So doing my taxes, I realized how much money I actually made teaching in Thailand for 2012…it’s laughable. Ready?
$6,000 After I had a minor freak out (I made more money when I was a teenager!) I took a step back to look at how I could still be so comfortable after making such a low amount. First of all, a couple notes about salaries for teaching in Thailand and why I made so little.
You don’t get much. Obviously. Out of the Asian countries, foreign teachers’ salaries in Thailand are some of the lowest. Within Thailand, Chiang Mai schools tend to pay the least (Why? There are a ton of schools and jobs here, but there are also a ton of Westerners looking to fill those positions and overall the cost of living here is very low), so just starting out, I wasn’t in the best place to make the big bucks. On top of all that, when I was teaching full time, I was at a school that paid the least amount possible…so…yeah. I would say the average monthly salary for teaching full time in the north is between 27,000 – 30,000 baht or about $900-1,000. (30 baht roughly equals $1.oo.) I know several people in positions that are making 35,000 – 40,000 baht which is very good and more than you need to live here. I was making 23,000 baht a month working about 45 hours a week at a high school and then trying to supplement that by teaching lessons at a language school in the evenings and on the weekends. The Thai school calendar is completely different from the Western calendar and ‘summer’ break is from March-May, so I only had this salary for two months of 2012. During that break I visited home and then came back to Thailand looking to piece together work instead working in one place full time. Essentially I didn’t really teach and make any money for almost two months. After that I picked up regular lessons at the language school, as well as a primary school and daycare, while also having a couple private students on the side. Doing this I was able to make close to 30,000 a month – and without being stuck in the same place for 40+ hours a week! I kept this up through the beginning of October then gave up teaching. In the end, that $6,000 came from about nine months of working. Slightly better than thinking it was over an entire year, but still… So, how can I survive? How much does it cost to live in Thailand? First of all I can be a little
stingy frugal at times – I actually even managed to save about $2,000 from September 2011 – October 2012 while not even making $1,000 a month. But the main reason is that living in Thailand is very, very cheap. (For comparison, while I was on the low end of the foreign teacher’s salary with 23,000 baht, many of the Thai teachers at my school were supposedly making around 8,000 a month. That’s a whole other issue, but the point is, I was doing just fine.)
Below is a basic breakdown of my monthly living expenses.
- Rent: 4,000 baht (living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen with cable and wi-fi included)
- Utilities: 200 baht (water and electricity)
- Phone: 300 baht (I have a basic, no frills cell phone that I mainly use as an alarm and calculator. I bought the phone and SIM card when I first came then just buy minutes every few weeks.)
- Gas: 300 – 500 baht (it costs about $3.50 to completely fill the tank of my Honda Wave motorbike)
- Laundry: 300 baht (I get my laundry done for me about every week and a half, 30B/kg for wash, dry, fold and iron)
- Food: about 4,000 baht
- Snacks: about 500 baht (I don’t really need that banana-filled, fried rotee with sweetened condensed milk…but it does make my stay here sweeter)
- Drinks: about 1,500 (the coffee and alcohol add up, especially compared to the full meals you can get on the street for about $1)
- Toiletries: 200 baht (toilet paper, shampoo, etc.)
- Entertainment/shopping: 1,000 baht (I’m not a big shopper, massages are about $5-7, and most of my other entertainment was usually free – or close to it – plus the cost of drinks or something, i.e. open mic nights, going for a Sundy drive, etc.)
- Miscellaneous: let’s say 2,000 – 2,500 baht to be on the safe side (Obviously this varies, but I think this would be generous estimate. Medicine is fairly cheap and accessible, it costs me $3 to fix a flat tire – which I get every couple of months – and even going to the dentist for a cleaning is only around $60)
TOTAL: 15,000 baht or $500. Say that was my average cost of living for the entire year and the total would come to $6,000 – what I actually made. Of course, I did spend a little more than this. The outline above doesn’t include visa fees, trips (including a plane tickets halfway around the world), rental deposits, letting loose a little when visitors were in town or motorbike payments. BUT living here for 15,000 baht per month is completely doable, and isn’t even too difficult. While I was (am) very careful and aware about my money, I wasn’t depriving myself by any means. I tended to cook or eat street food, limiting little ‘splurges’ at a restaurant or good coffee shop to once or twice a week and I didn’t go shopping buying new clothes or much for my living space.
I lived completely comfortably, both by Thai and Western standards – I got my laundry done for me! I could get a house cleaner! Crazy. So there you have it – the basic breakdown of what it could cost to live in Thailand. Of course, what it actually costs is up to you, your tastes and spending habits. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing more posts on how to save and spend money in the Land of Smiles. To make sure you don’t miss them, please subscribe to my RSS feed here. Have questions? Ask me in the comments below or on Twitter.