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I live well on $1200 per month. It doesn’t have to be super difficult. Although it does help to be in a good area and have a frugal can-do mindset.

This is about how I live well on $1200 per month. It doesn’t have to be super difficult. Although it does help to be in a good area and have a frugal can-do mindset.

I get a lot questions every now and then from people about how I’m able to live on such a small income. Short answer? Location matters a lot. You want to be in a location that has a low cost of living. Although you don’t want to choose someplace solely for its ultra-low cost of living. Doing that is a recipe for disaster in the form of being bored out of your mind in a place where there is nothing to do.

Nobody wants that! I don’t want it either.

Right now I live in an area near Bangkok, Thailand. Two common things come to people’s minds when they think of Thailand: gorgeous beaches with huge limestone rocks in the background (those are Thailand’s southern islands) or they think of the crazy Thailand scenes they saw in The Hangover 2.

Well, my living situation doesn’t involve either of those things. Bummer, since I really did want to meet Zach Galifianakis!  My living area does suffice, though!

I ended up in Thailand back almost a year ago when I moved abroad to teach English here. I’ve been teaching at a private school in an area near Bangkok and have been loving it. I’m the only male Kindergarten teacher in the whole school and one of the few in the entire school’s history!

My salary for the job is 43,000 baht per month. Per current exchange rates as of this writing, that comes out to about $1,223 USD per month. Crap. Poor right? Not really.

Thailand is known for having a low cost of living. The Bangkok area and South can get pricey since they are where hoards of tourists go but places up North like the popular digital nomad city of Chiang Mai has a really nice low cost of living.

Let’s break down where my monthly salary goes.

Rent (5,500 baht)

I don’t need something super upscale for living. As long as the place doesn’t have a bug problem or crazy people, then I’m good. The apartment complex I live in is kind of dated. The walls are bland and a little dirty. There is no pool or gym or any fully staffed office. I live in a 400 square foot one bedroom apartment. The rent is 5,500 baht ($156.43 USD) per month.

There are definitely higher end options. Several other teachers at the school live in a more modern apartment complex with a pool, gym, and rooms with modern looks and appliances. However, it does come with a cost. They pay between 9000 to 12000 ($256-341 USD) baht for their apartments.

Utilities (1,350 baht)

My electric bill costs around 650 baht per month, give or take. Internet (15 mbps download/1.5 mbps upload) costs 650 per month. The speed is enough to stream things like YouTube and Netflix with ease. My water bill, and this is the one I really love, is only about 50 baht per month! Some months it’s higher, like one time when it was 80 baht, but most of the time it’s lower. I can’t believe the water bill is so cheap!

Food (8,500 baht)

If you’re ever keen on visiting Thailand, you’ll probably hear how it’s best to avoid western food and focus having most of your meals be local food. It’s because the local food is way cheaper. You can get street cart dishes for around 40-60 baht. The area I live in doesn’t have an abundance of street cart food as Bangkok does so many of my meals come from the mall or a nearby market. Every now and then I do like to buy some Subway or other western food. I like Pad Thai and other Thai dishes but sometimes I just need something familiar and more filling (since the Thai dish servings are small).

A minor problem I have is that there is no kitchen in my apartment. There is a kitchen sink off in one corner of the living room. That’s it. There is no stove, no microwave, and no dishwasher. Not even a countertop. Just a kitchen sink with a small part next to it to put sponges and stuff.

This isn’t too big of a deal since I, and many Thai people eat out for many of their meals. Since I’m a single person, it’s cheaper to eat out than try to cook myself. I can usually get breakfast stuff for under 40 baht ($1.14 USD) and lunch and dinner stuff for under 100 baht ($2.84 USD). I don’t even have my refrigerator plugged in! If I ever need a cold drink all I have to do is run down to the first floor outside where the Family Mart is.

Cell phone (420 baht)

It’s common to get data only cell phone packages. Since many of the people here communicate via the Line App for text messages and calling, all you really need is a good size data package. I pay 420 baht per month for 4.5 GB of 4G data. Way cheaper than the average American cell phone bill. I love it!

Gym (1,500 baht)

Gyms are pricey here! Not sure why. My $20 former Planet Fitness membership is small compared to what I’m paying now, which is around $43 USD. Eh, it’s not ideal but I’m okay with it. I’m one of those people who does use their membership. So at least I’m not wasting the membership away!

Miscellaneous (3,730 baht)

This is mainly reserved for any weekend travel but it’s used for other things. Every so often, I buy pencils, poster boards, and other office supplies when making educational materials for my class. This category also includes my laundry service which is around 400 baht per month.

A cool thing in Thailand is they have these laundromat services where you drop off your clothes in the early morning and pick them up in the afternoon. These laundry service places will wash, dry, and fold all your clothes for you. It only costs around 100 baht to get it done every week! No having to fold clothes and remembering to do laundry!

Wednesdays is discount movie day and movie showtimes are only 100 baht ($2.84 USD). When I go, I try not to get popcorn and a drink but I sometimes end up caving and getting it anyway.

Almost all of the foreign English teachers, myself included, don’t have cars. We usually use a mix of public transportation and taxis to get around. I can hop on the BTS Skytrain and take a 37-minute ride into downtown Bangkok for only 84 baht.

Grand total: 21,000 baht total expenses ($597 USD)

Savings: 22,000 baht ($626 USD)

Total salary: 43,000 baht ($1,223 USD)

This budget isn’t set in stone. Like all budgets, it fluctuates but I try to keep it tame. I’m able to save a good portion of my paycheck every month and I’m happy about that. Sometimes I do tutoring to make extra money (usually between $350-600 extra per month) but at the moment I’m not doing it. So this is how I live on a roughly $1,200 USD per month income. Let me know if you have any questions!

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Colin // RebelwithaPlan

Colin Ashby is the writer behind Rebel with a Plan, a website dedicated to people who choose to rebel against the norm of living in debt and feeling financially unenlightened. He believes everyone has an eccentric quality to embrace and that lattes are sometimes a necessity (despite what the personal finance community tells you).

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13 Comments on How I Live Well On $1,200 a month

  1. Lindsay @ Notorious D.E.B.T.
    February 1, 2017 at 3:18 pm (4 years ago)

    That’s crazy! I want to be a foreign language teacher now, lol!
    That’s also awesome that you’re able to save half your income. Do you invest it, or keep it in a high-interest savings account? Do you even have access to banks like Ally if you’re not in the U.S.?

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      February 1, 2017 at 6:14 pm (4 years ago)

      I do use Ally Bank for some of my savings and love it! They don’t allow you to open an account outside the U.S. but since I already had it, I still have access and can put money in it.

      Thailand is great, but South Korea is really the bread and butter of teaching English abroad. Teacher’s there are able to save $800-1000+ per month!

      Reply
  2. Tonya
    February 2, 2017 at 8:22 pm (4 years ago)

    wow that is so cheap! Oh the rent! What I wouldn’t give to pay a fraction of that, but lo and behold I live in LA.

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      February 3, 2017 at 2:58 pm (4 years ago)

      I’m sure many U.S. people would love to pay $156 per month for rent, haha. LA is great but I don’t know if I could handle the crazy traffic there.

      Reply
  3. Kate @ making it rain
    February 2, 2017 at 11:48 pm (4 years ago)

    So much love for this post. I used to live in Bangkok (in 2010-2011) and cost of living is definitely cheap but I am still so impressed by these numbers – 5500 baht for rent? You go!

    Reply
      • Kate @ making it rain
        February 7, 2017 at 1:05 pm (4 years ago)

        Yea I taught at an international school on the outskirts of Bangkok! Great savings potential but I was not nearly as financially responsible as you seem to be haha 🙂 also trying to get some posts out about finances while living abroad so thanks for the inspiration!

        Reply
    • Mischelle
      July 19, 2019 at 3:59 am (1 year ago)

      why is it you chose to come back here ?

      Reply
  4. Chonce Maddox
    February 5, 2017 at 12:17 am (4 years ago)

    I love how you teach kindergarten. My son is in 1st grade and those kids have tons of energy. Also, so jelly of your rent. Even the ‘more modern’ apartments don’t sound so bad. The low cost of living in Thailand is really making me want to visit and stay for a few weeks.

    Reply
    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      February 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm (4 years ago)

      I get worn out constantly by them! And yeah, Chiang Mai is AMAZING. Good weather, great community of nomads and locals, and fast internet!

      Reply
      • Keith Small
        June 13, 2018 at 11:10 pm (2 years ago)

        I’m truly amazed by your budget. I’m quickly nearing retirement and looking for places to land. I realize this is an old post but was hoping you could offer something to a 60 something, not to fit, guy looking to live on around $1500 a month, I can go a little higher if needed but would like to save some for emergencies. I can take the heat (not so sure about high humidity). Not looking for excitement just a quiet peaceful life with some things to entertain myself. I’ve been looking at the Philippines, been there, it’s liveable but has high humidity. I’m open to almost any place that’s safe, cheap and reasonably comfortable. I’ve considered the Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai area thinking it may have lower humidity. Any suggestions/advice is greatly appreciated.
        Thanks,
        Keith

        Reply
        • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
          June 14, 2018 at 5:32 pm (2 years ago)

          WHere I lived (Bangkok, Thailand) was good, but if you’re looking for a more laid back area I would definitely check out Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s slightly cheaper to live in than Bangkok and the air is a lot cleaner. You could probably live comfortably there for about $1,000-1300 USD. I’ve also heard good things about Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve never been there, so just going off what others have told me. There was a cool website that allowed you to search different places all over the world to retire at. Can’t remember it off the top of my head but when I do, I’ll let you know!

          Reply
  5. Keith
    June 17, 2018 at 1:39 am (2 years ago)

    The website would help a lot I’m sure. Lisbon sounds nice but might be a little expensive. I figure I can live in the Philippines for about $1100-1300 a month…. according to Numbo (I know, not the gold standard and I would would like more accurate data) Chiang Mai would be $1600-1700 and Lisbon looks like $2500- 2700 (out of my range). I’ve looked at Guatemala and research shows anywhere from $300-1200 (Numbo says $1800+), Ecuador $1500-2000. I’m only going from what I’ve found from research. I’d like some hard numbers if possible. I’m familiar with the Philippines, I’ve gotten some reliable info on Mexico and central/south America but very little on Asia or eastern Europe. As you can see I’ve been looking and am pretty open although climate, safety, expenses and health are priorities… language is important but from what I’ve seen and researched most cities have an acceptable English speaking community… and I’m sure I can learn enough local language to pass.

    Reply

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