Living in Central Isan, I cannot possibly spend all of my meager teacher's salary in one month! Here's my monthly expense breakdown in Thai baht. This supports two people minimum, although I’m often treating more than one friend at mealtimes. (U.S. dollar equivalent in parentheses.)
Utilities (water/electric--including air con): 1200 ($30)
(that's on a hot-weather month)
Phone, including high-speed internet service: 750 ($20)
Food (three daily meals in restaurants): 3000 ($75)
Clothes: 500 ($12)
Toiletries: 250 ($6)
Household supplies: 500 ($12)
Motorcycle gasoline/petrol: 200 ($5)
When I first moved here, it cost me about $1000 USD to completely furnish an apartment: TV, clothes washer, stove, refrigerator, beds, desks, sofa, two floor oscillating fans, wardrobes, kitchen sink and counter (yup!), and three floor-to-ceiling wood bookshelf/cabinet units. All new.
Another $1000 USD bought my transportation (a new 125cc Honda motorbike), and I was set!
If one thinks about living in Bangkok (BKK) costs are many times the above. A BKK friend rents an apartment about one-third the space of mine on a 9th floor for a whoppin’ 6000 baht. From there, it's an inconvenient one-hour bus commute to his job in the central city. Monthly rent 10,000 baht and upward for an equivalent apartment to mine is the norm.
However, even better than BKK, here the air is clean, the water is purer, the horizon more spacious, people smile more, and no traffic jams. Rural living is very peaceful and laid back. (That might drive some foreigners crazy, I admit). BKK is an overnight bus ride away when you get lonely for the big city lights. Two nearby airports make it even quicker: a 45-minute flight for about $40 USD, Thai Airlines. ($20 discount airlines).
But please-- don't tell anyone else about how good it is here. We don't want it to get too crowded!