Expat Problems: To Stop Living Expensively in Hong Kong
By Alicia A. Beale
Hong Kong can be an extremely affordable city. Now I’ve heard all the complaints about it being too expensive and a drain on savings but these complaints generally come from the sphere of Midlevels/Central/Sheung Wan so I’m writing this article to offer another perspective.
When I was living in New York City, it was impossible for me to find a meal outside for under $10 USD (roughly $80 HKD) unless that meal came from McDonald’s. Also the affordable eating atmosphere was primarily chain restaurants albeit delicious ones such as Shake Shack and (please come to HK) Chipotle. Rent was ridiculously high for a small bug-infested apartment which was a 45 minute subway ride from Manhattan and where I had to keep pepper spray in my bag for walking home at night. In New York, you don’t really get to choose where you live so much as rental prices dictates to you where you can actually afford to live. Another dictate was on my lifestyle. Any bar with drinks costing more than $10 USD was an anathema. Going to clubs with a door charge was impossible and definitely not because I wasn’t cute enough to get pass the bouncers.
Living in Hong Kong has been dramatically different as I have found much more choice over my finances and spending habits.
You choose where you live
If you don’t choose to live in Sheung Wan or Midlevels, you can cut expenses quickly. With neighborhoods like Kennedy Town and Quarry Bay offering the convenience of a 20-minute ride into Central as well as great restaurants and easy access to casual hiking trails like the Quarry Bay Tree Walk or the trail from Ktown to the Peak. Even Wanchai, with the hottest and most feel good new bars like Ophelia and Thaiwan, still has offerings of two-bedrooms for under $15, 000 a month. Some people can still find a studio walk-up with a rooftop for $10, 000 in Kennedy Town and what you could find on Lantau is a better deal. Places like Mui Wo or Lamma have a tight knit and low-key community which is great for finding playdates for kids and Lantau has the biggest kid’s playground called the beach where you can let the kids loose while enjoying a chardonnay. In terms of rent, you can find a whole renovated 3 bedroom house with a rooftop on Lantau for $36, 000. You might be the first of your circle of friends to step out of the bubble around Central but once you burst it, you’ll find others and a larger wallet.
Thank you spacious.hk and my guy from Fortune Reality for the info.
You choose your own adventure
Some of us are indeed quite removed from our backpacking days and most certainly do not want to be that old dude in the hostel so the expense of travel has risen with our more necessary need for comfort. Single guys, I know you’re thinking but not only a decent hotel, I need to take selfies of me in business class to post on Tinder. Yes, yes, there are a few creature comforts that should come with the disposable income of mid-career but still no need for staying at the Le Meridien in Bangkok just for Instagram photos. The cost of the superficial in our lifestyle can be easily cut out. Hong Kong is extremely transient for expats but if you are looking for a long-term solution to saving money here. Make a set of good friends. Good friends will hang out with you even if there is nothing to do. Now end FOMO. Yes, everyone from introverts to extroverts appear to be out from Thursday to Sunday, but just because Bob is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to do it too especially if deep in your heart all you really want to do is be at home flipping through Netflix. Host a dinner party. Have a movie night. Be with people in a space without loud music or menus.
You choose what you eat
Hong Kong has one of the cheapest McDonald’s in the world. Plus now you can build your own Angus burger! What a $100 Butcher’s Club burger that comes with no sides isn’t the only burger to eat in HK? Gourmet burgers have become the in-crowd of fast food recently in the 852 but amongst the higher end places you should find sets such as at Burger Circus and Beef & Liberty. Sets are always the best deal. Never order lunch on the regular menu if you’re looking to save a penny or two. Order from the lunch set to get at least an iced lemon tea with your meal. Not paying an extra $30 – $50 for a drink can make a huge daily difference. Also not ordering any lunch outside is super super cost-cutting. Making your meals at home is the ultimate in making Hong Kong inexpensive. The wet market is dirt cheap and it’s dirty too. Yes, there are pools of blood on the floor but don’t you buy organic so you know where your meat has come from? Well at the wet market you can look your meat directly in the eyes. If it’s fish you’re shopping for, then those eyes will be alive before the end comes and it’s placed in your canvas grocery bag. If you’re vegetarian, the wet market is your buffet. In the Graham Street market, I’m pretty sure I’ve come across 7 different types of tofu. Tofu is so cheap. You can have a pound for $10. Most vegetables are very affordable. One time I bartered heavily over a $20 head of broccoli. Your utter lack of Cantonese keeps you from entering the domain of the most affordable and fresh food in Hong Kong? Just learn “gei do chin a” and point. An elderly person will come from behind the stall and show you prices on a calculator.
Acknowledgment: If you have moved to a predominately Chinese city and do not like Chinese food then your food costs will probably just be high. But try looking at our list of awesome caterers who do Western food.