China has a massive amount of shopping malls, authentic food, drink, and other things to spend your money on.  Once you get accommodated to your environments you’ll need to create a budget for yourself.  There’s a ton of easy ways to save money, and here are a few helpful tips to budgeting yourself in China:

1)     Take the Subway

When you first step foot in your city it can feel sometimes confusing and massive.  Because of this, taking the taxi may seem like the easiest way to transport yourself around the city.  Overtime the taxi fares can rack up, and even though they are relatively cheap eventually they will eat into your pocket.  I found that taking the subway is an effective way to navigate the city, while also learning about the different areas throughout.  While it may take some time getting used to, the subway system is a convenient and cost effective way to save money.

If you feel like you understand the traffic system in China you can buy a bike or moped to save money.  Mopeds and bikes are very common in China, and most streets have bike and moped lanes on the side of the road.  When those lanes run out you may have to resort to driving on the sidewalk, which can be tedious with pedestrians.

2)     Always Convert into Your Currency

Generally, the Yuan currency is more inflated to the currency that you use.  It’s a weird feeling having to pay 70 of anything for a meal, but then you do the math and it’s only around a $10 meal.  The feeling of inflation can sometimes go to your head, so always remember to convert to your currency standards before making a purchase.

3)     “Pregame”

While somewhat juvenile at first, the idea of pregaming a bar or a night is a cost-effective way to save money.  Alcohol at convenience stores are much cheaper that a bar or a nightclub, so if you and your friends are going out pregaming is a good way to save money.  The alcohol laws in China are relaxed, and the police genuinely care about your well-being.

4)     Eating at Local Restaurants

Food in China is very cheap, however finding a local Chinese restaurant that offers very low prices is a tasty way to budget yourself.  I can think of three restaurants near me that offer amazing food that costs around 20 Yuan, effectively $4 for a meal.  There are many good western food choices, however because they are imported they will generally cost much more than local cuisine.  Additionally, remember that large grocery stores are hard to find in China, and odds are you will be eating out a lot.

In China eating family style is cost-effective and can help you explore the local cuisine.  Many dishes in China can take some courage to try, however with the family style it’s easy to sample new dishes.  I was very surprised to realize that I loved fried lotus; a dish that I tried eating out family style.  Family style is something that I would recommend even without being on a budget, as experiencing new foods is an important part to experiencing China.

5)     Using the Local Wi-Fi

The internet in China can sometimes be archaic, however local internet cafes and coffee shops offer strong internet connections.  Using cellular data can sometimes be expensive; making Wi-Fi a cheap and free way to connect to the internet.  Hotel Wi-Fi can be notoriously bad, so just pick up your laptop or phone and move to the nearest café.

6)     The Power of Bargaining

Bargaining is not very common in Western countries, however it’s common place in China.  Usually try bargaining in local market, as the larger stores and restaurants don’t bargain.  At the Chinese fake market, you can drop the price to absurdly low prices.  Just yesterday I went to a market where they were offering a Kyrie Irving Jersey that seemed like a decent quality jersey.  The store owner wanted 380 Yuan for the jersey, but I managed to talk her down to 120.  The trick to bargaining is to walk away.  If you don’t walk away at least one odds are that you won’t get the lowest price.  Another thing to remember is that the product that you want from a vendor can probably be found at five other stores in the same market.  Remember that vendors can easily recognize foreigners, so most can speak some English however they will charge you higher prices.  


These are a few effective ways to save money in Shanghai.  As you experience China you will work into a cost-effective routine, these are just a few things that I picked up as I lived here for 3 weeks. Shanghai offers a variety of ways to save money, and with a little work you can experience the entirety of China while saving money.