Teaching English abroad is a great way to get work experience immediately after university. What people don’t seem to know, is that it is also a great way to save a bit of money. We all have a hard time at first saving money while living in China. From weekends out on the town to missing the food from home, it doesn’t take long before you feel as if you are living pay check to pay check. Personally, some of my best memories stemmed from when I decided to save money but had started up a “100 Days of Happiness” challenge just before. There were lots of creative stunts I pulled to do something exciting and new without making it rain yuan. It actually worked in my favor, because I found lots of different ways to save money that I never would have tried before. I’ll share my best tips for saving money below. I hope it can help you cut costs during your time in China.
1. Eat like the locals
It might be hard to imagine not wanting McDonald’s after a big night out but stay with me. Eating food from Western fast food chains was actually the biggest money-draining habit I had. Take a look at the prices for a piece of chicken at KFC versus one at your local restaurant. The difference will shock you. Of course, you can also try meal prepping. Personally, I found four friends, and we each prepped one big meal every weekend to then distribute to each other. We ended up with five different meals – one for each day of the week. The best part was that we only had to cook once for five lunches! What about your morning coffee? Well the good people at EF offer free coffee at each of their institutions. How’s that for cutting costs?
2. Take alternative transportation
When I think back to my time teaching in Asia, I remember how much fun I had, skateboarding to work along the canals. I have lots of great memories finding empty alleyways to own the road on my board. Now, whether or not you are an Avril or a Tony, the bottom line still sticks: taking alternative transportation is a great way to cut costs while living in China. Rides with Didi, the Chinese version of Uber or Lyft, although cheaper than taxis will still add up quicker than you can say, “I’m broke!” I recommend a healthy alternative: walk. Especially if you live close to your school – just think of how happy your Fitbit will be! If you are not much of a walker, why not try borrowing a bike, and get a few friends in on it as well? Last, try taking the metro. The subway system in China is fast and efficient, but most importantly: it’s cheap. You can even practice your Chinese by reading the metro stops or with a podcast, your multitasker, you.
3. Live cheap
Although this might be the first time you are away from family, try not to let that freedom get into your wallet. Look for a place to share with other teachers in the area. You will not only make wonderful new friends with people from all over the world, (hello backpacking plans later!) but you can share expenses like rent, groceries, and internet bills. To cut costs even more, try searching for an already furnished apartment. However, if you would rather get your own bits and pieces, search first on Buy and Sell groups on WeChat, or on Zhuan Zhuan, a secondhand app for buying and selling items. Depending on which city you live in, you can even try searching for the same buy and sell websites you have back home, and see if there is a Chinese sister site. My tip: other expats are constantly leaving and arriving, so see if you can inherit something for free beforehand.
4. Cut costs in entertainment
We are sure you know lots of fun ways to have fun without breaking the bank from your time at school. Now is not the time to throw those ideas away! Having nights in with board games, crafts, or even movie marathons can lead to fabulous memories, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg to host. EF even holds free teacher events so you can easily meet people. Trying to find something to do in the daytime? Why not take the metro to a sunny park, or try exploring the city? Maybe find someone to try the food with (remember those cheap shops I suggested you visit? Why not bring a friend with you to split the bill?)
Living on a budget isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Try coming up with some of your own ideas. We at EF cannot wait to see what you can do.
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