Money Infant

Baby Steps to Financial Freedom

Our Bangkok Budget

At last the much hyped and long awaited Bangkok budget! Keep in mind that this budget is for 2 adults and a 2 year old living in what is considered one of the better areas of Bangkok. If you are single or willing to cut back on food and conveniences you can probably get by on less than we are currently. You can also get by on less in other areas of Thailand such as Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya or virtually any of the islands (Phuket excepted). In fact, we are currently planning on moving out of Bangkok ourselves to cut back a bit on expenses. So, consider this an interim budget and look for an updated version sometime in July. You didn’t really think this would be the end of our Thailand expenses did you?

The budget below is set forth in Thai baht so if you want to convert to your local currency you can do so here. Those of you in the US can use a conversion of 30.57THB/1USD as this was what I received on my last wire transfer. Current mid market rate as I write this is 30.795THB/1USD. Keep us in mind and let’s hope for continuing strength in the US Dollar (or weakness in the Thai baht) as it provides us with a raise :)

Please note that the budget does not include costs for health insurance, child support and student loan payments as those are all handled out of my US accounts. Those 3 items add $800/mo to our expenses. I typically do a wire transfer to cover 6 months of our expenses here in Thailand and then top up the US account to provide the next 6 months worth. Savings and investments are held in the US, although we have been putting a bit aside here to test the waters of the Thai stock market. More to come on that in future months. This is a very basic expenses only budget and is quite fixed. By that I mean we stick to an exact amount each month and do not go over. If we come in under that money goes into a slush fund that can be used for whatever we wish (so far it’s been travel).

Last, but not least, please feel free to compare our costs with what it costs to live like a king in Bangkok. As you can see we’re not quite there yet.

Category Expense Comments
Rent 28,000 Quite high, lg apartment, good area
Food 19,000 Quite high, been cutting back
Internet 1512 12Mb up/1Mb down. Pretty speedy and necessary
Cable 1583 May drop, not much use (20 hours/mo)
Childcare 7000 May drop when we move, its a good deal though
Electric 5200 Quite high. Too much air conditioning
Water 500 Set amount added to rent
Phone 234 2 landlines, one voice and one DSL
Medical 1000 Emergency fund
Blow Money 18,000 Quite high. See below.

As you can see we are a bit high on quite a few expenses and can make cuts (especially if we get out of Bangkok). Our apartment is expensive, although when you consider the neighborhood and size (193 sqm) it is actually cheap. Similar places in our neighborhood rent for 2-3x this amount.

Food is another contentious area. Honestly we’ve been slowly cutting back on this. When we arrived we were spending more like 26,000/mo on food so progress is being made. In all honesty we should be able to cut this to 15,000/mo or less.

Internet, cable and water are pretty standard fare although we are considering dropping the cable. We watch maybe 2-3 movies a month and I watch CNBC maybe 30 minutes a day. Electric is quite high, but that is due to air conditioner usage. Really I’m not sure how to cut this one as we usually only have the air con running in one bedroom to sleep at night. It’s probable that with a smaller place our electric costs will also drop. It will bear watching in the July update.

Childcare is definitely a luxury expense that can be dropped, but it works well for us now. In addition to caring for our daughter the nanny also does ironing and cooks both breakfast and lunch. In the realm of trading money for time its a very good deal. Add to that the fact that if she wasn’t here we would probably buy food from outside for lunch and net/net its a damn good deal. Medical is an emergency fund that is nearly fully funded so that expense can drop, although we also pay for insurance from our account in the States.

Blow money is also very high, but we use that money for all sorts of miscellaneous expenses. Restaurants, taxi’s, BTS/MRT passes, beer and cigarettes, toys for baby, clothing purchases and pretty much anything else that isn’t in the budget comes out of the blow money. Even so, I usually have 1-2000 left at the end of the month that goes into the slush fund. We also put aside any 50 baht notes we get to add to the slush fund. This usually adds up to 500-1000 per month.

So, there you have it. In total, for a family of 3 we are spending 82,029THB per month to live in the capital of Thailand. Even for a family, this number can be cut back quite drastically and if we wanted to live a more spartan existence I would say we could get by on 45,000THB per month.

What do you all think? Are we living the life of Riley here in Bangkok? If it was you where would you cut back on expenses? Or, where would you be spending more? And how does this compare with your expenses in the West?

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40 Responses to “Our Bangkok Budget”

  1. Karunesh @ says:

    This is as expensive as US (correct me if I am wrong). Since you are living with your family I think you are doing just fine. If you would have been living alone I would have suggested somewhat cheaper place to live but since you have a 2 year old kid I think its OK.

    • I think it depends on where you live in the US. It is as expensive as less developed areas, but much cheaper than most urban areas (in my experience).

  2. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals says:

    I am surprised at your rent to food ratio; my family spends about $3 on rent for every $1 we spend on housing.

    I felt like I was reading about an episode of House Hunters International here!

    • $3 on “food” for every dollar on housing? If so that seems excessive to me. If the other way around it could still be excessive. I think the rent to food ratio is similar to what we were spending in the US.

  3. Mike says:

    We spend 50,000 THB in southern Thailand. Me, wife, 2 year old, and mother in law. We have car, motorbike, townhouse, maid, and eat out a lot. Not a bad life… Oh, except our maid does literally nothing but show up. lol. hahah

  4. Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple says:

    If my math is correct, that works out to $2663/mo is which is actually really good considering you’ve got some emergency savings and fun money in there.

    Like you said, grocery is high but you’re working on that. It’s a struggle for us too :)

    If this budget lets you put money away from retirement too, then I’d say you’re doing alright!

    • Retirement savings are currently in hiatus until we increase income somewhat. Small setback and well worth it in my opinion. I don’t really plan on retiring anyway…not as long as I can find something I enjoy doing that also makes money.

  5. Sam says:

    Seems pretty good to me!

    How did you score rent that is 50%+ cheaper than comparables? That seems to be the big delta factor. 190 sqm apartment is large!

    $3,000 US a month seems cheap. Good life yeah? What is the per capita GDP in BK nowadays?


    • We got damn lucky on the apartment. It’s an older building in an upscale neighborhood and yeah we love the space! Compared to SF I would say $3000/mo is very cheap and not a bad life. Could use another $500 or so for eating out, but overall not bad. Not sure what the median income for Bangkok is, but for the country it is $400/mo.

  6. MoneySmartGuides says:

    THe budget looks good to me as well. Where do you think you will go when you move from Bangkok?

    • We’re leaning heavily towards Chiang Mai at the moment and by “we” I mean my wife is :) If it were totally my decision we would head south to the islands and beaches.

  7. retirebyforty says:

    The budget looks pretty good. The food seems high to me, what are you guys eating? :) This is not counting restaurants right? Do you guys cook at home? I need to go visit and see how much food cost. It’s been a few years.
    Your nanny cost is pretty awesome. I would love to pay that much and have time back.

    • Actually the food budget does include most restaurants. Occasionally we will use our own blow money if one of us wants to go out and the other doesn’t agree, but 90% of the time meals out come from the food budget. And 90% of the time we are eating Thai. Breakfast and lunch is cooked at home (usually) and dinner is cooked maybe twice a week. Most nights we have something from outside, but almost always Thai so dinner is rarely more than 150-200 baht. If you haven’t been here for some time you might be shocked at the food prices. Typical street vendor stuff that used to be 25-30 baht is now 35-40 baht. Limes are up to 12 baht. Mango in season now are 40 baht each. Which is insane because back at my in-laws place we have to dodge the mango falling from the trees.

      The nanny cost is awesome and the nanny is pretty amazing too. Not only does she take great care of our little girl, but she’s also a great cook and a very hard worker. It did take us some 8 months and 3 fails before we found her though.

      • retirebyforty says:

        I know eating out in Thailand is much more affordable than in the US and we probably would be eating out often too if we live in BKK. It sounds like inflation is very high there so that’s the bad thing.
        Do you keep your saving in the US? You can get much better interest in Thailand right?

  8. MyCanadianFinances says:

    That does not seem bad at all. And fun money is a necessity in my books.

  9. CultOfMoney says:

    It seems that overall you’re living fairly well on not a lot of income. That’s always fantastic when you can do that. It does seem that you have a pretty hefty “slush fund” though. I don’t think I could get away with a misc spending category as large as my food. But I spend a lot on food. Thanks for posting this, it really is interesting to see the comparison.

    • The misc category covers a lot of things though as I pointed out. I could break them out into their own categories, but I try not to have too many lines items in the budget as it begins to become unwieldy (for me). It would also be a good place to start cutting if need be since most of the spending in that category is unnecessary.

  10. Michelle says:

    Childcare sounds really affordable! One child, right? Still much better than here if that’s full-time.

    • Any type of labor is really affordable here. Yes it is one child, but the cost would be the same if it were two and only marginally higher (maybe $30-40/mo) if it was 3. It isn’t full time, but it is 30 hours a week. By Thai working standards that isn’t even close to full time since most nannies/housekeepers here work 10 hours a day and 6 days a week. Full time help would be 14,000THB/mo or roughly $463/mo :) Probably cheaper than daycare for one child in most places.

  11. Modest Money says:

    I should move to somewhere like Thailand just for a cheap nanny. I don’t have kids or anything, but it would sure be nice to have someone cook and clean for a low price. How does it work for her meals? Does she make enough for herself too? Or does she do her own meals separate?

    It will be interesting to see how these expenses drop when you move. You can probably save money in a lot of these areas.

    • Yeah she makes enough for herself too. She cooks almost exclusively Thai, although she has surprised me by making sushi once as well as tempura and tonkatsu. She worked for a Japanese family for a long time and her Japanese food skills are pretty amazing, almost as good as her Thai cooking which is some of the best I have had here.

      • Modest Money says:

        Damn, that’s 2 of my favorite foods. A low priced nanny that can cook awesome thai and japanese sounds too good to be true.

  12. Nick says:

    Yeah, not bad at all! $3,000 per month barely gets you rent in my neck of the woods…

  13. Dividend Mantra says:

    Seems good! I have been contemplating moving to Thailand or the Philippines once I have enough passive income to live off of.

    Now, I currently live on ~$1,200 a mo. in the U.S. living fairly frugally. If you live fairly frugally in Thailand in a cheaper area (say some of the smaller islands, or even CM), would a $800/mo budget seem accurate?

    Best wishes!

    • If you are living on $1200/mo in the US then I am certain you could get by with $800/mo in the more rural areas of Thailand. Yes, possibly even CM.

  14. minimalist says:

    Wow, that seems high for a developing country. My girlfriend and I spend $2000 a month to live in Washington, DC with a mostly organic diet and 2 cars. We don’t have kids or a nanny/maid though.

    • Well I think your name says it all minimalist :)

      We could certainly cut back on rent by not living in the Central Business District and could cut back on the food budget by eating strictly Thai foods. Sometimes you just gotta have a pizza, some cheese or a nice juicy steak though!

  15. David Cooke says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I come to 64 000 Baht without health insurance (paid for by your employer?)and blow fund. After you have been there for a bit you will either begin to hate it or you will love it. Believe me, 28 000 is a high rent, you can get a nice house for less than that, not in the center of course, if you look around and talk to Thais you will find something. The Chinese and Thais generally prefer to rent to ‘Farangs’ because they look after the property. Food: yes difficult if you are addicted to Western food, but you can really cut down here, 5 – 6000 a month + baby food should be possible.
    I live very happily with my wife and child on 45 000 a month way out in the sticks, but then again I don’t have to work.

    • I come to 64k without the health insurance and blow fund as well, so out in the sticks might not be as cheap as you think. And for where we live (near Phrom Phong BTS) 28k is actually considered quite reasonable. I don’t think I could do 6k a month for food by myself, let alone for my wife and I both. Here’s an example…we had lunch today at a Thai food court. Khao pad for the wife, khao klook ka-pi for me and moo pad ka-pi to split. Plus 2 iced coffees and a box of Milo for the baby. Grand total…305 baht. Thai food in a Thai food court (there wasn’t a single farang to be seen besides me amongst over 100 people) and still hit nearly 300 baht for lunch.

  16. David Cooke says:

    yes I know, I am not reproaching your life style. Bangkok is not Thailand, although you might think so when reading some comments. Before I met my wife ( who is reading as I write), her income was around 30 000 a year, once a year, when she sold her rice. Yes indeedy. On the farm she has vegetables, eggs, chicken, fish, tropical fruit trying to kill her as it falls from the trees. The family is nearby so when they have too much rat fricasee or cricket hors d’ouevres they bring it over, nobody starves. When I was there the dogs ate well, I can tell you!
    I am merely trying to add something to the equation: somewhere in the incredible gap between 30 000 a year and ? 1 000 000 a year there must be a middle way, no? I spent 1200 for a (very nice) meal for two on Sukhumvit. A single person in our village would be happy to live with that for one month.
    If you decide to stay, because you like it, you should be able to cut your living costs dramatically, talk to a few Thais, look around, don’t look in the Bangkok Post for an apartment.. I never had a problem with 40 Baht street food, maybe the absence of Farangs from the food court was due to a good reason?

    • No, Bangkok is not Thailand. There are many differences just as there are many differences between New York City and most of the rest of the U.S.

      Regarding the cost of living for Thais I will just remind you that there have been quite a few protests (and even a coup or two) over the past decade because of people trying to improve their lifestyle. Seems the happy poor are not really that happy.

  17. RichUncle EL says:

    Very interesting to see somebody elses budget and on top of that an international budget. 2700 seems to work for you and your family and obviously your income exceeds this as you have blow money left over. After all my expenses my families monthly figure is about $3700 give or take. So def. I can see that your expenses are better than mine. I rent and I live in the NY Tri state area.

  18. anncooke says:

    yes the true not so much if if u stay in thailand ask some thai people not belive wife who want only money

  19. funancials says:

    I was geeking out when I saw 18000 for “blow” money. I was wondering how cocaine could fit so cleanly in someone’s budget.

  20. Andrew McArthur says:

    I am dating a lovely Thai lady who works as a planner for the Government on the outskirts of Grung Thep. She seems to have a fairly important job visiting villages and producing reports on their needs to plan future budgets. She has her Masters from the Government university.

    The reason I mention this is that she earns 17500 Thb each month. Is that a good income in Thailand in your experience? If I work here as a teacher I may earn 30000 per month. I dont know how she survives on her income and I am not sure we would be very comfortable on our joint incomes.

    Just wanted to throw that into the mix. Life for single Thai girls here particularly can be very difficult.

    I would like your opinion on how you think we would cope particularly as she has sons.

    • 17,500THB is not unusual for a mid level government job. The same type of job in the private sector might pay twice as much. Many Thais keep government positions for the same reason those in the West keep government positions; the benefits outweigh the lower salaries. Actually this is especially true here in Thailand where health insurance and retirement plans are still the exception rather than the rule in the private sector.

      My guess is that on a combined income of 47,500 in Bangkok (even the outskirts) you would be able to survive, but how comfortable you might be is another question, and one that only you can answer. At that income you would likely be eating an almost exclusively Thai diet and foregoing many of the things that you might take for granted in your home country. I think it is certainly possible, but its not an income level that will lead to many luxuries, entertainment or savings. On the bright side, once you have some experience teaching you should be able to increase your salary from teaching, possibly be quite a considerable amount. To be honest I don’t know any teachers here in Bangkok making only 30k/mo. Most are making 2-4 times that amount (International schools, not language institute or Thai school teaching).

  21. Andrew Mc says:

    Thank you Steve, it is encouraging to know that I should be able to improve my income as a teacher here. There is not much that I would miss about western quisine and I love Thai food (even have green curry at KFC) (her sons enjoy going there what can I say!).

    There is certainly little to encourage me to remain in the UK.

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