Our March Expenses in China (Semi-retired Abroad)

Hello everyone and welcome back to our Biesinger FIRE Journey blog. In today’s post, I’m excited to share with you the breakdown of our expenses here in China for the month of March (2023).

Just a side note that hitting Coast FIRE, quitting our 9 to 5 jobs, and moving abroad has been such a fun journey and we’re excited to share it with you.

Without further ado, let’s jump into each of our expense categories! The currency type mentioned here is USD (just an FYI).


The expenses for our kids were unusually high this month because we purchased year-long fun center passes; one for our son and one for our daughter.

At first, we just got a pass for our 2-1/2 old son but quickly found out that our 1-year-old daughter also really liked the fun center. The reason we didn’t get her a pass at first is that she couldn’t walk yet.

It was actually a very good deal since they have unlimited entries into the fun center and we already have been going multiple times each week. Inside there are tons of fun things our kids can do. 🙂

In March we also spent money on diapers and milk. In China, most things are cheaper than in the US but milk actually costs more than double the price!

My wife runs some Chinese social media accounts so we’ve been fortunate to receive some kid items such as clothes, formula, skincare, and more from brand deals. Our social media accounts in China have been growing much better than in the US, so we always appreciate the support if you’d like to subscribe to our YouTube channel so we can grow here too, and produce more content!

Lastly, we were fortunate to receive some second-hand outfits from neighbors for free! This helped us save a lot of money for our kiddos.

DINING OUT: $138.8

If live or visit China, we HIGHLY recommend using the apps called Meituan and Douyin! These apps provide discounts at tons of places like drink shops and restaurants.

At first we made the mistake of thinking, oh wow everything is cheaper here when compared to US prices, BUT we shortly found out we could save MORE money by using these apps.

We also love going to food streets where the food is typically cheaper, and also so delicious I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.


This cost came from our daughter needing a vaccine. In China, the vaccine or shot requirements are sometimes different. For example, we want our kids to get all required USA shots so we need to pay ourselves for some of them.

Something really nice though is kids’ wellness checks are free!


As mentioned previously, my wife has had some success on a few Chinese social media platforms. So we also received some items such as shampoo, skin care, and even pizza from doing brand deals.

This has allowed us to save a lot of money! Another quick shoutout to subscribe to my channel so I can catch up with my wife’s channel lol!

Currently, we are living with my in-laws so they have helped with utilities and also frequently make meals.

Sometimes we try to give my in-laws money but they always refuse. The culture in China is very different, especially since my wife is the only child in her family. They tell us that once they pass away all the money is my wife’s anyway. So we still take care of our personal things like clothes but they have helped us with rent and some food costs.

If you’re curious, rent is actually really cheap in my wife’s city, especially if you’re comparing it to big cities such as Beijing or Shanghai. In my wife’s city, you can rent about anything from between $200-$500. It just depends on how big and luxurious you want.


Our Chinese phone plans are currently on a family plan with our in-laws, but we are covering the cost of my international phone with Google FI. This helps me stay in contact with my family in America.


While not all people have zero transportation costs, my wife and I fall into the category of not owning a car in my wife’s city here so we just ride electric bikes! Which honestly is very convenient, and FUN!  

You can see more on transportation costs in China here: Our Transporation Costs (Southern China City)

Total: $1,136.1

So in total, our expenses for the month of March amounted to $1,136.10. Make sure to bookmark this website so you can see more updates on our costs of living and semi-retired life abroad! 🙂

Kid’s Arcade Center Costs in China – So Crazy!

Our two-year-old son absolutely LOVES going to the arcade game center here in China, and the costs may surprise you!

Even though my wife and I hit Coast FIRE late last year, we still continue to practice important personal finance habits that helped us hit Coast FIRE in the first place. 🙂

These habits include but are not limited to knowing where our money is coming and going each month and living within a budget. Having this awareness of our money and boundaries on spending helps us stay emotionally and financially happy.

Related Content: Cost to Semi-Retire in China (Our First Month Expenses)

Arcade game center in China (atmosphere and costs)

Now on to this arcade center in my wife’s city in China. The arcade is located in one of the many large and luxurious malls here (even though it’s a smaller city, the malls are still so big and fancy haha).

There are many types of arcade games from water guns to racing cars. The atmosphere is very lively and upbeat for the whole family.

The most awesome part is the cost. I should add that my wife and I are always looking for the best deals when buying practically anything. Those small savings can really add up over time and allow us to invest more in our future.

Recently there was a holiday flash sale that we found where we could get a total of 1,000 arcade coins for the low cost of $60 USD. We plan to use those coins for the ENTIRE YEAR since we don’t use a ton of coins per visit and each game ranges from 1-5 coins each round.

We don’t want our kids to be around those bright screens all day (call us traditional and conservative), so we usually go to the game center when it’s rainy so we have somewhere nice inside to play. It rains a lot in this city we’re in, haha. It’s nice to have this fun option in case of bad weather.

Semi-retiring and moving abroad as a family

When we first started our FIRE journey, we saw many YouTubers that had retired abroad due to a lower cost of living. We saw others that work from home or own their own businesses allowing them to make US dollars and then making those dollars have more buying power by using them in a country with a lower cost of living.

Since we moved to China, we have experienced firsthand the benefits we saw others experience by retiring abroad. The feeling of spending fewer dollars but seeing it buy more is quite amazing! It allows us to enjoy more things, such as buying 1,000 coins at an arcade center!

Make sure to bookmark this website so you can see more on my family’s journey of reaching Coast FIRE and semi-retiring abroad in Asia. 🙂

Cost to Semi-Retire in China (Our First Month Expenses)

Cost to Semi-Retire in China (Our First Month Expenses)

My wife and I moved abroad in December 2022 to semi-retire in China, and are so grateful that we did!

There are a host of benefits awaiting those who are looking to settle down and retire or semi-retire in Asia.

In this article, I will share our expense breakdown so you can see how much it could potentially cost you to semi-retire in China.

Coming from the US, the dollar’s spending power has been greatly increased due to the low cost of living here.

Note: The Chinese currency is Yuan or Renminbi (RMB/¥), and the American Currency is the United States Dollar (USD/$).

For this article, I’ll be referencing our currency as USD/$/dollar and will be using the following calculation of $1.00 USD = a¥6.5 RMB (Yuan).

Since we have semi-retired in China for over a month now, I will be sharing our expenses here for the month of December (31 days).

Here is a quick overview of our expense categories-

a pie chart showing our expenses while living in china during 2022
Our Expences While Living in China for December, 2022

Related Content: Chinese vs American Views on Money | Explained From Natives

Before breaking down each of the expenses, I’d like to throw in a quick thought on our situation regarding rent in China.

My YouTube Video Sharing the Cost of Living in China

Our Rent Situation in China

My wife is Chinese and is the only child in her family. As you may know, a central part of Chinese culture is collectivism. It’s not uncommon to see three generations living together in the same house – grandparents, parents, and grandkids.

This exact thing happened when we came to China and moved in with my in-laws who were so excited to see our kids for the first time.

We offered to pay rent multiple times but they refused. It’s not common and is actually strange for kids to pay rent to their parents in China. So we are grateful for their hospitality which has allowed us to save money on rent & utilities.

You can see on this chart below from Hofstede Insights how China ranks compared to the US for collectivism and individualism.

Culture dimension differences between China dn the United States
Chart from Hofstede-insights

1. Residency Permit $185 (annual)

Some of the main Chinese visa categories are tourist, business, student, work, and resident. You can visit Chinahighlights.com for a comprehensive list of all the types of visas.

Since my wife has Chinese citizenship, my two kids and I, who have US citizenship could enter China with Q1 (family reunion) visas.

Upon arriving in China, we had to apply for a foreign residence permit from the people’s republic of China. We went to the exit/entry administrations of public security located in my wife’s city to apply.

This permit for me and my two kids will last one year and cost us a total of $185, or $62 per person.

Some big cities will give you a five-year foreign residence permit but my wife’s city is smaller and the longest they can give is two years.

They will not give the full two-year permit at first since they want to make sure everything goes well at the beginning.

The process to apply for a foreign residency permit in China

A lion statue in China outside of the exit/entry administration of public security building
A lion statue in China outside of the exit/entry administration of public security building

The process for us when first arriving in China was to visit the local police station to have them set up a registration voucher of residence for visitors from overseas.

Since the city we’re staying in is smaller, they did not understand and just took down my wife’s phone number and address haha.

We then went to the exit/entry administration of public security, and they told us that the police station didn’t fill out any registration for us.

One of the head workers called the police station and chewed them out for not doing such an “easy task”.

Originally they were only going to give us 1/2 year permits but since the process took a long time and they saw we were a family they ended up giving me and my kids one year each for our permits.

After one year we can apply again and there’s a good chance we will get a longer permit!

2. Family Insurance: $215 (annual)

Me in the Health Insurance building with the writing on the wall that says "China Healthcare Security"
Me in the Health Insurance building

My kids and I were able to apply for China Healthcare Security since we had foreign residency permits.

China Healthcare Security is provided by the government and has many benefits such as being cheaper than private health insurance.

So for my wife, me, and two kids our total ANNUAL health insurance costs only $215, or around $54 per person.

The process for obtaining China Healthcare Security took many days and was quite stressful at times. Since we are in a small city there are few people with the needed training to get foreigner information into their system correctly.

Fortunately, the people we worked with were very dedicated and took the time to get everything figured out, woohoo!

3. Gym: $154 (15 months)

One of the gym locations in the city I live in China
One of the gym locations in my city 🙂

Exercise has always been a passion of mine, so I signed up for a gym membership at a place called JiaFu Fitness.

I came to China at the perfect timing because the gym was just celebrating its 10-year anniversary and giving a discount to new sign-ups.

The total cost for 15 months is $154 which is about $10.27 a month. The best part is I have access to all locations, many have swimming pools, and there are no annual fees.

Covid restrictions were lifted here about a month after I started going to the gym. With the lifted restrictions, basically, everyone got sick, so the gym was closed for a couple of weeks.

The gym also closes for the Chinese New Year holiday coming up so for these reasons they are going to give me another month free.

4. Fun: $180

Most of December was spent settling in with the in-laws taking us around to explore the city.

It’s nice being semi-retired in China because we have the flexibility to go out on adventures.

We used our fun money to go see Avatar 2, for arcade games, and for little kid car rides.

Me in front of an Avatar 2 movie banner in a Chinese movie theatre
Watching Avatar 2 in a Chinese movie theatre!

The biggest expense though was a one-time purchase of a gaming router that cost $115. The whole family benefits from faster wifi though lol.

5. Eating Out: $150

Beijing Roast duck and wu han gan noodles
Yummy Chinese foods

One of my favorite things about living in China is the FOOD. There is so much variety to the delicious foods here and so much flavor!

Don’t get me started on the deserts either. I love the shaved ice, mango drinks, and boba drinks, the list goes on probably forever.

Eating delicious desserts in China such as shaved mango ice and milk boba tea
Eating delicious desserts in China

In total, we spent $100 as a family of four eating out. We also spend a lot of time eating in and eating my mother-in-law’s delicious cooking which helps us save on costs too.

6. Phones: $20

I am currently on an international plan with Google FI where my monthly payment is $20.

It comes with unlimited wifi texts and calls which is awesome since I can keep in touch with my family in the US.

If not on wifi, it is then $10 per GB of usage. I’m using the Flexible plan, but for more details on all the plans and options you can check out Google FI Plans.

The customer service is truly amazing. They accidentally deducted the wrong amount from my first bill so they gave me a $100 credit.

My wife and I also have phones for use in China with Chinese SIM cards. They are under a family plan and my in-laws insisted on paying for it.

7. Baby Expense: $135

With both of our kids still very young, a lot of our spending for this category went to diapers, wipes, formula, etc.

We purchased these baby items in bulk to help give us a discount and also last for a long time.

Something we noticed is that the price for these baby items is very comparable if not the same as in the US.

8. Living expenses: $460

These expenses include new clothing, toiletries, and other personal daily-use items.

We did not bring a lot of personal items with us to semi-retire in China so we had to buy quite a few things to get settled in.


The costs for December were really not too bad considering it was a settling-in month and we had a lot of one-time or annual expenses such as the foreigner residency permit, family insurance, and gym membership.

Below is a table showing our semi-retired costs of living in China with the total amount for December equalling $1,449!

Expense CategoriesCosts (USD)
Foreigner Residency Permits (annual)$185
Family Insurance (annual)$215
Gym (15 months)$154
Eating Out$150
Baby Expense$135
Living expenses$460
Our December Expenses in China

Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see more of our regular monthly spending and budgeting.

Wishing you all an amazing new year! 🙂


We hope the information in this article provides valuable insights to every reader but we, the Biesingers, are not financial advisors. When making your personal finance decisions, research multiple sources and/or receive advice from a licensed professional. As always, we wish you the best in your pursuit of financial independence!

How To Save Money On Wuhan Trip | 14 Tips From A Chinese Native

How To Save Money On Wuhan Trip | 14 Tips From A Chinese Native

In general, most things in China are more affordable than in the U.S. However, International travel is not cheap, so it’s important to know how to save money on your travel expenses in Wuhan city, Hubei Province.

I have visited Wuhan once, but my wife lived there for around half a year. I’ve articulated many of her thoughts on how to save money while visiting there.

Specifically, I’ll be sharing 14 money-saving tips to help you better budget your trip to China!

Note: The Chinese currency is Yuan or Renminbi (RMB/¥), and the American Currency is the United States Dollar (USD/$). Usually $1.00 USD = around ¥6.5 RMB (Yuan).

Me with my wife and in laws in wuhan for vacation
When we visited Wuhan on vacation (me, my wife, and in-laws)

Wuhan City is the capital of Hubei Province in China. Wuhan is not only the largest city in Hubei Province but also the largest city in Central China.

Wuhan, knоwn аѕ the “Rivеrѕidе Citу,” iѕ lосаtеd at thе heart оf thе Yangtze River. It is соmроѕеd оf thrее tоwnѕ: Hаnkоu, Hаnуаng, and Wuсhаng. All оf thеm hаvе mаnу historical аnd cultural ѕitеѕ.

The elements of tourism include food, housing, traffic, shopping, entertainment, etc. Wuhan is generally cheaper than visiting Beijing and Shanghai in China.

1) Visit Wuhan During the Off-Season.

One of the best ways to save money is to choose to visit Wuhan City, Hubei Province, during the off-season. 

You can save money on air tickets and hotels during the off-season.

However, a potential disadvantage of going during the off-season is that the weather is cold. As a result, there will be less green.

One of the famous scenery in Wuhan is the cherry blossoms in Wuhan University. Unfortunately, if you go in winter, you will not be able to enjoy this beautiful scenery.

2) Beware of Chinese Holidays!

Lanterns during the chinese new year festival in Wuhan China

Try to avoid traveling during Chinese public holidays! Most locals will go travel with family during major holidays.  

The flights and hotels will be more expensive, and the subway, buses, and tourist attractions will be packed with people – in Chinese, we call this 人山人海 (Ren Shan Ren Hai). The direct translation is “people mountain people sea,” but it actually means a huge crowd of people!

You don’t want to share the road with a billion other people.

My wife Shan also told me there is a saying: if you travel during the Chinese public holidays, the only view you can see at a tourist attraction is the backs of many people’s heads. 😆

You can view the Chinese public holiday calendar HERE.

3) Consider Chinese Flight Sites

When you purchase your flight tickets, you can check some Chinese-run sites such as trip.comQunar.com, etc.

Sometimes you can purchase cheaper flight tickets on these Chinese-run sites.

My wife Shan was an international student in the USA, so she has a lot of experience purchasing air flight round-trip tickets between the USA and China.

She said that summer and winter breaks are usually considered hot seasons. Additionally, flight tickets will be more expensive because many international students here in the USA will return to China. Many Chinese families will also travel to the United States during these break times.

Shan told me (from her own experiences) that flights from America to China are often around $1,000 round-trip during the hot season. 

But for the off-season, you can expect the price to be around $750, which is at least $250 cheaper for a round-trip.

Keep in mind there are frequent sales and amazing discounts! So remember to keep looking and sign up for low-price alerts. 

4) Navigate Using Baidu Maps or Gaode Map

GPS icon with a road going around it meaning to save money by using baidu maps or gaode maps

Alright… so this is a MUST-know tip before you go to China. 

Most of our typical methods to web surfing, navigating, and communicating with one another are BLOCKED in China. 

You will not be able to access Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Instagram, Facebook, and so much more.

Instead, you’ll need to use either Chinese websites or apps or find ones that aren’t blocked in China. 

Or you can download a VPN, which I will talk about later.

Baidu Maps and Gaode Maps are the two most common GPS resources, but they only offer the Chinese language. 

They can be an excellent option if you can understand a little Chinese.

If you cannot read Chinese, then your next best choice is to use Maps.me.

Or you can download a VPN. When you have a VPN, you can access google products or other products blocked in China.

5) Get a Free VPN Trial

As I just mentioned, if you want to access websites and apps that you’re using daily, such as Gmail, Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Gmail, etc.. you’re going to need a VPN. 

Just google VPN in China, and you will see tons of options.

If you want to save money, you can take advantage of a free trial. 

Also, don’t forget to cancel your subscription when you leave China!

6) Avoid the Worst Places to Exchange Currency

The dollar bill and chinese yuan, meaning to save money by avoiding the worst places to exchange currency

Traveling aboard is exciting, but the country traveled to often does not use U.S. dollars.

Then you will need to do currency exchange. If you can do currency conversions wisely, you might be able to save a lot of money!

Below are five key takeaways from Investopedia. I hope it can help you avoid the worst place to exchange currency.

  • Currency exchange shops and kiosks in airports are not the best places to exchange money.
  • For the best rates, try a local bank or a bank ATM to make your currency exchanges. 
  • Check to see if your U.S. bank offers foreign ATM fee refunds for using a foreign ATM.
  • Not all currency exchanges charge the same rate.
  • Tourists can get ripped off by some businesses, so it is advisable to shop around for a reasonable rate.

7) Understand Payment Methods in China

Many ATMs in China will probably refuse foreign debit cards. So if you need money, you better look for a Bank of China, ICBC, or China Construction Bank ATM. They are the main banks that accept foreign cards.

ATMs in China can be somewhat confusing to use because a lot of them start in Chinese. The good news is there is usually a button to change the language to English. 

If you still have problems, go inside the bank and talk to an employee. Some Chinese people can speak simple English. If not, a translator App can be your good friend, haha.

Don’t expect your foreign credit cards to work in China. 

In China, locals use Alipay or Wechat pay as payment methods.

Both of these two apps are very easy to use. There is a code at the checkout section. Scan the code in the apps, then confirm your payment.

But remember to always have some cash on hand. 

Because Wechat Pay and Alipay are so widely used in China, some stores don’t even accept credit cards.

My wife and I are embarrassed to encounter this situation. Because in the U.S., we use credit cards everywhere we go, which is a huge difference.

8) Find a Place to Stay Within Your Budget

Luckily, the price of hotels in China is lower than in America. 

In Wuhan city, Hubei Province, You can find a lovely hotel room as cheap as ¥200, around $35 a night.

American hotels can cost $200 per night and can be pretty old. So finding a very nice hotel in Wuhan at a reasonable price shouldn’t be too difficult.

When you book a hotel room, you can check some Chinese-run sites like trip.comQunar.com, etc.

Sometimes you can find more hotel listings (especially budget listings) on these Chinese-run sites.

AIRBNB can be a good choice, especially if you find a Chinese host who can speak English! There’s a good chance they could give you some sound advice about traveling around Wuhan, Hubei.

9) Save Money on Food in Wuhan

Food is central to Chinese culture and will become one of the most memorable aspects of your trip to China. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Chinese people, like my wife Shan, are not just traveling for tourist attractions but also travel for the delicious local food that is unique to that specific area.

In Wuhan, you can enjoy delicious food at an affordable price, even cheaper than cooking for yourself. The average meal can be as low as $2-$5 per person. And you can eat very well!

You also don’t need to pay tips in China, which can save you money too.

My wife lived in Wuhan for half a year, so here are some of her recommended dishes that are Wuhan special: Hot Dry Noodle (with sesame paste), Doupi (a pan-fried delicacy of glutinous rice and minced meat), Stewed Spare Ribs with Lotus Roots, Joy ball (Wuhan-style fried glutinous rice ball with sesame and brown sugar fillings ) etc.

10) The Cheapest and Fastest Way to Get Around

1. The most convenient: the subway

Wuhan has nine subway lines extending in all directions, which can basically cover all the famous scenic spots in the city. No matter where you want to go, the subway is the most convenient, fast and cheap travel option in the city.

2. The most comprehensive coverage: bus

No matter where you want to go, you can go as long as you choose your destination and plan your route. More importantly, the price is low, and you can see the style and customs of the entire city along the way.

3. The most convenient – take a taxi

Wuhan is a very big city, so be prepared to take a taxi for a long distance, and the price may be higher.

You can download Didi Ride which is “Chinese Uber.”

11) Consider FREE or Cheap Attractions

Tickets for some attractions can be pretty expensive.

Fortunately, Wuhan has tons of cool spots that are entirely free to visit! There are tons of ancient streets, fantastic markets, neighborhoods, and parks that are free or cheap.(free wuhan post link)

12) Students and Seniors’ Discount

Being a Student or Senior has significant money-saving benefits when visiting Wuhan City, Hubei Province.

You can usually expect a 50% discount or even 100% FREE admission for students and seniors in China! So it might save you hundreds of RMB in ticket costs. 

Remember, don’t forget your senior ID and/or student ID when you visit an attraction.

13) Bargain Tips in China

My wife told me that locals charge a higher price when they see tourists, especially foreigners. They do this because they think you are rich and don’t understand the Chinese market.

My wife taught me these Chinese bargaining tips:

  • No matter how much you like the product, don’t show it! Instead, tell the seller your ideal price but a little lower. If the seller disagrees, you say no and start to leave. Most of the time, the seller will give you a lower price when they see you are leaving. 
  • Shop around; there are a lot of shops selling similar souvenirs in Beijing. If one shop doesn’t work out, check out other shops to find the same thing or something similar.

Remember, bargaining is the Chinese way! Don’t be shy to negotiate a lower price.

14) Beware of Scammers

Be careful with your backpacks and wallets because there are many people around, including thieves.

Especially be mindful to keep your essential identity documents in an extra safe. It is very troublesome to lose them abroad.

Besides that, be careful of scammers. There will be scammers who will come and talk to you. No matter how good it sounds, know they are trying to trick you.

Be careful not to be deceived.

In Conclusion

I hope this article can help make your trip fun while saving time, effort, and money.

Last but not least, if you don’t speak Chinese, remember to download a translator. Although translators can sometimes translate strangely, it will undoubtedly help.

Using the tips in this article, you can visit this fantastic city of Wuhan and save lots of money!

If you have any questions, please comment below and ask us!


We hope the information in this article provides valuable insights to every reader but we, the Biesingers, are not financial advisors. When making your personal finance decisions, research multiple sources and/or receive advice from a licensed professional. As always, we wish you the best in your pursuit of financial independence!

How To Have a Wedding Under $5,000 (Our Budget Breakdown)

How To Have a Wedding Under $5,000 (Our Budget Breakdown)

My wife and I's engagement photo where we are kissing my wife is wearing her affordable but beautiful white wedding dress
Our Engagement Photo

If you want to save money on your wedding expenses, you have come to the right place. My wife and I’s wedding cost under $5000. I will share how we made that happen and still had a fantastic and memorable wedding.

“The Wedding Report’s average cost for a 2022 wedding sits at around $27,000.” – Fool.com

$27,000 for a wedding?!

It’s definitely possible to keep wedding expenses much lower, especially for couples on a budget and planning for other big purchases such as buying a home.

In this article, I will share a little background on how I met my wife, the budget breakdown for our wedding, and 16 tips to help you have a beautiful wedding while on a budget!

Our Love Story

Shortly after returning from my LDS mission in Taiwan, I started the first semester of my bachelor’s degree.

I learned Mandarin Chinese during my two years of LDS mission in Taiwan and continued taking Chinese courses in College.

I am especially grateful for my two-year missionary experience; without this experience, I might not have married my wife Shan.

Both of us were in the school orchestra at Utah Valley University. After class was over one day I summoned up the courage to go talk to Shan and used my Chinese homework as an excuse to hang out. 🙂

Our first date was in September of 2015.

We kept dating and getting to know each other very well. We grew closer together and realized we couldn’t stand being apart.

This became crystal clear when I transferred to BYU-H for a semester but was away from Shan. After the second time she came to visit me I decided to transfer back to Utah so I could be with her.

In December 2016, I proposed to Shan and thankfully she said yes! On May 6, 2017 we were officially wed.

Why We Decided to Cut Expenses For Our Wedding

Person cutting a paper that says "expenses"

Shan and I needed to save on wedding expenses mainly because we wanted to save up a down payment and buy our first home together.

Shan reminded me that a wedding is temporary, but buying a house will benefit us for many years. We had the plan to rent out our first property in the future.

If interested, I wrote another article sharing Our Real Estate Strategy ($400K At Age 26 in Utah).

We are fortunate to have received help with most of our wedding expenses from my parents and in-laws. They did so to help us better save for our down payment, but we still created a budget for our wedding and made sure the total expenses were under $5,000!

We kept things simple, so we did not go over budget and did not need to spend our own money.

“Marriage is a partnership, and couples can’t win with money unless they budget as a team.”

Dave Ramsey

Under $5000 Wedding Budget Breakdown

Wedding Dress: $350
Tuxedo: $200
Wedding Ring: $150
best man tie:$10
bridesmaid shawl:$20
Reception Center: $150
Orchestra: $100
Wedding Arches: $200
Bouquet: $200
Wedding Cake: $275
Food: $1500
Tableware: $200
Photographer: $700
Invitations: $200
Decoration: $300
Makeup: $100

Total: $4655

Now let’s talk about 16 ways to save and find the best deals for your wedding!

1. Buy A Wedding Dress From Overseas

As you know, wedding dresses can be so expensive in America.

My wife Shan is from China and told me that the wedding dresses there are so much cheaper.

To save money, Shan bought her wedding dress from China for $250. The shipping cost was $100 because the dress was big and heavy.

Me holding the back of my wife's super long wedding dress that only cost two hundred and fifty dollars
Holding my wife’s super long dress!

When my parents saw the dress for the first time, they thought it cost $5000.

After our wedding, my wife tried to sell the wedding dress, but the people who came to try it either didn’t fit or thought it was too long.

In the end, we decided to donate our wedding dress because we also needed to prepare to move and declutter.

The good thing is that the wedding dress was only a fraction of the cost in America, and donating it was the right choice for us to help another bride have a beautiful wedding.

2. Use Regular Dress Pants

Honestly, most people will probably not notice or care if you wear regular black suit pants or fancy tuxedo pants. We personally felt it simply was not necessary to buy or rent expensive black slacks.

I purchased a white tuxedo suit coat at Men’s Warehouse when they had an awesome buy one suit coat get one free promotion.

The salesman is my dad’s childhood friend and was a great help. I only purchased a suit jacket (I got another free) and a blue boutonniere.

I just used the black pants I already had from Walmart in my closet.

Me trying on a white tuxedo jacket that I bought for just one hundred dollars
My $100 Tuxedo Jacket

After the wedding, I sold the white tuxedo for $100. So actually the actual cost was only $100!

3. Find Affordable Wedding Rings

“According to The Knot 2021 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $6,000. Only 8% of ring shoppers are spending under $1,000.”


Our engagement/wedding rings only cost us $150!

Mine is a $25 ring from Walmart, and my wife’s ring was bought online for a little over $100.

Holding our wedding boutque with our wedding rings showing that were only $150 total
Our $150 (total) rings

We knew that having a lasting marriage and investing in assets were more important than a diamond ring.

Shan saw some news that said a diamond is just a rock, but it’s marketing campaigns that make it more valuable.

There are a lot of diamonds in the world, but big companies try to control how much to produce every year.

If you are interested, I found an interesting article on the topic – DIAMONDS – THE GREATEST MARKETING SCAM OF ALL TIME.

I’m very grateful to have a wife who focuses on building a financially secure future.

I felt bad at first for not getting an expensive ring, but looking back now we’ve had three real estate properties together and have two beautiful children.

Our relationship and cooperation have helped us find true happiness.

Related content: How to Get on the Same Page Financially With Your Spouse (9 Tips)

4. Buy Groomsmen Ties Online

We bought our groomsmen ties from overseas since they were much more affordable.

My parents-in-law helped us bring it from China when they came to the USA for our wedding.

The total cost for all of the groomsmen ties was ten dollars!

Me with my groomsmen wearing blue ties that I got from China for just ten dollars
Me and the groomsmen 😀

There are many Chinese websites for shopping, such as Wish and AliExpress.

The cheapest shipping usually takes a long time so remember to prepare in advance.

5. Cute Shawls for Bridemaids

Buying or renting bridesmaid dresses and buying flowers for each bridesmaid can be very expensive.

My wife came up with an idea for just letting them wear their own white dress. All we gave them was a pink shawl.

You can see the outcome in the picture below! 🙂

My wife with her bridemaids that wore white dresses and pink shawls
My gorgeous wife with her bridesmaids

If your bridesmaids don’t have a certain color of dress, they could always borrow one from a friend just for the wedding.

The total for the bridesmaid shawls was $20!

Cheap shipping on sites like Wish and AliExpress usually takes a long time, such as more than a month, so remember to prepare in advance.

6. Look For a Discount on Reception Center

Our reception center was on top of a mountain with big windows overlooking the valley (in Utah). I got a discount since my brother was the HOA Manager, and I had worked there before too.

The total was $150! That also included all the tables and chairs in the price!

So look around for discounts and packages that are affordable for your budget. Other ideas are checking to see if your HOA has a clubhouse or asking a friend or family member who has a large backyard to use it for your reception.

7. Hire a College Quartet

Using this tip can save you a ton of money and give your wedding a special feeling with live music!

As I mentioned before, my wife and I met in the school orchestra at Utah Valley University.

We invited our classmates/friends from the orchestra. Four of them happened to be in a quartet and were all very skilled musicians.

A college quartet playing wedding music at our wedding
Our college quartet friends!

We loved the beautiful music they played at our wedding.

Many College orchestras have elite musicians who form quartets and can play at weddings for a fraction of the cost of hiring someone else.

8. Shop Around For a Wedding Arbor

Make sure to shop around and not give up when looking for your wedding arbor! You could also ask friends or family who was recently married to see if they were able to find a good deal.

Finding an affordable wedding arch or arbor was the most difficult for us.

We almost gave up on saving money because we could not find a very good deal.

My wife and I dancing at our wedding with the affordable floral wedding arbor or arch in that background
Wedding reception dance with wedding arbor behind us

Fortunately, my Mom walked around a store and found an arch with flowers and delivery totaling $200.

9. Consider a Fake Flower Bouquet

Give yourself enough time, and you should be able to find a beautiful flower bouquet at a good price.

We got a fake flower bouquet to save money since the seller’s pictures made it look nice. Unfortunately, we didn’t like it that much and realized we should have checked other reviews first – so check those reviews!

We were still going to use it but my Mom noticed my wife was not happy with the bouquet, so she ran to the flower store and booked a bouquet with real flowers for my wife.

We think this is a valuable tip to save more money and you can find a suitable fake bouquet by checking others’ reviews.

10. Find a Great Deal on a Wedding Cake or Make it Yourself

The best way to save money on your wedding cake is to make it yourself! There are many tutorials and how-to videos online.

We have some friends who made their own wedding cakes to save money.

We didn’t have the idea that we could make our wedding cake until after the wedding, haha.

Instead, we spent a lot of time looking for the best deal for our wedding cake.

Everything cost us $275 including delivery fees as well.

It was pretty and delicious!

Cutting our wedding cake that was under three hundred dollars
Our $275 wedding cake

11. Keep Catering Simple Yet Delicious

Keeping the catering service simple yet elegant can go a long way to save you money on your wedding expenses.

Catering services is the most expensive aspect of our wedding. We actually tried not to invite too many people to the reception to help save us money.

Chocolate fountain and refreshments at my wedding
Refreshments at my wedding

The wedding food is also simple so it didn’t cost that much. For lunch, we had some sandwiches and treats. For dinner, we just had light refreshments such as a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit.

12. Get Creative With Tableware

Our wedding tableware was pretty simple; we did not do anything fancy.

We rented white table clothes, blue runners, and pink bows for the chairs and a tall wedding cake table with shiny table clothes.

My wife spends a lot of time looking for the best deal. We picked it up by ourselves, and my parents returned it so we didn’t have to pay delivery fees.

So shop around and see if there are options for you to pick up and return the rented tableware.

13. Find a College Photographer

There are many incredible college students studying photography for their majors. It’s easy to get an idea of their work by asking for samples of their previous work and how long they have been doing photography.

The price will also typically be much more affordable than hiring a wedding company or someone else.

Our wedding photographer was a good friend from Church. She was still a college student so she did not charge a super high price.

And we loved our wedding photos! This friend helped take our engagement photos as well.

She charged $600 for the wedding and $100 for the engagement photoshoot.

Many students or new photographers need to build up their profile, so they will charge a lower price or even take your pictures for free!

If you want to save money on your wedding or engagement photos, find a talented college student photographer.

14. Consider Digital Invitations or Keep Paper Invitations Simple

Using digital wedding invitations can save you a large chunk of money. My wife and I really wanted to do online invitations since the price would be much lower or even free.

My parents, however, are more traditional and wanted the paper kind, so we went with paper ones but kept the dimensions small to save on costs.

Another option is to release your creativity and make your own invitations using crafting supplies!

15. DIY Decorations!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to create an elegant wedding with homemade decorations!

The decorations for our wedding were very simple and we did a lot of the decorating ourselves. For example, we put our string instruments on display since it reminds us of how we met in orchestra class.

Our simple wedding decor on a table with pictures of me and my wife, a journal, and our flower bouquet

Having lots of pictures is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to decorate! Also, try putting items out that reminds you of how you met and got to the point of getting married.

16. Find a Discount on Wedding Makeup Artist

If you or someone you know has makeup expertise, you could always save money doing it yourself.

Otherwise, there are definitely ways to find an affordable wedding makeup artist. My wife wanted a professional to do her makeup for our engagement and wedding pictures.

The makeup artist we found was a friend’s friend, so we received a fantastic discount, each time costing $50. They also drove to our house, which was so convenient!

So ask around, and you can surely find a good deal!

In Conclusion

If we could keep our wedding budget under $5,000, you can too!

Keep in mind the tips provided in this article, and give yourself plenty of prep time to shop around and find amazing deals.

Making an effort to do so will save you a lot of money. That saved money can then be used on a down payment or other expenses.

Thank you so much for reading! Please comment below with your experiences and own tips on how you saved money on your wedding.

Related Content:


We hope the information in this article provides valuable insights to every reader but we, the Biesingers, are not financial advisors. When making your personal finance decisions, research multiple sources and/or receive advice from a licensed professional. As always, we wish you the best in your pursuit of financial independence!

22 Tips to Save Money on NYC Trip with Kids

22 Tips to Save Money on NYC Trip with Kids

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Me, My wife, and two kids in New York City
NYC Trip with my family 🙂

So, your family wants to take a trip to New York City, huh? Great choice! As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, there’s a lot to see and do in NYC.

My wife and I visited NYC earlier this year with our two kids; both are under two years old. We found many ways to save money in NYC as a family!

So let’s jump into the 22 money-saving tips we’ve prepared when traveling to NYC with kids!

YouTube Video about our NYC trip, if you prefer to watch instead 🙂

Related Content: 17 Pro Tips to Save Money on Travel

1. Book your flight online

Countless sites are fighting to sell you your plane tickets, so take advantage of the competition and search for the best deal.

Kids under two years old can sit on your lap for free, so you don’t have to pay for another seat! We did this for our two kids, saving us a lot of money.

You could use a site like Skyscanner or Kayak, which allows you to compare prices across multiple airlines.

It’s a huge mistake even to consider booking through a travel agency. You’ll almost always save a ton of money by booking your flights directly with the airline.

In addition, these travel sites are highly competitive, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get your business, so take advantage of it.

2. Ask the hotel for free pack-n-plays/cribs

One of the first things we considered when traveling to NYC was where our kids would sleep at night. If your kids are old enough to sleep in a bed, that’s great! If not, don’t forget to call your hotel in advance to secure a pack-n-play or crib.

Our hotel was able to provide us with a pack-n-play and a crib free of charge! Just make sure to call in advance to ensure availability and that it is free.

We did this at the very beginning of the booking hotel ticket process so we would not have to cancel tickets or pay for one.

3. Find local parks or splash pads

Me with my son at a splash pad in NYC
Splash Pad in NYC

One of our best activities was visiting local parks and splash pads. For example, there is an excellent park with water features next to Chinatown! Our son had a blast hanging out with other kids and playing with the water.

We also found other splash pads and parks essentially everywhere we went. Having that break time makes vacation time very relaxing and is no burden at all to your wallet.

4. Call the airline in advance to secure a free bassinet

We took a redeye flight to help the kids sleep on the way to New York but made the mistake of not calling the airline early enough to secure an in-flight bassinet.

This amenity for families traveling with babies is fantastic and was free with the airline we were taking! Unfortunately, we did not call enough in advance, but this is an excellent tip for those traveling with babies.

Make sure to call sooner than later to check with your airline for availability.

5. Travel during the right time of year

This tip will save you a lot of money on your trip to NYC. If possible, avoid traveling to NYC during peak tourist season (from June through August).

Not only will you have to deal with larger crowds, but prices for everything from hotels to Broadway tickets will be at their highest.

Instead, aim for a more shoulder season like May or September. You’ll still be able to enjoy all the best that NYC offers, but without the crowds and high prices.

Also, remember that NYC is a great destination year-round, so don’t be afraid to travel during the winter months!

Christmas time in NYC is especially magical, with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and all the holiday window displays. Just be sure to pack your warmest clothes!

6. Stay in a hotel outside of Manhattan

Manhattan is the most popular borough for tourists and the most expensive. If you want to save some money on your hotel, consider staying in one of the other boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens.

You’ll still be close enough to all the action, but you’ll find better hotel deals.

The price difference can be up to a hundred or hundreds of dollars per night, so it’s worth considering if you’re on a budget.

Plus, staying in a less touristy borough will give you a more authentic NYC experience.

7. Consider getting the NYC CityPASS

The NYC CityPASS is a great way to save money on some of the city’s most popular attractions. For one low price, you’ll get admission to attractions like the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Statue of Liberty.

If you’re planning sightseeing, the CityPASS can save you over $100. It’s worth considering if you want to save money on your trip.

You can have so much fun by purchasing the NYC CityPASS and getting access to some of the most famous attractions in the city.

8. Use public transportation

Taxis are definitely the most convenient way to get around NYC, but they’re also the most expensive.

If you’re looking to save money, we recommend using the city’s extensive public transportation system.

The NYC subway is the cheapest way to get around and is much easier to use than you might think. Just be sure to buy a Metrocard in advance, which you can do at any subway station.

We also found it challenging to find a subway entrance with a wheelchair or stroller access (without taking it down).

So if you’re traveling with a stroller, try going to larger subway stations or running down the stairs first to see if there is access.

Kiddos sleeping in the double stroller in NYC
Kiddos sleeping in the double stroller

9. Eat like a local

One of the best things about NYC is the food, but it can also be one of the most expensive parts of your trip.

So if you want to save money, we recommend avoiding tourist traps and eating like a local instead.

There are countless great restaurants around the city, so research in advance and find some promising places.

You can also ask your hotel concierge for recommendations.

Use sites like Yelp or Zagat to find restaurants that fit your budget and taste.

And don’t forget to take advantage of the many food carts around the city! They’re a great way to get a quick and cheap bite.

NYC has so many great food options, and it only takes a little to get away from the touristy areas to find them.

10. Buy Broadway tickets in advance

Buying your tickets in advance is best if you plan to see a show while in NYC. You can often find GREAT deals on sites like Broadway Box or Playbill.

If you wait until you’re in NYC to buy tickets, you’ll likely have to pay full price. And if you really want to see a popular show, you might not even be able to get tickets at all!

Depending on the age of your kids, they might also be eligible for discounted or even free tickets. Check out the TKTS booth in Times Square for more information.

11. Skip the taxi and take the train from the airport

It’s tempting to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel, but it’s actually much cheaper to take the train. The AirTrain is a quick and easy way to get from JFK or Newark airport into the city, and it only costs a few dollars. When we landed at JFK airport, we used the AirTrain and Subway to get to our hotel.

Taking the train is incredibly convenient if you’re staying in Brooklyn or Queens since you can avoid Manhattan’s high prices and traffic.

12. Use coupons and discounts

Many great coupons and discounts are available for NYC attractions, restaurants, and more.

You can often find these in the visitor’s guide at your hotel or in the various tourist brochures around the city.

You can also find many of these discounts online, so be sure to do some research in advance.

In addition, sites like Groupon and LivingSocial often have great deals on NYC attractions and activities.

13. Consider eating at least one meal per day as a picnic

If the weather is nice, you can buy food at a local grocery store or deli and picnic in one of the city’s many parks. This is a great way to save money on food and have a lot of fun.

Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to slow down and enjoy the city more leisurely.

Some picnic food ideas include sandwiches, salads, fruit, snacks, and drinks. Just be sure to pack some napkins and utensils, and you’re good to go. Even a loaf of bread and some peanut butter will work in a pinch. Throw in some fruit, and you’ve got an enjoyable meal.

Eating sandwiches in the park might not seem glamorous, but it’s a great way to save money and still have a good time with your kids. You’re here to make memories, not eat caviar.

14. Use your hotel’s amenities

Your hotel likely has many great amenities you can take advantage of, so be sure to use them. Many hotels have pools, gyms, laundry facilities, and more that you can use for free or a small fee.

Let’s say that your hotel has a pool or gym. Please take advantage of it! It can be a great way to have some fun, get some exercise, and save money all at the same time. There’s no need to spend money on a separate activity when you’ve access to one at your hotel.

If you’re unsure what your hotel offers, ask the front desk. They’ll be happy to tell you about all the great amenities available.

15. Eat the complimentary breakfast if your hotel offers it

Nowadays, it’s hard to find a hotel that gives you three square meals a day at a reasonable price, but some hotels offer a complimentary breakfast. If your hotel offers this, take advantage of it!

Depending on your family size, you could save $50 per day just by eating breakfast at your hotel. That’s a significant amount of money that you can put toward other activities or attractions.

It doesn’t sound like much, but if you can save a few hundred dollars during your vacation, you might be able to stay a day longer. That’s a whole day of enjoying everything that NYC has to offer.

16. Plan your days in advance

You don’t want to plan your day when you wake up because you’ll likely end up wasting time and money. Instead, plan your days to make the most of your time.

Many great resources are available online to help you plan your days. Time Out New York is a great site with tons of information on things to do in the city.

You can also find a lot of great information in the various visitor guides that are available. These guides often have coupons and discounts you can also take advantage of.

17. Buy refillable water bottles and fill them up

Everyone needs to drink, and we all know how expensive water can be, especially in the city. A bottle of water at a convenience store can easily cost $3 or more.

Instead of buying water every time you’re thirsty, buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up at one of the city’s many water fountains. You can also fill up your hotel water bottle before heading out for the day.

This is a great way to save money and stay hydrated at the same time. Plus, it’s much better for the environment.

18. Get your souvenirs in China Town

You can’t leave New York City without plenty of souvenirs for your friends and family back home. While there are plenty of places to get souvenirs, China Town is the best place to go.

You’ll find everything from t-shirts to keychains to traditional Chinese goods. The prices are also unbeatable. You can easily find souvenirs for a fraction of the price you would pay elsewhere in the city.

You can also grab a quick bite to eat while in China Town. The food is delicious, and it’s very reasonably priced as well.

19. See the Statue of Liberty for free

Yes, you read that correctly. You can see the Statue of Liberty for free if you take the Staten Island Ferry. The ferry ride is completely free and takes you right past the Statue of Liberty.

You can’t get any closer than that without paying for a tour, so this is the next best thing. The ferry ride is about 25 minutes each way, so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the sights.

Also, be sure to bring your camera so that you can snap some great photos. You’ll want to cherish this memory for years to come.

20. Be an audience member at a live television show

If you have small kids, this is out of the question. However, if you have older kids or teens, this can be a great activity.

Being an audience member at a live television show is a great way to see some of your favorite celebrities up close and personal. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

There are many great shows that tape in NYC, so you’re sure to find one that your kids will enjoy. Just be sure to check the age requirements before you go.

21. Spend a day in Central Park

At Central Park in New York City with Family
Central Park, NYC

Central Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in NYC, and for a good reason. It’s enormous, and there’s so much to see and do.

You could easily spend an entire day in Central Park and still not see everything. There are playgrounds, ponds, gardens, and so much more.

Plus, it’s a great place to people watch. You never know who you’ll see walking through Central Park. So it’s a must-see when you’re in NYC.

22. Cash is King

Having cash on hand when traveling in NYC is beneficial for many reasons. You will be more conscious of how much money you are spending. There will be opportunities to bargain and talk people down when buying souvenirs or other items.

Make sure to budget the amount of money you will be spending on the trip, and bargain for the best deals using cash!


If you’re a family on a tight budget, don’t despair. There are plenty of great things that you can do in New York City without spending a lot of money. For many families, going to New York City is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

You want to make the most of it and create lasting memories. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to have a great time in NYC. Use some of these tips, and you’ll have a great time without breaking the bank.

The most important thing is to enjoy your time together as a family. There’s so much to see and do in New York City. Just savor every moment and make great memories that will last a lifetime.


We hope the information in this article provides valuable insights to every reader but we, the Biesingers, are not financial advisors. When making your personal finance decisions, research multiple sources and/or receive advice from a licensed professional. As always, we wish you the best in your pursuit of financial independence!