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

By Beth Williams, Travels in Translation

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

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 (Beth Williams, BesuDesu Abroad)
bills (Beth Williams, BesuDesu Abroad)

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

market (Beth Williams, BesuDesu Abroad)
market (Beth Williams, BesuDesu Abroad)

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.

MORE: 8 Simple Things You Need to Know Before you Teach English Abroad

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

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

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

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.

Copyright © 2014 by BesuDesu Abroad. This article was written by Beth Williams and originally published at BesuDesu Abroad

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