Recently one of the non-China related blogs that I read (Get Rich Slowly) had a great post on how to save money by leaving the country. It has some great points about why living overseas can be a really good financial choice.
Kara and I moved to Beijing in March of 2008. Beijing has been listed as one of the most expensive places to live on recent lists, but we have both been working, enjoying our time here and we have also managed to pay off over $17,000 in credit card debt and student loans.
Most people can’t imagine moving to another country because they think it would be too expensive. There definitely are some significant costs involved in moving overseas (check our our earlier post on cost of living in Beijing) especially on the front end, but for Kara and I moving to China has been a really great thing for us financially. It’s not because we landed awesome high paying jobs. Here are the reasons why moving to China was good for us (and might be good for you):
1. Cost of Living is less.
The truth is, it’s cheaper for us to live in Beijing than in America. We don’t live like some of the expats that we know with big corporate packages and private drivers, but we have a pretty comfortable life. We are able to eat out at Western/American style restaurants about twice a week and visit Starbucks 2-3 times a week (we are a bit addicted to coffee) and we have a modest 2 bedroom apartment.
We don’t pay for car insurance, rent is less than what we were paying in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (not exactly a high end market), and food is generally really cheap. All of our China expenses come out of my salary and everything my wife makes goes to paying off our student loans, paying for her insurance and purchasing yearly tickets to go home and visit family.
2. Work is relatively easy to find.
The global economy has tanked, but China’s economy continues to grow. The easiest (by far) industry to get into if you want to live in China and you can’t speak Chinese is teaching English.
You can get a job teaching English in a university in Beijing with a Bachelor’s degree in any field. Typical compensation for Beijing is going to be around 6000 yuan ($880) per month for 15-20 hours of teaching, plus they provide housing and often access to the school cafeteria. On top of that it’s not too hard to add additional income by doing some private tutoring at about $30 an hour. If you don’t have teaching credentials, it’s hard to confirm a job from overseas, but if you come over here on a tourist visa you should be able to find something within a month or so.
Kara and I don’t teach English. I work for an international church and for a couple years my wife was a private tutor for an American family living in Beijing, now she does freelance writing and editing. There are other job options as well, but when in doubt there are always English teaching jobs available.
The upside to teaching English is that it’s easy to find a job, the downside is sometimes those jobs don’t pay a whole lot and the work environment can be challenging. But that’s ok because the best reason to move to China in order to improve your finances is…
3. It’s an opportunity to completely remake your spending habits.
The hardest part of getting on a budget is breaking bad habits, if you’re an alcoholic don’t hang out in bars, if you’ve been addicted to living the American dream, get out of America. Debt and money matters are only about 10% math and 90% mental and emotional. A major change in scenery changes you, and you’re the problem anyway.
So lets say you’re making about $1000 a month, spending $400 on living in China, $200 for health insurance and airfare, you’ve still got $400 a month to throw at your debt.
Bonus: Chinese Renminbi (RMB) is on the rise.
The exchange rate for RMB to USD is getting better and better for people who get paid in RMB, the bang for your buck (pun intended) is greater, and since the US is pressuring China to let their currency float there’s more and more reason to have RMB.
Here’s approximately what we spend each month:
Eating Out: $150
Personal Spending: $250
Charitable Giving: $315
Storage for stuff back home: $50
Health Insurance: $250
Yearly travel: $250
Total: $2265 per month
Sometimes budgeting over $2000 a month seems like a lot to us, but we figure if we really wanted to cut back we could probably live on about $1200 a month without much problem (that’s for 2 people).
What has China done to your finances, has it been a good thing or a bad thing?