One of the most important things to understand when living somewhere is the cost of living there: this is my report on my cost of living in Taichung, Taiwan, as of November 2013.
I think the best way to look at your cost of living is yearly, because months can vary quite a lot, sometimes. Expenses like “entertainment” or “travel” are best calculated over a longer term and, since you are paid monthly and billed once every two months, bills also fluctuate month-to-month.
My Yearly Cost of Living in Taichung
If you read other blogs by me, you’ll have some idea of what kind of lifestyle I live. My standard of living is different than the average cost of living in Taichung; I do what I can to make my lifestyle here match what I’m accustomed to in the USA.
When it’s hot, I use my air conditioner. I like to have a phone with unlimited data. I like to have fast internet. I don’t get cable, because Taiwanese TV sucks and I can just pirate whatever American shows I want over here, so all I need is the internet. Given that you can’t drink the water and only use gas for your stove and water heat, those bills are pretty negligible. When it’s all said and done, I only pay TW$55,000 (US$1810 / €1355) a year for all my bills.
This is my apartment:
As you can see in this video, my apartment is pretty decent. I live in an 1100sqft (100sqm) 3-bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 balcony apartment on the 12th floor of a 14-story building. There’s 24-hour security, underground parking for my scooter and motorcycle (car parking is more), and is in a fantastic neighborhood. I pay TW$144,000 (US$4,800 / €3,600) a year to live there. I pay my housekeeper TW$15,000 (US$500 / €375) a year to clean it from top-to-bottom every other Sunday.
I don’t skimp out on food. I can cook a huge steak dinner for TW$300 (US$10 / €7) or go get a fantastic burger and fries for the same. I can get a half-pound of popcorn chicken and a half-pound of shoestring french fries for TW$150 (US$5 / €4). I can get 15 slices of various raw fish for $150 (US$5 / €4). I can get an order of most local food for less than TW$120 (US$4 / €3). I can cook most dishes I cook at home (kung pao chicken, chicken quesadilla, chicken parmesan, sweet and sour pork, enchiladas, Italian pasta, orange chicken, bourbon chicken, BBQ ribs, etc.) cost me less than TW$90 (US$3 / €2).
Long-story-short, my annual food budget is TW$120,000 (US$4,000 / €3,000) – around TW$300 (US$10 / €7) daily, give-or-take.
Transportation is extremely affordable. Your average tank of gasoline (petrol) is TW$200 (US$7 / €5) to fill up a scooter,which allows for at least 100km (60mi) of driving distance. Keep in-mind that the longest distance within the city is only around 7km (5mi). An oil change will cost you TW$150 (US$5 / €4). A new tire will cost you TW$1000 (US$35 / €26). A new belt will cost about the same. And that all includes the labor! Between gas and maintenance and insurance, you’re only looking at TW$10,000 (US$430 / €320) a year, at the most.
All-in, the cost to run my life at a relatively high standard costs me TW$344,000 (US$11,540 / €8,050) a year. I’d pay almost twice that in the USA to achieve the standard of living I do in Taichung. But not everyone is like me; in fact, many foreigners in Taichung are quire different.
Most foreigners are English teachers. The average foreign English teacher working a 25-hour week takes home around TW$700,000 (US$23,330 / €17,500) a year. I know people who share a cheap apartment, eat less-quality than I do, never use air conditioning, and so on: they pay closer to TW$200,000 (US$6,670 / €5,000) a year. This is mostly because of their saving so much money by paying less to their rent. But their sacrifices come with drawbacks – privacy, good food, comfortable environment, etc.
Likewise, having a TW$500,000 (US$16,670 / €12,500) yearly budget for necessities (apartment, bills, food, transport), you can live a very decent lifestyle thanks to the cost of living in Taichung. No question, your willingness to pay more for your apartment determines your standard of living. For more information about apartments in Taichung, check this out.
Extravagances will vary greatly from person-to-person, probably more than anything else (other than your rent). Some people shop more, or buy more electronics, or go out to eat more often, or travel more often, or party more often. I know people who drop over TW$200,000 (US$6,670 / €5,000) a year partying.
Most foreigners in Taiwan only want to pay 10% of their salary to their rent; most never approach paying more than 50% of their income to their necessities. So going out five nights a week and spending close to TW$1000 (US$35 / €26) each time is something people do because they have enough money to do that and live pretty well.
It’s all about your priorities. If you worked a 20-hour-week teaching and you wanted to live like I do, you’d have to put close to 65% of your money into your lifestyle; then you can use the remaining 35% for other things (like visa runs or recreation or further improve your living quality: I am constantly enhancing my apartment).
Finally, you have the dreaded one-time expenses. Arriving in Taiwan, you can drop TW$150,000 (US$5,000 / €3,750) so fast, you won’t believe it. A deposit on an apartment and the rent for the first month will take 20% of it. Furnishing is where your head will spin – between stocking a kitchen, buying couches/tables/beds/wardrobes, getting a TV, supplying your bathroom, and more – spending TW$100,000 (US$3,330 / €2,500) is not hard to do. If you’re frugal about it, you can keep it to TW$50,000 (US$1,670 / €1,250).
A used/second-hand scooter is another TW$20,000 (US$670 / €500). You can take taxis, but be prepared to spend TW$100 (US$3 / €2) per trip. That sounds fine, on its own, but keep in-mind that buying/maintaining a scooter will cost you TW$30,000 (US$1,000 / €750) that first year…but you can make almost all of your money back from the scooter when you sell it…and TW$30,000 will only buy you 200 taxi rides: 100 back-and-forth trips. Doing a taxi to/from work every day would easily cost TW$50,000 (US$1,670 / €1,250) a year.
So, your first year, be prepared to spend TW$600,000 (US$20,000 / €15,000). Your second year, you will have figured out some things, hopefully have cut your spending while enhancing your quality of life, and be spending much less. But, considering the hourly pay here is TW$600 (US$20 / €15), many teachers make over TW$800,000 (US$26,670 / €20,000) – you can live very well here on that. Many foreign English teachers make the same as a Taiwanese project manager engineer makes.
If you want some ideas about living in Taichung, or if you are planning to move to Taichung, take a look at more of my blogs, especially this one.
If you’re looking to move to Taiwan and want some help, contact my company: Sentient Solutions, LLC (on Facebook). We help people with this kind of stuff all the time. Whatever your desired lifestyle, you can achieve it here, working within the confines of the cost of living in Taichung, Taiwan.
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