A Week In Hong Kong On A $244,000 Salary

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Today, an American living in Hong Kong with her husband and 3-year-old daughter.
Industry: Archives
Age: 30
Location: Hong Kong. We've been here 2.5 years.
Salary: $79,000 (my husband makes $165K + bonus as an attorney)
Paycheck amount (monthly): $6,600 for me, $13,400 for my husband, not withholding taxes. In Hong Kong, you actually pay your taxes a year in advance, based on your projected income. So now we have technically already paid taxes for 2016 and are saving for our 2017 assessment. We pay an overall rate of about 10%. We do still owe tax in the U.S., but only federal income tax, no state taxes, FICA, etc. We do, however, qualify for the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and for 2015 the first $100,800 for each of us was tax-free.
# of roommates: 3, my husband, our daughter, and our nanny

Monthly Expenses

Rent: $3,224
Loan payments: Around $1,100 total for the combined minimum for my loans and my husband’s, we usually pay around $2,000.
Utilities: $100 electric (in summer), $40 cable and internet, $50 a month for gas
Transportation: No fixed costs
Phone bill: $70 a phone for 2 smartphones
Health insurance: Provided by employers at no cost to us
Savings: We each have 1.5% withheld from our paychecks every month for the Hong Kong version of Social Security. We put aside about $3,000 a month in Hong Kong to save to pay our tax bill, school tuition (it is billed by term, not monthly), and other random expenses. We also transfer about $2,000 to the U.S. every month (varies based on other monthly expenses) to be put into an investment account or used as general savings.
Nanny salary: $775 a month plus room and board. It seems crazy-low, but it is actually above average here.
School tuition: $1,180 a month for half-day pre-school.
Gym: $280 for unlimited classes at a boxing and weightlifting gym. It is insanely expensive, but it is also convenient and I actually like going.
Netflix: $8
iCloud storage: $2

Day 1

7 a.m. — Wake up. I was supposed to be at the gym this morning, but slept through my alarm. Oops. I eat some hummus, pita, and cheese for breakfast while watching Olympic highlights on the local TV station. Try and fail to get my daughter to eat some Cheerios.

9 a.m. — My walk to work is rainy and miserable. I love my short commute (10-minute walk), but hate being subject to the weather, especially this time of year.

9:45 a.m. — Put in a request to book an Airbnb for our upcoming trip to Paris.

11 a.m. — Eat some almonds I keep stashed at my desk.

12:30 p.m. — Stay on campus (I work at a university) for lunch because it is still raining. I go to the Indian/kebab place and get a lamb biryani. $4.50

5 p.m. — Get home from work, have some chorizo for a snack. My daughter gets home a little after me and I give her some black beans, apple slices, and Goldfish for her dinner, and then give her a bath.

7:30 p.m. — I cook chicken, Brussels sprouts, and a little bit of potato for our dinner. My husband bought the potatoes and they are purple, which makes me afraid I might have a Bridget Jones blue soup situation, but everything turns out okay.

8 p.m. — Bedtime for my daughter. After she's asleep, my husband and I drink some white wine that was in the fridge and watch more Olympics.

9 p.m. — Get an email that our Airbnb booking is confirmed! $667 for five nights. I'd like to say that this isn't a regular expense, but we travel a lot so it kind of is. $667

Daily Total: $671.50

Day 2

7 a.m. — Actually make it to the gym today, but I forgot my water bottle so I stop at 7-Eleven on the way. $1

9:45 a.m. — There is a fire alarm in my building, so I take the opportunity to go to the small grocery store on campus and buy a Coke Light and some chips. $3

12:15 p.m. — I had leftovers for lunch, but forgot them at home! I officially didn't manage to bring lunch once this week, which is pretty bad, because I pack leftovers at least three days a week. I'm tired of everything close to the office, so I hop on the MTR (subway) and go two stops away where there is a much better restaurant selection. I go to a Vietnamese place and get a lemongrass-beef bun for $9.50. I only eat half, so I can have the leftovers for dinner or lunch tomorrow. The MTR fare is $0.60 each way for a grand total of $1.20. Total: $10.70

5:30 p.m. — It is Friday, so to celebrate I stop at the 7-Eleven on the way home for some beer. I get three tallboys of Tiger for $3.50.

7 p.m. — Eat my lunch leftovers for dinner.

8:45 p.m. — My daughter is in bed, and I leave to go meet some friends. I take the MTR to my friend's apartment ($0.60) and pick up half a rotisserie chicken and some sides for them because they haven't eaten yet. $16.50, but they pay me back. Total: $0.60

9:30 p.m. — A friend of a friend is having a gathering at a private club. It is $51 for free flow [open bar], which is actually a pretty good deal for Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I drink way too much white wine trying to get my money's worth. $51

1 a.m. — The MTR has stopped running, so I grab a taxi home. $3.25

Daily Total: $73.05

Day 3

7 a.m. — I wake up and FaceTime with my mom. We try to do this every weekend. I also eat some hummus and pita for breakfast.

10 a.m. — My husband goes grocery shopping. He does the vast majority of the food shopping. This trip is mostly for Diet Cokes, beers, wine, coffee, and snack food. All the essentials, obviously. $35

2 p.m. — We want to take advantage of the weak Euro and VAT refund when we are in Paris, so my husband and I go to a fancy mall to do some window-shopping to see what we might like to buy. $1.20 for both of us to take the MTR. (Our daughter is at home with her nanny. It is normal for nannies to work on Saturdays in Hong Kong.) $1.20

3 p.m. — My husband leaves me to go put in a few hours at work. I keep shopping. I go to J.Crew and try on a dress that I want to wear for an upcoming wedding. I don’t buy it now because they mark everything way up here. The dress is $165 here, and I know it is only $128 in the U.S. I decide to order it later from the U.S. website.

4 p.m. — I stop at a 7-Eleven to get a Coke Light. $1

5:15 p.m. — My husband and I meet up for beers. $19

6 p.m. — We take the MTR from downtown back to our neighborhood. It’s $1.20 for both of us. We stop at the grocery store to buy salmon for tonight, plus some vegetables and other random stuff. $33.50. Total: $34.70

6:30 p.m. — We make another stop for vodka on the way home. $19

7:30 p.m. — My husband cooks dinner and we have broccoli, salmon, and rice. We also drink plenty of wine and beer that we already had in the fridge.

9 p.m. — I order that dress from the U.S. J.Crew and have it sent to my dad because he is visiting soon and can bring it to me. There is a promo code, so the grand total after tax and shipping is $110.76.

Daily Total: $220.66

Day 4

9 a.m. — I go to the gym.

11 a.m. — All three of us go grocery shopping as a family. This is our real trip to stock up for the week, and we buy several packages of chicken, ground beef, yogurt, milk, chicken stock, canned beans and tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, lemons, limes, apples, herbs, strawberries, blueberries, some M&M's, and a few other things. $119

4:30 p.m. — We go to a neighborhood restaurant and share an order of French fries. My husband and I also have two beers each. We do this most Sunday afternoons. $23.80

7 p.m. — I make chicken-tortilla soup for dinner using things we bought at the store earlier. I also have some Moscow Mules made using the vodka purchased last night.

Daily Total: $142.80


Day 5

7 a.m. — Go to the gym.

1 p.m. — I eat leftover chicken-tortilla soup for lunch.

3 p.m. — Still feeling hungry, so I get some beef jerky for a snack. $2.50

7 p.m. — My husband cooks hamburger patties and broccoli for dinner.

Daily Total: $2.50

Day 6

8:30 a.m. — It is my daughter’s first day of school, so my husband and I take her together. We ride a minibus, and it is $2 for my husband and me to ride to school, and $1 to my office. My daughter rides for free. $3

12:45 p.m. — I eat more leftover chicken-tortilla soup.

3:30 p.m. — I’m hungry again and grab some chips and a Diet Coke from the store on campus. $2.75

5:30 p.m. — I stop by the grocery store on the way home for milk, pita, strawberries, mint, carrots, Goldfish, and a few other things. $31

7 p.m. — I cook dinner tonight and make chicken breasts and a salad with chickpeas, feta, tomato, olives, pistachio, and mint. We drink some white wine with it.

Daily Total: $36.75

Day 7

7 a.m. — Gym again.

12:15 p.m. — I’m out of soup, so I walk to a place close to work and get a pork bánh mì and a Diet Coke for $5.25.

8:30 p.m. — One of my friends is leaving Hong Kong (the worst part of expat life!), and we are going to dinner to send her off. We go to a fancy Cantonese place, and several dishes and many bottles of wine come to $49 per person. $49

11 p.m. — We go to a bar for one last drink, a beer for me. $8.75

12 a.m. — I take a taxi home. $3.50

Daily Total: $66.50
Editor's note: All prices have been converted into USD.

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