How You Can Save $18,000 Teaching English One Year in Hong Kong

How You Can Save $18,000 Teaching English One Year in Hong Kong

Nowadays more and more university graduates are considering going overseas to teach English rather than going directly into an office job at home.

Why?

Well, it’s a great cultural experience or a fun gap year abroad with only slightly more responsibility than what they had in university, but the real reason most consider it? The money.

Sure it might be tacky talking openly about one’s salary, but if you’re considering moving to the other side of the world for work, it’s an important thing that needs to be talked about.

So how much money can you save teaching English for one year in Hong Kong?

To answer this, I’m going to layout my monthly salary and spendings. Of course, everyone lives differently, so you’ll need to take your own lifestyle into consideration and adjust the amounts in order to get a rough idea of how much you would be able to make.

English teacher salaries can range from $18,000 – $28,000 (HKD) for language centers and $25,000 and up for actual schools.

My salary was $22,500 Hong Kong Dollars per month.

1 HKD = 0.13 USD

So let’s break that down into my monthly spendings:

Rent

Hong Kong
The unfortunate part about living in Hong Kong is having to pay astronomical rent prices. This is where a majority of my spendings fall each month, and unless you have friends or relatives that you can crash with, it’ll be where most of yours is as well.

Many schools and companies will actually help you find an apartment and subsidize it for you, which will help keep costs down slightly. Usually if that’s the case, you will be sharing an apartment with other teachers and people who work outside the school are not allowed to reside there.

Because Johnny was not an English teacher, we had our own apartment, not affiliated with my company. Our rent each month was $14,000 HKD– meaning we each paid $7k respectively.

Total each month: $7,000 HKD

Utilities

bills-hk

Hong Kong is awesome in the fact that the government subsidizes most utilities. When we first moved in we had to pay a few deposits for gas, water, and internet, but even then they ranged from $200 to $700 HKD. After that, we continually got a monthly bill stating we owed a negative amount and that our balance would be carried towards the next month.

Total each month: $0 HKD

Cell Phone

Everyone in Hong Kong has a cell phone and as such the companies are all competitively priced. I went with the company 3, because they offered a one-year contract as opposed to most the others only offering two-years.

I had unlimited data, unlimited text messaging and 2,000 minutes a month. Who needs that many minutes?

Total each month: $200 HKD

Food

Hong Kong

Food is going to be the category that will probably vary the most for people. If you stick to eating western food, your prices will be so much higher than if you stick to local, or even just other Asian food.

In general, most western food runs around $70 to $150 per meal, whereas I can get a bowl of Taiwanese brisket noodles for $20.

I ate most of my lunches at home (or at least packed from home) and dinner was often bought out. Due to the small size of apartments, kitchens are kind of lacking in Hong Kong and it’s actually cheaper to eat out since individual ingredient prices are high. We took advantage of the many fruit markets near our house often because they offered delicious fresh fruits for a cheap price!

Total each month: $2,500 HKD 

Alcohol

Hong Kong
Another great factor in how much money you’ll save is alcohol. Alcohol can be done on the cheap if you go to places like Club 7, or it can be outrageous if you go to places like Ozone. And by outrageous, I’m talking $180 for a drink you can get for $15 at 7-Eleven.

Other than at holidays and special occasions, I didn’t get involved in the whole party, LKF scene. I rarely drank which made my wallet much happier.

On average, expect to pay around $100 for a cocktail and $60 for a beer if you do go out (to a place that isn’t Club 7).

Total each month: $0 HKD

Entertainment

monsters-u-hk

Everyone likes to have some fun whether it’s going shopping, out to the movies, or renting a private karaoke room. Early on we bought all the various theme park and museum passes, which paid for themselves very quickly. Even without the passes, those sorts of activities are very affordable– for example, entry to a museum costs $10!

Shopping varied from month to month. I generally didn’t spend a whole lot other than right before the seasons would change (good thing Hong Kong only has two!), and right before I left. Gotta stock up right?

Total each month: $800 HKD

Transportation

Hong Kong
Transportation can either take away a lot or very little from your paycheck depending on your commute from work and how often you go out. The nice thing about Hong Kong is that it’s small, so most things you’ll want to go to often will be in walking distance or a short bus ride away. Most months I would spend maybe $200 getting around on the weekends, if that.

As far as commuting though, when I first started working, my commute was actually really far and I was spending $30 a day just getting to and from work. Once I moved to a new center that opened, my commute was a simple walk costing me nothing.

Total each month: $200 HKD

So what does that calculate to in savings each month?

$22,500
-7,000
-200
-2,500
-250
-800

$11,750

Multiple that by 12 months and you have $141,000 HKD, or roughly a little over $18,000 USD.

This doesn’t even take into consideration if you received any contract completion bonuses or if you empty your MPF (Mandatory Provident Fund). That’s a lot of money! You could travel a long time on that, make a good dent in your student loans, or even put it towards going back to school.

Again, everyone will have slightly different numbers based on their lifestyle. And if you plan to travel over your breaks like I did, you’ll need to take out a lot more for that. But hopefully this gives you a good idea of what you COULD be saving if you went to teaching English in Hong Kong for one year.

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18 Comments

  1. Geoffrey
    June 22, 2016 / 2:28 pm

    I have been teaching in Colombia for two years and barely made anything at all. I’m thinking of making a move. What organization did you go through or did you just show up and try to find a job?

  2. July 21, 2015 / 4:10 am

    Thanks so much for this! moving to HK in a week and this gives me some idea as to what to expect!!!

  3. December 18, 2014 / 8:59 pm

    This was such a thorough and detailed breakdown! I’m not evening planning to go teach in Hong Kong, but I still really enjoyed reading this and learning a little about your experience there. Thanks! If I ever do end up teaching over there, at least I know it’s possible to do with without breaking the bank :D

  4. James
    July 4, 2014 / 7:04 am

    Great article on how to save money in HK Beth! It’s definitely not an easy place to save money! Although you may have left out a few details about taxes and whatnot, this is a great guide for newcomers to the city. We recently posted an article on our blog about becoming an English teacher in HK compared to surrounding countries and the pros and cons involved. You should check it out:

    I think you’ll find it interesting, as well! Best of luck! ;)

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:53 am

      Taxes are totally dependent on how much you make. Even still they’re very low– after living there for 2 years I paid about $60 upon my departure. My US taxes were 20x that amount and I wasn’t even contributing there. :)

  5. July 1, 2014 / 3:34 pm

    Have to say I agree with Oneika The Traveller. I’m also an expat in HK and my local meals cost at least HK$30 each (cheapest I could find around my area and they don’t taste that great). Even though my employer subsidized my housing, I still feel that the cost of living here is higher than where I come from, Singapore (not taking into account owning a car of course).

    • Beth Williams
      August 5, 2014 / 1:52 am

      Interesting. When I visited Singapore, I was so ready to come back to HK, as I found it overly expensive there! Although I’m sure it depends what you’re spending your money on since I was there as a tourist, doing touristy things.

      As I mentioned, I do a lot of cooking at home so that cuts down costs a bit (depending what you make of course!) and I think it helped that I just lived in a cheaper area of HK on the Kowloon side.

  6. June 29, 2014 / 7:07 am

    Current Hong Kong expat here… Nice breakdown but you didn’t mention that you have to pay taxes out of that! I think that your budget is very bare bones — yes, it may be possible to save that much on that sort of salary every month but it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun! Question, did you ever have to pay for electric? At my last flat I had bills of up to 1000 HKD during the summer months (because of running air con). Currently my landlord takes care of most of my bills but I still pay about 300 HKD every few months for water.

    • Beth Williams
      July 12, 2014 / 4:33 pm

      Glad you commented Oneika! You do have to pay taxes when you leave the country of course, but it is relative to how much you make. I think most of my coworkers ended up paying about $600 HKD (so about $75 US for everyone else reading this comment) which is nothing compared to taxes in the US. We did “pay” electric, but usually our bill was negative, even in summer. Part of that is probably because we wouldn’t get home until 9pm, and so the air was only turned on minimally!

    • Beth Williams
      July 12, 2014 / 4:28 pm

      Thanks Sammi! I hope this can help people decide if moving to HK is a good fit for them. :)

  7. June 26, 2014 / 11:15 am

    Wow, you can save so much money this way….and see a whole different part of the world! Great breakdown of the costs! Crazy how rent is there….I thought it was expensive to rent here near Toronto, but it worked out to be more in Hong Kong! That’s surprising to me!

    • Beth Williams
      July 12, 2014 / 4:27 pm

      Hong Kong is #1 in the world for highest rent prices (although sometimes it goes back and forth with Tokyo). Even with the high rent prices it’s still very possible to make a good living though. :)

  8. June 26, 2014 / 9:14 am

    Beth thanks for all this great information. I’ve heard people say they can save money teaching English abroad, but it’s nice to see some numbers (and get a general gist) of how much that can be, and how much things can cost.

    • Beth Williams
      July 12, 2014 / 4:25 pm

      It really does depend on the country, but usually, teaching abroad is great for a year or two.

  9. June 26, 2014 / 12:29 am

    I found that teaching in Asia is a great way to save money! In Korea I saved a $12,000 per year and that was pretty good considering the amount of travel that I did as well. It looks like teaching in Hong Kong is also pretty lucrative :)

    • Beth Williams
      July 12, 2014 / 4:24 pm

      I’ve heard great things about teaching for Korea, especially since they usually provide house and flights. Unfortunately you’re on your own for those things in HK. :\