Cost of Living in Chengdu

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  • #50012
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    I’ve started monitoring my expenses more closely while living here in Chengdu. Since it’s a common question on this forum, I’ve shared my results from the last month.

    I’ve found it interesting to be more budget conscious. Feel free to share yours if also keep records.

    About me and this month:
    Alcohol was my biggest expense, and I don’t consider this month to have been too wild. If you drink socially, it should be no surprise that this is your biggest expense. I went drinking 15 times (each venue that I purchased alcohol at is a separate record, so there could be multiple in one night).

    Meals I started prepping in bulk for the first 2 weeks to get more hearty and nutritious breakfasts and lunches, which also reduces costs. I’m guessing less than 20 RMB per meal. I ate out about 20 times with the average cost for cheap meals (noodles) being 20 RMB, and medium priced meals (hotpot, nicer chinese, burritos) being 60 RMB. I ate out less than usual since I cooked a lot this month.

    Haircuts I put down a 300 RMB deposit at my local salon for 360 worth of credit and got 2 40 RMB cuts.

    Transportation, Entertainment, Massage I normally cycle around and rarely take taxis, but I was entertaining multiple guests this month which increased my entertainment and transportation costs more than usual. This also accounts for the unusually high massage expenditure as we splurged and went to a nice spa.

    Travel I took a trip to western Sichuan which accounts for all of the costs in the travel category.

    Rent is not included. I quit smoking. Services was for a cell phone repair.

    My total expenditure this month of around 6000 RMB is on the high side. I expect to drink less, travel less, break my phone less, cook more in April and hope to be well under 4000, while still living comfortably.

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    #50014
    CharlieCharlie
    Keymaster

    This is brilliant. I have been thinking to publish information like this for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I track my expenses in a similar fashion though (recently have started using YNAB – You Need a Budget). Out of curiosity, how did you track this? My numbers are pretty similar to yours, although my drinking costs are almost nothing and my food costs are a lot higher.

    #50015
    DanDan
    Moderator

    Awesome. I’ve got raw data from the past month+  of expenses and have just been thinking of how to present it. This is a good motivator :]

    One thing I see missing is your phone+data bills… which is something I also neglected to track and something I hope to be getting the most out of with this kind of exercise. Anyways, I’ll post again when I have something to show.

    Another thing I’ve been interested in tracking is… how often I treat/get treated. I’ve been listing meals I’ve been treated as a “0”, and dinners where I treat with “Dinner for X people” with the grand total. Haven’t been totally diligent about it though. Not sure what I’d do with the data anyways…

    #50016
    VincentVincent
    Participant

    I think I might try this too in April.

    Only 16RMB for water though Chris, really? I finish one of those 18L jugs every week, lol.

    #50017
    VincentVincent
    Participant

    One thing I see missing is your phone+data bills…

    Internet is also missing. He probably just paid some amount upfront and didn’t owe anything in March. But it’s offset by his royal VIP golden haircut subscription he got this month, so the total is probably still fairly accurate.

    #50018
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    I tracked this by manually entering data daily into an excel spreadsheet. I’ve used an app similar to YNAB (Money Lover) before but was never good about keeping track as it was too complicated while managing money in different currencies. Also, being able to customize the spreadsheet allows for interesting graphs like this.

    My phone bill is a monthly 120 RMB. You’re right, I missed it but it should have been tracked under utilities (gas, wuguanfei, water, electric, internet, cleaning). Categorization probs.

    Drinking water costs are split between 3 roommates. But maybe I’m not drinking enough water. I made up for it in booze.

    Fresh haircuts are priceless.

    #50026
    CharlieCharlie
    Keymaster

    I tracked this by manually entering data daily into an excel spreadsheet. I’ve used an app similar to YNAB (Money Lover) before but was never good about keeping track as it was too complicated while managing money in different currencies.

    That makes a lot of sense, I have the same issue with YNAB (you have to have two “budgets”, one for each different currency). I already paid for a year of service so I’ll stick with it but I can see myself moving toward something like your setup in the future unless I come across something indispensable in YNAB, especially since I’m already using Numbers (Excel equivalent on Mac) to track personal data daily.

    Perhaps we can combine the data we’ve collected (with Dan, and anyone else?) and publish some kind of accurate insight into the cost of living here.

    #50037
    SS
    Participant

    I’m in for April. I haven’t tracked spending in detail for a few months but will dig out my old spreadsheet.

    #50041
    VincentVincent
    Participant

    I’m also in for April. So far so good.

    By the way Chris I think your sheet is missing an average. It would be interesting to see how much you spend on each category per time. As in simply dividing the total by the count of that entry. That would give people a much better perspective of what they could expect to spend themselves.

    Edit: re-reading your OP I guess you already did this, just didn’t include it in the screenshot

    #50268
    SS
    Participant

    Here are my April numbers as promised.

    Utilities 150 a month per person (share a 120 m3 tao san with 2 roommates) is usually enough to cover electricity, gas, water, internet, and management fees. During winter I will sometimes have to throw in another fifty or so for electricity. I put another 150 on the phone. Average is 200 a month.

    Grocery/Household I cooked at home about half the time. Usually I get strictly what I need for the next meal at the veg stand, which works out to 3-5 RMB on home cooked meals. This is an opposite strategy to cooking in bulk, but I prefer it personally. Once a week I go to the supermarket, buy some better food and cook for roommates and other friends. Other everyday meals out make up a large chunk of this category. (My local friends who cook for their families at home and eat out only rarely spend around 350-450 per person per month.)

    Clothes was higher than usual this month, being a change of season. I budget 200 a month for clothing but it’s highly variable.

    Transportation was low this month, all bus fares. I usually budget 100 and it will include a few taxi rides.

    Entertainment expenses were mostly nicer restaurants and drinks.


    Personal care
    is anything that you might get at a drugstore plus services like massages, manicures, pedicures, and haircuts. I budget 200 for this usually.

    coffee is basically the cost of sitting in a comfortable spot with internet for a couple of hours while getting some work done or reading. I expect to spend about 200 per month for this.

    The main reason I’ve never replied to a budget topic on the forum is that so many of the expenses I have as an expat are not month to month. Visa costs, tuition, the next trip home, rent, and medical insurance have always made up 60-70 percent of what it costs me to live here.

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    #50270
    VincentVincent
    Participant

    I unfortunately stopped tracking 11 days into April, so I only have data from 1/3rd of the month. It seems I spend about 200RMB/day on average excluding rent, and it’s very obvious that the majority (more than half) of that goes to eating out and going out for drinks.

    #50273
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    Here’s mine. Travel was a visa run which involved a lot of drinking, though those alcohol costs were bundled into travel.

    Coffee was put into the “medicine” category for me.

    I tried to spend less on alcohol this month, but still exceeded last months. Thinking about going on a month long detox for May and then rewarding myself with a large shopping expenditure.

    Overall, I’m pretty happy with my budget for this month. Only around 4k minus travel.

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    #50529
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    One more for the month of May. Will do a 3 month evaluation a little later.

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    #50547
    Daniel Wikstrand
    Participant

    Very intersting thread, alcohol tends to be expensive if you go to the “wrong” places and that will kill the budget unless you have enough to spend. Local place, as most of  you long stayers know, keep the local beer and bai jiu prices at a good level though 🙂

    Daniel

    #50572
    TraceyTracey
    Participant

    This info is great, thanks for all the open sharing!

    I plan to be there with a whole family of 4, I wonder how much the budget will increase (I am sure it won’t be x4)….

    #50574
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    I guess some takeaways from looking at my budget are:

    • You can save a significant amount of money in eating cheap meals like noodles (avg 12RMB), or homemade meals (avg 26RMB). Eating out at nicer places (avg 61RMB) can cost at least 5x the amount of cheap meals. Although it’s important to consider the nutrition you’re getting. Food is by far the biggest factor in my budget.
    • I average about 56RMB on alcohol per session, which is about 2 drinks. Reducing or increasing this by +/-1  drink doesn’t really change the budget that much. I also consider the value of social interaction. I feel that I might be slightly less happy when abstaining from going out for social drinking for the sake of my budget.
    • I believe shopping would be the variable with the greatest difference between each individual.

    Not including travel, rent (also varies significantly), and shopping. I think that a budget-minded foreigner can manage to live comfortably on less than 5000RMB a month in Chengdu.

    #50575
    SS
    Participant

    I find with a strict budget I can stay under 2000 RMB a month but usually it’s more like 2500.

    I also find that healthy food can be very cheap or very expensive. My 5 RMB home cooked meals are still Western style food。 If I learned to use a wok and cook Chinese style, and was willing to eat rice or (even cheaper) fresh noodles all the time instead of potatoes it would be even less. The lightbulb moment was watching the local shoppers at the market – a good food shopper is internationally recognizable, like someone who is a good cook. Realizing that the shopper carrying a couple of eggs and one spring onion was only getting exactly what he needed for his next meal, the tiny kitchens and fridges here made much more sense.

    #50576
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    When I first came to Chengdu 5 years ago I was living on about 3000 a month but those were not good times for me. I was extremely underweight  (145lbs 5’7″)and really had to limit my social events.

    Now I’m more concerned about maintaining more muscle mass (160 lbs) so I’m eating a lot more protein (meat!!!) and more calories. I guess it comes down to defining “healthy food” which differs with each lifestyle. I’m probably splurging on things like butter, bacon, coffee, chicken, beef, sausage, cheese etc.

    I’ve also made a lot more friends throughout the years which means more social outings, more gift giving, and more social dining which really ramps up the spending and I think it’s worth it.

    Certain utilities have also gone up like internet and phone data as well as the availability of recreational “medicines”.

    So whereas I think it’s certainly possible to survive on 2500 RMB or less (like many Chinese do), but it would not be an enjoyable existence in my opinion. I’d like to see the budget of someone that can to prove me wrong though. I’m always looking for ways to save a little extra.

    #50580
    SS
    Participant

    Healthy for me is 25-30 g of protein per meal mainly from tofu, black or white soybeans, and sometimes eggs and peanuts, but they are a bit too high in calories to use regularly. I’m sure a guy would need more. Lots of greens. Rarely buy meat more often than the once per week when I cook for friends. Bacon – far prefer local 腊肉, have the seller slice it, then wrap portions and keep it in the freezer. Every six months or so I spend 60-100 RMB on a big pack of frozen butter and cheese from a local taobao seller which gets used mainly for baking or for pizza. So I still use a few of those things, but not daily.

    Really do think it comes down to whatever’s important to your lifestyle. Around 1700 a month is doable but uncomfortable for me, 2500 is fine, and does not feel particularly frugal.

    #50583
    Chris ZiichChris Ziich
    Moderator

    If I’m only counting food and utilities (excluding alcohol, entertainment, gifts etc), then I can be around 2500.

    It seems like you’re also only counting food?

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