10 best ways to be savvy with your money in Hong Kong

savvy money saving ideas
savvy money saving ideas

It’s no secret that Hong Kong is an expensive place to live in. Well, that is now confirmed according to Mercer’s cost of living survey for 2020. Hong Kong wins the undesirable prize of the most expensive city in the world for expatriates, which certainly flows over for local families here too. Follow our tips below to be savvy with your money and not only save a few cents but more importantly, empower your kids with some financial literacy.

Discounts when dining out in Hong Kong

Why pay full price for that meal when with a bit of planning, you can not only secure a booking but claim up to 50% off for the same meal? 

Set lunch deals are fantastic, with most restaurants offering them now. Not only are they good value, but normally serve the meals fast so you won’t have time issues on your lunch break.

Eatigo is hands down the best restaurant discount App in Hong Kong for 2021. Simply browse through the extensive list of restaurants, offering discounts from 10% through to 50% off food, with the higher discounts generally outside of peak hours. Works perfectly with a family, as you would normally eat earlier anyway. You can browse menus, then make a booking on the app, making it a seamless experience.

Public Transport saves money

Take public transport more often

While it is far easier to just grab an Uber or taxi, the public transport network in Hong Kong is extensive. Most of us have a good grasp of where the train network goes, but how about buses? The bus network is fantastic here, with some great apps that allow you to time exactly when the next bus will arrive.

Start with Google Maps, enter where you want to go then select ‘Directions’ and the Train symbol. This will provide the public transport options. From there, you can use either the Citybus NWFB or KMB bus (also available on Google Play) to find the real-time schedule. A handy all-in-one App worth using, that also has real-time traffic and parking info is HKeMobility.

Claim your Octopus MTR fare subsidy rebate

Did you know that just by swiping your Octopus card on the designated Fare Subsidy Rebate machines you can claim back a good percentage of your monthly MTR spend? 

For amounts spent on the MTR over $400 in a month, you can receive 25% credit back (of the amount over $400) onto your Octopus by just swiping it! 
* As a temporary relief measure due to COVID (until the 30 June 2021) you can now receive one-third of the amount over $200 back.

There are more details here about the scheme, and here for the collection points.

Find a discounted Taxi

Did you know there are some underground Taxi services here that will offer a discount? Using a network of normal cabs, on longer trips, you can pre-book and receive a better price than the meter. Normally 15% off. It’s certainly not advertised, nor legal so don’t ask your next cabbie for a discount! Ask around, and you will find one of your friends will have a number to call.

Check out the second-hand market before buying

With such a large transient expat population, combined with small flats means that people are often moving in and out of apartments frequently in Hong Kong. This entails offloading furniture, providing some amazing deals on very lightly used products. There are some items that I would always buy new – mattress etc – but items like tables, wardrobes, plants etc there are plenty available at one-third the price of new.

The most active marketplaces for second-hand items in Hong Kong are Facebook Marketplace (plus local group pages) and Carousell. Use a Gogovan (available as an App) for easy and affordable bulky item transport.

Cars are another option to shop for second-hand. Have a read of our extensive Buying a used car in Hong Kong guide before you buy.

Here is where to find brand new LEGO alternatives at half the normal price in Hong Kong.

Freebies on your birthday

Who doesn’t like a freebie? Turns out that you can claim freebies and discounts not just on the day, but sometimes for the whole month! Here are a few examples where you can milk your special day, after all, it’s only once a year!

Ocean Park

Hong Kong residents can enjoy FREE entry to Ocean Park on their birthday. Simply show your HKID or Birth Certificate to enjoy. Have a look here for more details.

Ocean Park Hong Kong, Wong Chuk Hang (+852) 3923 2323

sky100 Observation Deck

When visiting the sky100 Observation Deck during your birthday month, provided you have a companion purchasing a ticket, you will get FREE entry plus a 20% discount at the cafe 100.  This is for Hong Kong residents only, so you’ll need to bring your HKID or Birth Certificate. Bring up to 3 companions and they’ll also receive 30% off their tickets! Find all the details here.

 sky100 Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre (ICC), 1 Austin Rd W, West Kowloon (+852) 2613 3888 

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

As a Hong Kong resident, you can enjoy free entry to Madame Tussauds within a week either side of your birthday. Plus, bring up to 3 guests and they will receive 40% off their tickets too! You will need your HKID card to redeem. Check out the details here.

 Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, Shop P101, The Peak Tower, The Peak (+852) 2849 6966

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Simply bring along your HKID card to enjoy a free round trip in a standard cable car on your birthday. Tickets can only be redeemed on the day at the ticketing office. Board at Tung Chung and enjoy the glide through the mountains (and sometimes clouds!). Click here for more details.

 Ngong Ping 360, Tung Chung, Lantau Island | (+852) 3666 0606

Save money happy hour drinks

Hunt down the best Happy Hours

Let’s face it, drinks are expensive in Hong Kong. However, most bars now offer quite generous happy hour deals. Head to the popular bar areas like LKF and Wanchai for the best deals. Some great suggestions here.

Save money by Shopping Online

Online shopping has become a normal part of our lives. Slowly, shipping rates are reducing with plenty of big international retailers now offering free (or cheap) shipping to Hong Kong. Most have a minimum spend to qualify for free shipping. A few worth checking out –

• iHerb – Online Pharmacy | Free shipping over $155hkd
• Next – UK based retailer | Free shipping over $250hkd
Cheese Club – Quality European Cheese, plus some good wine options | Free shipping over $600hkd

There are some great local Hong Kong online-based companies worth checking out too, like – 

Cheeky Bags – Handmade products | Free shipping for all local orders
Regency Spices – Quality herbs and spices | Free shipping over $100hkd
HKTV Mall – A wide variety of online products | Free shipping to a locker or pickup

Shop at alternative supermarkets

While we all know the handful of big-name Supermarkets in Hong Kong, there are some great bargains at a few of the smaller chains. Take some time to look in U-Select, Bestmart 360, 759 Store and DS Groceries for staple items like flour, sugar, tinned food, biscuits etc. U-Select for example sells predominantly Tesco brand from the UK.

Teach your kids some financial literacy

Now that currency is predominantly digital, it’s become difficult to teach kids the value of money. How can you quantify something you can’t see? Is certainly a challenge. 

savvy tips for kids hong kongI highly recommend using the strategy developed by Scott Pape in the book ‘The Barefoot Investor – How to teach your kids the value of a buck.’ It’s an easy to read book providing great methods to not only teach your kids that you need to work for your money, but also has a great checklist of what your kids should achieve before they move out of your home. While written for Australians, the methods and advice are just as relevant for Hong Kong.

Buying a Used Car in Hong Kong – Everything you need to know!

Check engine buying a used car
Family car hong kong

Once you’ve decided to get out on the roads here in Hong Kong, the next step is the daunting task of purchasing a car. Owning a car in Hong Kong, while certainly not a necessity, is a reasonably affordable luxury.

Due to cheap vehicle transfer fees ($1000), people here change their cars every couple of years. For that reason, second-hand cars are quite affordable.

First, have a read here about what’s involved in getting on the road here in Hong Kong. After that, let us delve into what are the tips and traps when purchasing a car.

7 considerations about Used Car Ownership in Hong Kong

There are a few key considerations when owning a car in Hong Kong.

1 Carpark

If renting, expect to pay between $1500 to $4000 per month for a park. Whilst it’s obvious you’ll need a carpark before purchasing your first car in Hong Kong, there are also considerations if changing cars here. Firstly, you want to establish that size and accessibility is adequate. 
• Can you open the doors/boot without hitting anything?
• Will the turning circle of your new car be tight enough to manoeuvre around the carpark and into your spot
• Do you have or can access power if buying an Electric Vehicle

2 Vehicle Size

How many seats do you need? If choosing a 7 seater, be aware that you will restrict yourself from access to many public carparks around Hong Kong if going for something like an Audi Q7. It’s worth having a look at the Public Carparks you expect to be used regularly before you buy to see just how challenging they are.

3 Vehicle Age

You will notice a drop in the price of used cars in Hong Kong once they reach about 5 years old. Reason for this is that all cars over 6 years old are required to pass annual roadworthy inspections ($585 + mechanic fee) to renew their registration. This time also coincides with most new car warranties expiring.

4 Service Records

Unique to Hong Kong, it is rare for owners to keep, or at least offer, their service records for a car when selling. This always makes me suspicious, as it’s quite common for people to sell their car every couple of years rather than servicing them.

5 Insurance

As with most countries, you’ll get a significant discount if you have a No Claims Bonus (years accrued without making any insurance claims). The maximum is 6 years meaning 60% and the good news is that it is transferable between insurance companies within Hong Kong, but more importantly, from an overseas insurer within 12 months of arriving. There are some good Insurance Brokers here, one that I’ve commonly used is Kwiksure, they are easy to deal with. Have also been very happy with MSIG as they offer Free 24-hour Towing along with a host of other services.

6 Negotiate, Negotiate, NEGOTIATE!

Never pay the asking price here, start at about 30% less and go from there, depending on whether it’s Dealer or Private.

7 Research the Market

Before making an offer on a car, do some research to establish the market value of a car. There are some variables which I’ll detail below.

New car hong kong

Where to buy Used Cars

Buying used cars can be daunting. Can I trust used car dealers here? Is it risky buying directly? All valid questions, which I’ll guide you through. 

These are the options for where to search for cars –

• Used Car Auto Malls
• Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles
• Online Used Car Brokers
• Private sales 

Used Car Auto-Malls

While a good starting point, this is by far my least preferred option for two reasons. Firstly, as you would expect, the prices here have a premium attached to the market rates. Secondly, and most importantly, you are not able to test drive the cars unless you sign a contract of purchase!?! (around 10% – 20% downpayment). There are then, however, only a couple of ways to get out of being locked into the deal if you don’t like the car. Those being, any serious engine or transmission issue. So, should you just not like how the car drives, or perhaps the blind spots are bigger than you’d like, you are locked into the deal. Many Dealers do offer a limited warranty with the cars, but these also are only for total drivetrain failures which are pretty unlikely.

What I recommend when starting, is go have a wander around these Malls and browse the wide range of cars to narrow down what type or model you’ll target. Then keep reading and follow the advice below.

Start with these Auto-Malls First

• The Automall – Located in the Basement (B1) of Hong Kong Exhibition Center (Old Wing) 1 Harbour Road, Wanchai
       • Kowloon Bay Integrated Auto Mall – Basement (B3) KITEC, 1 Trademart Dr, Kowloon Bay

$   • i-Auto Mall – UG/F, Wo Yi Plaza, 26-30 Wo Yi Hop Road, Kwai Chung

$.  • Vincent Motors – Upper G/F, 14 Tin Hau Temple Road, Tin Hau
$   • Vins Motors – G/F, 42 Tin Hau Temple Road, Tin Hau

Located in the same area on Hong Kong Island, Vincent Motors and Vins Motors are separate companies which are more relaxed than the Auto-Malls. They have a decent range of lower-priced cars, which you can test drive without locking into a contract. Of course, they are still dealers though, so I would highly recommend insisting on an independent mechanical inspection of the vehicle before committing to purchase. Also, I would insist on a comprehensive warranty on the car for at least 3 months.

 

Used car mall

Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

When purchasing a Used Car, for the best peace-of-mind, check out the Dealership Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles. Expect to pay around the same price as you would in the Auto-Malls, but with significantly better maintenance standards and trade-in options. You are also able to test-drive cars first. The Dealers you can consider are as follows –

• Mercedes-Benz (Zung Fu Company) – All cars are less than 5 years old / 100,000km / 3 previous owners. The cars have been serviced and passed a 150-point quality inspection. Mercedes then offer 24-hour Roadside Assistance for 12 months along with a limited Warranty.

Audi (DHC) – All cars are required to pass a thorough inspection, and come with a 6 month / 6000km Warranty.

• Volkswagon – Offers a 100-point mechanic inspection, guaranteed mileage and no serious accident history. Comes with a 36-month Power-train Warranty and accepts trade-ins.

• BMW – Inspect their cars before sale, but don’t offer the same guarantees as the other manufacturers.

• Volvo – Cars receive a comprehensive safety inspection and software upgrade. Volvo offers a Warranty plus Roadside Assistance with their pre-owned cars.

Honda – All cars have passed a 110-point inspection, come with a 6-month warranty, and have full Honda service records.

Online Used Car Brokers

Relatively new to the market, online brokers now offer a hassle-free way of viewing used cars. Beyond Cars is one such option, which will deliver the car to your door for a test drive for a $500 fee. Sounds pricey, but you would be sure to keep this in mind when negotiating the purchase price.

Online Car dealer hong kong

Used Car Private Sales

For the more adventurous amongst us, there are plenty of great deals to be found via private sales. There are also plenty of lemons! Having bought and sold a few cars here privately, let me point you in the right direction.

Where to search for Private Sales

Gone are the days of checking the Classifieds section of the local Newspaper for cars for sale. Aside from a few Notice boards in building Lobby’s etc, you’ll need to get online to find some Used Car Classifieds. 

The main websites where you’ll find Used Cars for Sale in Hong Kong are –

• HkCartrader – Great site gaining traction in Hong Kong
• Asiaxpat – Can find some great deals when people leave Hong Kong in a hurry
• Carousell – Quite popular here, however, has a very local following
• 28car – The biggest database of Used Cars in Hong Kong. However, it’s only in Chinese. Follow the instructions below to search the model of the car you’re interested in. You’ll then be able to see some images, contact info and if need be, translate the description

used car website

The Process

  • Narrow down your search

    Work out what type of car you're after. SUV, Wagon, Sports Car, Electric Vehicle (EV). Following that, do some market research using the sources above.

  • Inspect the Car Yourself

    Follow my guide below for all the tips on how to look like an expert when viewing a used car.

  • Schedule an Independent Inspection

    While the below tips are a good starting point, there are limitations to what you can do yourself. Most mechanics offer a complete vehicle inspection for around $1500. Certainly worth it for the peace of mind. 

  • Agree on Price

    Be sure to negotiate, but be careful coming to a price before it's been properly inspected. Draw up a basic contract for you both to sign stating the details of the transaction.

  • Organise Insurance Cover-Note

    To enable the vehicle to be transferred you will need a cover-note to prove the vehicle is insured.

  • Go together to the bank then Licensing Department

    Firstly, visit the bank to transfer funds. After that go together to one of the Licensing Department offices to finalise the transfer. The fee is $1000 which is paid by the buyer. That's it! Enjoy your new wheels.

Car love Hong Kong

Inspecting a Used Car - What to look for?

Whether you know which way to hold a spanner, or are new to car ownership, here are some tips to convince the best of sellers that you know what you’re talking about. Take this as a checklist for purchasing a used car in Hong Kong.

Car mileage hong kong• Mileage – On average, cars in Hong Kong travel about 4000 – 8000km per year. Do the maths on how old the car is. If the mileage doesn’t make sense, then investigate further. It is not uncommon for the mileage to be wound back on cars here. Best way to tell is to either, view the service records as they record the date and mileage each time. Failing that, the wear on the interior is often a sign of mileage. As are scratches around the door handle, especially near the mirror adjustor area.

• How many Owners – Listed on the Vehicle Registration Document is the number of owners the vehicle has had. Bear in mind that the first owner is number 0 (so a 1 owner car has had 2). I don’t have an issue with high owner cars, provided there are service records kept ensuring the car has been serviced regularly. However, it can affect resale to have a high number of owners on the record.

• Service Records – I place a high value on service history. Most of all, Dealership serviced cars are ideal, as generally no corners are cut on maintenance. What you’re looking for in these records are the dates/mileage at each service to reconcile that the vehicle has had the fluids replaced at regular intervals. Plus, as above its a gross error check for the mileage.

• Registration expiry – Vehicle registration fees are paid either yearly or 4-monthly. The fee depends on the engine size, with larger engines costing more to register. Expect the fees to range from $3929 to $11,329 annually, find out more here. For cars over 6 years old, also ask when the Government Inspection is due, as this is annual so may no line up with the registration expiry.

• Indoor vs Outdoor Parking – This is a consideration depending on the age of the vehicle. The heat and humidity are brutal on cars here, especially the rubber and plastics in the engine. Preference goes to cars that have been parked indoors throughout their life.

Check engine car• Major Engine Service – Do some research on the particular model of car for when the major services are due. Most commonly they are at around 60,000km and often involve timing belt/chain replacement which can be quite expensive.

Any Accident History – Always need to ask the question. Telltale signs to look for of previous accidents are slightly different coloured panels. Look closely at the gaps between panels also, as they should be perfectly even all the way along.

ISOFIX carseat• ISOFIX – For those planning on installing child-seats, the safest method of attachment is via ISOFIX. These are solid brackets attached to car’s body at the base of the rear seats. It’s worth ensuring the car has them, and also will the number of seats you plan on installing fit? You’d be surprised how few cars you can fit 3 child-seats across all using ISOFIX.

 • Tyres / Brakes / Battery – These are consumables, but should be factored into your price. Run your fingers through the tyre tread, there are small lumps in the grooves which are the wear markers. Once down to these marks they need replacing. You will find stamped on the sidewall of tyres are the date of manufacture, albeit in an odd format. Written as 4 numbers with the first two being the week number (01-52) and the second the year. Tyres shouldn’t be over 5 years old. 6

Get out there and explore Hong Kong!

Now you are armed with all the knowledge to navigate buying used cars in Hong Kong, get out there and put it into action!

For some great tips for all you need to know about driving in Hong Kong, check out our Driving in Hong Kong – The How, What and Where

child carseat

Where to buy LEGO in Hong Kong – at half the normal price!

McDonalds LEGO Alternative set

As with many things in Hong Kong, it’s not always easy to find where to buy certain products. LEGO is no exception. Let me point you in the right direction on where to buy LEGO in Hong Kong – at half the normal price!

All kids enjoy the thrill of bringing home a new set. Followed by the challenge of working through the thick book of instructions, page by page. Then after that, it’s the proud reveal of their new build.

McDonalds brick setWhile the builds happen relatively fast, saving for the set takes a long time! That changed when I found where to buy LEGO sets here in Hong Kong for less than half the price. Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch, so the catch is that it’s not official LEGO branded products. I was sceptical of this, however, when purchasing my first build – a 1729 piece McDonald’s restaurant (for $350hkd!). 

For instance, would it all go together well? Is it going to integrate nicely with original LEGO? How about the instructions, are they in English? Well, the answer is yes, yes and YES! I was pleasantly surprised how well made the bricks are, you cannot tell the difference between this and the real deal. The instruction books are in English, well laid out and easy to understand.

So, where do I buy "LEGO" for half price?

Those that know Hong Kong well will know that things are easy to find, provided you know which street they are on! For some reason, stores selling the same type of products love to all be on the same street in direct competition with each other.

So the place you need to find here is labelled Toy Street in Sham Shui Po (actually called Fuk Wing Street). If arriving by train, take MTR Exit B2 then walk straight ahead and take the second right.

What to expect?

You’ll find a few stores selling a variety of kids toys. Normally in Sham Shui Po, items aren’t priced, so you need to negotiate harder than when you’re trying to get the kids to brush their teeth! Not so here however, (well you could always try) but the sets are all labelled with prices that made me wonder if it was in USD?!? 

A few of the Sets we've Sampled

These are a few of the completed sets from Sham Shui Po. Don’t forget to bring your shopping bags. These environmentally friendly washable totes from Cheeky Bags are awesome. Hand made here in Hong Kong.

Looking for some great games to play with LEGO? We’ve compiled a handy list for when the little ones get bored.