6 Ways to Set Up Your China Work Life to Ensure You’re Saving Money

6 Ways to Set Up Your China Work Life to Ensure You’re Saving Money
Oct 01, 2019 By Cian Dineen , eChinacities.com

China provides a great opportunity for those looking to make good money. But while expats can often get high salaries here, they don’t always set up their China work life to make the most of what they’re earning. Below I introduce six tips for saving money while working in China, from the way you pay your taxes, to how you commute, to when you go on holiday.

6 Ways to Set Up Your China Work Life to Ensure You’re Saving Money

1. Make sure your social insurance is set up correctly

Firstly, it should be pointed out that social insurance isn’t optional. If you’re employed legally in China, you will be paying your social insurance tax, regardless of how aware of it you are.

Just make sure: one, it is being paid by your HR; two, you keep track of your payments and your total contribution; and three: you have your actual social security card in hand. You can use this fund to help pay medical bills at public hospitals. When you leave China for good, you can also withdraw whatever is remaining of the contributions you made, as long as you jump through the right hoops.

2. Set up a Housing Provident Fund

A little-known fact among foreigners working in China is that expats can now apply for the Housing Provident Fund (HPF). The HPF works similarly to social insurance. You pay a percentage of your income into a government fund - usually around 8% - and your company matches your contribution. From that combined contribution, you can withdraw 65% each month. The other 35% stays in the fund and acts as a savings account.

Those savings can be used to purchase property in Mainland China or, again, it can be withdrawn when you leave permanently. Furthermore, your contribution to the HPF is tax deductible, so you’re reducing how much you pay in taxes, too.

While some foreigners might be initially wary of paying away an extra 8% of their salary, the HPF is actually a no-brainer. You’ll technically be earning more each month, reducing your income tax, and building a nice little savings account at the same time.

3. Apply for Individual Income Tax Deductions

While you’re registering for the HPF, make sure you also apply for Individual Income Tax Deductions, which were introduced at the start of 2019. There are six types of deductions you can apply for, namely Children Education’s, Adult Continued Education, Rental Expense, Mortgage Interest Expense, Elderly Care, and Major Medical Expense. However, most foreigners are probably only going to be eligible for Rental Expense, Elderly Care, and possibly Children's Education.

It’s relatively painless to apply for Individual Income Tax Deductions; they can even be set up and managed through an app. In most cases, expats will save between RMB3,000 and RMB4,500 per month on their taxable income. It really is a simple and effective way to save an extra bit of cash.

4. Eat like your co-workers

There’s no two ways about it. Eating like an expat in China is not cheap. Your foreign colleagues are going to the bar after work for a few drinks? Those fancy pints of IPA add up. Keep going to your favorite Italian restaurant for their RMB75 lunch special? You might as well be buying a sandwich in London!

Why not take a leaf out of your colleagues’ book and check out the work canteen, order in a cheap bowl of noodles, or try the hole-in-the-wall restaurants near your office. If you manage to reduce your lunch to just RMB15 or so a day, you’ll soon feel the difference in your wallet.

5. Think about your commute

It’s dangerously convenient to hail a taxi or call a DiDi to get to work in China, in particular because, relatively speaking, they’re much cheaper here than in most Western countries. That being said, they’re still many times the price of public transport.

In all likelihood, you already know the subway lines that go past your work, but don't forget the bus routes, too. These days buses in major Chinese cities all have English announcements and route plans, and you may find they go places you can't reach by subway. If your office is in cycling distance, you could also invest in a bike. It’ll pay itself off in no time and the extra exercise may negate the need for a pricy gym membership.

Arrange trips outside of national holidays

Admittedly, this is simply not an option for some expats working in China. School teachers, in particular, have rigid work schedules they must stick to, although we won't feel too sorry for them, seeing as though they have ridiculously long holidays when they do get them.

For those who do have flexibility, however, a great amount of money can be saved by booking trips outside of China’s national holidays. Flights and hotels can sometimes be as much as 25% cheaper outside of the peak seasons. Even if you don't have any annual leave left, you might be surprised to find that it's still cheaper to travel outside of national holidays, even after factoring in the loss of income. Additionally, you’ll be able to visit top regional attractions without the swarms of Chinese tourists.

Working in China can be a lucrative endeavor for expats. You just need to know how to work the system to your advantage.

Hot New Jobs recommended for you
Xiamen Homeroom Foreign Teacher
Cambridge red oak bilingual kindergarten
  • 18,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Xiamen
  • Full Time
Head of Secondary Music
Nord Anglia Education
  • 26,000 - 35,000 CNY /Month
  • Guangzhou
  • Full Time
Homeroom Teacher
Kid Castle Education Group
  • 20,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Kunming
  • Full Time
University General Education Lecturer
Expert International Education
  • 18,000 - 27,000 CNY /Month
  • Xiamen
  • Full Time|Part Time
Kindergarten English Teacher
Webster Education (WE)
  • 22,000 - 26,000 CNY /Month
  • Nanning
  • Full Time
Preschool Teacher
Longitude International Education
  • 23,000 - 35,000 CNY /Month
  • Guangzhou
  • Full Time
Primary Music Teacher
Mountain Education
  • 25,000 - 32,000 CNY /Month
  • Suzhou
  • Full Time
ECC Homeroom Teacher Needed
Chengdu Mengshi Kindergarten/Chengdu LIA
  • 22,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Chengdu
  • Full Time
Foreign English Teacher
Kingold Primary School Favorview Palace
  • 25,000 - 33,000 CNY /Month
  • Guangzhou
  • Full Time
University Food Science Lecturer needed
Beijing International Education Institute
  • 12,000 - 15,000 CNY /Month
  • Zhanjiang
  • Full Time
View More Jobs

Warning:The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.

Keywords: China work life


All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.



Avoid " Expert International Education" with jobs in Xiamen / Fuzhou .high schools and colleges. Innumerable problems my wife had with this company and I ended up having to spend a lot of time and money getting her out of there and back to UK. Avoid. China seems to be getting less and less hospitable. Sad

Dec 29, 2019 17:26 Report Abuse



eating a cheaper lunch saves money? who knew?

Oct 12, 2019 09:31 Report Abuse



Thanks I know more

Oct 12, 2019 05:48 Report Abuse