Surviving the Financial Tsunami

Mrs Tall and I are hopelessly old-fashioned. When we bought our current flat, times in Hong Kong were bad: we signed our purchase agreement just a couple of weeks after 9/11. Property agents were desperate for business, as were the developers themselves. We could therefore get not only an ordinary mortgage covering 70% of our flat’s price, but also (since our building was new) a loan from the developer covering an additional 25% (at a higher interest rate, of course). We had to come up with just a 5% down payment.

But we decided not to take the easy 25%. Instead, we scraped together every cent we had, cadged short-term loans off several relatives, and just barely came up with 30% down.

In light of recent lending practices in my homeland (i.e. the USA), Mrs Tall and I were obviously deluded, since everyone now knows that the government should pay your mortgage when you don’t feel like it, but being the young, idealistic, crazy kids we were, we just didn’t know any better.

Anyway, after making our down payment, we faced a stretch of real austerity. We had to pay back our relatives, plus pull together even more cash for decoration and other moving expenses. So we cut our ‘lifestyle spending’ down to the bone, living as cheaply as we could.

In that period of living on the edge (it lasted for a year or two) we learned at least a few tricks that allowed us to spend very little money, yet not feel like we were suffering too much.

And now, after some reasonably fat years, things are looking dark again on the financial front. For some of us dinosaur types, the urge to rein in spending and start living cheap is becoming stronger every day.

So I thought I’d get back to the topic of living cheap in Hong Kong, and maybe seek out some new ways of living simply but enjoyably.

Eating out – One habit Mrs Tall and I really nailed down in our austerity period was eating cheap. We didn’t stop going out – that would be tantamount to giving up on life altogether when you reside in Hong Kong – but we did eliminate expensive outings to nice restaurants, moderately costly outings to decent restaurants – well, pretty much everything except cha chaan tengs and street food. And as my recent soppy tribute to fast food places proves, it’s a habit that’s stuck with me over the years.

Entertainment – Hong Kong has plenty of cheap options for entertainment. In addition to the ubiquitous window-shopping, there’s of course hiking, watching cheap DVDs, visiting the very reasonably-priced museums, and going around to show flats at new property developments being sold into the teeth of a collapsing market.

Coffees – The proliferation of decent coffee shops in Hong Kong is a Good Thing. But unless you want to start assembling your own poor man’s lattes, a decent coffee at one of the fancier schmancier type coffee places is not coming to you south of 30 dollars. That’s rich people coffee. So where does Your Humble Batgung Cheapskate recommend? McDonald’s, pure and simple. Not only have their reasonably-priced McCafes spread to many Hong Kong locations, even the grimiest McD’s outlet now seems to have one of those machines back behind the Service Counter for the Masses that puts out coffee that’s just the same as the McCafe stuff. And it’s a great deal, with most of their coffee drinks coming in under or around 20 dollars. I also think it’s just as good or better than Hong Kong’s big coffee chains’ products.

Groceries – Saving money on day-to-day food is also extremely straightforward in Hong Kong. As our cost of living comparison articles show (here and here), if you just stop going to a handful of expat-oriented grocery stores, the main proletarian grocery chains and the wet markets are reasonable, especially for good fresh food that comes from China, or from other nearby Asian countries. If you want imported Western stuff or certified organic, costs rise dramatically.

Beer – For bars/pubs in Hong Kong, saving money is tough. We’re unlikely to see the almost-across-the-board drop in prices we saw in the early 2000s, so a big night out is still going to be costing you plenty. It looks as if the Batgung happy hour hunt will continue for the foreseeable future.

At home I don’t drink much, just a beer with dinner some nights. Since Chez Tall features an eclectic fusionesque kind of menu, I like to stock an all-purpose lager that tastes good with both western and Chinese food (I like ales and bitter on their own, but not so much with food). My very best dinner beer buddy is Boag’s, from Tasmania, but it’s pricey and not available in my local supermarkets. So I’ve tried a variety of other options, and have settled on a couple of Japanese brands, i.e. Sapporo (my fave) and Asahi, that seem to me the best combination of dry crisp taste, suitability with different varieties of food, and reasonable price. I like Kirin, too, but maybe a little less. These beers are still not exactly cheap, however. Even on sale, six-packs run 40 dollars or more, and Sapporo is almost never on sale these days, meaning a six-pack rings the register at almost $70. 

So, with the wolf at the door howling for a cold one, and wholly in the spirit of disinterested empirical inquiry, I bought a basketful of mainland beers to see if any of them could replace my regular evening tipple. All came in at between $2.50 and $5.50 dollars a can. That’s cheap enough! I tried four brands, with the following results:

  • Pearl River: It's exceptionally cheap -- just $2.50 a can -- but it's swill.
  • Kingsway: Sub-swill. Just nasty. I wanted to rinse my mouth. I did finish the whole can, though, so as not to disappoint my beer superego, which was chanting ‘waste not; want not’ as I choked this craptaculous beverage down.
  • Yanjing: Okay. It was tasty enough to evoke vague allusions to my favorite Japanese brands, but then that just made me want one of those instead.
  • Harbin: Hey, not too bad! I didn’t want the can to end, which is more than I can say for the others.

So for some cheap, non-offensive fridge-stuffing beer, I’d be willing to go with the occasional Harbin, but I’m still open to suggestions.

Travel – The Philippines, Thailand, China and Macau are all reasonably cheap destinations. If you do feel a bit flush, or if Hongklaustrophobia has really got you down, there are likely to be some very good travel deals around in the coming year or two. For example, if you’ve got the time (and the stones) to risk it, prices in Thailand must be looking pretty attractive at the moment. Macau also is experiencing a tourism slide, with lots of empty hotel rooms and quiet casinos, so a cheap trip out of town is definitely there if you want it.

Schools –There was an article in the Hong Kong Standard a couple of weeks ago that suggested that some local Hong Kong people trying to move their kids out of international and ESF schools and into ordinary local schools. This is probably not the greatest idea, in part because of the general life-changing disruption this kind of move inevitably causes, but also because their kids may find it very tough indeed to get along in a local school after spending time in an international/ESF school. I do wonder, though, if there might be a kind of cascading effect as people with kids in the highest-priced international schools start eyeing ESF as a cheaper option.  

So that’s a good start on living cheap in Hong Kong. Readers, I’m always eagle-eyed for more tips!


Other ways to save...

 For the museums - buy a family yearly pass

Clothes - buy from Fa Yuen Gai or better yet - don't buy many clothes at all. Buy very "boring" clothes that have no discenrnible style and keep wearing them. I have some wool skirts that I've owned for 20 years, one of whichI inherited from my grandma (very classic style).The so-called "preppy" look has remained unchanged for the past 40 years. :)

When things get holes or tears, mend them. Some of my favorite black tights (thick) got holes in the toes last year. I mended them & they're still going strong this year. Patch your kids trousers for the ones that they just wear to play around in at home.

Accept used clothes from family & friends and wear them a lot. If you have more than 1 kid, do the hand-me-down thing. If your kids are different genders - doesn't matter if you encourage your daughter to wear jeans, shorts, and t-shirts when she's not in school uniform. If you're lucky you can keep this up at least until puberty strikes.

Pack your lunch - SKBaba and I pack our own lunches almost every day. The SK-kids bring their lunches to school.

Teach your kids to take the public bus. SK-daughter takes the public bus to school, which saves us at least HK$ 1,000 each month on the school-bus fees.

Coffee - make your own and drink it.

Get books from a library.

Eat more fried rice & congee at home.

Buy food from the wet-market at the end of the day (bargains).

Use the a/c less and electric fans more (if you live in a place that makes it parctical).

Don't buy electric games systems. Kids can play online games or physical games and then there's no need to upgrade. Cards & board games are pretty fun too.

Have only one TV (or no TV). Upgrade only when the old TV breaks down.

Buy toys and special things on birthdays and holidays only (if possible).

Acquire used furniture from relatives and friends (or buy used) rather than buy new.

Re-purpose older fixtures. We used our old window grills + a net  and our old baby bath-tub to make a turtle-pen on our rooftop.


Time out had some good tips a few weeks ago that are worth looking into.

Mine would be to spend less time in the malls and more time out hiking in nature - you get fit and you're not be tempted to spend

take more public transport

Pool parties - find out everyone in your class with a birthday in the same month and have a combined party.  Instead of gifts parents would be delighted to throw in the money for a voucher, or even better still - a group of mums I know, donate the gift money to Mother's Choice

 Dinner parties at home are a fraction of the cost of eating out

Don't just do hand me downs on clothes - start a book circuit as well - join the public library

Just say no - kids forget their 'needs' pretty quickly and replace them with other 'needs'

Coffee, Walking and Entertainment

I do a bit of a poor man's latte thing at work (we're lucky, we have unlimited coffee/tea and coffee makers, decent ones at that).  I used to be a 2-Starbucks a day (venti plus extra shot drives those things up pricewise) until I decided to take advantage of the coffee setup at work.  Now I fill a mug half-way with skim milk, zap it in the micro, run a couple of espresso shots out of the coffee machine and add those to the hot milk.  We even have a foamer attachment but I don't bother with that. 

I now often walk home (via the escalator with a bit of a hike at both ends of it) which hits both the pocket and the weight in a positive way.

At the weekend at IFC, right by Starbucks, there's often live music.  If you can score a seat at Starbucks (once-a-week-treat) it affords a very pleasant couple of hours reading or just people watching.  Of course you have to be able to out-stare Starbucks customers who think you've been there long enough ;)

Tis true, these are very trying times, with no end in sight.  But Hong Kong always survives.  We are a tough breed and take things on the chin.  I worry now about people losing their livelihoods and hope we weather this storm like we have before.

If you don't mind getting up

If you don't mind getting up early in the weekends then you can often both beat the crowds and get your movie tickets at almost half price. UA in Times Square normally cost only 40$ for the early shows, compared to the standard 70$. You can further save the handling fee by picking up the tickets from the counter instead of ordering them online. It really doesn’t make sense that going to the counter and buying from a real live person is cheaper then ordering it online, but that is the way it is.

Renting movies from Movieland is only 12$ on Tuesdays compared with regular price of 25$

Use Asiaxpats Monday special and get 2-4-1 discount on dinner at selected restaurants.

Trying times . . . .

Wow, great comments and tips -- thanks to everyone!

Just to pick up on a couple of points.

SKMama and Gweipo both mention getting books from libraries. I can't second this suggestion heartily enough. For an incurable bookworm like me, Hong Kong is a disaster: books are expensive, my flat has no room to store them in anything close to the quantities I read, and even the few I do keep deteriorate rapidly in the spring and summer humidity. I'm therefore a total regular at my local Hong Kong Public Library. Even though no one branch has a particularly good selection of books in English, they will get you a book from any branch and deliver it to your stipulated one for just $2.50, and it usually takes just a matter of days. And when you aggregate all of their branches' paltry collections, you suddenly find that it's not paltry at all. You can get started searching the HKPL catalog and exploring their other services here.

Also, the coffee. I am actually far too cheap to buy even McDonald's coffee on a daily basis, but when I do go to Pacific Coffee or Cafe Habitu, I am often horrified at how expensive the final tab turns out to be. Their cakes and sandwiches are also remarkably spendy, and it all adds up.

DD, your tip on early movies is one we've followed recently, too. With a family, the savings are significant.

Finally, I second Fiona's astute observation about Hong Kong's relative readiness to handle bad times. The stories out of the States amaze me at times; it's as if many people had never conceived of -- or even heard of -- falling property prices or mutual funds losing significant value. Well, they have now . . . .

Saving those pennies.

One of the effects of this downturn is the number of people giving away furniture (or at least selling it super cheap) on the local forums. Even freecycle in HK has been picking up pace recently. I grabbed a free IKEA double bed not so long ago from some guy moving back to the UK. He just wanted to get rid of it. Craigslist is another good one for picking up bargains.

Not sure about where everyone else lives but in Tai Po there are a bunch of snack shops that sell a lot of the supermarket stuff much cheaper - biscuits, crisps and the like, as well as chemists/hardware stores that sell cleaning stuff cheaper too - washing liquid, tissues toilet cleaner etc

On an aside, the cheap coffee thing reminds me of "Blackadder Goes Forth" when Baldrick, using his unlimited resourcefulness, makes a cappuccino from mud (with dandruff flakes for the topping). Obviously I don't suggest you do that, but it just brought a smile to my face. On the other hand it may taste better than the really cheap stuff they sell in the supermarket :-)


I absolutely recommend the libraries.  My husband arrived from the States three months ago and proceeded to trawl Page One, Dymocks, Kelly & Walsh much to the detriment of our budget!  It wasn't until I dragged him to the City Hall Library, that we got that spending under control and he's quite pleased with the selection (mainly philosophy, education, language, business).  I didn't realise you could order the books to be transferred between libraries, Mr. Tall, I'll certainly alert him to that.

It has been an interesting coming together of our cultures and backgrounds.  He and his wife twice refinanced their home to gain some spending money and it seems just a normal thing to be sitting on huge credit card debts and just paying off the minimum.  And we're not talking essential items, this is vacation spending, new cars every few years, gifts, expensive sports programmes for kids, nice-to-have not need-to-have home improvements, etc.  I've never understood this living beyond one's means that people do, nor this assumption that there is such a thing as 'free money'.  It has taken quite a lot of explaining that even paying the minimum, the additional cost is huge, as are the risks of missing one of those payments. 

I was always brought up to save for something I wanted, if I couldn't afford it.  The whole concept of buying on credit and trusting credit card companies goes against my grain.  Perhaps that is what comes from being a Scottish lass who has lived almost all of her many years in Hong Kong ;) 

Baldrick makes the coffee

It's six minutes into this one.


Thanks for the laugh. Brings back some memories. British humour at its best - something I do miss a little over here.

As for the library I can confirm that I also use the order service and am impressed. The only thing that annoys me about HK library books is that people feel the need to scrawl in them and remove the pictures with razorblades. It is a rare treat indeed when you get a book that has its full complement of pages. I recently borrowed Frank Walsh's HK History book only to find the first half of the first chapter completely missing *sigh*.

With regards to the library I understand (although I haven't used it yet) that Central library (and possibly also Fanling library?) has a toy lending facility. Can anyone confirm this? Seems like a good way to keep the kids happy at minimal cost - well aside from doing the playground tour.

Hong Kong on the cheap

Beer - Mr Tall, what's the verdict on Tsingtao? That's in Wellcome at under $5 a can if you buy their 12-packs. Up in Shanghai, it seemed that the supermarket had a whole aisle of Tsingtao, with several varieties I haven't seen here before. There were 330ml bottles that were clear glass, with a gold foil top, and tasted better to me than the usual. (And let's pause for a moment to give thanks that Baldrick didn't have to provide any beer substitutes!)

Museums -  There is free entry to the museums on Wednesday, though we've followed skmama and gone for the annual pass for the family. As well as access any day it gives free access to the special exhibitions.

Books - when you have to buy them, try, the prices are similar to Amazon, but with free shipping.

Toys - Phil, I think you mean their toy library? They don't lend out the toys, but there's a playroom where you can go to their catalogue, select your toy, and they give it to you to play with. You book in for an hour's session. Our daughters go there a couple of times a month on average, and enjoy it. Details, and more ideas for kids here.

Libraries - The Central library also has a huge selection of magazines, from the popular magazines you see on the newstands to the very niche industry journals. Even local libraries have a surprisingly good selection.

Gyms - cancel that expensive gym membership and head along to your local government-run Fitness Room. Around $20 for a one-hour session, or if you go more than twice a week get a monthly anytime pass for $180.

Credit - Fiona, I'm with you on that. I like the saying: "only borrow to buy things that will increase in value". I see a lot of adverts (Credit Gain's "show me the money" springs to mind) on the buses at the moment promoting the "you can have it now"approach though, so maybe in a few more years we'll be facing US-/UK-style credit problems here too.

cheap beer

Thanks for the additional tips/info, MrB!

As for your question: I'm not a Tsing Tao fan. I like it all right at first, but then it always ends up tasting a bit sweet and cloying to me. But I know a lot of people like it with Chinese food, and it is reasonably priced. I have seen some clear bottles of it in Park N Shop; I wonder if those are the same/similar to the ones you saw in the mainland? It may be my duty to try one soon . . . .


Dali Beer 風花雪月

Hi there,

I would recommend the Wind, Flower, Snow & Moon (風花雪月) series of Dali Beer.  It is a joint venture with Carlsberg.  It's produced in Yuen-Nan province.  Dali was the name of an ancient Kingdom in Yuan-Nan.

Here's a link to their website showing some of their products.  The one I mentioned is the clear bottle with golden liquid in the middle.

They used to be available in Park & Shops, but about a month ago either they are out of stock or their shelf contract with Park N Shop is already ended.  They were of the larger size bottles having a volume of about a red wine bottle.  Under HKD10.- each back then.


financial thinking

tngan, thanks for the tip. I'll be on the lookout!

Fiona (and others) may find this article from the Atlantic on financial bubbles very interesting.


I love the book suggestions on the page Gweipo posted, and want to check out the discounted places. Another set of places that have been helpful are the used book shops. They are not as common as in the US, and the prices are not as good as in the US, but then the price of books here is higher than in the US, anyway. The coolest one I've found is the used Asian history / travel book store in TST--I've gotten some books for my husband there (one, a picture book of the city we used to live in in NE China, but in the 19-teens--very, very cool)--again, not necessarily cheap, but a good selection you're not likely to find elsewhere. We do, however, have 5 bookcases full of books as well. *sigh* but in a lot of cases, with our kids, we've ordered books from discount sellers in the US and then carry them when we come back (saves on our shipping, and since we plan on bringing stuff back in our luggage, not a big deal). Being rather conservative, I'm not terribly thrilled with a lot of the book selection in the local libraries for kids my kids' age, so I am willing to allocate space to books. May regret it someday . . . .

My former next door neighbor and my husband shared tastes in books, so they would always swap their history books with each other. Another friend and I share many books. A more formal book lending / swapping group might be an interesting idea as well.

My biggest "problem", if you can call it that, with the lending function of the libraries, is that I like to browse, and it's hard to "browse" online, LOL. But when I think about it and look for a certain book, I really love the feature. And I haven't had the problem with books having holes cut out of it--just lucky, I guess. Also, you can renew the books online, which is so helpful for a forgetful person like me (unfortunately, if I'm too forgetful, I can't do anything about an overdue book online!).

About credit--we are unusual americans, I guess--we don't and have never carried credit card debt. We did have a mortgage on our house in the US, but that's the only debt we've ever carried (with the exception of cars, which we usually paid off within a year--because we bought used or rebuilt).


Cheap books

I was recently told about a place in Quarry Bay that sells bankrupt book stock at very cheap prices. I did make the effort to go once but it turns out the place is based in an office (actually Warwick House in TaiKoo Place) and only open during normal office hours (mon-fri, I went on a Sunday). Perhaps someone who lives nearby can post here if they have an experience. The address is:

Publishers Associates Ltd
11th Floor Northwest Warwick House
979 Kings Road, Quarry Bay

It is basically directly opposite Quarry Bay MTR - just hop up onto the flyover and walk over, then follow the signs.

Loving the cheap & cheerful life in HK

IFC has $50 movies on Tuesdays, we'll do that once in awhile, then pick up a bottled drink from CitySuper and head to the 4th floor where there are public tables with million-dollar view. Just past the lit glass sculptures and expensive cocktail bars, we grab a romantic table next to the skyline and open up our $12 HK brewery bottles rather than sip $90 drinks from the bars next door. If you look closely, each table has a small sticker: "for use of the public".

All our english books were $10each from a local charity shop. I'm also picking up some gorgeous Indonesian/Chinese furniture from AsiaExpat for great prices these days. Travel: yes, Thailand. Also possible to get to many great overland destinations from Bkk, if you have time, their train system is affordable & runs smoothly. Philippines is also an affordable ticket and should remain so, thanks to the high volume of traffic to & from HK. Indonesia is also a reasonable destination, too. Look into AirAsia flights from Macau rather than HK, though if you've got kids, HK's probably the better option. VivaMacau is cheap but I've been v. unimpressed with their service: many important details not in the fine print.

Great topic yet again from you two at Batgung, and more relevant than ever.

Coffee & wine

Meet friends at cafes rather than bars. Train your palate to enjoy simple coffee rather than a foamy frappe: ordering a small black coffee from Pacific Coffee will set you back only HK$15. Make your own at home when you can, and bring it to work.

We regularly split a bottle of $50 Chilean wine on our balcony, or at scenic views on our island, after walking up a hill to get there. It's romantic, with clean air, and doesn't break the bank. Just takes a bit of planning: a pocket-sized opener & pair of plastic cups or well-wrapped glasses.

Long black

EBriel, thanks for the excellent tips. I will remember that IFC one especially.

Yesterday I practiced what I've been preaching, and headed straight to McDonald's for an afternoon coffee. We were at one with a McCafe, so I ordered a 'Long Black', i.e. a very good-sized shot of espresso with hot water on the side. I also asked for a little bit of milk, and the staff obliged with a nice little pitcher full. The coffee was nice and thick, with a good solid topping of crema.

I've found as I age that I crave milky coffees like lattes less and less; even cappuccinos seem a bit sticky to me now sometimes. So a long black with just enough hot water and milk to even things out a bit is perfect.

Oh, and the price? $13. That's a fine deal. 

Still more saving suggestions

Pharmaceuticals (including bath gel, shampoos, etc.): The local non-chains often have cheaper items than Watson's or Mannings. Trouble is that often times you have to look around because different stores stock different items and brands of them. Also, the displays can seem on the haphazard side.

Movie-going: Get a loyalty card. As an example: The Broadway Cinematheque comes with a sign-up coupon and another coupon on your birthday that, together, covers the cost of the card. In addition, you get discounts to tickets at the Broadway Cinematheque, other Broadway Circuit cinemas, magazines, books and food at Kubrick, etc. Also watch out for the programmes at the Hong Kong Film Archive -- many are great and some of the screenings have tickets that cost just $30.

Transportation: Don't forget the tram (still HK$2 standard price) and the Star Ferry! Look out for those saver kiosk thingies that get you $2 off your next ride from nearby stations. And walk when you can -- a friend of mine makes it a rule to never use the MTR to go to places that are less than two stops away. She also saves money by pretending that there's no such thing as taxis...

Second-hand bookstores

Mr Tall is better at getting books from the library than I am. I use it from time to time, but there are also some types of books I like to keep around the house - typically reference books (especially for local history), and children's books for our girls to read. So, if you can recommend any good second-hand bookstores - mom2boys, the one in TST sounds good - please add them as a place with the tag second-hand bookstore, and they will show up in the list / map below. I've put in the two I use from time to time as starters:

Or click a red marker below for details of the bookstore. The map is 'live': you can drag it around with your mouse, click the +/- buttons to zoom in and out, and click the Map/ Satellite/ Hybrid buttons to change the appearance of the map.

Javascript is required to view this map.

Used Bookstores and kids' books

I added "The Travellers' Home", the one in TST. I also put the address, since it's not fully obvious where it is (and because I haven't been there recently.).

There is a used book store in SK, but when I looked at my business card and the map, the address didn't seem right. Anyway, it's a storefront on the main road as you're driving through SK, called Leisure Book Shop. Decent, though not earth-shattering, collection.

Flow used to have a shop in SK--I've tried to go there recently but it doesn't seem to be around--yet it is still listed on some SK lists. SKMama, do you know anything about it? It was a better store than Leisure, but . . .

Also, if you're looking for kids' books, look for the Crown stores (which go by names like "kiss my kids", etc). They had way discounted books, mostly from the US--such as early readers, educational games, puzzles, etc. I've gotten a lot of teaching "stuff" from them (both for my boys in homeschooling and for my students). They seem to pop up and disappear--there used to be one in Po Lam that is gone--same for Stanley. But my friend tells me there is still one in Tai Po. (I just found an old card from the PL Crown store--there is one at Shop 258 New Town Plaza, Phase 2, Sha Tin; Shop 29, East TST Station, exit P; shop 109, Level 1, The Peak Galleria (though I bet this one is gone after the remodeling); shop 521, Level 5, Grand Century Place, 193 Prince Edward Road West, Mongkok--but as I said, this is probably 2-3 years old, and I can't guarantee any of these are still around)

Another one for kids with reasonable prices is book buddy. There is one next to the Toys R Us in harbour city and another one in Stanley (and I'm pretty sure there are others, but I don't have addresses for them)

There was a second-hand bookshop called The Chapter House in Stanley market, but the last time I was there I couldn't find it. That doesn't mean it was gone, LOL, but my friend and I were pretty thorough and only found a sign against a wall, near but not at the bookstore. Going to Stanley tomorrow with a different friend, so I'll look again and see if I can find it again!

Children's clothing

You can buy good "generic" children's clothing at Jusco and Citistore (usually the same brands) for good prices (especially if your kids are still small, say, under size 140). Look for the discounted tables--you can get good deals. Also, Jusco will often have "promotions" with the promoter giving deep discounts on new merchandise (like, say, winter coats). (Citistore has similar "discounts" but they don't seem to be as deep as Jusco's) Same goes at Jusco for shoes (less so at Citistore) for kids--often, at the end of the season, they will sell for very cheap. (I don't have current examples because, unfortunately, our Jusco, in Hang Hau, was booted out, er, that is, the rent was raised by East Point City, 1 1/2 years ago, and it's a little far to go to Taikoo Shing on a regular basis.) Also many of the little shops on the street have small kids' clothing for very cheap. My boys are getting pretty tall, so I have to be more creative in looking, but the good prices can still be found--just have to look for it (I'm so old-school, I am NOT going to spend a fortune on clothes that will be outgrown in X months!).

(I guess if you've raised your kids to be "brand conscious," or if they're at an international school at which fashions/brands are stressed, you may have a harder time at this, LOL--then you need to hit the outlets, I guess, if they MUST wear X brands--or do what my parents did--if they want X brand, tell them that they can buy it themselves--or it that too harsh nowadays?)


Kids clothes

I think Tai Yuen St/Cross St market in Wanchai, and the open market next to Sham Shui Po MTR station are also great places for cheap kids clothes.

I've not heard of the bookstore in Tai Po, if you can give me more details I could check it out and confirm? Most of the places here are strictly local bookstores i.e. Chinese language books.

Books & Kids clothes

Thanks for adding The Travellers' Home, I'll pay them a visit next time I'm in TST.

One of the mums in our building has found a website where you can order good quality kids clothes at what seems like bargain prices. I'll post it up once we get the details.

Also, Gweipo has posted up the link to the Time Out article she mentioned.

Tai Po shop

I'll give it a go--the next time I see my friend who lives there (I'm out in Clearwater Bay, so don't make it to Tai Po very often--nor to Wanchai or Sham Shui Po, for that matter).

Second-hand books

This post got me inspired and, with a few discoveries made today, have added five more locations to the second-hand books list and map above. It's a nice list now. There are actually about enough now to make a day of it walking around Cental and Wanchai.Who'd have ever thought it in Hong Kong where everything is best new and everything old best thrown away? :P



More on frugality

This very good article from Farhad Manjoo at Slate magazine makes for an excellent follow-up if you’re really interested in pursuing a frugal lifestyle. It profiles some of the burgeoning horde of websites devoted to just this subject, and makes some sensible recommendations. In particular, I found this list of ‘frugality bloggers’ very helpful.

If you want to jump right into the money-saving tips, you could do worse than to start with ‘Frugal Dad’s’ top 75 tips for saving money in a bad economy.

There were a couple of very basic frugality strategies – lifestyle characteristics, really – right in the Slate article itself that struck home. First, Manjoo quotes a contributor at a site called Wise Bread on a fundamental but frequently overlooked reality of human life:

Philip Brewer, one of the writers at Wise Bread, argues that people get in trouble when they don't realize that they're essentially snobby. "There's a problem with this kind of thinking—with imagining that 'you're not the sort of person' who does certain kinds of things: You can start to believe it," he writes.

And as Brewer goes on to say in that same Wise Bread article:

. . . when someone says, "I'm not the sort of person who," what they really mean is, "I'm so rich I don't need to" do whatever it is. 

Oh, yes.

Also, Manjoo relays a suggestion from the aforementioned Frugal Dad that seems ridiculously simplistic, but could not be more true (especially in Hong Kong): if you don’t want to spend money buying things, don’t go to stores.


Cheap stuff

This week's HK Magazine is titled 'Cheap Stuff', and lists several more money-saving ideas, eg save money on magazines:

The Fleet Arcade is open to the general public when the sailors aren’t in town, and its bookstore sells imported DVDs, books and magazines for the same price as in the States. And if you can’t find what you want, you can always order it online at local bookseller Paddyfield, who only charge cover price with free shipping in Hong Kong.
Fleet Arcade, 1 Lung King St., Wan Chai

More on Paddyfield

Did a little digging around at Paddyfield ( The free shipping in Hong Kong is by courrier but only on orders of HK$180 or more (otherwise the cost is HK$10). It also has a free pickup service, which though it isn't explicitly stated, I'm guessing is from its showroom (22/F, Easey Commercial Building, 253-261 Hennessy Road, Wanchai; 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays).

Using Martin Booth's Gweilo as a test, which Amazon UK indicates has a retail price of £7.99, The Book Depository ( sells it for £6.40, while Paddyfield charges HK$104 (£9.09), or 40% more. So not sure about HK Mag's claim that Paddyfield only charges cover price. Would seem like The Book Depository is the better deal. If the book's in stock, Paddyfield might have an edge in shipping time, though I think shipping time from the UK is pretty good and The Book Depository indicates it ships within 24 hours.



Dinosaurs are back!

We bought - a little earlier than you - and this March will have paid off the mortgage, having put down 30% too. One hopes that this kind of example will stick with the kids - and be recalled when they ahve to make these big spending choices. I know far too many people who borrowed, and, for dinos and mods, alike the "one truth" remains: you always reap what you sow.