The cost of living in China is relatively low compared to most industrialized countries. You will be surprised by how comfortably you can live and how strong your purchasing power is. So, Can You Save Money While Teaching English in China?
You save money while teaching English in China, and here are some effective tips on saving money while teaching in China.
- Know your “WHY”
- Don’t drink even cheap alcohol
- Avoid western food
- Eat like local food
- Take on private students
- Live and shop like a Chinese
- Get a roommate
- Don’t travel outside of China
- Work at an international school
- Whenever off-peak travel season
- Create a budget and stick to it
- Make sure you get reimbursed for your flights
Read on to find out 14 proven tips how you can save a lot of money while you teach English in China.
How Can You Save Money While Teaching English in China?
1- Know your “WHY”
The most important question you should ask yourself is why do you want to save money teaching in China? What are your reasons behind saving teaching English in China?
- Maybe you want to pay your student loan?
- Perhaps a down payment for your first house?
- Save money to further your studies?
- Perhaps you want to get married?
Whatever the reasons are, they must be relevant enough to keep you motivated to keep adding to your saving account.
You need to remind yourself always “WHY” because you get distracted or be tempted to enjoy the moment.
2- Don’t Drink Even Cheap Alcohol
There are lots of dumb decisions you make when drinking that will cost you money, and it generally will eat up your all your savings.
You can adopt a healthy lifestyle while teaching English in China including reading, exercising, volunteering, and small local trips.
3- Avoid Western Food
Whenever possible, try to avoid western food. It is about 5-10x more expensive and not nearly as delicious as it is in your home country.
Cook at home if you can. You can save a lot of money teaching English in China when you live frugally, including avoiding western fast-food restaurants.
4- Eat Like Local Food
Keep in mind that the cost of living differs from one province to another, and food prices vary between cities. Eating local food instead of a Western restaurant is a great way to save money while teaching in China.
Try to discover real Chinese food; they are cheaper and delicious. Ask yourself, did you come to China to eat western food all the time anyway?
You will discover that there are many affordable foods cheap and delicious that you can find in your area. Besides, you will get a full course of a meal for the same price compared to just a burger and fries from a western restaurant.
Rent is one of the highest costs most people have every month, so make sure your job covers your accommodation or offers you a free apartment.
One of the biggest advantages of teaching abroad in China is that you might not have to worry about this. My employer pays for my rent every month.
Most schools offer a free apartment to their teachers or pay apartment allowances every month.
Unless you live in Beijing or Shanghai, chances are the subway system in your city is not super great. Being from Toronto in Canada, I avoided the subway at all costs whenever I went into the city. There are always delays, and I always opted to take more expensive Uber or Lyft rides.
However, China has an excellent network of public transportation. Almost everywhere in China, you can rent bikes to help you get very quickly from one place to another.
While more expensive than the metro, taxis are still very cheap compared to Toronto, with a taxi ride fall of between 6-18 RMB (depending on the city), which will usually cover you for an about 10-minute trip.
China also has a massive conventional and fast rail network, which is very affordable and makes getting around in China faster and easier.
7- Take on Private Students
Before considering this option, check with your employer if you are allowed to give private English lessons. If yes, then proceed to take on private students. I would not recommend you give private English illegally as it is not worth it. If the Chinese authorities find out, you will be deported or put in jail.
You can earn extra money by giving private English lessons legally because parents will pay the average rate of RMB 140 ($20) per hour depending on the city. And you can put this extra money toward your savings.
See also: What Other Jobs Can ESL Teachers Do?
8- Live and Shop Like a Chinese
In China, the cost of living is relatively lower than what you may be used to in the home country.
As an ESL teacher and expatriate living in China, you might find it easy to hang out, eat, drink and shop at “foreigner-friendly” places, and that usually means spending over-inflated “foreigner” or “tourist” prices.
You will save extra money if you take public transportation, shop at local markets, and avoid pricey restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
For instance, if you might see something you like that doesn’t have a price tag on it, odds are you can haggle the price down a bit. Most of the time, the salesman will try to give you the highest price at first. You can bargain and get a reasonable price and save money.
9- Get a Roommate
If your school doesn’t provide you free housing, try to get an apartment with a roommate so you can share costs and lower your living expenses. Finding other ESL English teachers or ex-pats looking to share an apartment is typically pretty easy in big cities.
In the center of the cities, downtown or more populated areas, rent is usually more expensive. Whereas if you go a bit more out of your way out of the city, you may end up saving a bit more. Most people spend about 35-40 minutes commuting to work on public transport is
10- Don’t Travel Outside of China
It might be fun, but it will cost you a lot of money. China is a beautiful country with tons of places to explore, and if you really want to save money teaching English in China, it makes sense to stick to the country you are living in. Within China, food, accommodation, and transport are all cheap, and you can see many beautiful places for very little money.
Many people recommend teaching in China to save up a little cash for traveling across Asia. If you are looking to save money, this is not good advice for you.
Choose to teach in China because you are very excited to live and work there and have an incredibly immersive and memorable experience. Teaching abroad is a JOB, and you should take it seriously.
11- Work at An International School
International schools often pay the highest salaries in China, typically in the range of RMB 12800-31500($USD1,876 – $USD4,616) per month.
There is a tough competition to land a job at an international school. But not impossible, my first job in China is at an international school as a math teacher in Guangzhou.
As an English teacher at an international school, you will find yourself teaching subjects such as math, chemistry, physics beyond the English language.
You will work about 40 hours a week, but you will make and save more money.
Typical students at international schools are Chinese students who hope to study in a foreign country or sometimes expat kids.
See also: What Is It Like Being an ESL Teacher?
12- Whenever Travel Off-Peak Season
Whenever possible, try to take your trips off-peak season to discover some of China’s main attractions, which typically means you will need to travel in the winter.
Traveling off-peak has the extra advantage to help you avoid the tourist crowds for a more stress-free environment.
And the good news is that many attractions and hotels provide a lower price, and you can save a lot on flights.
13- Create a Budget And Stick to It – Save First and Spend What is Left
Creating a budget and sticking to it will stop you from blowing all your money on the spur of the weekend, just because everyone is doing it.
Creating a budget and sticking to it is fundamental personal finance advice for saving money and becoming rich.
Start by breaking down your monthly income and expenses and start cutting out non essential expenses, and you will start saving up a ton of money.
14- Make Sure You Get Reimbursed for your Flights
Most of the schools offer flight reimbursement every year; make sure you get reimbursed for your flight. It will help you save on average $1172 (8000 RMB), which you can put toward your savings.
Overall, you can save a lot of money while teaching English in China, but it also depends on your lifestyle and goals.
You will not become a billionaire by teaching English. However, you could save enough to live comfortably and work very few hours. It all depends on your lifestyle.
When teaching English, you will be confronted with a lot of choices. You can either party every weekend or save a lot of money. It is not easy to do both. Most disciplined ESL teachers in China were able to:
- Pay off of their student loans
- Traveled around Asia
- Save money to get started with when you get home
- Have a lot of fun.
If other people can save money while teaching in China, you also can with these effective and proven tips.