Student budget: Ways to save money when living in Hong Kong
When researching Hong Kong, you might come across many headlines like “It’s official – Hong Kong is the most expensive city in the world to live in” in various newspapers. If you are on a tight budget for your upcoming studies here, such articles might really frighten you at first. Don’t worry; I can reassure you that you can live affordably here and have a fulfilling experience, even on a small budget. In this article, I will tell you how you can stretch that Hong Kong dollar further, so that it lasts longer.
Choose the right places to shop
Coming from Europe, I was used to the idea that the bigger supermarket means lower prices. It’s not quite the same here. While your typical 7-11 shop is very expensive, most supermarkets aren’t that cheaper either. Most likely you will first encounter the likes of “Uselect”, “Park&Shop” or “Welcome”, which are somehow similar to western-style supermarkets, but nothing like Walmart in size. These supermarkets are a place to go for western food. If you wander off to shopping centres (e.g. Festival Walk or Harbour City), you will encounter even more expensive supermarkets like “City super”, “Taste” or “Sogo.
So where should you shop? Try a local market like this one!
I understand that you might not want to buy all groceries in a local market; however, it’s an excellent place to buy affordable vegetables, fruit fish and meat. Be aware though, not all sellers display price tags, thus I would advise you to only buy from those who show the prices. These markets are scattered across the city, so you might need spend some time walking around your neighbourhood to find the closest to you.
But the truth is, you won’t cook that much, most of the time students eat out
The obvious suggestion is to eat on campus, as the prices are affordable. But let’s be honest, you can’t eat the same meals for the rest of a year. While I can’t list all of the affordable restaurants you can visit, there is one method that will undoubtedly help you to save money on your lunch. Instead of eating like most around 12-13, you should eat after 14:30. This is what’s called “afternoon tea’ when most of the restaurants and eaters offer “tea-time deal sets”. For example, you can grab a meal for HKD36 at Iron Cow, which usually costs HKD70-80. You are welcome!
Buying second hand
When you first arrive, you will, of course, need to buy certain basics, which might include appliances, some furniture and so on. Instantly most of us think of heading to IKEA. Here you can also visit chain stores supplying such items like ‘Japanese Home Centre’ (JHC) with many other independently run shops. I don’t suggest you should buy secondhand plates or bed sheets, but some appliances you can try to get second hand. Check Facebook groups, where many residents try to get rid of their secondhand furniture and other devices. For my wardrobe I paid only 10% of the original price, what a bargain! There are also local apps specifically for secondhand items - ‘carousell HK’. Finally, once you start your academic term, make friends with local students. They can help you use the ultimate money-saving place - TaoBao! Which is a Chinese online e-commerce platform where you can find virtually anything in any quantities for low prices.
Hong Kong MTR (underground/subway/metro) system is a convenient way to travel across the city. Students are entitled to a special discount, therefore don’t forget to apply as soon as you arrive. Additionally, recently the government introduced a subsidy programme which provides a 25 percent discount for expenses exceeding HKD400. But it is not automatically added. Thus each month on the 16th you must “collect” your subsidy and load it on your octopus.
However, there are also buses and minibuses, which you should not overlook as these options are at times more affordable and convenient. Finally, if you need to take a taxi, use Uber. Unfortunately, taxi drivers have a bad reputation not only for their driving style but also for trying to cheat, especially internationals.
There are so many things you can do to keep your lifestyle healthy in Hong Kong. From free museums on Wednesdays to swimming and chilling on beaches or long and short hikes. All outdoor activates are for free! However, if you are a gym freak and must work out, I would suggest you consider the university gym. While the equipment is pretty basic, the gym is for free and open seven days a week. Moreover, there is a swimming pool for just HKD5. Otherwise, you will need to pay between HKD300 - 500 a month (of course you need to + activation fee of HKD150) and sign the contract for 12 months.
There is nothing worse than partying when you are broke. Don’t worry; there are plenty of places to have a great Friday night out with your uni mates and enjoy “happy hour”, buy one get one free and so on. You need to keep a close look as these offers change. Moreover, most of the clubs and pubs are located on Hong Kong Island. For many partying can go way over midnight, meaning the MTR is no longer in service. Thus, you might think that the only way to get you home is taxi or Uber, but there are plenty of overnight minibuses, which can take you closer to your home for HKD20.
I hope some of these tips are helpful. Enjoy your time in Hong Kong.