24th July 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong frequently tops rankings as one of the world’s most expensive cities, so how can residents survive on a modest HK$20,000 monthly salary? While far from lavish, a careful budget can ensure this income covers basic needs. With some sacrifice and smart choices, a decent quality of life is possible.
Housing – The Biggest Expense
Rent consumes the largest share of income for most Hong Kongers earning HK$20,000 per month. Studio apartments in distant suburbs run around HK$5,000-8,000. Small apartments in urban areas like Causeway Bay or Wan Chai command HK$12,000-15,000. Luxury complexes on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon can cost up to HK$30,000.
Sharing an apartment with roommates or distant relatives offers big savings. For a room in a 3-4 bedroom flat, expect to pay HK$4,000-6,000 depending on location. While cramped, this remains a common option for fresh graduates and new arrivals to the city.
Those open to older buildings can find subdivided flats for HK$3,000-5,000 per month. Space will be tight but rents are lower. Check for mold, adequate electrical wiring, and other safety issues before signing any lease.
Food – Groceries Versus Dining Out
After housing, food consumes the second largest share of the typical Hong Konger’s budget. Groceries for three meals a day average around HK$20 if you eat simple fare like rice, noodles, and vegetables. Choosing pricier items like meat and seafood raises the daily cost to HK$30-50.
Eating all meals out strains budgets further. A bowl of noodles or rice with some meat starts around HK$40-60. Fast food like Cafe de Coral or Fairwood offers set meals from HK$50-80. Inexpensive Chinese restaurants charge HK$100-150 per person for staple dishes with rice or noodles.
Those able and willing to prepare basic meals at home can save substantially versus dining out for every meal. But many working long hours find this difficult. Meal prepping on weekends helps, as does cooking larger batches and freezing portions.
Transport – Walking and Public Transit
Hong Kong’s extensive rail network and buses make getting around manageable even on a tight budget. For those living and working near MTR stations, the monthly pass costs HK$485, working out to around HK$16 daily. Buses that don’t compete directly with the MTR cost just HK$2.60-4.10 per ride depending on distance.
Residing in a location that enables walking 10-15 minutes to work or home helps limit transport costs further. Those far from stations where buses are the only option pay more, but the Octopus card caps fares at HK$25 for any journey.
Taxis run from HK$22-25 for the first 2 km then charge HK$1.70 per 200m. While pricier, those working late at night occasionally need taxis to get home safely. Avoid using them daily.
Lifestyle Costs – Drinks, Entertainment, Shopping
Prices for lifestyle spending like drinks, entertainment, clothes, and more vary tremendously in Hong Kong. This spending should be carefully limited on a tight budget, but some outlets for relaxation and socializing remain affordable.
Cinema tickets start under HK$60 if willing to catch weekend matinees and forgo 3D, IMAX or VIP options. Happy hour drinks can be found for HK$30-60. Some shops and markets sell budget clothing for office workers or students.
Parks, hiking trails, free museums, and cultural events offer low-cost entertainment while getting out. But realistically, those earning HK$20,000 a month cannot eat at fancy restaurants, drink at clubs or buy expensive electronics and clothing on a regular basis. Avoiding temptation and planning affordable activities is essential.
Saving on Essentials
Food, housing, and transport form the core expenses for Hong Kong residents earning HK$20,000 monthly. But utility bills, personal care items, data plans, and other essentials also add up. A few ways to minimize these costs include:
- Seek cheaper internet plans around HK$200-300 monthly
- Buy personal care and household items at discount chains like Watson’s
- Minimise air conditioning by using fans and going out
- Cook food that requires less electricity like salad versus hot pots
- Use phone plans with mostly data versus expensive voice minutes
- Stick to generic over brand name medicine, health and beauty products
While not easy, single people without children can cover basic costs in Hong Kong on a HK$20,000 monthly salary. The key is minimizing housing expense, cooking at home, using public transit, and limiting discretionary spending. With smart budgeting, a decent standard of living is certainly possible. But saving anything substantial remains difficult.
Improving Financial Situation Long Term
For most people, HK$20,000 per month supports just a basic existence in Hong Kong, not a comfortable lifestyle. Planning for the future requires boosting income over time through further education, developing new skills, and working up to higher positions. Young people starting careers should live frugally initially but invest in themselves by pursuing additional qualifications related to their field. Doing so expands opportunities and earning potential.
Gaining promotions within an organisation or changing companies every few years also typically yields pay increases. Never stop pushing to improve skills and enhance competencies. Experience alone won’t guarantee higher salaries. Finally, maintain networks and explore options outside Hong Kong. Second tier Chinese cities offer far lower costs of living. And other Asian hubs like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur maintain reasonable expenses while promising career growth.
With the right choices and effort, the challenges of getting by on HK$20,000 monthly in Hong Kong can lead to bigger and better things down the road. The key is constantly developing one’s abilities and value to employers rather than remaining static.