Published on May 20th, 2011 | by Paz13
Cost of living in China
What does it cost for a family of four to live in China? If you wanted to move to China how much money would you need. Now after three months I am happy to give everyone a break-down of what our life here is costing and how affordable is it.
When we were picking places to move to there were many things that ran past our minds in our decision process, but one of the most important choices was how much was it going to cost us? Could we live on my teaching salary? We didn’t know if Zeek would be able to keep his job or not so we planned on worse case senario. If you prepare then you know what to do to keep your dream on track.
China is growing at a crazy speed. I have never experience such a growth process in the U.S.A., but I imagine that my grandparents did. I wonder if they were as bewildered about it as I am here in China. We live in one of China’s largest cities with over 13 million people. If something needs to be done, there is never a shortage of hands or workforce. In China things are built at lighting speed. Did you know that China consumes more than 50% of the worlds concrete. More than 50% of the world’s concrete…that is just crazy to even imagine. If I tried to imagine that much concrete my brain would just hurt. So I won’t.
(Picture of a side street on our way to Lupita’s school)
A city you saw last year…well could look completely different the next year, or even the next month. The 2010 Asian Games were held in Guangzhou and we are told that the city drastically changed 6 months prior to the event. If the government wants something done, well they just do it.
Anytime a city experiences growth it also experiences inflation. The costs we expected while planning ended up being quite different once we got here. Things we thought would be cheap were expensive, things we thought would be expensive were cheap. So that being said, what is our cost of living now that we have been here three months?
(The financial district of Guangzhou)
What do we live on and how much is China costing us?
Pay: My teaching salary is 10,000 RMB for 40 hours of English Teaching: 25 classroom hours & 15 office hours (keep in mind that most Chinese teachers make around 2,500 RMB a month for 40 hours of working)
Living: 4,000 RMB a month for our apartment: 75 sq meters (It would have been 3600 a month if we would have agreed to sign a year lease. We decided against the year lease because I still didn’t have a job when we originally found the apartment. I know we over pay a bit for ours and that there are better deals out there. We should probably be paying around 3200 a month considering our location and the size of the apartment. When we found the apartment it was the best and the least expensive. It was important for us to find a place that we all felt comfortable with. I ended up finding a job in the same building as we live so my commute is about 5 minutes.
(Beijing Road, Guangzhou)
Utilities: 250 RMB a month (Our utilities consist of electricity, gas, water, cell phone, internet, t.v.) For the internet and t.v. you have to pay everything up front. You pay for your year of service up front. That cost us 850.00 RMB for a year of T.V. & Internet. I know we didn’t have t.v. in the states why did we get t.v. in China? Only because it was too complicated to tell our landlord that we didn’t need t.v. and the cost was minimal, so we have Chinese tv! We purchased our wireless modem from the internet company at (I am sure) an inflated price of 200 RMB but it was convenient and they set it all up. We roughly pay about 250 RMB a month for electricity, gas, water, and cell phone. You pay for everything up front and then when it runs out you go pay again. There are NO payment plans in China.
Nanny/Daycare: 2,200 RMB a month We have to have a daycare/nanny for Abe & Lupita while we are at work. Even though Zeek works from home it is not like he can work and watch a 14 month old. There really aren’t day cares in China, so we had to look into a nanny. We also liked the idea of someone at our house, so that Zeek could see Abe more during the day and we knew everything that was going on. We were happily surprised to find out that not only does a Chinese nanny watch your kids but they cook all of your meals, go grocery shopping, clean your house, and yes wash your clothes. We were so surprised by this and have become extremely spoiled with our new nanny. I am someone who doesn’t enjoy cooking so, I love having meals served three times a day by someone else. hehehe Most nanny’s only get one day off a week. We give ours two and that brings her price down a little bit. She comes at 8 am and leaves at 8 pm. If she works extra days if we need her assistance then we pay her for her extra day. It seems to be a win win situation.
(Lupita in the financial district)
School: 650 RMB a month We decided to send Lupita to a local kindergarten where they teach in Mandarin. We pay 430 for her school, 10 a day for food, and then 20 a month for air conditioning, which equals 650 RMB a month. We had to pay to have her registered, uniform, and a cot for naps. Considering we had been use to not paying for school in the U.S. I have to say at first it was a little hard to come to terms with. There is public ”free” school but that is not available until kids are 5 yrs old. We chose one on the cheaper side. Since I don’t work on Monday and Tuesday, she rarely goes to school on those days unless there is a special function. It has been very hard for her to adjust to her new school environment. She has made one friend and that has helped tons.
(Paz in the financial district)
Food: 1700 RMB a month We spend 1200 RMB on everyday food and another 500 RMB on juice, coffee, and milk. We have to go to a special store that carries all sort of imported items to get good coffee, real juice, and cow’s milk. Our nanny buys all of our food fresh everyday at the local market. Many people don’t advise buying your meat from the local market because you have no idea where it came from. We are not big meat eaters and have not found it necessary to purchase our meat from the imported grocery store. Our nanny buys what little meat we do eat from the market and we have been fine. Our meals mainly contain veggies prepared all different ways. We eat rice with every meal or some sort of noodle. We have gotten use to eating our food with chopsticks and find it helps us eat a little slower. You can’t shovel food into your mouth with chopsticks. The “western” meals we eat on a regular basis are ‘peanut butter & jelly sandwiches’ and ‘oatmeal’. These little snacks are all we need to satisfy our western taste buds…oh ya and coffee! We can’t survive without coffee. Somethings never change.
So after all of our expenses and taxes (400 RMB), we have about 800 RMB left at the end of the month.
I know that this isn’t a lot of money to go travel the world with, but we are able to live extremely comfortable and still have money left over. Remember we have almost half of a normal Chinese teacher’s salary left at the end of the month. We could save quite a bit of money on our apartment. There are many nice places to live in Guangzhou that cost between 2500 and 3500 a month. We have thought of moving after our 6 month lease is up to a less expensive place. I am not sure if we will or not. The idea of packing makes me a little sick to my stomach at the moment. I love being able to come home for lunch and only having to leave for work 5 minutes before I have to be there.
We use our 800 RMB to go out with friends,travel around Guangzhou and on ice cream every once in a while. Although there are many wonderful things to buy in Guangzhou we have very little interest in buying things. We buy the occasional small toy for the kids or crayons but we have no interest in cluttering our life back up. Oh Zeek did have to buy a pair of Pumas (60.00 USD) because of all the walking we do here. His brand new Converse lets say died….the amount of walking we do here is not meant for an innocent pair of Chuck Taylors.
American Bills: We still have some American bills that we have to pay. So if you have these as well you need to keep them in mind. We have student loans, life-insurance, part of our mortgage payment, and hospital bills that we have to make payments on every month. So we use Zeek’s income to cover these payments.
What this all mean? Although prices changed from what we thought before we came, we are happy to say that our standard of living is much higher for some key points. We eat a million times healthier than we did before, yes I do mean a million!!! We spend more time with each-other and the kids because no one is worried about laundry or cleaning the house…or cooking. We walk with each other everywhere which is so much better than jumping in the car and running a million errands.
If you are interested in moving to China this is what it will cost you. Hopefully some of you will come and visit us.