6 Luxuries You Can Afford Teaching English in China

Ah, remember the days of living paycheck to paycheck? Having to embarrassingly ask a friend or family member to cover you because you spent all of your money on rent? How about adding a random $7 worth of gas to your tank because filling it up was out of your budget? What about eating that processed, regretful “value menu” item because you didn’t know how to make your money stretch? Remember that, guys? Remember?!

I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe teaching English in China is not “just about the money” and have relentlessly expressed my opinion about those who ask me right off the bat how much they will make as an English teacher in China. There really is no simple answer to that question.

But, if you can do something that’s both rewarding and lucrative, I have just one piece of advice for you: Play on, player.

By now, you have a firm idea of how much money you can make teaching English in China. If you know what city you’ll be living in, you have an even better idea of what your average spendings will be monthly on your regular old necessities. You’ve probably done a little math, and can now think about your disposable income.

“Did she just say ‘disposable…income’?”

Oh yeah, I did.

So, with your big, bad, new earnings, here’s a few ideas on how to make it rain all over the world.

6 Luxuries You Can Afford Teaching English in China


As the saying goes, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. The famous quote certainly holds true to its roots, and is verbal proof that adventure really is of the most rewarding purchases you can make in your life. Funnily enough, I’ve seen more of China in my 4.5 years of living here than my 21 years of living in the US. The reason being – I can afford it, both in time and monetarily.

What’s crazy to me, is that I hear people teaching English in China say things like, “I’ve only got 10 vacation days for Chinese New Year.” Others, responding with, “Really? I’ve got a whole month.”

Neither of these time allotments are bad, and at the teacher’s ages and levels of experience, I can almost guarantee they would never get that much time off back home.

But! I’ll go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt on this one by saying your employer back home did decide to give you an extra long holiday – could you honestly miss that much time from work and still live comfortably until your next big paycheck?

In most cases, nah.

A vacation should destress you, not put you in a rebuilding stage for weeks after. In countries with low living costs, you can take a vacation longer than the weekend and still afford to snap back to reality once the party’s over. The rent has likely been paid, your groceries are a fraction of the price, and utilities are way less expensive than what they are back home.





I’m gonna do you one helluva solid and suggest you put some of your cash away, and not into your savings account. I’m talking about turnin’ that money into… drum roll, please…

You guessed it: money

With more finances comes more responsibility. This can be both exciting and intimidating. But for one of the first times in your life, you’ll actually get to play with money. Something most people, especially young people, never get to comfortably do. Why take a gamble with your funds when you can’t even tip your waiter 20%? I can’t blame you, because I’ve been there myself.

Watching your money go bye-bye into a start up, stocks, crypto currency, or an idea can be a little nerve-wracking. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but most of the time, you have no idea where to begin. A cool company I recently learned about, appropriately named Stash, allows you to invest small numbers, like $5, and see what it turns in to, or even where you went wrong. This is investing for complete newbies and could easily help you turn those lil’ stacks into big, phat stacks if you play your cards right.

A Housekeeper

Yes, you read right, and no, you can’t judge me. You can actually now afford to have someone come over and clean up your mess. Just like your parents used to complain about when you were younger!

Life officially rulez.

In smaller towns, a housekeeper, or āyí (阿姨) can run you about 35rmb/hour ($5) or double to triple in major cities. I used to have THE coolest āyí in all of China. She’d bring me her famous kimchi and baozi just because!

What’s cool about hiring an āyí is that you help to create a job while paying fair wages. We usually paid ours about 75rmb/hour in Hohhot, which is much higher than the norm, but also incredibly affordable for us.

Getting used to someone cleaning your house while you just uselessly sit there is weird in the beginning, but after a couple of sessions you’ll start to feel like you’re in paradise. Go ahead, sip on a margarita while she feather dusts around you. You’ve earned it.

Quality Food

I know what you’re thinking, “Why does this matter?”

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in America there’s frightening correlation between people with low incomes and poor health. Your diet obviously plays an important role in the way your brain functions and your energy levels. With what it takes to be an English teacher, you’re going to need to be in tip top shape, both physically and mentally to survive and thrive in the classroom.

Like most of the finer things in life, eating good doesn’t come over night. Sourcing quality food and ingredients can seem like the hard part if you’re living in a small town, but learning how to put the ingredients together and make something that’s both delicious and affordable is the challenge. Lucky for you, you’ll have plenty of time to master your kitchen skills. Bringing me to my next point.


Time is indeed a luxury. One most of us don’t possess. Gone are the days when I could teach only 15 hours a week and devote the rest of my time to a hobby. Now that I’m a retired ESL teacher gone #girlboss, I’m lucky if I have 30 minutes in the evening to look my dog in the eye and tell him just how cute he is. Okay, kidding. I always have time for that.

But really, most of us don’t have time to do the things we love. We’re usually too tired to work out, too burnt out to think of new ideas, and too broke to do something nice for ourselves or someone else. Plenty of parents out there don’t even have time to help their kids with their homework!

I was able to find and afford my passions with all my newfound free time. I now have the space to write, practice photography, exercise, and work on multiple start ups. This is a life I created for myself, and believe it or not, I owe it to working low hours for years while practicing time management.

The Finer Things

I’ll leave you with the basics. When people think of what they’ll do with their new money, it usually comes down to materials, pampering, wining, and dining.

Have you ever been to a world-renowned five star restaurant? Because there really is nothing quite like foie gras and elegant lighting.

Treat. Yo. Self.

I’ve never in my life had so many back massages. And to be honest, I don’t even care for them. But, I can afford them. Manicures? I get ‘em. New outfits? I’m buyin’ ‘em. Drinks? For the whole bar, sir!

Ask yourself when the last time was that you did something for yourself without feeling guilty. Or maybe, your form of ballin’ out is actually by doing something nice for someone else. Imagine surprising a family member back home with a check in the mail. Or being able to go home for the holidays and not worrying about blowing the bank on gifts for your loved ones.

The possibilities are honestly endless.

The Takeaway

Are you going to get rich? Absolutely not. The words “rich” and “teacher” don’t frequently go hand in hand. But are you going to be comfortable? If you spend your money with common sense, definitely.

Still, I’ve met loads of broke people that were teaching English in China. I honestly have zero idea where their money goes or how they have none of it. Even when I was making just 6,000rmb ($912) a month in Hohhot, I still managed to save 1/3 of my salary on a bad month. My rent was paid, nights out were cheap, and most importantly, I had a strategy. I didn’t live above my means more than once or twice a week, which again is much more affordable to do in China than in most developed countries.

So how do you save or spend your salary? What tips do you have for new ESL teachers looking to take life to the next level? Share your thoughts in comments and pass this post on to a friend in need!

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