By Helen Chevreau
As a millennial living abroad, I am constantly discovering new challenges that I’m supposed to overcome with a smile and a positive attitude. Creating and keeping to a budget while I’m on the other side of the world, it turns out, is one of those challenges.
I suppose this is really a challenge that every recent graduate is facing — whether at home or away. When the learning curve is so steep in every other aspect of life, though, it can often be a bit more difficult to feel financially stable while abroad.
How to budget in expensive Hong Kong
After teaching english at a learning centre for a year, I’ve now begun volunteering for a grade 2 class at an international school here in Hong Kong, where the kids are learning about how to use similes in poetry. As I was sitting in class listening to the children share their similes, I found myself envisioning a poetic simile of my own.
Trying to keep to a budget in one of the most expensive cities in the world is a little like learning to sail in a hurricane. Or a little like being pushed out of an airplane with only a promise that the parachute will open.
Fear of Missing Out
Afterwards, I began to think it wasn’t just because Hong Kong can be so expensive. It’s that there’s always so many different things going on! There’s always a new restaurant we just need to try, or an amazing rooftop party at a cool new bar, or a junk boat for someone’s birthday. It can be really difficult to say no to that free-flow champagne brunch to save money for next month’s phone bill. This fear of missing out (or FOMO) seems to be a common theme among millennials. I know for myself it’s a huge reason why I find it so hard to save my money.
For many of us, it is the first time we have had to deal with real-world grownup expenses like rent, internet and phone bills. Lots of my friends have serious student loans to consider as well. Then, of course, it’s always wise to have enough money for a flight home in the event we need to get back on short notice. When you throw in boat parties and ladies nights and art shows and birthday dinners, finding a balance can be next to impossible.
The need to prioritize
Something I have been trying recently is to step back from the commotion of possibilities and really consider my options. What do I need the most? What could I probably do without? Is there something I can do instead that doesn’t cost so much money? These are all important questions that it’s sometimes very hard to ask myself.
My first reaction is to avoid asking them, spend the money, have a good time, and stress out about how much I wasted later. It’s an exercise in discipline even to become aware that sometimes these questions do just need to be asked, and more importantly- answered honestly. If you often find yourself in a FOMO situation, asking yourself a few of those questions may help re-focus you and remind you what you’re trying to achieve.
Another way I’ve found that works for me is to spend time with people who have similar budgets and values. It is so much easier to walk around the free art galleries and relax in the park if you’ve got some friends to do it with.
Finally, for when you just cannot miss out for a minute longer — keep an eye out on social media for promotional nights at your favourite bars and restaurants. No matter where you live, there will be places that cater to those of us on a tighter budget. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of research.
Helen Chevreau is a student teacher, blogger and global adventurer. She also happens to be the daughter of Hub CFO Jonathan Chevreau. She has a B.A. in English and has been blogging for four years. Her next stop is Scotland for postgraduate studies in education.