7 Tips to Save More Money While Teaching English in China

You cannot measure the benefits of living, traveling, and teaching English abroad in dollars, euros, cents, or yen. However, there are some countries where teachers abroad are able to walk away from a year or more of teaching with at least a healthy savings account to show for it. If you do your due diligence and select good schools to work for in China, you can save over $10,000 while teaching English in China for one year. Below are 7 actionable tips to help you in save more money while teaching English in China.

1. Choose a school or company that offers free housing or a corresponding housing allowance

Rent is on a constant rise in most big cities across the globe and can consume a significant amount of your monthly salary. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment in an ever-expanding Shenzhen, China, costs between $450 and $600 and can be more than $700 closer to the city center. If you intend to save as much as possible, then spending a lot on rent can be one of your largest setbacks.

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Luckily, most schools and companies in China offer free housing or a good housing allowance to cover the majority of your rent expense. Ensure that you have made an inquiry about this offer prior to signing any agreement. Although the standards of the free housing might not be the best, it will be functional and get you towards your saving goal. If given the option between choosing a housing stipend or a free apartment on school grounds, it is important to compare the stipend to the average rent in the neighborhood of your school. If you can find an apartment nearby (either a one-bedroom or shared with other)s that costs about the same as your stipend, this can be a great cost-saving option as well.

2. Don’t accept a salary of less than $1,500 per month

In China, a first-time English teacher with little to no experience should plan on receiving an average of $1,000 USD per month. However, if you intend to save a significant portion of your income, do not accept less than $1500 a month. If your only income generating activity is teaching English, then that salary (in addition to free or discounted housing listed above) will give you enough money for expenditure and still manage to save $10,000 per year after taxes.

3. Eat and shop locally

During your stay in China, you will discover that western restaurants and grocery stores sell western food at close to or the same price as those available in your home country. You will also discover that the Chinese counterparts, both restaurant as well as grocery store products, are sold at a fraction of the cost.

Although you do not have to eat Chinese food on a daily basis, the more you are ready to cook and buy local food, the higher the amount of money you will save. Chinese dishes such as dim sum, dumplings, and noodles are not only inexpensive but also delicious. Eating at local restaurants also offers an opportunity to make new friends since many people in China enjoy eating their meals at a communal table.

teaching english in china
Delectable Dim Sum: photo credit The Spruce

4. Take advantage of public transportation

Many large cities in China have affordable and efficient public transportation systems. You can comfortably move from one place to another using public transportation. Maneuvering the metro in larger cities is simple, as all stations offer English translations. Understanding the bus route can be a bit trickier, depending on your level of Chinese fluency, but even then, using a VPN paired with Google Maps will help you to find routes to your destination using public buses and help you to know which number to take and how many stops to expect in-between.

You should only take cabs when it is necessary. I repeat, you should only take cabs when it is necessary.

5. Look for tutoring jobs

In most English teaching jobs in China, you will only be required to work an average of 15 to 20 hours per week. Therefore, you will have a lot of extra time (either during the day or in the evenings) to take some side jobs.

Tutoring is one of best ways for earning extra income in China, as the rate for an English tutor can oftentimes be higher than the hourly rate you’re paid for teaching at your school. You can earn the local equivalent of between $20USD and $40USD per hour for tutoring. The lower range generally for one-on-one tutoring and the higher range if you are tutoring multiple children at once. After receiving several offers (generally from either parents or coworkers from your school who have students who would like to learn English), inform the parents about your intention of merging the individual students into one session. That way, you will end up saving a lot of time and significantly increasing your wages per hour.

teaching english in china
One-on-one Tutoring: photo credit ChinaDaily.com

6. Work overtime

Most schools and firms in China will provide some overtime pay for extra work. If finding tutoring jobs is difficult in your area, find out if your school is open to negotiating extra classes in your schedule for additional income. I can’t guarantee your school will accept this offer, but it does not hurt to ask.

Alternatively, you could consider teaching English online in your spare time. Most online ESL teaching jobs are with Chinese students, so you’ll already have a huge benefit by living in the same timezone. I recommend checking out VIPKID for some of the highest hourly rates and great instruction.

7. Invest aggressively

Investing aggressively is an ideal way of growing your savings and achieving financial security.

Instead of leaving all your hard-earned money lying in your Chinese bank account, you should be sending money back to your home bank account at least semi-frequently so that you can put these savings to work earning interest in the money market.

A popular and easy option to invest your savings is through mutual funds that you can purchase from companies such as Vanguard and USAA. Your savings will then be earning interest and you can rest assured that you are investing in your future. ** Please discuss your plan with a financial advisor before doing so.

teach english abroad world comparison chartLiving and teaching English in China is a fantastic experience. However, coming up with a savings plan and investing the sum appropriately is a great way to feel confident that you are planning for your future. The above seven tips will help you improve your annual savings and still live comfortably while teaching English China!