Sunday, March 3, 2013

The annual February BUDGET--Hong Kong style!

(photo from the hive)
We made it sucessfully through the month of February, and I just have to say, I've always liked February: it's short-exactly 4 weeks long, spring is in sight, it contains Valentine's Day, and most of all, it's the month when I keep track of our family financial situation, and by that I mean that I write down every single penny we spend for the month. I don't do this every year, but whenever there is a significant change in our financial life (move, job change, housing change, etc), it makes sense to sit down and figure out a plan, because we all know that if we fail to plan, we are planning to fail! AND, I'm a number geek.

I was pretty excited to keep track of everything now that we are here in Hong Kong. I had this rough idea of where our money was going, but even to someone like me who is fairly thrifty, there are always a few surprises. Adapting to a new culture adds a whole new dimension to budgeting. Where do I find the best food deals? How much is the electric bill going to be? What about transportation? So...without further ado, here's the Cliff family spending for February:

groceries: $4726 HKD ($630 USD/$157 week)
eating out: $1937 HKD ($258 USD/$65 week)
medical: $1280 HKD ($171 USD)
gifts/misc: $616 HKD ($82 USD)
transport: $550 HKD ($73 USD)
boys chores: $1200 HKD--$400 each ($160 USD)
tithe/charity: 12% gross income
phone/internet: $720 HKD ($96 USD)
elec/H2O/dryer: $710 HKD ($94 USD)
Ikea (lampshade): $115 ($15 USD)
QB House (haircut):$50 HKD ($6.50 USD)

There it is! The Cliff family budget. Now I'll break it down by category:

Groceries include paper products like TP /paper towels and toiletries such as toothpaste and shampoo.
This months breakdown went like this:
Park N Shop (grocery store): $2881 HKD ($384 USD)
Meat (ordered at school and a meat shop): $707 HKD ($94 USD)
Cheese (ordered at school): $340 ($45 USD)
milk powder: $300 HKD ($40 USD)---this will last about 2-3 months
wet market: $79 HKD ($11 USD)
Prize Mart (smaller grocer): $369 HKD ($49 USD)

My goal is to get this number down to $4000 HKD I'm excited to have found a cheaper source for flour, so I plan to do a little more home baking.

Eating Out: This month included a $725 ($96 USD) meal for the family celebrating Will's induction into National Honor Society. A "normal" meal out for the fam would cost $100-$150 (13-20 US) at McD's or the noodle shop. Still, it's a number that's too high for me. And I will cut it down.

If you add up the total for groceries and eating out, divide that number by 5 (people in our family) and then divide by 4 weeks, then by 21 meals per week, you get $15.86 HKD ($2.11 USD) per meal, per person. All in all, I suppose this isn't that astronomical...but it's on the high side for this mama, and I know I can do better.

Medical: This included a trip to a general practioner, an orthopedic specialist and an X-ray for my oldest son, who has been having pain in his foot for months...and he's a runner. Dx: tendonitis. This was paid OOP, but most of it will be reimbursed through our school insurance plan. I don't even want to think about what this scenario would have cost stateside.

Gifts: This included Valentine's Day gifts, a night at the movies and baby shower gifts.

Transportation: This was what Mike and I put on our octopus (metro) cards this month. Some of that will slide over into the next month, but it all evens out. The card is used on the trains, buses and ferries. Quite a bit less than a car payment and gas to fill it, no?

Boys Chores: This was higher than we normally give our kids here, but it was Chinese New Year, and we were celebrating! This money must cover their own transportation costs, food that they want to buy elsewhere and anything else they want. They are also expected to tithe from this money. In exchange they do household chores (wash dishes, clean bathrooms and their own rooms and help with laundry). This is an evolving number as we figure out what works here. In the states, our boys earned money in other ways, and that has been a difficult loss for them to deal with.

Tithe/Charity: self-explanatory, and while it never dips below 10%, some months, it is higher than it was this month.

Phone/Internet: We have one cell phone with a plan, and Mike has a phone similar to a tracfone. The boys do not have cell phones.  We have basic internet; we do not have cable TV.

Electric/Water: This number is based on the total we have paid so far divided by the months we have paid so far. We only pay quarterly.

The rest is self-explanatory. I'm sure I've forgotten to put a few things in here, but you get the general idea. So that, my friends, is what we pay to live in Hong Kong. Not bad, could be better:) All ideas for spending less are gratefully accepted....thanks!


  1. We have gotten cell phones for each of our girls (age 9 and 11). Our cost is $88 HKD or about $11 USD per month. The $22 USD/month is worth the peace of mind I have when we are out and about and the thought of them getting separated from us. I also put an app called 360Life on their phones that tracks all family members GPS and has a panic button. Your kids are older, but I don't really know what mine would do if they got separated from us here in HK. We actually role-play so they think about it. My other fear is if one is hiking or biking with Steve or myself and the parent is injured. Would they be able to call for help?
    They also have sleep over with friends (where some of the parent only speak broken English), so I can sleep easier knowing that they have a phone and can reach me at any moment.
    Otherwise, I think our budget is pretty similar. We pay for a helper. She is a necessity, esp when Steve and I both have meetings like we do this week. We probably eat out more than you (at least once every Sunday), and we have 6 people we are buying groceries for, but otherwise, pretty much the same. Transportation is def cheaper than in USA.

  2. Nice. Thanks for sharing those numbers. With layoffs recently looming, we decided to try and live off Jess' salary in Feb. On paper it worked, but we over-shot.. mostly by not trying hard enough (my check was still there to fall back on). Our meals were $3.51 ea. ..we were shooting for $2.57 - which is probably still quite generous.

    271 people were laid off last week.. PTL I was not one of them.. will we hit $2.57 in March and save my check? We'll have to see.

    (BTW, groceries and eating out are our biggest budget hurdles)

  3. @ Ann....the phones for the boys really isn't about the money. In the states, we were giving them a tracfone to use when they started driving. Here, they use Mike's if they are going somewhere, so we do have the peace of mind thing. Believe me, they badger us for them, but we see so many teens absoulutley glued to their phones and we wanted to avoid that as long as possible. Our daughter also pestered us and we told her when she was off on her own she could pay for whatever phone she wanted. It's been nearly two years and she still hasn't purchased one!

    @ off Mike's salary was our goal here also, and we are actually able to live on less than that, but that doesn't include plane tickets to come home in the summer:). I'm such a number geek...budgeting is FUN for me...I'm that weird!! Congrats on NOT getting laid off!