Budget Shanghai: Living on 10,000 Yuan Per Month

Budget Shanghai: Living on 10,000 Yuan Per Month
By Trey Archer , eChinacities.com

Before we get started, let’s do the math: 10,000 RMB is about 1,500 USD, a salary of about 18,000 USD per year. While this figure in the US, Canada, the UK or Australia would be, by many standards, quite low, in China it’s actually not that bad. In fact, according to a recent China Daly post, the average salary in Shanghai is just a tad more than 7,000 RMB per month – the highest in all of Mainland China, followed by Beijing and Shenzhen, respectively. As you can see, 10,000 RMB per month is actually more than the local average, so with a bit of budgeting it’s completely manageable for a happy life in this vibrant city.

As an expat financial advisor in Shanghai, it’s my job to help individuals budget their money and save for the future. Here is my advice to newcomers who earn 10,000 RMB monthly after tax.

Note: the 10,000 per month salary is based after tax and the mandatory social security fund taken from foreigners’ salaries.

Rent (with utilities): 3,000 RMB per month
If you don’t mind roommates, you can find 2-6 person shared apartments in a nice part of town (Jing’an or Xuhui), though you won’t be living in the master bedroom and you’ll share a bathroom with others. If you prefer privacy, look for some studios outside of the city center in Putuo, Xujiahui or Zhabei districts. In reality, these three districts are just a few metro stops from the city’s hotspots so you’re not really that disconnected as it may seem.

Eating: 2,000 RMB per month
There are three key ways to keep your eating budget down: One way is to eat local food; a meal at a small whole in wall goes for about 20 kuai. Two, buy groceries – fruits, vegetables, noodles and rice are extremely cheap, so stock up at your local supermarket to cut back. Lastly, just because you’re budgeting doesn’t mean you can’t splurge every once in a while. When you do, remember to take advantage of deals and specials, like Blue Frog’s two-for-one burgers on Monday night.

Drinking: 1,000 RMB per month
Obviously, if you don’t drink, allocate this money to your savings pot. But for anyone who really knows Shanghai, it’s clear that the city’s expat circle revolves around booze. You’re going to need around 1,000 RMB per month to keep up. For the true drinkers, hit up the nearest Seven Eleven for cheap bears and 7 kuai baijiu.

Necessities: 500 RMB per month
Toothpaste, shampoo, clothes, metro cards, taxis… no matter how hard we budget, these little things add up. Put away 500 RMB per month for these things, and when you need to make a purchase, get them in bulk at a large chain like Carrefour or Auchan to save big.

Exercise: 0 RMB per month
No, I’m not telling you don't need to exercise, but I am saying that you don’t have to drop a ton of money on a fancy gym. Pushups, crunches, squats and the like are all effective exercises that you can do for free in the comfort of your own home. Look on the internet for effective routines, or follow a YouTube exercise channel, or go jogging and take walks. If you can’t live without fitness, then a gym membership will cost around a few hundred a month (deduct this gym fee from your drinking budget since you’re serious about getting in shape!).

Medical Insurance: 1,000 RMB per month
I bet you forgot about this one! For a 30 year old, the most basic medical insurance is going to cost close to 1,000 RMB per month.  Yes, I know, it’s a bit expensive, but it’s highly recommended if the worst-case scenario happens. Actually, a potential client of mine rejected medical insurance months ago on the grounds that it was “too expensive.” Months later, he broke his collarbone after being hit by a scooter. The entire medical expenses added up to 100,000 RMB! I hate to say I didn’t warn you but...

It must be mentioned, however, that most employers give free medical insurance to their employees, so this may or may not be an issue. If so, chuck this pocket change into eating, drinking, traveling or savings.

Pension/Savings: 2,000 per month
If you love your job and aren’t doing it for the money, congratulations! That’s more than what most people can say. However, you’re still going to need a plan for retirement. If your salary never increases, you may want to put away 2,000 RMB (about 315 USD) per month. If you invest wisely and experience a growth rate of 7% per annum, you can build a pension pot of 650,000 USD upon retirement, close to 40,000 USD for every one of your golden years!

Travel & Leisure: 500 per month
If you follow if this formula, you should have 500 RMB leftover. So what should you do? Travel and have fun! Use it for whatever you want, but if I were you, I’d explore the world. If you save 500 RMB a month, you’ll have about 1,000 USD in travel money a year. If you’re a true budgeter, that can add up to two nice trips a year. But if you’re ready to splurge after all the saving you’ve been doing, take that thousand bucks and live it up in Thailand for a few weeks! You’ve earned it.

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Keywords: Budgjet Shanghai rent food Shanghai


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Hello from 2021, and 10 k in Shanghai sounds like a joke

Jun 30, 2021 06:20 Report Abuse


Hi am new here,and I need good advice,wishing to relocate? Please I need honest opinion without any exaggerations and lies please. Now my question is if assuming I get a monthly pay of rmb7000 where do u think in china I live comfortably ?

Nov 27, 2019 14:37 Report Abuse


There is something flawed about this article... One thing that I can see straight away, is that it's just not practical to real life, as an expatriate.... Let's put it like this: Across Shanghai, there are quite a few supermarkets where the price of UHT/long-life milk is about 9rmb a litre.. That's cheap; most mainstream supermarkets have it at about 14 to 27rmb a litre... But if getting it as an eight-pack on Taobao, it's about 6.70rmb a litre - and that includes delivery to your home/apartment. Then there's so many other things, such as the outlet clothing districts of Shanghai, Nanjing and many other cities... This, again, is a real cost saving... All of these things, and many more, could have been put in an article like this... Instead, all I see is mostly financial info about 'medical', 'pensions' and 'travel'. It's almost nothing about "Living in Shangahi on a budget", as the title suggests.

May 19, 2017 22:01 Report Abuse


For many chinese native,this is impossible to get this amount for living in shanghai as the income is not that high.

Mar 06, 2016 22:11 Report Abuse


It seems pretty affordable to live in Shanghai. The combined typical cost of rent with utilities, food, transportation, household items, clothing, and medical insurance adds up to less than $1000. I would like to teach English in China, and it seems like the typical income from English teaching is more than enough to cover basic living expenses, and save some money on the side.

Jan 19, 2016 04:31 Report Abuse


What about Chengdu ? Are 10 000 元 enough to ensure a pleasant life ?

Jan 06, 2016 18:03 Report Abuse


I am from the opposit part of the continent. Have had no idea about living expenses in China cities - I find the article really informative for me.

Jan 05, 2016 02:14 Report Abuse


true shanghai is becoming if not already one expensive city like tokyo

Dec 28, 2015 12:50 Report Abuse


Big city, big dreams, big prices... everyone can try, why not? every time is different

Dec 18, 2015 17:09 Report Abuse


Sharing a house still costs 3000RMB in Shanghai? is it a penthouse?

Dec 08, 2015 17:01 Report Abuse


Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Shenzhen are fast becoming the most expensive metropolitan regions in Asia. Getting 10,000 RMB a month or less is daylight robbery/exploitation. ALWAYS ensure a generous rent allowance is part of the contract (5,000 RMB + per month, tax free).

Dec 03, 2015 15:16 Report Abuse


From earth to the author, Huston we have a problem ..... also something i didnt get, a guy was hit by a scooter and he/she needs to pay fir their medication ! isnt the guy who hit him/her liable for the treatment ?

Nov 27, 2015 14:24 Report Abuse


Good article. Would be good to see if it's doable on 5,000. And how many people in the city can live on that amount. How much do taxi drivers get for example? Waiters?

Nov 26, 2015 21:24 Report Abuse


" As you can see, 10,000 RMB per month is actually more than the local average, so with a bit of budgeting it’s completely manageable for a happy life in this vibrant city." Says you. I dont consider it living a happy life when i have to pinch pennies in order to survive, let alone save for my retirement. I'll say it again... if you are a native speaking westerner, and agree to work full time for 10K RMB a month, you are a retard.

Nov 25, 2015 14:25 Report Abuse


I wouldn't work in Shanghai for less than 20k or 18k + accommodation. Screw living with anyone that isn't your partner. If you are over 30 then flatting with others becomes old really fast. If you are gonna earn 10k a month after tax then move to a smaller city where your RMB goes much, much further.

Nov 26, 2015 16:06 Report Abuse


20k rmb seems still low. Do you know what are proper salaries in Shanghai? If you earn just 20k then one time airplane ticket back home will cost you 50% of your monthly salary. Does not seem too comfortable. What do you reckon?

Nov 26, 2015 16:55 Report Abuse


I agree with you all. I really think the authors of these articles are very out of touch with reality.

Nov 27, 2015 09:13 Report Abuse


Could you elaborate more on salary levels in Shanghai? Say teacher rakes in x rmb, etc. financial guy x rmb etc.

Dec 01, 2015 10:47 Report Abuse


I'm very agree with you. I had good plan in the past. I earned like 12 000 + accomodation to work in Weifang (small city in shandong). I could save a lot of money. it's actually like if you earn 20 000rmb in shanghai.

Feb 01, 2016 22:22 Report Abuse