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Need some money advice


fiddefisk

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Hi there I'm planning moving to China next year to study mandarin. I haven't decided where to move yet, but the city shouldn't be to expensive and have a mandarin speaking population together with a good university or some other sort of "language institute".

I wanna live a comfortable life and that includes a nice apartment with shower/ac and internet,

getting my stomach filled everyday and having some backup money in my pocket for "random" stuff and activities to buy/do.

How much money can an "average" student in China expect to spend every month?

According to my calculations I should be able to live on 6500Renminbi a month for 3 years. Is that enough?

How does your "budgets" look like when living in China?

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6500 RMB a month is considered upper-middle class income in some parts of China.

I'll give you the lowdown for daily costs here in Harbin.

40-square-meter one bedroom apartment, roomy living room, kitchen, bathroom (not necessarily with a bath tub, though), all gas/water included:no more than 800 RMB a month, depending on location and the age of the building.

Electricity bill/month less than 100 RMB. (computer is on about 15 hours a day, water heater only plugged in for about 2-3 hours per night).

Meal for one at McDonalds/KFC 20 - 30 RMB

Meal for one at an average Chinese restaurant 10 - 30 RMB

Meal for one one the street / in a cafeteria 5 - 10 RMB

Learn to cook for yourself and pay about 5 - 10 RMB per meal (less expensive if you're not eating meat with every meal).

Beer 2 - 30 RMB depending on the establishment. 30 RMB a beer is quite ridiculous.

Average taxi ride 10 - 15 RMB

Buses 1 - 2 RMB

If you had a daily budget of 100 RMB a day just for food, you wouldn't exhaust a 6500/month budget unless you were doing a lot of drinking/taxi rides.

My wife and I live quite well. We take buses most of the time and cook our own meals. The school I work for provides a fully furnished apartment, gas and water bills. Unless we make big purchases such as clothes, electronics, etc, we generally spend under 1500 RMB a month. Therefore, about 75% of our income goes into the bank.

What type of lifestyle are you looking to have while you study? Are tuition/book/tutor fees coming from that 6500 a month, or is that not included?

HIT is around 5000 a semester. Tuition at a popular private school is 500/month. Tutors can be found for 15 - 30 RMB/hour.

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The average Chinese lives off of about 2,000 RMB a month. I doubt you can live the same was as a native, Mainland Chinese does, but with a 6,500 RMB per month budget you'll be fine, so long as you don't eat in Western restaurants, go to bars and take taxis everywhere. I live in Hangzhou, and you could live comfortably here with that kind of budget.

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I'm also in Harbin (which is quite a bit cheaper than Beijing, for example). I have a very large 2 bedroom apartment with large bathroom, smallish kitchen, two balconies, etc for 850/month. I'm 10 minutes away from HIT (Harbin Institute of Technology) by bus.

I bought a new washing machine for 1000rmb, a new (fairly expensive) microwave for 680, and a rice cooker for about 120. Amortized over 12 months (typical length of stay) would still be pretty cheap.

Tuition is about 6000 at HIT, with the first semester a bit higher, actually. I'm a student at HIT.

One advantage here (I think), is that everywhere you go, you hear fairly standard accents, especially on the bus, where there are a lot of younger people (going to/from school). I think this helps train your brain more quickly to easily distinguish "x" from "sh", for example.

My advice is choose a little less expensive location, and double your length of time here. Almost everyone underestimates the time it takes to master Chinese, IMO.

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Here in Anshan, in the Northeast, I can get by on about 2000 RMB a month which includes rent, bills, food, travel - if I want to. A bit more than this makes life comfortable and more would be very nice but you could do without if you had to. I'd say 3000 RMB/month would be a reasonable minimum and 5000 RMB would be luxurious. However, you will need a bit at the beginning to buy a few luxuries/essentials such as a mobile phone and just general things to set up your home plus your tuition fees. As others have said, keep to local foods and drinks an life will be easy - opt for imported drinks and western style food and your expenses will go up markedly. If you want western food, you're best to make it yourself.

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According to my calculations I should be able to live on 6500Renminbi a month for 3 years.
My advice is choose a little less expensive location, and double your length of time here.

I'm sure the OP will have plenty of time to learn Chinese if he's planning on staying for three years. If you're just planning on learning the language to a professional level and you are willing to work hard, I'm sure two years would be sufficient for most people. Six years would no doubt be excessive, unless you want to become a scholar of Chines literature or the like. Actually, it would look quite strange on your resume if you're like "then I spent six years learning Chinese". :wink:

The OP should be aware that Harbin is ridiculously cold in winter.

I spent a summer in Xi'an. People there speak very clearly and in a fairly standard fashion. It's very cheap although perhaps a bit more expensive than Harbin. I was about to get a heart attack when I came back to Beijing having spent some time travelling in some more inner provinces. Prices there have been rising very quickly, and many services are about twice as expensive as everywhere else (take away Shanghai and surroundings). You might think Xi'an sounds touristy, but all tourists stick in one area and you're extremely unlikely to bump into any white person anywhere else. The central location also makes it an excellent starting point for travelling just about everywhere.

In particular, if you're staying on for three years, you may want to consider living in more than one place.

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Thanks everyone, very interesting reading.

Seems like I can have a pleasant visit in China :) I love Chinese food, but I've heard that the food served on the streets aren't to gentle towards western people with no immune defense what so ever. But I guess you adept to it after some weeks.

Staying longer then 3years is a possibility but I doubt I will do that, I wanna experience more of the world and learn more languages. I don't feel the need to become a fluent mandarin speaker I'm happy as long as I reach the same level as my English is at, which is pretty decent for not having visited an English speaking country ever. Thanks Hollywood I guess.

Some more questions.

Is it worth getting a own washing machine? How much does it cost to let others take care of it?

How cheap can you travel across China with train/airplane etc?

Do you need to get a health insurance or something as a 老外? If so, what would it cost?

Thanks again.

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I live in Chengdu, which I take to be more expensive than most cities in China, and I can get by on 6,500 a month without a problem. I have a habit of acquiring equipment and musical instruments though, once I eliminate those purchases it's definitely under 6,500 average I'd say. My rent, for a 2 bedroom apartment (about 100m2) is 1,700元 a month. I have a motorcycle so I don't take taxis all the time, but I often (2-4 times a week) eat in western restaurants. You should be fine.

I more often travel by plane than train, but both are relatively inexpensive. Sometimes plane is less expensive. Find a good travel agent that's local to you.

I haven't had health insurance in years, since I quit my office job in the US. I haven't regretted it, but I haven't been hit by a bus or maimed in a motorcycle accident yet either. I've been to the hospital a few times and regularly see a dentist; the fees have ranged from ludicrously cheap to reasonable.

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Some more questions.

Is it worth getting a own washing machine? How much does it cost to let others take care of it?

How cheap can you travel across China with train/airplane etc?

Do you need to get a health insurance or something as a 老外? If so, what would it cost?

A washing machine will cost you form 800 yuan upwards. Laundrettes are not common here so if your apartment doesn't come with a machine, you will need to purchase one. I employ a woman who for 50 yuan a week comes to my house and does my washing. Well worth the expense I think.

For insurance, I took out a "Backpackers" policy which covered me for about £120 a year for all travel, health and theft. I've tried to get insurance locally, however, the price always seems to be a bit high.

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I am from Shanghai. (a local there) I think 6000 RMB/per month is quite enough for eating , living , studying or doing some shopping. (of course, not the luxurious things).

As far as I know, you can lead a not bad life in Shanghai with about 3000 RMB in the past. (the average salary of Shanghai is below 3000RMB /month). But you know, with the increase of living price, perhaps, now you should prepare around 5000 RMB.

I think in other cities, the expense is even much lower.

hope it helps

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Just thought I'd add my 2c.

I live and work in Harbin, and 100 RMB a day is easily enough. I earn 5000 RMB a month, and put aside 2500 RMB for savings, which gives me just under 100 RMB a day to live on. When you include things like clothes, internet and the odd weekend blowout this is still enough to live on.

On the other hand my rent is free, so there's something I don't really know about.

The teaching assistants at my office are frequently amazed at how much money I spend, since 100 RMB a day to them is incredible. Some of the wages round here are really low - KFC pays exactly 4.7 RMB an hour!!

Actually, if you actually put some work in as a student you'll find 6,500 a month hard to spend. Or at least you'd have to be going to some pretty good food places every day!

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...The teaching assistants at my office are frequently amazed at how much money I spend...

Actually, what do you spend your money on if you don't need to pay for rent? Take away my rent, I spend about half of that per day in England. Then, of course, I'm leading a somewhat impoverished student life, but Harbin should be somewhat cheaper? :)

That budget in China (take away Beijing/Shanghai/etc.) should give you a quite extravagant western meal, and a new piece of clothing every day...?!

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100 RMB / day is 700 RMB / week, right?

Thats about £7 a day or £50 a week in the U.K.

40 RMB on food, 4 RMB on transport, 8 RMB on beer, 2 RMB on newspaper would be a normal daily spend. On top of that is electric, gas and internet (200 RMB month for the latter).

At weekends I like to go out for a good time, maybe thats 200 RMB for a night. And of course you need to buy new clothes every now and again (shoes here can be expensive), I buy telephone cards (25 RMB a week) to phone the U.K., plus a few other sundries here and there.

I'm just speaking from experience, 100 RMB a day is about what I need. Of course I eat out every day and enjoy myself, you could probably stay at home every night and eat boiled noodles and spend about 20 RMB, but it wouldn't be much fun! :D

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