Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Seoul, South Korea?

July 2, 2019

Occupation: Education Technology Coordinator

Industry: International Education

Age: 32

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Salary: $40,000 USD (not including severance)

Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,330 (pre tax and retirement)

School View


Each day starts with the regular breakfast. A Vitamin C drink ($0.50 each (multipack)), a plain greek yoghurt (about $1 per yoghurt) and a protein bar ($2 each) . Ever since January I have been walking to work. Regardless the school has a free shuttle bus for staff, transportation in general doesn’t cost me much throughout the week as I prefer to walk everywhere (gotta get those 10,000 steps per day). Lunch at school is also free and there are two options. After school it is raining and I need to get home quick, so I get a local taxi. The ten minute ride cost $3.50. At home I relax with my family (wife and baby), watch Netflix ($10 per month) and eat a home cooked meal of Pork Stew.


The usual breakfast and then I walk to work again and have the free school lunch. I have a working meeting with a colleague and we decide to go to a local coffee shop. Coffee and a Bagel as a snack runs up to $7.50. I walk home, but on the way stop to get an artisan donut for my wife and I. Each one costs ($3) but they are so worth it. My wife is out with her friends for a meal and I have my son to myself. I order from Seouls Shuttle Delivery service, an app which delivers (for a small fee) food from most of the popular restaurants in the expat district of Yongsan-gu. A Moroccan Chicken sandwich costs $6 and $3 for delivery. My wifes meal at a fancy Italian restaurant with drinks costs $20.


I wake up early to go work out. The walk to work is a good 20-30 minutes mostly up hill and is a good warm up. Luckily the school weight room is free to staff as is the gym where twice weekly basketball games are played between staff, some parents and occasionally the odd HS student or two. Free lunch at school. Walk home back to a home cooked meal.


Thursday is our end of year party. I walk to work and then get ready for a big lunch. We head to a Brazilian churrasqueria (an all you can eat restaurant which has different cuts of a variety of meats, served via huge skewers. This is $35 per person and one of the more pricey options around, but luckily it is being paid for by the school. At home I don’t eat much and a fresh fruit smoothie is enough to fill me up.


Last day of work for the school year. The habit of walking to work has not changed and neither has the free lunch. I get a taxi home again (I had a lot of things to take home from school) which is a bit more expensive this time as we went the long way ($4). At home we decided to order pizza from the cheapest pizza restaurant around $12 + $3 delivery for two medium sized pizzas, its a bargain but definitely not the best pizza you can buy.


Our last full day in Seoul before the summer holidays. We have lunch at home again then we head to a new artisan ice cream shop. We walk the 30 minutes there, choose a Saturday Morning Cartoons Ice Cream (Breakfast Cereal (Fruity pebbles) flavour) and a Mixed Cookie. The two Scoops come to $5. I had previously ordered some frozen pies from an expat chef and heated that up for dinner, each one costs $10 but they are so worth it. My wife had a home made salad, with boxed mac and cheese.


We wake up early to make sure everything is ready for the summer. I have the usual breakfast then we head to the airport. We usually get the subway which costs $5 per person. But as we have our baby boy (6 months old, so first flight) we are getting a taxi, this costs $55 flat fee for an International Taxi, but we think it is worth it to not have the stress of getting on and off subways with a baby and multiple suitcases. We eat at the airport. Coffee and sandwiches for my wife and I comes to $16, then we head off on the flight to the USA.

All for 3 people (my wife and I and our baby boy)

$800/month groceries

$100/month baby items (diapers/clothes)

$10/month drinking water (comes in 10l jugs)

$100/month Internet/phone

$100/month for bills (electricity, gas, water)

$30/month apartment maintenance fee

$300/month restaurants and meals out (including coffee)

$40/month Transportation (Taxis and Subway)

$250/month retirement fund

$10/month Netflix

Savings potential on my (mid range for Seoul) salary, and lifestyle is about $1400 a month, this in the last 6 months has been reduced as my wife stopped working after the arrival of our first born (together with no baby we were saving around $3000 a month). The above $250 a month for retirement is matched by my employer

Walk to Work
School View – Winter

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Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Bangkok, Thailand?

May 30, 2019

Occupation: PYP Coordinator

Industry: International Education

Age: 50

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Salary: $64,000 USD (includes rental allowance and responsibility stipend)

Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3800 USD (I put 15% of my base pre-tax into a retirement fund)


I catch the free minibus from the MRT stop near where I live and head to school. Lunch is free and delicious. After school I go to tutor, earning an extra $38 which goes in my jar for weekend trips.  I take a motorbike home for $1.50, buy some street food on the way home for $1:00 and go for a splash in the pool.


I am running late so I catch a motorbike at $1:50, I take the bus home. For dinner I have Tom Kha Goong from our local cafe for $6.39. It is delicious. I go to 7-11 to pay my internet bill, $32.20 a month for unlimited phone data and unlimited streaming at home. I could cut that cost but I like this service. They are also very responsive and have English speaking operators.


I catch the bus to work, and tutor after work, another $38 to the extra trips fund.$1.50 again for the bike home.  Wednesday is a long day, I get home at 6, so I have a glass of wine. I am careful with wine here, the best deals I can get on drinkeable wine is $22.48 a bottle,  Dinner is from the local night market and costs $1.20


Bus to work again, after work I have coaching practice down town, so that is $5:30 for the bike to get there in time. I come back on public transport at about $1. The metro stops right at the end of my road so it is really convenient. Sometimes I eat downtown with friends on a Thursday, an Italian with a glass of wine is about $25.00 USD. I am going out tomorrow though so I don’t stay this week. Tonight I decide to fast until lunctime tomorrow, I do intermittent fasting about once a week, it is healthy 🙂


Bus to work so no cost there. At lunchtime I order 3 books from Book Depository, books are expensive in Thailand so this is the cheapest way of buying them – $20. I go for a massage after work with a friend who drives. My local place gives a 20 percent discount if you buy a card for 10,000 baht, thats $314 Sounds a lot? That makes my 90 minute Thai massage only $12 so it lasts for ages. It’s an up front investment, I save $60 by paying up front. We have a light dinner in a local restaurant appx $6. Then I head off to wine tasting, this is one of the best deals in the city.  Every week a different region is featured, there are 6 to 7 wines on the list. Three hours of wine tasting with tapas for $31.40 is a bargain. Trouble is we tend to go out afterwards so I end up spending another $15-30. I tend to limit these nights to once a month.


I am often out of town on a workshop or travelling for fun, so if I am home, I don’t do much on Saturdays unless I have visitors. I swim, clean house (I could get a cleaner for $16 a week but currently I choose not to as my place is really easy to keep). I take a few pieces of ironing to the local laundry, that will cost about $5.  Lunch is salad made at home and some hot smoked salmon. A friend gets me this for $32 a kilo, It stays frozen in pieces until I want it. A coconut is $1.50. If there is an exhibition or other cultural event I might go there which ranges from free to about $30. I book a trip to Phuket, where I go about once a month, total cost of flight, beach accommodation, sailing and food is about $380. But I love it, that is why I tutor.


Catch up work day, and grocery shopping. Because lunch is provided, and I travel 2 weekends out of four, I don’t need a lot. My big monthly shop is about 100 USD, my weekly catch ups $ 20 – 40 depending on the week.  I have lunch at the local mall for $1.50, it is delicious freshly made Thai soup with steamed rice and an omlette. Totally delicious.

Monthly Expenses

$940/month rent (my allowance after tax is $630 and I could theoretically find a smaller less convenient place for that, but I love where I live so I bump it up)

$600/month put away for holiday travel

$380/month travel

$200/month groceries

$200/month nice restaurants and socialising

$50/month local streetfood and markets

$560/month retirement fund (comes out of salary pre-tax)

$32/month Internet

$27/month electricity

$6/month building water

$14/month drinking water

$40/month public transport

$10/month ironing

Savings potential on my (mid range for Bangkok) salary, and lifestyle is about $1300 a month, I also have my pension fund which my employer contributes an extra 5% to (appx $185 a month), so that is an additional $745 a month in a growth fund.

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Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Turkey?

April 19, 2019

Occupation: International Teacher
Industry: International Education
Age: 33
Location: Mersin, Turkey
Salary: $36,000 USD
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,022

Day 1: Saturday

In the morning, I book a Turkish Hammam for $18, including tip. I messaged for an appointment and was on the table in less than an hour.  I enjoyed a 1.5-hour massage, tea before and a coffee afterward. The hammam is within walking distance to my apartment.

For brunch, I make a Turkish breakfast dish at home.  The Turkish economy is in a recession, so locals report a significant increase in the price of produce. However, I can purchase a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery for $1, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oranges, lemons and herbs for less than $10 that will last me for the week.  

After working at home, I earned a night out so for $2 round I can take a trip train into the next city, the price is reduced when I remember to show my government issued a teacher ID card.  The train station is a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment.

$25 dinner out with friends including appetizer, main dish, dessert, and drinks.  The restaurant is a 10-minute walk from the train station in the next city so I avoid paying extra cab fare.

Day 2: Sunday

In the morning, I do some professional development and take the Google Educator Recertification Exam for $10.  Three years ago I made my first exam and decided to take the exam to keep myself current. Living in a smaller town means there aren’t too many things to do so I find I am reading more, catching up on TV series and films, and taking online courses while working on my future application materials.

In the afternoon I go out for a walk to do my weekly snack run. I visit a local candy and nut store.  These shops sell a variety of nuts, dates, corn nuts, and coffee which I take to work and munch on in the evenings and weekends.

I have a busy week that includes late nights this week, so I prepare a vegetable curry that I plan to eat each night after coming home. I use the vegetables I purchased on Saturday, along with some lentils and coconut milk I find in the cupboard.  

Day 3: Monday

After work, I visit the gym.  For dinner, I check out a new dessert place that recently opened in town.  Lokmaci is a sweet fried dough akin to a doughnut hole with toppings, cost $2. For dinner, I eat leftovers from Sunday.

Day 4: Tuesday

For $17, I purchase a belated birthday gift for my mother on Amazon.  I was delighted to find I had Amazon card, perhaps from selling some textbooks over the summer.  A benefit from living abroad is I don’t shop online often. There are local sites in Turkey where I can buy online, but I’ve chosen not to register because I can find everything I need locally. Again, I eat leftovers for dinner after visiting the gym.

Day 5: Wednesday

After work, I visited a burger joint with a colleague and spent $5.50. We go back and forth paying week to week.  This week, but next week it will be on him.

$12 On the way home we stop by a grocery store.  My school provides daily lunch, so I benefit from eating healthy salads and fruit.  A more significant benefit is that I don’t have to pack and prepare a lunch bag or leak-proof containers. When I visit the grocery store, I stock up on oatmeal, yogurt, and snacks.  I buy fresh fruit and vegetables at my neighborhood market on the weekends.

Day 6: Thursday

Nearing the end of the week, and perhaps feeling a bit tired of leftovers for dinner.  I spent $3 for flavored coffee and simit toast, basically a Turkish bagel with cheese at the school canteen. Each morning I prepare my coffee or tea, throughout the day I visit the school’s instant coffee and tea area, but every so often I enjoy a coffee with a colleague.

For $2 on the way home I grabbed an ice cream bar with my neighbor and then prepared to visit the gym with a buddy.  For dinner, I finished leftovers from Sunday.

Day 7: Friday

After visiting the gym, a friend and I decide to spend Friday night at the local mall.

For $5, I eat American inspired fast food in the food court. After eating I notice a shoe store I like to check out, and the Mango store is gone, possible signs of the recession in Turkey.

The oddest purchase I make this week is a $2 pair of stockings I see near the cash register as I wait for my friend to check out. I can feel warmer humid weather is coming, but some mornings are still a bit chilly.  I justify that one more pair of stockings may be necessary.

Before leaving the mall, we hit up a beauty store where I spent $6 for cotton buds, a lip mask, and some face cream.  I give the cashier my phone number each time which may result in some discounts, but I don’t speak enough of the language to understand the benefits programs at the various stores.  One change in Turkey is a new plastic bag fee to encourage a reduction in plastic consumption. I generally bring my reusable bags with me to the store and if I forget I buy a new one or don’t shop that day.

Monthly Expenses
$400/month international travel during holidays
$150/month groceries
$100/month clothing
$90/month virtual counseling
$80/month restaurants and meals out
$50/month apartment cleaning
$33/month retirement fund
$16/month gym membership
$12/month Audible subscription
$12/month beauty supplies
$3/month Netflix

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