To Be Frugal Is Glorious: The 1000 RMB Challenge


For a variety of reasons that can be filed under Being a Student Without Medical Insurance, Visa Problems, and The Unstable Life of Freelancing, once I’ve set aside my rent, I only have 1000 RMB (146.32 USD) for the month for all of my expenses, including bills. Alas, Beijing is an expensive city, not only for China, but in general.

Because I have a tendency to worry about money to the point where it would keep me up at night, I decided to blog this month of expenses. It’ll be more fun that way! Also, it’ll keep on the path of the straight and narrow since it’ll be too embarrassing if I don’t make it. I do have a healthy amount of savings, but savings are savings for a reason, and to be used only for emergencies! I did this before in Changchun, but there you could spend 2000 RMB a month and live like an absolute king.

My friend tells me that for Chinese university students, 1000 RMB is entirely possible. Hey, if there are office workers who are trying to get by on 100 RMB a week, then 1000 RMB for a whole month is practically a luxury! In the meantime, I’ll be discovering and enjoying all of Beijing’s free offerings, few and far between though they may be.

Anyway, I decided to do this a few days ago, so the challenge for me will last from April 4th to May 4th. Depending on how it goes, perhaps I will do it longer since these are perilous times anyway.

So far:

Saturday, April 4th:
- Jianwai Soho Hong Kong Cha Ting: 25 RMB for wonton noodles
- Sequoia Cafe: Book Swap and Board Games Event (I’m an organizer): 23 RMB for a mocha

I spent my Saturday night making a tasty dinner and preparing a compost bin for worm composting, so that was free entertainment. ;)

Total: 48 RMB, not bad but technically I should only be spending 33.3 RMB a day.

Sunday, April 5th:
- Red Wriggler worms for composting and composting spray: 100 RMB (eek!)
- Taxi to Tang Yuan: 20 RMB
- Tang Yuan Dim Sum: 34 RMB

After Tang Yuan, I took a walk using the Beijing By Foot cards, and that was excellent and free fun. For dinner I biked to my friend’s house and we cooked together. Bless her, that was free. XD

Total: 154 RMB
Total so far: 202 RMB, that’s 1/5 of my budget in two days, half of it on worms! Doing my bit for the environment is expensive.

Monday, April 6th:
Today is Tomb Sweeping Day, and I’ve decided to make my super frugal ancestors proud by not spending any money today! So I’m staying at home, doing Chinese homework, correcting student notebooks, and blogging. All of these things are free! My food shopping is being done in the fridge and cupboards, I shan’t waste any food this month!

Well, as you can see, I have already blown a large amount of money on worms and the taxi was not necessary. Not doing too well already! Good thing I’m blogging this, I’m already embarassed.

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9 Comments on "To Be Frugal Is Glorious: The 1000 RMB Challenge"

  1. ana
    06/04/2009 at 5:16 pm Permalink

    加油!加油!we’re rooting for you! :)

  2. Ashleigh
    06/04/2009 at 6:14 pm Permalink

    Staying out of taxis will go a long way in meeting your goal. The bus is your best friend. You do have one of those cards? When I found out you could ride the bus for 4 mao …

    And of course cooking instead of eating out.

    Yes We Can, Fi!

  3. Megan
    07/04/2009 at 4:13 am Permalink

    I love this stuff! It’s always one of my favorite things in New York Magazine. I wish you luck, I know you can do it.

  4. Grace
    08/04/2009 at 1:20 pm Permalink

    eek is right! only 146 dollars? i think i spend that in a week and i feel like a pauper! oh to be frugal!

    good luck!

  5. Jet So
    15/04/2009 at 10:00 pm Permalink

    Interesting topic in continuing the frugal vein from the old CNN interview last month.

    Don’t forget the unquoted addition in 邓小平的金句: “To get rich by *hard work* is glorious.” Now just add frugal behind work & there you go!

  6. Jamie
    21/07/2009 at 4:47 pm Permalink


    -Eat in (5-10RMB/day).

    -Buy a bike (One time investment of maybe 360RMB. If it lasts you a year (before it is stolen, that is), that brings the monthly cost to 30RMB.)

    These two tips bring you to 170-330RMB per month. Add another 10RMB per day for random expenses, and that’s a measly 470-660RMB per month, or 69-96USD per month. Nice one.


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