How To Save Money While Teaching in China?

Can You Save Money Teaching in China? 

You have decided to go to China and teach kids. It’s all fun and games until the bills arrive. You need to eat, go out, have fun, buy a fan (it gets hot).

How much money are you left with?

Is it possible to pay off bills at home?

Let’s find out.

When you teach in a standard program you get 10000 RMB for a month’s work. That’s around $2000 AUD.

For part time work (approx. 80 hrs) that’s a steal.

But of that $2000 how much goes towards living and how much goes towards fun?

A Breakdown of Expenses Living in China

A Breakdown of Expenses Living in China for an ESL teacher


Let’s start with the basics.

– you need protein so a kilo of chicken (a weeks worth) costs $8. That’s a lot of chicken

– what about some rice. A 5kg bag costs $10 (and if you don’t eat like a crazy person like me that’s around 2 weeks worth)

– cooking oil? $10 / litre.

– milk is what you’d expect anywhere — around $2 a litre.

– and finally fruits and vegetables. There is too much to list individually but you can get several servings of each for $10 a week especially if you know where to look. A word of caution though, some vendors will try to charge you more knowing you’re a foreigner so a basic understanding of numbers helps a lot.

Altogether weekly groceries will cost you, if all you ate was chicken, rice, and vegetables (yes I’m that exciting), around $30.

Going Out

Say you got bored of eating the same thing and want to try something different? That’s half the reason you came to China right?

– let’s see:

– a standard noodles and beef cost $2. And believe me, it’s anything but standard.

– a pint of beer is a buck — yes you heard that correctly, $1.

– what if you’re feeling tired and need something to drink? Water is dirt cheap and coffee is around $2.

Let’s say you eat out 3 times a week and drink once a week — that’s around $10.


What about transportation? Too many things to see and cities are quite large wherever you go. Walking is all fine and good but after a month you’ll find yourself catching a taxi for everything. Therefore to get from one side of the city to the other is on average, $4.

With all the moving around you’ll do in a week that’s around $12.

What if you’re feeling adventurous and want to get a scooter? To buy one new is only $500. Imagine that — you came here to teach kids and the next thing you know you’re riding a scooter and drinking cheap beer (not at the same time of course).


What if you accidentally ate too much and want to go the gym. It’s only $25 a month with all the things you’d expect such as treadmills, squat racks, etc.


And finally utilities.

The dreaded utilities.

Let’s go through it together.

Water, gas, electricity, wifi, phone costs. Around $100 a month.

And now the big one. Rent. Brace yourself.

A grand total of $0. It’s already paid for. Hmm wasn’t that bad after all.

How Much Money Can You Save Teaching in China?

Let’s get a monthly total.

Income          $2000


Groceries      $30 x 4 = $120

Going out     $10 x 4 = $40

Transport     $20 x 4 = $80

Gym               $25

Utilities      $100


Costs              $365


Total              $2000 – $365


That’s $1635 to do whatever you want (and that’s not including the free plane ticket back home).

Buy the scooter.

Splurge on clothing.

Pay off your uni degree (like me).

As you can see living in China doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of the big and even small things in life.

Even though $1635 is lightyears ahead to what most young people save — always remember to have fun and live a little.

Written by Harold Aman, currently a teacher in Chongqing, China. Originally from Australia.

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