Keegan Wedwick

Whether you’re a well-seasoned traveler or someone who is taking the plunge for the first time, the first thing that people think of is money. You may ask yourself, “Do I have enough to go?” and “Will I make enough teaching abroad to survive living in another country?” These are very valid questions and we will dive into that matter in this post.

Teaching ESL in China is a fantastic way to save money and still have enough to visit all of the exciting, culturally rich cities in China. One of the key reasons is the low cost of living. Mass transit, housing, and items are generally cheaper than those found in countries like the U.S and U.K. For example, metro ticket in other countries can cost between 2-4 US dollars. In China, the cost is between 0.45cents to 1 US dollar depending on how far you are traveling on the metro. Because China has done an excellent job at rapidly expanding their metro and mass transit, most teachers use the metro to get around. Typically, you could budget 200-250rmb each month getting to and from your work.

While teaching abroad is a great way to earn money while seeing the world, I think the first thing you should consider is how well you budget in your home country. One mistake people make is thinking they’ll move abroad and completely change their spending/saving habits overnight. While it is true that you grow and develop as a person living and working in another country, some habits are a little harder to change. If budgeting is new to you, try categorizing your spending and saving week by week for a month. This will give you a nice foundation to making sure you have the lifestyle you want while teaching abroad.

Another way to budget is to add up what your expenses/bills are each month in your home country and plan that amount to send home each month. Then budget the remaining salary you get abroad for all of your travel and leisure expenses. One benefit to EF is that you are paid a monthly salary on the last working business day each month. Coming from the US where we are typically paid twice a month or every two weeks, this seemed pretty strange. Would I be able to budget and save enough? The answer was a resounding yes. It was far easier to send all of my month home for bills all at once and then budget the remaining for all of the traveling I wanted to do for that month. While this way may work for some, it was easier knowing I would not be overspending my salary at any point and I would send more money back home at the end of the money for savings.

We’ve discussed a few methods to go about budgeting, but how do you set your budget limits? This is an excellent question and one that is different for everyone. Some like to eat out a lot, or go out at night, or travel a lot and your budget numbers will look different to accommodate the lifestyle you want to live. If you’re looking to go out on the weekends and travel, you might want to consider cooking more meals at home to allow more of your budget for nights out. If going out isn’t your thing but traveling is, you can allocate more of your money there. Think about what’s important for you that month and divide your funds up accordingly.

To reiterate, the cost of traveling around China is much cheaper than those in the western part of the world. Mass high-speed rails offer huge savings in cost compared to flying so try to use them when possible. For traveling around holidays like the Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb) and the National Holiday in October, make sure to book your flights well in advance. Ticket prices during holidays skyrocket like around the holidays in other countries. If you know you want to travel, book months in ahead to save yourself a lot of money later on.

Overall, teaching abroad is an excellent opportunity to earn a comfortable income that allows you to pay for you living expenses in China, while also covering expenses back home. Budgeting is an excellent tool to make sure you can get the most out of your experience. If you can’t fit in all four trips in one month, that’s perfectly fine! You have a whole year (or more!) to see all of the places you want, and China has no shortage of places to see. If you want to learn more about the cost of living in China, please reach out to one of our experienced recruiters to learn more.

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