How to Move to China On The Cheap

Foreigners typically stay in China for between one and three years, so they aren't looking to spend a lot on a new place to live and furnishings. Here are some suggestions if you find yourself in this position to make the transition to China without completely depleting your funds. 

The first and largest expense you'll face in China will be the rent on an apartment, along with all the other incidental costs associated with setting up residence there. Look in the classifieds of local expat websites and ask around to see if you can sublease from someone who is leaving or breaking their contract early to avoid paying a large deposit (typically a month's rent) and agency fees.

If you can't find a suitable sublease, you may want to explore renting a property and posting ads for a roommate. Nice studio or one-bedroom apartments in Beijing's central business district can be expensive, but if you get a bigger place and split the rent with more people, it will be much easier to pay.

While most of us outgrew living with roommates after graduating from college, it's not unusual for single expats to pool their resources and share an apartment when they go overseas. Having roommates is a great way to make friends quickly and reduce the homesickness and isolation that may come with moving to a new city. Post ads in the classifieds, in WeChat groups, and on your own WeChat Moments to find roommates in no time.

Incorporate deep reflection into the furnishing process

If you want your apartment to be completely furnished, you'll have to pay a higher monthly rent, but if you want it to be empty, you'll have to go through the effort and expense of buying new furniture. Find a partially furnished flat if at all feasible, and stock up on essentials at flea markets or from departing expats. You may think you're getting a good deal on that couch from IKEA because of the currency exchange rate, but you'll likely end up giving it away or selling it for a lot less than you paid for it when you return home. In most expat-populated Chinese cities, you may find WeChat groups where you can buy cheap or even free goods from locals.

If you don't already know how you'll travel about China on a daily basis, it's a good idea to figure it out before you go, so you don't waste money on DiDis (China's version of Uber) every day. You should think about getting a bike or a moped since, despite the initial cost, they will end up saving you a lot of time and money. Once again, explore the classifieds sections of local expat websites to purchase a used bicycle, and don't forget to sell your own before you go.

Choose a location to live that is close to your workplace and easily accessible by bike or public transportation. In most major Chinese cities, using the subway is easy, inexpensive, and convenient, but quite crowded during rush hour. It's much more cost-effective to use the bus.

Though there are still certain items that are more reasonably priced at home, the vast majority of imported goods are now available in China at prices that are competitive with those found in the West. Therefore, while initially moving to China, you don't have to strain yourself physically or spend a lot sending over your belongings.

It is no longer essential to stock up on Western food, toiletries, or cosmetics before arriving in China unless you have a strong attachment to a certain product you know you can't acquire here. For example, deodorant and tampons, for example, used to be difficult to come by in China but can now be acquired with ease from the foreigner-focused stores found in expat areas or on Taobao.

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