Budgeting 101: Tips to Save Money as a Student in China

Studying abroad is a dream for many students, but the high cost of tuition, living expenses, and other related expenses can make it seem unattainable. However, studying in China can be a more affordable option compared to other countries like the US or UK. With the right financial mindset and habits, student life in China can easily be made budget-friendly. Read on for some useful tips on how to save money during your studies. 

Tuition Fees 

  • Consider public universities, as in China they charge lower tuition fees than private universities.
  • Research the universities and programs beforehand to determine which one suits your budget. 
  • Look for scholarships and financial aid opportunities offered by the university or external organizations, which can cover all or part of your tuition fees.
  • Consider enrolling in a Chinese language program prior to attending university in China, as this can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship or reduced tuition fees.
  • Apply for government scholarships, such as the Chinese Government Scholarship or provincial-level scholarships, which can cover tuition fees, living expenses, and other costs.
  • Explore alternative funding options, such as crowdfunding or student loans, to help offset the cost of tuition fees.


  • Look for on-campus accommodation options offered by universities, such as dormitories or apartments, which are often cheaper than renting an apartment off-campus. Students can opt for shared dormitories or apartments to reduce their expenses. 
  • Consider sharing a room or apartment with other students to split the cost of rent.
  • Look for accommodation in areas outside of the city center, as rent tends to be cheaper in these areas.
  • Compare prices from different housing providers to get the best deal. 
  • Use online resources, such as housing websites and social media groups, to find affordable housing options.
  • Negotiate with landlords to lower the cost of rent, especially if you are willing to sign a longer lease or pay upfront for multiple months.

READ MORE: University Accommodation in China

The 4-bed dormitory at Tsinghua University. Source: Y Suites


  • Universities frequently have on-campus canteens which can be cheaper than eating out. Some even offer meal plans that are a more affordable purchase than buying individual meals.  
  • Cook meals at home instead of eating out at restaurants, as this is often cheaper and healthier.
  • If you don’t have a kitchen, check to see if you can use your university’s cooking facilities. 
  • Shop at local markets and supermarkets for groceries, as they are often cheaper than specialty stores or restaurants.
  • Look for student discounts at restaurants and cafes near the university.
  • Pack a lunch or snacks from home instead of buying food on campus or at convenience stores.
  • If eating out, try restaurants which locals tend to eat in rather than more expensive touristy restaurants.
Eat like a local: China has a large array of cheap local food that can be found in its food courses, hole-in-the-wall eateries, and street food stalls.


  • Transportation costs can add up if you live far from your university, so consider accommodation that is near or on the campus.  
  • Use public transportation, such as buses and subways, instead of taking taxis or private cars, as it is much cheaper.
  • Purchase a transportation card, such as the Beijing Transportation Smart Card or the Shanghai Public Transportation Card, which can be used on all forms of public transportation and offer discounted fares.
  • Look for student discounts on transportation passes or tickets.
  • Consider using a bicycle or electric scooter for transportation, as they are a cheap and convenient way to get around.


  • Take advantage of China’s many free activities and events such as festivals, concerts, and museum exhibits.
  • Look for student discounts on movie tickets, theme parks, and other entertainment options.
  • Join student clubs and organizations offering free or low-cost activities and events.
  • Explore the city on foot or by bike, as this can be a fun and free way to see new sights and attractions.
  • Host potluck dinners or game nights with friends instead of going out to expensive restaurants or clubs.

Studying in China really can be a much more affordable option compared to other countries. Hopefully, by following these tips and tricks, you can reduce your expenses and ensure you stay on top of your budget without sacrificing man comforts. With some prior planning and research, international students can have a fulfilling yet financially sustainable experience while studying in China. 

Kay is a marketing assistant at China Admissions. A "third-culture kid" based in Thailand, she has had lifelong exposure to international communities and has worked with top global brands. Having studied abroad herself, she encourages young minds to invest in their self-development and foster an appreciation for new countries and cultures.
Kay Marlowe

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