Gi2C How-To Guide: Budgeting for expat life in China

China can be a great place to enjoy life because the cost of living is lower than western countries; however, before you come over you should know which expat group you will belong to get an idea of how much money you’ll need during your stay in China.

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The first expat group normally consists of recently graduated young adults or current students. This group has little money to spend on extras and will often live on campus or in shared apartments. Rent is by far the biggest expense in China and the best way to scrimp money is to share an apartment with 1-3 other people. You can find a very nice apartment with several rooms for RMB6,000-9,000 (USD$1000-1500) a month and then each person will only need to pay RMB2,000-3,000 (USD$300-500) a month.

Another great way to save money is to eat at local Chinese restaurants instead of Western restaurants. You will save between 60-180rmb (USD$10-30) per meal this way. You can also save a great deal of money by rarely taking a taxi and instead, using only the subway and buses.

Most expats in this first group have monthly expenditures that do not exceed 6,000rmb (USD$1000). We often advise our Gi2C interns to budget for USD$2000 a month, which allows for some extra money for occasional shopping, emergencies, and fun activities.

The second group of expats in China are young adults with several years of work experience. They are either working as English teachers or in a business setting and make between 10,000-20,000rmb ($1500-3000USD) a month. They usually rent one or two-bedroom apartments at around 3,500-6,000rmb (USD$550-1000) a month. Expats in this group are more likely to frequent places like Starbucks and Western restaurants as well as Uber on a regular basis. Their monthly expenditures are between 9,000-15,000rmb (USD$1400-2400).

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If you are in this second group and budget for USD$4000 a month, you should have plenty of extra money for frequent shopping and going out with friends.

The last group of expats in China is middle-aged experienced business professionals who most likely have been sent over to China for a two-year assignment and have also brought their family with them. Their salary package includes a villa on the outskirts of town, a car and driver, international private school for their kids and a very nice annual income.

They most likely do not need to budget their expenses too carefully. If you are in this last China expat group, good for you! Now go find some less fortunate young expats from the first group who are living on a very tight budget and treat them to a big meal!


Gi2C Group offers professional internships in China as well as accommodation and everything else our Gi2C interns need during their stay in China. For more info on which industry or job opportunity in China is best for you, contact our Gi2C internship counselors at [email protected]. Start your new career in China with an internship in Beijing or Shanghai!

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3 thoughts on “Gi2C How-To Guide: Budgeting for expat life in China

  1. This is a good tip particularly to hose fresh to the blogosphere.
    Short but very precise information… Thaanks for sharing this one.

    A must read post!

  2. Yeah obviously eat at local chinese restaurants ?! No brainer, dont u think ?