When heading to China for the adventure of a lifetime, saving money might not be your first thought. Most teachers are excited about using their wages to explore this huge and diverse country, as well as jetting off to neighbouring South-East Asia, Japan and South Korea.
However, we appreciate that many teachers need to save some money through necessity; you might have a student loan you wish to pay off, or s may want to save up for a deposit to put down on your first house, so sensible financial planning is of concern.
Here we outline how much a teacher in China could save. Keep in mind that cities in China have a wide variation of living costs, so it’s important to consider the costs in your city of work.
How much will I earn?
First things first, excluding other benefits, how much salary can you expect to earn each month teaching in China? A recent graduate can expect to earn a minimum of RMB9000 a month, but can earn up to RMB12000 a month. So £1000- £1350/ $1365-$1820
Of course, more experienced and/or qualified teachers can earn up to RMB20000 a month.
An Example of Monthly Outgoings
The following table gives an example of a graduate salary at RMB10000 a month, and some fairly typical outgoings. It goes without saying that some teachers spend more on certain things, and less on others, however the below gives an example lifestyle for a teacher not trying too hard to save, but equally not living like royalty!
|Provided/ allowance||Provided/ allowance||Provided/ allowance|
|Restaurants/ street food
|Transport including taxis
|Night out once a week
|Travel on days off
|One weekend away
|International travel/ medical insurance
So, how much will I save teaching in China?
Based on the above, if earning RMB10000 per month it is not too unreasonable to expect to save half your monthly salary – while not making too many sacrifices, and living a comfortable lifestyle.
Saving money is great, and you will find as the months go on it becomes easier to get into the swing of automatically setting aside and saving up. Expect, however, to spend more in your first initial few months in China as you make investments for starting out – for example in buying items for your apartment, paying for VPN and if necessary putting down a larger initial payment for accommodation.
What if my accommodation is not provided?
More and more schools realize that some teachers are more selective, and prefer to choose and rent their own apartment. As well as the extensive practical support all schools will give in finding an apartment and contract negotiation that accompanies this, the majority of schools also offer a monthly accommodation allowance and a start-up loan to assist with initial rental costs.
As a guide, a room in a shared 2 bedroom apartment will cost approximately the following:
First tier cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen) in city centre location: RMB3000-4000
First tier cities in a suburb location: RMB1500-2000
Second tier cities (Hangzhou, Ningbo, Chengdu, Chongqing) in a city centre location: RMB1000-2000
Third tier cities (Zhangjiagang) in a city centre location: RMB1000-2000
Of course, this is just a guide; should you wish to live in a more luxurious apartment, prices will increase dramatically!
When renting your own apartment, Chinese rental agents generally require the equivalent of around 4 months rental costs to be paid up-front. The majority of schools will offer a start-up loan to cover this initial payment, but will deduct the loan over the first 3 months of your salary. Keep this in mind when considering your finances.
How much do day-to-day things cost?
A breakfast of street food (dumplings, porridge, pancakes) will set you back a maximum of RMB10, and lunch of meat, rice/ noodles and vegetables around RMB15. Dinner in a Western restaurant can cost up to RMB200, however sticking to local food can mean a delicious dinner for RMB20. A bottle of water will cost just RMB2, and a coke RMB3.
A weekly grocery shop to buy milk, snacks, meat and vegetables to cook with at home will be around RMB200 – unless you decide to buy imported brands and items like cheese, food shopping is cheap.
A 20 minute taxi journey should be no more than RMB20, and a bus/ metro journey can be a bargain at just RMB2!
Clothes and shoes might cost anywhere up to RMB100 for budget items. With the abundance of night and underground markets in Chinese cities, there’s always a bargain to be had if you haggle.
What about utilities bills, VPN and cell phone sim?
Utilities and cell phone costs will predominantly be monthly payments, but certain outlays may need to be paid for up-front for the year. Internet is commonly paid as a block payment of around RMB1200 for a year’s worth of high speed broadband in an apartment.
Similarly, a VPN service can be paid for annually to make savings, with services like Express VPN offering discounted rates for annual subscriptions, totalling out at about RMB660 for a year
What might I splurge on?
Western restaurants – if you like Italian, French, American, Juice Bars or just about any cuisine that’s not Chinese, you’ll pay much more than at a local Chinese restaurant. Eating at Western restaurants every day will almost certainly ensure you save no money at all.
Travel – if you’re looking to just take the odd trip here and there, and just explore your city and local area, you’ll be able to save considerably more money. China’s a budget traveller’s paradise, with low cost trains between cities (RMB200 for a 4-5 hour journey), budget flights, and dorm rooms for RMB40 a night (if you really want to be frugal!).
Western foods – if you like cheese, imported chocolate,and branded goods from home expect to pay a hefty price for them! Don’t be surprised to see shocking prices like RMB60 for 250g of imported cheese!
Alcohol – here’s where you can really blow your budget! While a local Chinese beer might only cost around RMB10 at a bar, imported beers, wines and spirits are expensive and can easily set you back 10 times that amount for the same quantity. Even in a supermarket, a cheap bottle of imported red wine can be RMB250.
Can I increase my income?
In a word, yes – if you look out for opportunities!
Many private language schools will pay overtime for teaching hours outside of your contract, usually at RMB100- 150 per hour.
If your schools employment contract and visa stipulations allow it, excellent private English tutors are always in demand and you will be paid anywhere from RMB150- RMB300 per hour (as an experienced teacher you can expect to demand even more!). Even with a conservative 4 hours of tutoring a week, this adds up to a minimum of RMB2400 a month.
Winter and summer camps can be an option for public school teachers who have long breaks over the school holidays, and can expect to be paid around RMB2000 a week.
Can I send money back home, or pay off my student loan?
Sending money back home from China is certainly possible, but just not always simple. Depending on the region you live in, and Chinese bank you are with, you may not be able to transfer money abroad from your bank account as a foreigner in China due to the tight protection placed China’s currency.
There are options to use such as Western Union or Alipay. The most common way to transfer larger sums of money home is to ask a trusted Chinese friend or colleague to make a payment from their Chinese bank account to your home bank account. There is usually a few of around RMB200 for transferring money.
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