Guestblog: 7 Ways to Save Money in China If You're a Student

Making Every RMB Count

If you are currently pursuing higher education in China, then being restricted in spending is probably not new to you. Food, clothing, apartment/dorm, public transport, parties, holidays – these are the things learners spend the most of their money on. Add to this some costs you have to spend on tourism and the studying process – extracurricular activities, books, online courses to deepen the knowledge in a certain area or subject. We know your pain; that’s why we came up with 7 ways to save money if you are studying in China.

1. Bicycle instead of public transport

If you haven’t mastered the skill of riding a bike yet, then it’s high time you started learning! Getting to places on a bicycle instead of subway or taxi will save you tons of money! You can also avoid traffic jams, which will add some points to your time management. And the main long-term advantage of a bike is its eco-friendliness – bicycle owners do no harm to our planet without sacrificing their own comfort. In terms of safety – buy a helmet,  ride safely, and you are good to go. Of course, if you don’t a bicycle yet, it might sound like a splurge. However, this investment will pay off sooner than you think, taking into account prices for a ticket on public transport or a single cab ride. If you’re only planning on staying in China for a short time, then you’re in luck! China has an extensive network of dock-less shared bikes, requiring only a small deposit (~99-250 RMB) to use!

2. Budget-friendly traveling

In order to save some cash, plan all your trips in advance, if possible – several months prior to the actual journey. Monitor prices for tickets, especially flights, since they differ drastically from day to day. Chinese domestic flights are usually cheaper than flights abroad, but you can save on both: just subscribe to notifications from websites of local Chinese airlines and check emails they send you – such companies always keep their customers updated about discounted flights to China and other destinations. In particular, some budget carriers that operate in China worth checking are Spring Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Juneyao Air and Air Asia. Ctrip is a good place to start for domestic flights or flights abroad using on Chinese carriers. Also, check out if there is a student discount; youngsters usually fly cheaper in China (compared to adults).

3. Delicious food on a budget

This is one of the most important money saving tips for college students. Plan your shopping list beforehand and stick to it strictly. Check out the discount shelves in a shop, and always opt for cooking your own meals, not buying ready-made dishes. That way you will keep yourself healthier as you would be always aware how much sugar, salt, oil, and other substances are in each dish you consume. Not only does cooking let you keep fit, it’s also way more budget friendly. Choose simple products like rice and noodles (which are the cheapest things on the Chinese market) and serve it with some veggies, meat, mushrooms, and beans (these are also great if you are vegetarian).

4. Entertainment

Who doesn’t like to hang out in a bar with friends or spend a night dancing in a club? Such activities were invented to make students’ life more fun and full of memories. However, prices for entertainment in China don’t always to fit into the budget of an average student. The good news is that owners of cafés, bars, clubs, and even cinemas are aware of that, and they’re always ready to award their young customers with discounts, happy hours, and special nights (e.g., a party with free entrance and drinks for ladies). Always check out is there a special event around when going out. Listings websites like That’s Beijing/That’s Shanghai, Time Out, City Weekend, and Smart Shanghai are good places to start.

5. Get a part-time job

This might sound too obvious, but a lot of young people tend to ignore a part-time career thinking that it would take too much time or effort. This is an amazing investment not only for your budget but in your future as well. It will be easier to get a full-time job after graduation if you can demonstrate to a potential employer that you already have work experience from a part-time job. Be warned though, while many foreign students find part-time work in China, it is technically illegal to work in China when you are on a student visa. For this reason, the safest way to work as a student is to do so online. You might consider the following jobs, all of which are easily done through Skype, WeChat or Facetime:

  • Language tutor (English, French, Spanish, German, Korean and Japanese are popular second languages in China)
  • Freelance writer (check out platforms like or Edu Birdy to get hired)
  • College counselor

Trying any of these jobs will also allow you to pay off student loans faster.

6. Sell the things you don’t need

Who doesn’t like to buy new clothes, accessories, or electronic gadgets? Regardless of gender or age, people enjoy shopping. But what happens to things you stop using? We bet it’s one of two things: they either lay around collecting dust in your apartment or you simply throw them away.  Throwing out or neglecting items that are in good condition is not wise.  Whether it’s clothing, bags, shoes, smartphones (or any other device), or furniture – there are people who would like to use them. Why not sell it then? Even if the price for a used product is low, this is still some money you could spend later on your needs. There are plenty of groups on Facebook and WeChat specifically to help expats buy and sell used items.

7. Spend less time in malls

Shopping malls are constructed and arranged to make you unconsciously want to spend more. Merchandisers come up with sophisticated techniques of how to display goods and provoke your desire to buying them. The only way to save your cash is to avoid temptation! Just spend more time outdoors or at places not targeted towards shopping – parks, public libraries, museums, etc.

We hope with these tips you’ll never go broke.. Spend safely!

About the author: Sandra Hayward is a content writer. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Literature and is currently working towards her Master’s thesis. She is a passionate traveler, and during 2017 she visited more than 12 countries. She shares her experience from traveling in her valuable articles, posting them on a personal web page.

Looking for some more helpful advice for international students in China? Check out our previous blog articles on the top 5 cities for foreign students in China and easy ways to communicate in Chinese

Ready to start the study adventure of a lifetime in China? Get started today!

Posted in Tips and Guides, Travel
13 Jun 2018

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Hutong School is now operating as That’s Mandarin. Now you can expect the same great Chinese lessons with access to online Chinese learning platform NihaoCafe.