gini Money Diary: From North Carolina to HK on $10,000 HKD a month

In 2019’s edition of “The Worldwide Cost of Living Survey” published by the The Economist Intelligence Unit, Hong Kong is listed as the most expensive city in the world, tied with Singapore and Paris. 

gini’s Money Diaries series is a way for us to examine and highlight the different lives Hong Kongers lead. This series will feature individuals from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and through this series we hope to learn a bit more about our fellow Hong Kongers and the decisions we make to survive another day, another month in Hong Kong.

My Name Is: Seth

This is my second time I’ve spent a full year in Hong Kong and I still love it here. Flipping back and forth between the fast paced lifestyle of one of the most exotic cities in Asia and the mellow lifestyle of the suburban Carolinas has instilled an interesting perspective into how I view life and how I navigate financially. I came to Hong Kong to study business, wound up in finance, and now I may be thinking about money more frequently than I should. That being said I think it is very important to prioritize becoming financial free. Which is why I started documenting my habitual expenditures.

Status: Exchange Student

Age: 22

Location: Hong Kong (Second year)

Allowance: ~$6300 HKD/month

Favorite Sports Team: Carolina Panthers

Least Favorite Fruit: Grapefruit

My Monthly Expenses

Rent: $1967 HKD (covered by parents)

Utilities: $20 HKD

Toiletries: $30 HKD

Transportation: $200 HKD

Phone Bill: Free! (Friend gave me extra SIM cards)

Savings: Whatever allowance I’m left with by the end of the month.

A Week In My Life


11:30am: Ate Char Siu Fan at the Medical Staff Canteen. ($26 HKD)

12pm-2pm: FinTech Mid-term. Aced it. Celebrated with a gym session and a protein shake, whose ingredients cost approximately: ($30 HKD)

6:45pm: Dinner time! Ordered 2 Vietnamese Chicken Vermicelli. First one was amazing. Saving the other one for later. ($140 HKD)

Daily Total: $196 HKD


9:00am: My favorite cashier at the Medical Staff Canteen, Miss Li, hooked me up with a custom sandwich for breakfast. ($15 HKD)

10:00am-12:00pm: Met with my professors, then ate at the Med Staff Canteen again for lunch. Beef brisket over rice. I don’t usually get it often, but it’s fantastic and actually filling. ($26 HKD)

2pm-8pm: Conduct research for blockchain project, attended class, completed other assignments and took an undeserved nap. Grabbed some Indian food for dinner to cap off a rather productive day. Chicken Masala and Kadhai Paneer with rice. ($50 HKD)

9pm: Bumble date 🙂

11pm: Bumble date went terribly, so I went to my favorite bar to relax (Tap in Mong Kok). Two local IPAs one 8oz and one 16 oz. ($140 HKD)

Daily Total: $231 HKD


8:00am: Morning routine with weekly meditation. If you don’t already listen to Alan Watts then you should. I’ll put a link to his lectures here.

10:30 am-1:30pm: Entrepreneurship midterm. Fingers crossed.

3:00pm: Gym + protein shake again. Got to stay fit. ($30 HKD)

4:15pm-9pm: Went to class, then had some beer with friends by the pool. It’s been a bit of a long week so far, and I feel like I deserve it. ($16 HKD) Proceeded to order McDonalds for dinner to wipe away all progress at the gym today. ($100 HKD)

Daily Total: $146 HKD


10am-12pm: Went to class. Standard procedure. More Char Siu Fan at the medical canteen. ($30 HKD)

12:30pm: Food project presentation. Decided to bribe professors with Char Siu Bao x2. Results pending… ($15 HKD)

7pm: Communal dinner. Still the worst food ever and remember why I never go. Food is supposed to bring people together, NOT repulse them away. ($50 HKD) Skipped halfway to do laundry, and used nearly every washer available. ($20 HKD)

7:15pm: Attended a club called Toastmasters. Essentially it is a public speaking workshop with friends plus free wine 😉

Daily Total: $115 HKD


8am: Dental checkup in Mong Kok. Nervous to get dental work done abroad, but I haven’t been in way too long… Yikes. Scheduled for just standard cleaning. Official review: No cavities, but told to floss more. ($800 HKD)

9am: First time at the Australian Dairy Co. Huge line, must be good! Surprisingly short wait! Ordered a club sandwich+milk tea. I definitely recommend going there. ($69 HKD)

9:30am-12:30pm: Study session at coffee shop in Yau Ma Tei. Ordered a double espresso mid way through. ($28 HKD)

2pm: Vietnamese delivery again. I wish I could order more frequently. ($70 HKD)

7pm-9pm: Hand in my Derivatives midterm. Almost nobody finished on time. Ridiculous. Shame compounded by fact that I’ve ordered McDonalds again for dinner. ($100 HKD)

Daily Total: $1087 HKD


12pm: Ordered my favorite Char Siu Fan again at the Med canteen. ($30 HKD) Then went  to the vending machine to grab two cans of tea. I’ve been trying out which tea brand I like better because I’m an American and we choose sides. ($17 HKD)

3:30pm: Gym+ protein shake again. Grind never stops. ($30 HKD)

5pm-8pm: Study and meetup at library for group project, then ordered Indian food again. Butter Chicken and Kadhai paneer with rice. ($50 HKD)

Daily Total: $127 HKD


2pm: Ordered in McDonalds yet again. I probably should chill out with ordering this garbage next week… ($100 HKD)

8pm: Ordered Indian food once more. Butter chicken with kadhai paneer with rice. This deal will never get old!!! Stoked that they now can deliver right at my doorstep rather than all the way at the University MTR. ($50 HKD)

Daily Total: $150 HKD

Total For The Week: $2052 HKD

My Saving Tips: Enjoy student discounts as much as you can, like the 10% discount when shopping at fusion. Flash that student card outside University as well. I’ve gotten discounted entry into many events around Hong Kong and have enjoyed special happy hour prices at select bars. Additionally, take advantage of the student MTR card as it gives you half off on all trips. And don’t forget to track your expenses, so you can be mindful on how much you have spent and how you should plan upcoming activities.

About the Author: Seth McGaugh is from North Carolina and currently an exchange student at CUHK, he loves to cook and save money

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