7 Ways To Save $10,000 Teaching English In China

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When people start thinking about teaching English in China, the first thing that comes to mind is often "how much money can a teacher really make?" Most contracts will pay you around $1,500USD / month and they'll include a few perks like health insurance, flight allowance, housing allowance, and student retainment bonuses. These extras can really add up and with the extremely low cost of living in China, you can easily save $10,000 or more if you make use of these 7 simple tips:

(Note: As a couple, we saved $21,000 teaching English in just one year!)


1. Tutor

Most teaching contracts in China only require you to work between 15 - 20 hours/week. This will give you plenty of time for some side jobs, and there's no better way to make extra money in China than by tutoring. You'd be amazed at how many independent teaching jobs are available in China and how much you can earn! Many parents are willing to pay the local equivalent of $20 - $30 USD/hour for an experienced foreign teacher to have some one-on-one time with their child.


Dariece and a student. From 7 Ways To Save $10,000 Teaching English In China

Dariece And Her Student


Just by living and teaching in China you'll probably have lots of offers from parents wanting you to teach their students privately, but if you don't find work right away, a great way to land tutoring jobs is to post an ad (preferably in Mandarin) with your picture and your phone number at local high schools and apartment buildings. Once you've received a couple of offers, consider asking the parents if it's all right to merge the individual students into one class/session. This way you can save yourself some time, and your earnings per hour will really add up!


2. Use Your Points Credit Card

This is the same for anyone travelling abroad or living abroad; racking up points on credit cards is a great way to save/make some extra money. This is especially useful for teachers moving to China because when you fly to and from the country, you'll likely have to pay for your ticket upfront and then you'll be reimbursed by the school when you complete your contract. This is the perfect way to gain some valuable points without actually having to pay for anything!

Use your best flight points credit card to pay for your return flight, as well as any other expenses that you can charge while you're living in China. This can add up significantly and really fatten your savings after a full year of teaching!


3. Get Paid To Be A Foreigner

It's amazing how many stories are found all over the internet (like this one) about foreigners being paid to pose in pictures for big Chinese companies. It may sound like a strange marketing tactic to you now, but you'd be surprised how many companies are willing to pay big bucks for your foreign face! Get out there, meet lots of people and make new connections, you never know which ones will end up paying you just for looking different!


Paid to be foreigners. From 7 Ways To Save $10,000 Teaching English In China

Paid To Be Foreigners


4. Limit Your Expenses

This one may not be as exciting as the other points on this list, but it's an important one. Luckily, as mentioned earlier, the cost of living in most Chinese cities is very low. You can still eat meals out with friends almost every day, go to parties, and enjoy lots of beer and fun times, but it's still a good idea to limit your spending. While restaurants and street stalls are very cheap in China, some bars and night clubs charge very high prices for beers and meals. A night out in China can still cost you $100 or more if you're not careful.

You can also limit your expenses by buying yourself a bicycle. Taxis are of good value in China, but the costs still add up. If you can ride your bike to class every day instead of taking a taxi or a bus, you'll save a lot of money in the long run, plus you'll get some exercise.


5. Choose An Inexpensive City To Live In

This can be the difference between saving $20,000 and saving $200. Some cities in China are very expensive (read: Shanghai, Hong Kong, & Beijing). While you may be the kind of person who likes to have certain amenities, keep in mind that your budget in these larger cities may be doubled.


NIck with his class. From 7 Ways To Save $10,000 Teaching English In China

Nick With His Class


Not only are things more costly in the nation's metropolises, but you'll also have more temptation. Starbucks on every corner, western shopping malls, and foreign restaurants are not only less authentic, but they'll also cost you just as much as they would in your home country.

Choosing a smaller city is not only a better way to save money, but it's also a good way to ensure a more authentic experience in China.


6. Work Some Overtime

Most English teaching contracts in China will offer some sort of overtime premium (generally, time and a half) for extra work. If you can't find a job tutoring, consider asking your school if you can work some extra hours. You'll probably only be working about 20 hours/week, so you shouldn't be too busy to take an extra couple of shifts.


Teaching assistant with student. From 7 Ways To Save $10,000 Teaching English In China

Teaching Assistant With Student


7. Eat & Shop Locally

You'll start to notice that western food in western grocery stores and restaurants is the same price as you would find it in your home country. Not only are Chinese favourites like dumplings and dim sum cheaper, but they're delicious and authentic! While you don't need to completely change your diet to Chinese food, the more you're willing to cook and order the local food, the more money you'll save. Eating locally is also a great way to meet new friends as many meals in China are eaten at a communal table.



China is an affordable country and you can live extremely comfortably, while putting some money away for future travels. No matter where you decide to cut back your spending, one item you shouldn't scrimp on is your apartment. This will be your home for a year and you're going to want to be comfortable.

If you want to save $10,000 or more living in China, you can use the tips above to help you on your way. While we did list a few spending restrictions, there's no need to limit your lifestyle completely. Teaching in China is an amazing experience and you should spend some money and treat yourself to an incredible life while you're there.


Have you taught English abroad? What are your best money saving tips? Please share in the comments below.



Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to inspire others to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad and turning their travels into a way of life, they've been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go.

They're also full-time contributors at Credit Walk, where they share their stories and expertise of long-term travel. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube.