My Cost of Living on 20K

It's been over a year since I wrote my cost of living on 37K, and obviously as a private teacher my schedule went through some ups and downs since my first cost of living post. It's about time for an update, so you can see what life might be like on the other side of the coin. Here's my cost of living making around ฿20,000 a month in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

This is definitely not one month's salary!

Note that in my last post, I was lucky enough to be working at a kindergarten that paid me ฿19,200 a month, which is an excellent part-time salary by Chiang Mai standards. That job finished ages ago, as well as the lovely Turkish students I was teaching almost every day. It has been difficult to replace that kind of regular income, as so much private teaching is on a course-by-course basis, which means you say goodbye to your students at the end of their 20 hour or 40 hour course - as well as goodbye to your regular paycheck. On the other hand, regular work can be found - it just requires a little more digging, which a lot of people don't want to keep doing every few weeks to keep their income reasonable.

I recently heard a story about a co-worker of a friend. This man comes from a non-native English speaking country, and has been teaching in Chiang Mai for the last 6 or so years. He makes around ฿100,000 a month ($3200). Hard to believe, isn't it? Well, that's what I thought, at least. So to try and figure out how a full-time teacher making a 30k salary at a government school manages to make more than anyone I know teaching in Thailand, I poked around a bit. And the answer is: private teaching! (Although, he is doing more private teaching than I've ever done.) He is literally working in all of his spare time, and perhaps he has a reason to do so, but I don't (except to try and save some money) so I make substantially less than that.

My work schedule is a bit complicated, yes, but I enjoy it, much more so than a full-time school environment where I'd just end up staring out the windows and daydreaming. I've dropped one language school due to being rather busy with the first one, and I've also taken more time off to focus on my writing. I have one student who takes Business English classes with me from Mondays to Thursdays during his break, who pays me quite well, as well as two teenagers who I teach on a Sunday. I also tend to take any job that comes my way from my language school - all these gigs put together are enough for me to survive on for now. My cost of living is still the same as it has been since I first moved to Chiang Mai, so the only setback is that I'm saving less money by working less.

As usual, everything's in Thai Baht, and my cost of living is half the full price because I'm half of a couple:

Cost of Living in Chiang Mai
Bills:50 for water
600 - 800 for electricity (in the recent months we have been using the AC a lot more)
250 for internet
Eating out:Street food or dinners from our local place add up to about 100 a week 
Eating out at restaurants on the weekend cost anywhere between 500 - 700 a week (this has also gone up as we are in love with more places now!)
Groceries:100 - 150 a week at our local fresh market 
200 a week at supermarkets
Entertainment:1,000 or more a week goes on drinks with friends, movies or other fun activities. This still seems quite expensive, doesn't it?
Petrol:260 a week
Airtime:90 a month. I use my phone quite rarely - most of my communication or plan-making is done online.
Laundry:20 - 40 a week
Other:500 - 1,000 a month for picking up a bottle of vitamins, going to the dentist, or taking the a yoga class now and then.
Monthly total:12,000 minimum - 14,000 maximum (about the same as my last post)

My various teaching jobs in Chiang Mai
KindergartenJob: 3 hours a week, twice a week
Pay: 275 an hour
Total: 3,300 a month
Language School #1

Private lessons at same language school
Hours: a few days out of a month, various teaching jobs, like substituting, judging competitions or debates, and English camps
Pay: 300 - 400 an hour
Total: about 4,000 a month

Hours: 3 hours a week, twice a week
Pay: 260 an hour
Total: 3,120 a month
Private student #1Hours: 1,5 hours a day, Monday to Thursday
Pay: 300 an hour
Total: 7,200 a month (however, this student has an erratic schedule and cancels a few times a month, so this ends up being more like 6,300)
Private students #2Hours: normally 2 hours on a Sunday, but sometimes more
Pay: 300 an hour
Total: 2,400 - 3,000 a month
English CampsHours: infrequent, as they are hard to fit into busy schedules. One camp could last anywhere from a few days to a week or more.
Pay: 1,000 a day, as well as paid transport there and back, accommodation, and food.
Total: depends
Monthly total:19,120 - 20,620 (not including English Camps)

As always, here are way too many photos of my students:

I love this photo of the little girl on the right trying to copy a smile.
"Here's how you do it!"
"No! THIS is how you do it!" Haha.
Way too excited!
I love this kid! His name is Up and he's always grinning like this!
Looknai giving me the "shy pose".
The girl in the middle, Mook-da, is extremely naughty!
Sweet little K1's.
"Guys, how about we drag him around by his limbs for a while? Who's in?"
Lovely K3's: Yodfon, Bam Bam, Mymeen and Oom Im.
Ice and Ice 2 showing off for the camera.
Sweetheart Cartoon.
Ice 2 getting creative with Cartoon!
These two are so naughty! But they look quite sweet now, don't they?
A beautiful project completed by my K3's.
Ice looking guilty after he'd poured my gold glitter all over himself.
A beautiful smile from Tonnam.
These are the two 16-year-olds I teach on Sundays. They are lovely and well-mannered (as you can see!)
Joking around.
This is a kid with baby powder on his face from a game we played at an English Camp. He cracked me up so much!
Some kids doing a dance at an English Camp.
Me with one of the older girls at an English Camp.
Me with another student at an English Camp.
Some poor students waiting to be judged during a speech competition.
A young half-Thai, half-South African girl. She had a great speech all about growing up in SA!
The finalists reciting their speeches for the last time.
A statue at a high school (you guessed it - it's not a Buddhist school).
High school kids munching their lunch.
Another statue at the high school.
A judging sheet I filled in for this particular competition. They are usually a bit strange...
Here's a young Chinese girl I taught for a while. She was very shy, but ended up babbling a lot in English by the end!
Both my Chinese students who I taught for a while. I got this job through an online advert in Chiang Mai.
A funny note from a kid at a school where I substituted for a few days.
Another note. At least they are using English!
A group of young talents at a high school in Chiang Mai.
The kid on the right's nickname was 'Obama'!
My judging table at another speech competition.
Some of the students from a temple school after they had recited their speeches.
The lunch buffet at the competition. Yum!
The winning team from Wichai Wittalaya School. Although, all these kids were half-foreign so it was a bit unfair...
What do you think is a fair wage in Chiang Mai for English teachers? What costs you the most money in Chiang Mai - is it buying things, going out for drinks, or just eating out at expensive restaraunts? Do you think it's possible to save money while teaching English in Thailand? Leave me comments below!


  1. Really encouraged that one can teach a range of children as I enjoy that a lot. These kids look so happy.

  2. Those kids are SO CUTE! They make me want to teach in Thailand. But all I've ever heard is how hard it is to save money there, so that would be my biggest worry.

  3. I don't think that's enough money to live on in Chiang Mai nowadays! I go out every weekend and spend at least a few thousand baht. But then again I loose my senses when I drink lol. There are just too many places to have a great time now, but i think it use to be cheaper from what people told me.

  4. Was reading your entry on Rabeang Treehouse and I chanced upon this. Very inspiring considering I've been thinking of venturing overseas to gain new teaching experiences. Thank you!