A Guide To Frugal Living In Hong Kong
Frugal living in Hong Kong is entirely possible, but we'd like to make it even easier for you with our guide to frugal living in Hong Kong. We wrote an article about living on HK$ 20,000 previously, and It's still possible to live on HK$20,000 today. Although, we'd recommend you work on upping your salary if that's the case.
Anywho, here are the areas that you can start working on to shave many, many dollars off of your monthly budget and join the frugal expats who call Hong Kong home.
Kill Your Rent
By far, the most significant expense is rent. To slay this demon, you need to move further out into the sticks to find cheaper rent. We have two excellent articles that will get you started on your journey to more affordable apartments. Living in Kowloon or The New Terretorries will get you much cheaper rent, even if you have to travel a little further for work.
Another option is to flatshare. While some people might be uncomfortable with this idea, it's a good way to save money on rent, especially for those of you that don't spend a lot of time indoors. Here are a few options for looking into flat sharing. We always recommend GeoExpat, and with good reason. It's the most active forum in Hong Kong that can cater for all your needs, including flat sharing. The other option we'd recommend is Locanto. You could always try Facebook and Airbnb, too.
In recent years, there have been all kinds of co-living spaces popping up all around Hong Kong. One of these is called Weave. Weave describes co-living as "hassle-free city living." with a focus on high-end design and affordable living. You have to apply to join, but it may be a viable option for frugal looking for a nice space to call home while saving a buck or two.
Eat Smart Or Cook
Food is a big part of life and can also be a significant expense if you aren't careful. It's so easy to spend HK$200 here, HK$300 there, and before you know it, you are entering the thousands. Good food can be cheap, especially local food. You also have the option of cooking, too.
If you do choose to eat out, be on the lookout for cooked food markets. They sell all sorts of local delicacies that can be gobbled down for super cheap. From fishballs to tofu, you are in for a real tasty treat and good savings, too. The great thing about cooked food markets is that they will be at least one in every district, so you don't have to go too far to find one.
If you do opt to cook at home, you should learn to make wet markets your best friend. Although they smell funky, they are home to seafood, poultry and every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable. They also host cooked food, dried foods like nuts and even flowers. Like cooked food halls, wet markets are generally in every district and offer significant savings for the frugally minded.
If wet markets are too much for your stomach to handle, you can always check out the local supermarket scene. The two most popular ones are Wellcome and ParkNShop. Their prices are generally much lower than the international supermarkets and offer all of the necessities one would need.
Quite often in the morning, you can find yourself in a rush to get to work and breakfast becomes an afterthought. One of the more popular ways to consume breakfast in Hong Kong is while you are on the way to work. Hong Kongers are so efficient. Breakfast can be super cheap while on your travels. Bread and lightly sweetened cakes are popular breakfast that is cheap. Make sure to find one in your local area and avoid the bigger chains to save them "dollar-dollar" bills.
If you want to eat out, eat local. Tasty meals go for super cheap. A meal should be costing you between HK$30-HK$60. This will take a bit of exploration and some risk on your part to find the tastiest and cheapest places in your local area. If your budget allows for it, Tai Hing and Tsui Wah are great options that are local and relatively inexpensive.
Last but not least, if you think you need to buy bottles of water, you don't. Pick up a good water filter, fill up your kettle and boil the water. After it's cooled, you have perfectly fine drinking water that you can store at home or put in a flask to take with you. A good water bottle is an excellent investment that lasts years. You can take it to the local parks and get free drinking water!
Everyone needs to get out and make new friends, but us frugal people need to be mindful with who we socialise. If you end up spending your time with high rollers, guess what? You're going to be spending what high rollers spend. You are the company you keep. If you take anything away from this article, let it be this. You are the company you keep. Roll with high rollers, spend like high rollers.
If alcohol is a necessary part of your life, Hong Kong offers excellent ways to do this cheaply. Some of the more frugal among us like to go to art exhibitions and munch on free food and guzzle free wine. If this questions your morality, you could always hang outside 7-11 and drink their cheapest beers and wines on offer.
If you want the social scene, but don't want to pay the exorbitant prices that bars and clubs charge, why not do a grocery store run and pick up your alcohol there? The more frugal among us prefer this option. That way, we can invite our friends to our place and enjoy our time together in the comfort of our own homes. You can save and still be social.
Transport: Keep It Public
Don't take taxis. In reality, there is no need for it. The transport sector is so well-fleshed out here that it makes taxis somewhat redundant. While convenient, you shouldn't underestimate how much taking one taxi can cut into your budget. Here's an example. If you wanted to get from Mong Kok to Kennedy Town, it would cost you about HK$100-150. However, if you used your time to do a bit of research, you'd realise there is a red minibus that will take you from Mong Kok to Kennedy town in 15 minutes for HK$18. Wow, right!?
While you are avoiding taxis, avoid buying a car or motorbike, too. Not to belabour a point, but the transport systems in place here are super-efficient. The downside to owning a vehicle is that you have to pay for it to live somewhere. This can cost you massively each month, and it's simply not worth it. You won't beat the MTr for speed most of the time.
The frugal among us budget about HK$1500 for clothes, and it seems that some "Frugalites" go even lower. Clothing is subjective and down to the individual, but you can Gap, H&M and Uniqlo all offer inexpensive, fashionable clothing for the masses. If you want to shop for clothes with a conscience, Carousell is a great place for second-hand everything.
Going on holiday is a luxury that you can tailor to fit a lot of lifestyles, even the frugal. If you want to go away, but save a few bucks, most frugals tend to use Skyscanner and then buy their tickets directly from the airline
Gas, electric and water are all quite cheap in Hong Kong. However, if you are looking to penny pinch, many people suggest creating better air circulation in your home to keep it cool. To that end, you will often hear people recommend that you install a wall fan to push cool air around the room.
Supposedly, it works out cheaper than leaving your aircon on all day, although we can't verify this. These days, aircon units are so efficient that we'd say this is a nice luxury to keep around. You don't want to be walking around your apartment covered in a thin layer a sweat all day, every day.
One huge saving you can make is in your choice of telecom provider. We have already gone to great lengths to compare and give our recommendation on which mobile provider we think is best. You really shouldn't be paying more than HK$150 for good mobile phone service. Birdie offers plans that are affordable and make a lot of sense for expats and locals alike.
In 2019, you can be frugal and get a deal that makes sense. Birdie offers 12GB of data and all the trimming like local minutes for HK$140. They also have cheaper plans if you think you can survive with less data. Some decided to get multiple sim cards and use one as a wifi hotspot at home as a cheap alternative to getting broadband. It's great because you aren't on a contract so you can cancel anytime.
Don't Forget The Taxman/Taxwoman
You might be from a country where tax is automatic, but here you have to file your tax manually, and it's easy to forget that the government of Hong Kong will come knocking for their tax money. Be prepared to put some money to one side for Mr and Ms taxman.
Credit Cards Can Be Your Friend
If you can control your spending, don't be afraid to pick up a credit card. Credit cards offer rewards for spending, and if your spending anyway, you might as well get rewarded for it. Most credit cards have many different options for rewards, and the one rewards we like the best are Wellcome and ParkNShop vouchers. Within a year, you might rack up HK$500-HK1000 in coupons. Not to be sniffed at!
Buy Second Hand
Carousell has grown to be the number one place to pick up all manner of things. They have sections for literally anything. Years ago, that place used to be Facebook marketplace, but you don't even need a Facebook these days. You could buy everything you'd ever need, materialistically speaking on Carousell. We wrote an excellent guide to picking up bargains on Carousell, which we recommend you check out right here.
Gyms on The Cheap
Look to join gym's monthly, so you aren't tied down to contracts. The Hong Kong government runs an excellent program where you turn up for a "lesson" on how to use gym equipment then you have access to the government maintained gyms for super cheap. Here's a short guide on 1823.gov.hk on how to do so.
Cheap Haircuts That Don't Look Awful
QB House has long offered haircuts that cost well below HK$100 that are not only cheap but also somewhat enjoyable and don't leave you looking like your mum stuck a bowl to your head and went ham. You could always pay close to HK$400 and get a shampoo and massage, but if you don't want to plonk that amount of money down for a haircut, QB house is the place for you. Another bonus about QB House is that they are everywhere.
Local Dispensaries Are Cheaper, But Also Riskier
The most well-known dispensaries in Hong Kong are Mannings and Watsons, but there are dispensaries in Hong Kong that sell the same brand names for less. Be on the lookout in your local area for Dispensaries that sell consumables as they may sell legitimate, cheap goods. You have to be vigilant though as some dispensaries sell fake products and some try and take tourists for a ride. The consumer council is an excellent resource to refer to if you are in doubt.
Libraries Can Be Your Home From Home
If you are looking to get out of your little box, but don't want to spend an arm and a leg then consider popping over to your local library. Libraries in Hong Kong are often well stocked with all the latest English books and offer free aircon, water, access to toilets and even free wifi. An excellent place to start your side hustle with all that new-found knowledge.
Is There Anything We've Missed?
We think this is a pretty good list to get started on your journey to frugal god. We've tried to cover most bases here, but we know that there are many more ways to be frugal in Hong Kong. Make sure to leave your suggestions in the comments below so we can add them and grow this list to over 9000. Thanks for reading, and we hope you've enjoyed your stay.