Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Costs of Living in Hong Kong

We've been here for 2 1/2 months now, and have had an established weekly budget for the last 8 weeks, so I thought it time I shared how much it costs for the two of us to live in Hong Kong in a typical month.

First, here are the last four weeks of expenses in HK dollars:

This includes groceries, meals out, household items, snacks, etc.  It includes HK250 each for our monthly gym memberships.  It also includes several hundred dollars topping up our Octopus cards (used for the subway, buses, trolleys, and star ferry), as well as another hundred topping up Nora's prepaid phone.  It does not include utilities, our three day trip to Macau, or our rent.

On week 3, we went over our budget (HK1800), and I carried over the 293 to week 4.  With that in mind, you can see that our four week total is HK7,363, which is about US $950.  Or, to round up, about $250 per week for two people, including transportation costs, mobile phone bills, and gym memberships.  Considering how well we eat, and how often we go out to eat (usually twice during the work week, and then 4 or 5 times on weekends), I'd say that's pretty fantastic.

On to the next part: utilities.  Our monthly internet bill is HK168 (another fantastic price; for about US $22, we get 100MB service.  For comparison, 10MB service with Comcast back home is $60.).  Our water bill this month was HK45.  Our electric bill was HK434 (the government subsidizes electricity, and took HK120 off our bill). Our gas bill was HK61.  All told, our utilities come out to HK708, or ~US $92.

Last item of consideration, our rent.  We live in a nice place, with a balcony, a harbor view, and an in-house gym.  As such, our rent is a bit higher than most of our friends here in HK (for comparison, our friend K shares a two bedroom place with a roommate, and their total rent is about 15% cheaper than our 1 bedroom flat). Our monthly rent comes out to HK15,000, or a bit under US $2k.

Grand total for all expenses over the past month: just over HK23,000, or about US $3,000.

This is more than we were paying when we lived in Tennessee (our monthly expenses there were between $2,000 and $2,250).  On the other hand, we almost never went out to eat back home.  In addition, while I was making about $20k more a year there, Nora was unemployed and taking out student loans.  I'm making a lot less here, but we're no longer borrowing money, and Nora's job leaves us with about HK10k a month, or a bit less than a third of her salary, after all expenses.

Well, almost all expenses.  We do have this nasty habit of travelling.  Our 3 day weekend in Macau was very expensive--we went crazy and got this insanely nice room at at posh casino hotel.  In a week from now we'll be travelling to Singapore, where our lodging will be cheaper (a week in a hostel), but we won't be holding back on food and drinks--they're our favorite part of travelling.  Then in December we're going to Taiwan for 12 days, and in February we're going to Malaysia for a week.  There's another two week period in April that we haven't decided on yet, and a 6 week period in June and July that we'll be visiting the US.  All things considered, between what we're saving from Nora's salary and my online work, we don't anticipate to save a whole lot over the next year.  Perhaps US $5k.

But we will be paying off our student loans, eating some of the best food the world has to offer, and doing a lot of travelling.  More frugally minded people who don't have such a nice apartment or travel as frequently could easily save a lot more than $5k.  And couples who both work in HK would save even more still (an HK salary would be 3-5x what I'm making online, but we're forgoing that additional income for a year so I can concentrate on my writing).

So even though Nora's school doesn't pay for our housing, as our school in South Korea did, in the end Hong Kong offers an equivalent--or greater--opportunity to make and save money, enjoy life in Asia, and travel.  The biggest difference for us is that in SK we only got two weeks off the entire year, and the weeks couldn't occur back-to-back.  Here, between government holidays and school breaks, Nora has eleven weeks off throughout the year, during which she continues to receive a salary, making even the stresses of her job seem well worthwhile.

In other words, we couldn't be happier.

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