacher who actually works at a different school. We pay 10.000 baht a month and split that right down the middle so 5,000 each. Not a bad deal at all because it's a newish house in a nice quiet soi and the house is big enough for us to avoid each other if we want some privacy.

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

a) Transportation

I can take a motorcycle taxi from the end of the soi to the school where I work for 20 baht. Even with the odd taxi and skytrain fare at the weekend, I bet my transportation bill barely breaks a thousand baht.

b) Utility bills

We split all the utility bills down the middle and my share usually comes out about 2,000 baht. I'll usually put the air-con on for a few hours in the evening but I don't like sleeping with the air-con on because you walk up with a very dry throat.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to use about five or six different neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops, where you can get a decent meal and a drink for about 100-150 baht. I eat lunch for free at the school canteen. I tend to avoid Western food, even at the shopping malls. I can never justify paying the prices. I guess I probably spend about 8,000 a month if you factor in supermarket stuff.

d) Nightlife and drinking

There's not an awful lot to do in Samut Prakarn. What nightlife there is is very much geared towards Thais. I could catch the skytrain into Bangkok but I've become bored of the scene down there so I rarely bother. I would rather stay in and play computer games with a couple of beers.

e) Books, computers

I like my computer games and I enjoy reading a few books every month. About 2,000 a month for this.

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

Very comfortable. I live well enough on 45,000 baht and could probably live on considerably less. Not being a nightlife person certainly helps. I can remember a few years back when I could easily drop 3,000 on a weekend. Samut Prakarn is not Bangkok either. You don't have the temptations here. You're living among locals and doing what they do to a certain extent.

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

Pretty much everything except Western food. If you can stick to eating Thai, you'll save a fortune. And I don't mean street food either. You can get great Thai meals for around 100 baht and eat in a nice environment if you know where to go.

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

In Bangkok, I wouldn't want to earn less than 35,000 and to be honest, I don't understand why people work for that sort of money anyway. It's a teachers market out there. There always seems to be plenty of jobs in the 40K bracket.

Phil's analysis and comment

Yes Nath, I'm a Samut Prakarn boy myself. I guess it's an interesting area to live inasmuch as you feel part of the local scene, you don't see all that many foreigners at all, and yet fifteen minutes on the skytrain and you are in the heart of Bangkok. Samut Prakarn is changing slowly though. Dare I say becoming a little more upmarket (which isn't difficult when you're one of the city's ugliest suburbs) We've got a new shopping mall and there are coffee shops and restaurants springing up everywhere. Shame though that in many cases there just aren't enough customers to support them and keep the businesses open.    


Cha

Working in Trang

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

I work in a government school English program in Trang and my basic salary is 30,000 baht. I don't do any extra teaching on top of that.

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

I have saved 23,000 baht in the two months I've been here. My target is to save at least 12,000 a month.

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

I pay 5,000 a month for a studio-type apartment.

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

a) Transportation

I generally walk everywhere or hitch a ride with a colleague so almost nothing.

b) Utility bills

I'm cutting down on using the a/c so 1,460 baht last month should go down to about 1,000 this month.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Now that one of my colleagues has moved to work in Bangkok, I'm back to eating healthier, which means less eating out. My food bill plus household stuff for the first two months came in at just over 10,000 baht.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife for me is mostly about eating out with friends so about 1,000 baht a month.this

e) Books, computers

Virtually nothing.

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

t's comfortable since I live in a good place where you don't need all that much money. I need to cut down on eating out, which I'm doing starting this month.

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

Food and rent. I can live in a cheaper place but this one is near the stadium and walking distance to the school. Also, I don't cook so I eat outside or do my groceries and eat salad at night. I'm pescetarian so you can eat seafood here and it's not expensive.

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

30,000 is comfy for a single person. You can find a cheaper rent but this is a sort of serviced apartment. They have facilities and they understand English. Every problem I've had has been solved- where to get my ball pumped, electric fan blade replacement, laundry with iron, doctor, etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

A fairly no-nonsense, no-frills survey but probably what you would expect from a 30,000 baht a month salary. It allows for an OK living outside of Bangkok provided that you don't spend much on accommodation and nightlife, etc. And Cha stays well within his budget on all the basics.


Allan

Working in Saudi Arabia

Monthly Earnings 223,000 baht

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

I teach in a vocational college in Saudi Arabia and I earn 6,700 US dollars, which is roughly 223,000 baht per month. I work one job, full-time which is more than enough. I've always believed a person should just find one job that pays well and enjoy their spare time free from the burden of work.

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

I save all of it due to living, housing and transport allowances that are more than enough. I do travel a lot though as I've exhausted what little tourism Saudi has to offer (it does exist if you enjoy archeology, desert camping, snorkeling or hiking). Worst case scenario, I would save 5,700 US dollars a month.

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

Nothing, the company pays an allowance and I pocket the difference, which last school year was an extra $320 a month. I'm looking at the same again this year, which gets me a 90 square meter, one-bedroom serviced apartment.

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

a) Transportation

Nothing as the company provides cars, drivers and minivans whenever needed

b) Utility bills

Nothing, it's included in my rent, as is hi-speed internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My only real expense but again I receive an allowance that I rarely spend all of

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nights out in Saudi are cheap if you can live without booze or drugs, which I do. An evening of pool once a week is about $10. Weekend coffee with a friend is about the same. But again, I receive a living allowance which more than covers these things.

e) Books, computers

I bought a MacBookPro a few years ago and it's still a fantastic laptop; I buy books about once a year when home in San Francisco in the summer, which I budget at $200. My wife and I split a Netflix account with two other friends, so that's about $3 a month. I did buy a PS4 this summer and imagine I'll be spending a few hundred dollars a year on games just for the hell of it.

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

My standard of living is on par with, and in some ways exceeds, the standard I had when I lived in the US. Being married, nothing can beat the feeling of knowing that I can provide for my wife and family today and in the future. Instead of worrying about money like so many teachers in Asia seem to do, we plan our finances and look forward to retiring in our early 50s.

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

Cars and gas are extremely cheap, as one would expect. Surprisingly, so is good quality food from around the region and the world. A trip to the grocery store is an absolute delight for a fruit and veg lover. Honestly, everything is as cheap here as anywhere else, the key is find a quality employer that will provide proper living allowances.

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

No one is here to 'survive'; everyone is here to make money. While I've seen jobs here going for as low as $3000 US, I wouldn't recommend working for less than $5000. An expat teacher, particularly an ESL teacher, needs to think like a mercenary = maximize your earnings with specialized, in-demand skills.

Phil's analysis and comment

"The key is to find a quality employer that will provide proper living allowances" 

Well, it certainly sounds like you've managed to do that Allan. This survey proves the point that if you are willing to put up with the 'hardships' that come with living and working in The Middle East, you can make some very serious money. 


As always, we would love to have your contribution to the cost of living section. But PLEASE don't send us just a list of figures. The figures need to be padded out with a few details. That's what really gets the readers' interest. If you would rather, you can always e-mail me the answers to the survey.


Jesse

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 56,000 baht

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

I earn about 56,000 baht working evenings and weekends.

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

I can and have saved an average of 36,000 baht per month for the past two years

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

I pay 6,400 baht a month for a large bachelorette apartment.

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

a) Transportation

My transportation costs might be a little higher than most since I teach at more than one branch of a well known language school. I'm known of as a nomadic teacher (my title). My commute time is longer too but the trade off is fewer classes, zero involvement in office politics at any particular center, loads more friends and a small transport stipend. Plus I've really learned the bus system well I avoid using taxis which would eat through my stipend all too quickly - unless I'm late!

b) Utility bills

Rent and utilities including internet and phone have always come in at under 7,000. I don't use air-con at home except maybe twice a year on the hottest days.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

6,000 baht. I'm a vegetarian but not a health nut or anything like that. I just don't like to eat meat. I usually go up to Makkro (a Costco like store) once a month and stock up for around 2,000 and buy fruit on sale at Big C. I'll also often eat a meal at a food court when I am out and exploring before my shift. Plus I do frequent 7-11 for the occasional goodies.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nada. I am not a drinker and since my shifts end at 9.00 pm most nights, I just wanna go home after work.

e) Books, computers

I did buy a Lenovo 700 Idea pad last year and amortized over my two year stretch in Thailand I guess that would be about 1,000 baht a month. As for books I am making a list for when I can go to a library in my home country again.

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

Very comfortable. I don't even feel that I scrimp to save what I do but I recognize that outside of Thailand costs are much higher and so I'm moving on after my two years are completed and heading to Saudi Arabia (this September). I always considered Thailand a place to get my feet wet in the ESL world but as a single female it never crossed my mind to stay here permanently. There is just not enough incentive to do so.

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

Food at most food courts - I'm a big fan of the 'jey' (vegetarian) places. Also I have developed a bit of a reputation for going to Mr. DIY. I love that place because it's got everything or almost and is relatively inexpensive. Also clothes are inexpensive but sometimes it is worth it to pay a little more for good quality stuff, though even that tends to be on sale.

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

See lengthy answer below

Phil's analysis and comment

Okay this is the big question and honestly I'd say at 56k baht a month, I'm have a lower-mid range salary. I don't know why anyone would go for less unless they are choosing to volunteer.

However, I think what should really be the concern is how much money does anyone need to save here in order to survive. Then you have a much more interesting question because I know of teachers who are earning 80k and up but who don't save a single baht. That is not a sustainable existance, especially when considering that working here is not likely to contribute to any kind of retirement pension. And I know that most teachers here are far from their retirement years but the earlier one can cultivate the saving habit, the better off they will be financially.

To go home after 3 or 5 or 7 years with nothing (no savings), that to me would be an epic fail. My plan next is to go to Saudi Arabia and essentially live off the cash I've saved here in Thailand for the next four years. That way I can save every riyal of my Saudi paycheques and who knows, in five or six years of doing that... I might be able to take a very early retirement.

Interesting survey that Jesse. When I started reading it, I thought Bloody Hell! the poor girl survives on 20,000 baht a month in Bangkok. But to be fair, it doesn't sound like you go without anything. 

I love your future plan. I'm sure four years in the dunes won't be a cakewalk, but it will all seem worthwhile when you're heading home with a great big sack of Saudi wonga.


James

Working in Udon Thani

Monthly Earnings 86,000 baht

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

I work at an international school and my take-home pay after tax is 86,000

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

40,000

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

I pay 7,000 baht for a one-bedroom condo with a swimming pool and gym.

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

a) Transportation

I have my own motorbike so about 400 baht per month for petrol.

b) Utility bills

I pay about 1,000 baht per month in electric bills + internet. My room is pretty cool and I am able to use the fan more than the air-conditioning.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend around 4,000-6,000 baht per month on eating out. I eat out once or twice per day and on the weekends, I will have a nice Western breakfast. Udon is pretty cheap when it comes to Western food and I love Thai food as well.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Around 2,500 baht a month - that is one or two really fun nights out with drinking and buying drinks for others. Beer is usually pretty cheap, 50 baht a small beer at most bars around the city so its easy to have a big night out and keep within your budget.

e) Books, computers

Question not answered

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

Udon Thani is a great place to live. There are some really good Western restaurants, cheap, great Thai food, nice housing, and the Thai people are very kind and gentle. It is also very convenient for a visa run to Vientiane as its only a 50 baht van ride from Central Shopping center. Overall I really enjoy Udon and have been able to save every month but not feel as if I am missing much from a big city like Bangkok or even Chiang Mai.

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

Thai food, Western food and alcohol.

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

35,000 baht a month. You can rent a room for 2,500 month and still have 1,000 baht a day for incidentals.

Phil's analysis and comment

Life must be good in Udon Thani if you're pulling in 86,000 a month and 35,000 would give you a comfortable standard of living. And of course you have the advantage of being able to nip into Laos whenever takes your fancy.  

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