Living On Less Than A Million Baht A Year
I would tend to agree with a lot of the points in your article about monthly expenses in Bangkok. Since you asked for opinions here are my thoughts:
After paying rent and bills I give myself a budget of 37,000 baht for the month, but this sum also covers taxi fares and groceries. How did I end up at this number? Well, I give myself 1,000 baht per day across 31 days, plus I add a ‘buffer’ of 6,000 baht for the month (or 1,500 / week). I end up having a little bit more in February and the 30 day months, but I’d rather budget a bit more than a bit less! Like most people I have cheap days and expensive days; I may spend just a few hundred baht on a quiet week day, but then splash out several thousand on a big Saturday night out, or on a meal in a nice restaurant.
I like to enjoy life, but I’m no spendthrift, and I find that the 37 K gives me a reasonable, if hardly luxurious standard of living, but this suits me OK. This amount covers my ‘living expenses’, the remaining part of my income after rent and bills goes into my savings, foreign trips and the occasional big purchase (such as a camera or iPod etc.).
If you’re a long term resident in Bangkok I think it’s important to have a nice place to call home, and by that I mean somewhere comfortable and relaxed that can act as a refuge from the urban sensory overload. <I VERY much agree – Stick> Much as I enjoy living here, Bangkok can be rather overwhelming at times, and it’s good to have a place to retreat to. To me, this means a modern, secure and well maintained building with good facilities, and not located in a far flung location. Internet and Cable TV are a must (have to get my fix of the Premiership!), and I personally appreciate a good size pool and gym as I like to keep in shape but can’t abide those loathsome California Wow places. For this I pay a little less than 20 K a month, which I think is about the point where you can start to get some good options. I could, of course, pay a bit more for a bigger or better apartment, but this would mean cutting back somewhere else and I believe I’ve found an acceptable balance between having a reasonable place to live and enough cash to enjoy myself.
In my experience, a centrally located apartment for less than 15 K a month will involve a compromise on facilities or maintenance or security, factors which may not be a big priority for some, but are important to me. I think if you want something half-way decent that isn't off the beaten track then 15,000 is the minimum you can expect to pay.
When I first lived here I had less money available and was content to eat street food every day for 25 baht and take the five baht songthaew to work like many of my Thai colleagues. Living like this can be very economical, but I think you can only do that for a limited time. After a while you notice the poor quality of the raw ingredients in the food and the age of the frying oil and the proximity of the smoke belching bus to the stall and you realize that you owe it to yourself to eat healthier. Nowadays I’ll spend 80 – 200 baht on lunch knowing that it means a higher chance of fresh meat and vegetables and a lower chance of gristle or bones (or chicken feet). Street food is now just a once in a while treat. I also notice that I cook at home a lot more and I suspect keeping control of what goes into my food is a factor in this. So food has become a significant part of my monthly budget, and I'm prepared to spend more to get a better quality.
I agree that Bangkok is no longer the cheap location it once may have been. I really noticed how expensive it has become on a recent business trip to the U.S. I was amazed to note that prices for nearly everything from petrol to groceries, hotels, clothes and consumer electronics were the same or in some cases cheaper in the States. With the current exchange rate, a pint of beer in an expat pub in Bangkok can set you back 150 baht which is nearly three pounds – that’s more than you’d pay in some pubs in the UK. And we’re talking about Tiger and Singha, not Guinness or a fancy Belgian lager. Imported food products like cheese are absurdly expensive in Bangkok.
Having said that, the three things that have remained comparatively cheap are rent, taxis and food (if you buy local produce) and these things can add up to a significant chunk of your monthly expenses. And so, overall, I would say that Bangkok is still, in some respects, a good value place to live, if not the bargain it used to be.
Adding together my rent, bills and monthly living expense budget I would estimate that I spend somewhere between 60,000 – 65,000 baht per month. I’m sure that I could survive on a lower budget, but I wouldn’t want to. Different people have different priorities, and obviously a lot of Thais manage on considerably less, but I would say that a Westerner would need to spend at least 50,000 baht / month in order to have a reasonably comfortable standard of life in Bangkok. As an example, this could break down as;
· 15,000 baht rent
· 5,000 baht bills (utilities, phone, TV, internet)
· 30,000 baht living expenses (includes transport, groceries, entertainment etc.)
This sum doesn’t include savings or flights home etc. which would tend to imply that 50 K is not really a sufficient monthly income for an expat in Bangkok. As I said, everyone has different needs but it amazes me that there are Westerners prepared to stay long term on an income of 35,000 or 40,000 / month – any potential advantage of living over here in Thailand would, in my view, be negated by constantly having to economize.
You are I are very much on the same wavelength, have the same ideas about life here and spend about the same amount. Needless to say, I can relate entirely to everything you say.