China

Budgeting Smart in Shanghai!

Nikita Deshazor is a student at Norfolk State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Shanghai, China.

If you’re anything like me, you want to have fun, but not break the bank doing so. Here are some useful tips I’ve used since being in Shanghai:

These are vegetarian dumplings I made during an ISA cultural activity.

These are vegetarian dumplings I made during an ISA cultural activity.


Tip #1 – Act Local, Eat Local

When in Shanghai, eat as the locals do. If you’re on a tight budget or you just want to save some extra cash, choose foods common to the area. Going to local markets or home-style restaurants can give you a cultural experience, as well as, save you a lot of money. In Shanghai, dumplings, rice, and Xiao Long Bao are served at nearly every restaurant. Avoid eating Western-style, fast food; prices can range from $12-18 (total) for 3 meals. On average, I save $10-14 (daily) by eating at a local restaurant. I spend about $2-4 U.S. Dollars/per day for all 3 meals.

Red Shops, Shanghai, China-Deshazor-Photo 2
Tip #2 – Negotiation, Negotiation, Negotiation

If you opt for shopping on the street versus in-store you will save money. Shopping at street markets has been an exhilarating experience for me. I am approached by many vendors selling a variety of products, ranging from purses to phone cases and everything in-between. When shopping on the street, the key to paying the lowest price is negotiating with the vendors. Rule of thumb: Start at ¼ of the requested price. Example: If a hat is 10 RMB start the price around 3-4 RMB. Be friendly, but firm and you’ll rarely pay full price at street markets.

I use this budget to monitor my spending during the week.

I use this budget to monitor my spending during the week.


Tip #3 – Create a Weekly Budget

Jotting down a weekly budget can keep you on track when trying to conserve money. Keep in mind, it takes a few weeks to get into a regular routine, so don’t be discouraged if you spend more than allotted in the beginning. Plan the cost of meals, travel, toiletries, and miscellaneous expenses. Any extra money you do not use that week can go into an emergency or rainy day fund.

ie vendor’s merchandise at the Fake Market on West Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai.

This tie vendor’s merchandise at the Fake Market on West Nanjing Rd. in Shanghai.

Tip #4 – Get Souvenirs Later

I know being in Shanghai is exciting and you want to get a ton of keepsakes, but resist the urge…for now. Buying souvenirs the entire trip can be costly and take up a lot of room in your already full suitcase. After you’ve created a weekly budget, set aside money for the end of the trip to buy souvenirs. When you become familiar with the area, you will learn where prices are the lowest. Remember, you will likely see the same product all over China, so don’t worry about getting it now. As your trips nears the end, visits those shops and negotiate prices. Waiting until the end to get gifts will help monitor how much you spend while abroad.

Enjoy your time abroad, but save money along the way. Following these easy tips will stretch the money in your pocket, allowing you to enjoy the city.

Want to read more about Shanghai? Check out “5 Surprises about Studying in Shanghai”

1 reply »

  1. Nice piece! I worked in Shanghai (and other parts of China) for a while. Eat local is a great way to save cash and taste some amazing dishes. I certainly have been in some hard negotiations, too! :)

    Liked by 1 person

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