Category Archives: Budget

ESL Life: Can you save money in Thailand?

2018-06-06 11.50.40

I once heard a story while teaching in Korea about a teacher whose only prior teaching experience was in Thailand. His school in Korea paid him less because of it. Like, less than if he had never taught before. In the immortal words of Fred Willard, “Wha?” What were Thai schools like, I wondered?

I only have one school to base it on, and indeed the kids are naughtier and the classes are bigger. There’s also more paperwork and teaching kindy is added to the list of weekly grief, but it’s pretty much the same job.

The perks here in Lopburi aren’t much. There’s the ubiquitous school lunch, but no severance and flights aren’t paid for. Thailand indeed has a low cost of living, but it’s not any less than Myanmar and Vietnam and those countries pay close to double what Thailand does. Myanmar and Vietnam also feature pretty much everything that Thailand does–street food, night markets, beaches, historic ruins, etc.

So the question is why would anyone teach in Thailand?

I’m not sure. But that’s not really what the question is. If you choose Thailand over other Asian countries, the question is: can you save money? Secondly, assuming yes, how much can you save?



This varies. You can make more in Bangkok but obviously expenses are higher and there is more to spend your money on.

English & I

  • 32000 first two months
  • 37,500 after that.
  • around +4000 more/month for Afterschool Classes

So after two months, assuming you’re teaching two after school classes a week, it’s total of 1260 USD per month, teaching 6 or 7 classes a day. It’s half of what you’d make in Korea or Japan, but they have higher costs of living. It’s also half of what you’d make in Myanmar or Vietnam, which have similar low prices and similar perks.

Is it enough to save? Well here’s a look at my expenses.

Some Random Daily Expenses

  • Water (refill station) 1 baht per liter
  • Water (7-11) 13 baht for 1.5 liters
  • Americano 45 baht
  • Bag of Fruit 30 baht
  • Songthaw Ride 8 baht
  • Grilled Bananas 20 baht
  • Laundry 30 baht
  • Bag of snap peas 20 baht

Monthly Expenses

  • Rent     5000 baht / 150 USD
  • Bills     2500 (ish) baht / 75 USD
  • Phone 500 baht / 15 USD
  • Commute 320 baht / 10 USD
  • Food/Entertainment/etc 8000 baht / 240 USD


16,320 baht / 495 USD

Now I could spend less. There are cheaper places to live. I could use my aircon less. I could also buy less food and if I wasn’t vegan I could eat school lunch rather than making mine the night before. But I don’t drink, don’t have a scooter, and don’t go out to eat very often.

At the end of the year I can save at least 5000 USD. It’s not nearly what it would be in Eastern Asia or even other South East asian countries but it’s still enough to live in Thailand for an additional 10 months! Or enough to spend a year in India. Or, say 3-4 days in Norway.

So yeah you can save some cash. Even in Thailand.

Budget Yeti: Veggie Shopping in Korea

That old myth about going out in Korea being cheaper than cooking at home keeps cropping up and it always bothers me. Granted, many food items here are expensive, and costs keep going up. But it’s still cheaper almost every time to cook at home.

In Seoul, it pays to shop seasonally here. Unlike North America (and probably other places) there is a seasonal shift to produce prices here. Apples are super cheap in September, for instance, and now is Hallabong season. I think this is a good thing, environmentally of course but also habitually. Now some of these seasonal surpluses are strange to my eyes (why oh why is strawberry season in January?) but overall it’s a good system.

The area I live is kind of adjumma central–there aren’t really any bars or even noraebongs. In their place are lots of little markets though, and many good places to stock up on fruit and veg.

And stock up I do. The below list was all purchased at a biggish mart, which isn’t the very cheapest place around but it has good selection. Here’s a look at a week’s worth of veggies for two people. The total price is a little high because it’s a big bag of garlic but even still you can see how cheap it is.

Now this isn’t a complete meal, of course. You’d probably want to get a carb like rice (around $5 for a kilogram, or maybe $7 for 800 grams of brown rice) or udong (about 50 cents a package) or pasta (about 2.50 for 450 grams) or if you venture into Itaewon you can even get something exotic like basmati rice or couscous, though those start to get more expensive.


A Typical Vegtastic Meal

The shiitake give you a little less protein than your standard mushroom, but not to worry. A big block of fresh tofu is about 2 dollars or the smaller, packaged ones are usually around 1 dollar.

Add it all together and a big, healthy meal with local produce is only a couple of dollars. There’s just not any restaurant that can compete with that. The cheapest comparable is a bowl of kalgooksu, which at a cheap place is around 4 dollars for a big bowl. For less than 4 dollars, this equals 4 bowls so it’s quite a bit cheaper.


By contrast, this meal from Osegye Hyang, which had mandu, soup, and a gluten/rice dish (plus banchan) costs about 22 bucks.

Now I understand most people want a little more variety in their lives than daily iterations of the same meal. And not everyone is willing to make the effort to cook every night, even when they’re tired. Those are different reasons, though, from the tired old falsism that it’s much cheaper to eat out than cook at home. (And not very good reasons, either, in my opinion, although that’s neither here nor there.)

Yes, things are considerably more expensive now than they were 5 years ago but it’s still possible to cook for yourself and still not break the bank. That’s all for this installment of my rant. Thanks for listening!