17 October 2014

Living Expenses Comparison: Michigan vs. ShenZhen

Today I'm joining up with The Rachael Way to present you with a slice of #ChinaLife. I'm talking about how the ways in which we spend our income have changed since the move, check out her space to see what she's talking about!

I can imagine that when I publish posts like "How to Move to China", plenty of people wonder, "And why would anyone want to do that?"

There are plenty of reasons. The financial side of it wasn't a key reason for us, honestly, the best financial decision to make last year would have been for Angel to finish grad school and start working as an NP, but we chose a different route.

Wherever you are in the world, there's ways to save and to spend money--some who teach ESL spend every penny they make, others use this as a strategy to pay off debt or start a savings fund, it's up to the individual.

Today, I wanted to do an open comparison between our living expenses in Michigan and our living expenses here in ShenZhen:

Let me start out by saying that I know that we kept our monthly expenses during our life in Michigan rather low. We had our splurges and little extras, but we were blessed to live in an old home owned by my parents (that explains the low rent) and made plenty of lifestyle choices and used strategies aimed at keeping our regular bills as low as possible. Here's what they were:

Estimated Monthly Bills in Michigan:
Rent: $400
Car insurance for our two cars: $150
Gas (cars): $200
Groceries (just what we ate at home): $300
Gas (house): (summer) $20, (winter) $80
Electricity: $30
4 AT&T cellphones (just talk, no text): $100
AT&T Internet: $30

Total? Over $1200 in fairly basic living expenses. This doesn't include health and dental insurance premiums which were deducted before we received Angel's paycheck, or all the "Extras" of life such as dates, going out to eat, or hosting parties or car maintenance or vacations or buying clothes or stuff just for the fun of it, that's just the bottom line of what we basically "needed" to spend.

Estimated Monthly Bills in ShenZhen:
Rent (housing provided by our employer): $0
Utilities (water, electricity, gas, internet, provided by employer): $0
Groceries (including eating at home, restaurants, and the cafeteria): $250
Public Transport (bus and metro tickets): $30
1 Cellphone (talk and text): $5

Total? Under $300. For basic living expenses--although we do splurge a little on food (Men like to eat, I've found). Obviously, the numbers are skewed because we are earning our rent and utilities, but they're considered part of our compensation package, and our paycheck is separate. Our living style has changed a lot since we moved--I can't even imagine how much it would cost to own two cars and rent an 1800 sq. foot home here (it would be a lot). I didn't know how I would feel about having to use leg power or public transportation to get everywhere, but while it takes some adjustment, I like to highlight the benefits:

1) I never liked driving anyway.
2) We never have to look for a parking spot.
3) ShenZhen's public transportation goes just about anywhere, and is very inexpensive.
4) All of this walking is getting me into the best shape of my life.

Cars are expensive, aren't they? I'm appreciating this inexpensive season of relying on public transportation!
Sarah Moore said...

Cars are SO expensive, almost unbearably so! At first, I would totally complain about having to walk all the time, but, as time went on, I'm sure I'd love getting back into shape with minimal effort! And huzzah for not having to look for a parking space! :)

AwesomelyOZ said...

Yes cars are super expensive - just spent $125 on a new battery unexpectedly this past weekend. Boo! Our expenses are high because we live in a pricier area and if you live near the Nations Capital things are just expensive. At least you guys are hopefully saving some money!!! Have a wonderful weekend Rachel :) -Iva

Michelle said...

I love the fact that you guys walk everywhere! I am trying so hard not to be jealous of your living expenses. No matter how much you cut back in the US, the cost of living is so expensive.

Unknown said...

That's so nice that so much of your cost of living is covered by your employer! it takes some getting used to, to not have a cat anymore, but if there's public transit or if you have a bike it's doable. We do have cars here, but I generally go all week days without driving at all. I hope you guys are loving China

Bekah Loves Blog said...

ahhh beautiful!

Suzanne said...

You guys will really save some $ living over there.


Hannah said...

Wow! Its kind of sad that here in America cars are a necessity! :( I mean, you have to drive just to do laundry! lol.

Unknown said...

i'm always interested in these types of comparisons around the world. we get asked quite often the difference between dallas to brussels to san francisco and it's not comparable at all. so many factors go into it!

Paige @ Reasons to Come Home said...

This is definitely persuading me to move to a foreign country (like Rwanda). I admire y'all so much for following God's will in your life!

Moonofsilver said...

I am loving learning about China :) wow!!! Thank you for being so honest! We spend about what you do right now in Virginia said...

Wow, it looks like you are saving so much more! That is one thing I'm looking forward to about South East Asia!
Melanie @

chelsea @ the new wifestyle said...

super interesting to read about and love that you are able to eat out and buy food for even lower! i love food too so score. we are a one car couple but portland, OR has some pretty decent public transit so we use that when we can too. thanks for sharing this rachel!

Bethany Carson said...

Enjoyed your list! Sounds like your new lifestyle in China is much less expensive!

Jen Lud said...

That is incredible, Rach! THESE are the reasons I want to someday go "off the grid" and do things my way. Cell phones make me crazy. Bad drivers make me crazy. Eating food I don't grow/make myself makes me crazy. When I lived in Germany I was completely turned on to the idea that yes, you can be your own self-sustainable person for hundreds less than we think we need to pay here in America. I hope to someday get there. Awesome post!

Rea Ninja said...

Interesting! Never had a car of my own so I couldn't compare the expenses. But I do know that public transportation is inexpensive. Especially where I live! It's a good thing that you don't have to pay for rent and utilities though!

Charlene Maugeri said...

Wow! It's amazing when you spell it all out like this. Cars are so expensive! We folks over here in America should boycott!

Jennifer Prod said...

i never had a car until i moved to minneapolis (a couple years ago) and i kinda miss public transportation/not worrying about parking/not paying car bills. if you can walk, do it - it's kinda romantic anyway :)

Tayler Morrell said...

I would love to save that much! Since we had our baby, we no longer live in cheap college housing. We have already paid all the hospital bill that have to do with the birth (it's very expensive!) We have a nice townhome, but I teach part-time, and although my husband has a full-time job, he barely makes more than me. Our monthly expenses take more than half our income. I'd love to be a SAHM, now, but we don't currently have that option.

AdriansCrazyLife said...

I think the cell phone and internet expenses are a big drop. I would have a hard time giving up my smart phone because I use it for just about everything, but this bills are just RIDICULOUS. These posts about Chinese living are just so interesting. #SITSSharefest

Mrs. Cheerio said...

As much as I love your blog, I'll never show this post to my husband, lest he packs us up and moves us to China instead of Europe!!!