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.
Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 13th September 2020฿31 to one US Dollar
Working in Bangkok
Monthly Earnings 50,000Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
My full-time salary from a private school is 47,000 and I make 3,000 a month teaching a private student once a week.Q2. How much money can you save each month?
I save around 15,000 each month.Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
Rent is 9,500 per month. I live in a 26 sqm condo that has a swimming pool, gym, sauna and a basketball court in the complex.Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
Around 500 baht per month, if not less. I usually walk to work as it's only around a 10-minute walk. Alternatively, I take a songteaw or if I'm running late, a motorcycle taxi.
Water and electricity costs me around 1,500 each month.
My job serves really good food - morning snacks, a variety of meals at lunch and if I truly can't have anything on offer, the salad bar is my friend. My monthly groceries total to around 2,000 and I usually eat takeouts on the weekends, which can cost up to 4,000.
I only go out once a month. Drinks are expensive here and on a typical night out I end up blowing 2,000 on drinks and maybe another 1,000 on entry fees and taxis.
I spend 500 on Netflix and 500 for the wifi connection in my condo. English books are pricey here and I usually get books to keep from people passing through.Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
My standard of living is great, but that is primarily due to the benefits of my job.Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?
The food is cheap and filling! It also tastes amazing.Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
It depends on your lifestyle, I live a pretty basic lifestyle where I'm not out partying all the time so I could "survive" on less, maybe 35,000.Phil's analysis and comment
I was going to say Lisa, you sound like someone who lives a 30K a month lifestyle and yet earns 50,000. You are living within your means and that's what it's all about.
Working in Bangkok
Monthly Earnings 38,000Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
My job income after tax is about 36,600 baht. I also have savings (made in the USA over the years) and other alternative (digital) investmentsQ2. How much money can you save each month?
- am not a materialist (don't buy stuff)
- don't care about other people's opinions
- am not much for night life (night clubs, rooftop bars, etc.)
- don't care about the high-life (been there, done that)
- don't travel much (but still go to pattaya, hua hin for bi-monthly trips)
- walk a lot
I can actually save at least 10,000 baht per month. If you have self-discipline and think smart, it is possible. Furthermore, I don't have kids and my Thai girlfriend is pretty low maintenance.
12,000 baht per month for a decent condo with a clothes washer, small kitchen, a/c, smart tv, internet included, utility bills included,a private little backyard and garden.Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
Under 2,000 baht per month (lots of walking, which is great for exercise purposes and economic benefits, etc.)
Included in the rent
8,000-10,000 baht per month. I don't ever cook home.
Computers purchased before arriving to Thailand
Since I am not a needy person I have a lot of Power. The more you need out of life and other people, the less power you have. I really don't need a "high" standard of living.
Food quality is important. If you are smart you can get quality on the street if you look for it (ex. quality barbecue chicken at good prices, stay away from the rice and noodles, target foods dense with protein content). Also, I don't smoke, drink or do any drugs.
When I visit Pattaya, etc. I take the bus for 120 baht vs a taxi for over 1,000 baht. I stay at decent hotels/resorts but nothing over the top. I am pretty simple, so a decent meal(s) on the weekend at a good restaurant is enough for me to be content. Materialism and "fancy" experiences do nothing for me. On Sundays, I walk to JJ market for exercise and kebabs.
Food is cheap. Walking is cheaper.
That depends on the individual. I can do just fine but I realize that I am different. However, I would say that my salary is the minimum requirement to get by on and have basic needs met and have a little entertainment money for a single "no strings attached" person.
It sounds like you really enjoy walking. Me too. It's just a shame that Bangkok must be one of the worst cities in the world to indulge in that pastime.
Working in HCMC, Vietnam
Monthly Earnings 160KQ1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
145K from full-time teaching and 15K from investment income.Q2. How much money can you save each month?
130k into a range of financial assets such as ETFs and crypto.Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
7.5K for an apartment (bed n bog with air-con) and it's just one kilometre from work in the heart of the city. Like-for-like accommodation is more expensive than Thailand, but the higher salaries offset this. I'm sure it's more aligned with Thailand in the provinces.Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
Zero. Bought a second hand rust-bucket bicycle for 1,000 baht and I cycle everywhere. Worth a mention that the Grab app is excellent and Grab taxis are cheap here.
Zero, because it's included in the rent. I run the air-con on 26 degrees pretty much constantly when I'm home.
I only eat out so never go to supermarkets. However, I mostly eat like the locals during the week so probably around 100 baht/evening. The school meal is free and I generally skip breakfast. I like a McDs breakfast on the weekend with the odd Indian thrown in for a treat. I'd say around 8,000 a month.
This used to be massive but now pretty much zero. However, I like massages on the weekends and I'd throw those into this bucket. So let's say 3,000. It should be noted that the nightlife is more sedated than Thailand. There's a chilled coffee-cafe scene here. It's kind of more laid back and more sabai - if that's even possible!
Zero. The 11k Acer laptop and 3k Samsung phone (bought on Lazada-Thailand in December 2017) are still going strong.Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
Excellent. I want for nothing. I normally have around 10,000 floating around to spend on whatever I want. If nothing presents itself, I just whack a wedge of bitcoin on the ledger.Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?
The food in Vietnam is great and possibly a shade cheaper than Thailand.Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
I reckon a cool 30,000 would see you alright. That would provide a basic lifestyle and no savings, but, hey, you'd survive.Phil's analysis and comment
Sounds like you're earning a great salary in a cheap place to live. That's a sure way to keep the bank balance healthy!
Could you even afford to splash out on a nicer bicycle?
Working in Bangkok
Monthly Earnings 400k + benefitsQ1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
This is a full time salary. I am the Principal of a good (but not top tier) international school in Bangkok. I am not allowed to take additional paid employment.Q2. How much money can you save each month?
At least 250k, most of which is invested in long term mutual funds to provide an income during retirement.Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
I live in a 2-bedroom 80 sqm condo next to Benjasiri park. Whilst the rent is paid directly by the school, it was advertised at 45k.Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
Whilst the school provides a car, I rarely make use of it (except for trips outside Bangkok). I prefer to rely on trains and taxis and probably spend up to 5k in a regular month.
3k per month usually covers the electricity, water and internet. The school provides me with an unlimited mobile phone package.
Whilst (fairly decent) food is provided free at school, I do like to visit good restaurants in the evenings and on weekends. This is therefore my biggest monthly expense at approximately 40k
Working as a Principal means that I have to be discreet. Parents have conservative views about what my social life should entail. The position also means that going to the pub after work with colleagues is awkward. Fortunately, I have friends in Bangkok who I met outside of teaching, so I'm not too lonely. In short, there is almost no spending in this category.
School provides me with a desktop in my office and a laptop to take home. There is also an excellent library that all staff can access free of charge. So, zero spending hereQ5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
Whilst I work long hours compared to classroom teachers, I have an excellent standard of living. My rule is that I will work Saturdays when required (from home). I always keep Sundays and most of the school holidays for myself. My salary means that it is always possible to go somewhere nice during the end of term breaks (well it was until Corona).Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?
Tax. In the UK about 30% of my income was taken at source. In Thailand I pay approximately 15%Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
If you have no interest in saving or covering unexpected expenses, then I think 50k would cover a reasonable life in Bangkok. I am lucky that my job provides me with the power to save for retirement (10 years away). As I own no property, and received no inheritance, old age would be a worry without my salary.
Side note - I submitted this survey as I find them really interesting reads, but I haven't seen one from a Principal / Head of an international school. These salaries vary wildly. The range that I am aware of is 200k (I was offered this by a small but good British school) to almost a million baht (a friend earns this amount leading one the most prestigious schools in Bangkok).
Thanks a million, Peter. This is the first ever cost of living survey from an international school head teacher and like many others I'm sure, I've always been interested in how much they earn, Now we know. 400K a month. Wow!. And that's not taking into account all those lovely benefits such as having your 45K rent paid and being provided with a car, etc.
What I found most interesting is how tricky it is to enjoy a drink after work. I completely understand where you are coming from though. We've all had those nights where one drink turns into two and two turns into six. You have to be discreet in your position. It wouldn't bother me personally because I'm not much of a drinker these days but I wonder if the school frowning on boozy nights out would be a deal breaker for some?
One thing's for sure, stashing away 250K a month, you've got a golden retirement ahead of you. It would be interesting to know what your plans are once you've turned your back on campus for good. Those long-term mutual funds are great investments! I only wish I had got into them sooner instead of taking terrible advice from a financial advisor here. My wife, who is far more knowledgeable about investments than me, puts all her spare cash into those funds. I always regret not listening to her advice years ago.
Working in Bangkok
Monthly Earnings 30,000 + 15,000 (from partner) = 45,000Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)
I receive 30,000 baht a month from a private language school here in Bangkok, located in one of the city's shopping malls. I also get 15,000 a month from my girlfriend who is lucky to have a higher paying job, so can share bills with me.
Disclaimer: I am a student here (from UK) doing an internship, finishing a degree related to teaching and at the start of my TEFL career.
Usually between 15,000-20,000Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?
I pay 10,000 a month for a condo that is within 5 minutes walking distance to the BTS.Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?
I spend 2,500 a month on transport. Although the condo is located next to the BTS, the language center isn’t. I usually have to get either a bus or a motorbike to the MRT. Then coming back, a motorbike from the MRT to the condo. It all adds up!
Usually between 600-1,000. That includes the electricity, wifi and water.
Food is usually between 9,000-10,000 a month. Certainly no big Western style restaurants at the salary I am currently receiving. Normally, it would be a big C type of food court or grabbing a few things from the local market nearby.
Very rarely. My budget doesn’t allow for this. If I was to make it a regular thing, a higher salary would be required.
I have a decent DELL computer (1-2 years old) and a recently brought an Ipad air. You can download pretty much anything for free nowadays.Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?
It's OK, if I was comparing myself to a Thai person. I live in a decent condo, I take motorbikes/MRT to work, I eat better food then some. However to really enjoy myself here and not to feel restricted I need a higher salary and unfortunately, due to my internship, I do feel pretty trapped.
Although I do save a slight amount, this money is for both myself and my girlfriend for the future, so I have to be mindful and not ‘dip’ into it.
The price of food can be cheap and also inter-provincial travel. For example, I can get to Samut Sakhon for just 22 baht on a local air-con bus.Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?
I have always said you need at least 50,000. My 30,000 baht salary is pretty low for a native speaker with teaching experience. It’s certainly not a salary I want to be living on for too long.
Luckily, in a few months I will have been here for one year and I’ll be asking for a pay-rise. If I don’t get it, I’ll go elsewhere.
The future? I’ll be going back to the UK, getting a PGCE and getting a decent, serious paying job, hopefully at a private or international school in Bangkok. It sure beats running around at a language center for 30,000 a month.
Thanks Jamie. You're almost living the life of the 90's language school teacher - 30,000 baht a month and a third of it going on accommodation. In the 90's it was doable because there was far less to spend your money on and Bangkok was a much cheaper place to live anyway. But times have changed, and as you say, 50,000 is a much more realistic target.
Not to worry though. You seem focused on your goals and the only way is up! I'm sure better times are not too far away.