November Expenses

We're a family of four (Mom, Dad, a 2-year-old boy, and a 1-year old girl). Life in Taipei has been a lot of fun but it can get expensive very fast if we're not careful just because there are so many fun things we could spend money on if we wanted!

So, for the month of November, we were very careful with tracking our expenses. Below are our recurring expenses. (We did have some rather large non-recurring expenses. These are explained at the very end.)

Recurring Expenses: $54,060

This isn't bad! I know a lot of other young families who spend far more than this, so I'd say that we're pretty conservative.

Here's a more detailed look at these various categories...

Rent: $22,584

We live in a beautiful 28.8 ping apartment (That's 1024 square feet). Rent is $20,000 per month, plus a maintenance fee of $2,584. Although the maintenance fee might seem rather high, our apartment complex has two playgrounds... one is indoor, and the other is outdoors. The indoor play area has been a life saver with two active toddlers in a city that rains a lot!

Our apartment is a 15 minute walk from Xindian Station, which is considered by many to be the middle of nowhere. But that's one reason why rent is low.

Date Night: $1,715

This is our one luxury. Once a month, we put the kids down for naps, put cameras on them, and sneak out of the house and do something fun together as a couple (no kids!). We never go far. If we see them stirring on the cameras, we're back in five minutes.

Transportation: $2,868

Linda has an unlimited MRT card, which costs $1480. Phil has a limited MRT card, but he didn't happen to need to top up at all this month because he spent less than $100. Because Linda stays home with the kids, she uses the MRT to go places quite a bit, which is why the unimited MRT card is of great value for us... but we only need one. When Phil wants to take the kids somewhere and give Linda a break, he takes Linda's unlimited card.

Phil bikes to work half the days and takes the school bus the other half. He spent $988 on the school bus. But since his school reimburses us $2500 per month for transportation, biking lets us keep over half of the transportation stipend ☺.

We visited Costco once this month and took a taxi back. We spent $400 on the taxi back.

Cell Phone Service: $1,007

We both have plans with Taiwan Mobile. Our plans include unlimited calling to other Taiwan Mobile customers (mainly so that we can call each other). We each get 30 minutes free to other carriers (calls to land lines are not free). Phil's data plan will start to slow down once he uses up 3GB, so his plan is a bit cheaper than Linda's (Linda's plan has fast service no matter how much data she uses). Phil pays $399/month and Linda pays $599/month. Since Phil is at work during the day, he doesn't use much more than his allotted 3GB. When his plan gets a bit too slow, Linda opens up a hotspot on her phone.

We realize that there are other carriers who charge less. However, we didn't want to support those carriers for a few reasons. First, their service isn't nearly as good as Taiwan Mobile's. But more importantly, many carriers don't trust foreigners to pay their bills (are we, expats, known for being flakes??). If you read stories online, you'll certainly hear about people who managed to wrangle the carriers to give them plans... but we really liked the fact that Taiwan Mobile let us get contracts with zero hassles. We figured that deserves our support.

Eating out: $3,505

Food is readily accessible in Taipei. This is both a blessing and a curse. Grabbing a quick bite to eat is so easy and not that expensive. However, if we're not careful, this can add up very quickly. If we're out and the kids get hungry, we just buy food for the kids and we (parents) eat a light lunch and eat more when we get home. This month, we spent:
  • $488 feeding the kids while we were out. This was mostly finger-food like french fries, sweet potatoes, and chicken nuggets. We did this ten times this month.
  • $165 on snacks for us, adults. This includes things like bubble tea and 豆花 (sweet silky tofu). We did this twice (once we shared, once we each got our own).
  • $2,582 on grown-up food. This was mostly lunch boxes. We did this roughly ten times. Sometimes we shared and sometimes we each got our own.

Groceries: $8,218

We found that the more we eat in, the more money we save. This is our secret to saving a lot of money in Taipei. Linda has scouted out all the major grocery stores and discovered the most cost-effective way to make dinner, and which dishes are both delicious and budget-friendly. We might have to do another blog post about that. Below are the groceries we bought this month. Our kids would drink juice by the gallon if we let them... but we mainly get them to drink water and soy milk. Our daughter, especially, can never get enough soy milk!
Snacks for the kids (x14) $948
Rice $774
Hot pot ingredients (x6) $719
Soy milk (x8) $566
Vegetables (x12) $485
Ingredients for curry $450
Peanut butter $425
Frozen dumplings $378
Meat (x4) $344
Fruit (x7) $343
Bread (x8) $323
Butter (x4) $283
Egg tarts (x5) $275
Sushi (x3) $275
Muffins $215
Croissants $198
Dinner Rolls $160
Ginger tea powder $198
Orange juice $169
Milk tea powder $148
Mushrooms (x5) $145
Yogurt (x3) $112
Misc. $285

When I say "Bread (x8)," I mean that we bought eight loaves of bread, not eight meals' worth of bread. Likewise, six bunches of ingredients for hot pot (mixes for the broth, tofu, etc.) can make a lot more than just six meals' worth of hot pot. Even though I have listed fruit and vegetables above, note that we don't buy these from the grocery store... we buy from vendors on the side of the road who usually sell them cheaper and fresher. The miscellaneous groceries included noodles (I forget how much they costed) and potatoes (we made mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner).

Utility Bills: $2,523

  • Electricity: $1,467
  • Water: $737
  • Gas: $319
We have a gas stove, which is the only gas we use. Bills are low this month because the weather is cool now and there's no need for air conditioning. We don't use heat (it's a tropical island). Note that this is the amount we spent this month paying last month's bills.

Toys & Diapers: $3,377

We have two kids who are still in diapers. This gets expensive.
  • Toys: $1,249
  • Diapers: $2,129

Miscellaneous Expenses: $1,263

  • Paperclips: $49
  • Facial mask (worn when sick): $105
  • Zoo admission: $60. Phil took the kids to the zoo. Kids are free, so we just had to pay for Phil's admission.
  • Trash bags: $89
  • Hand soap: $43
  • Shoes: $400
  • Socks: $300
  • Cell phone charger: $199
  • Printing at 7-11: $18

Non-recurring expenses: $17,795

Below are expenses that are not included in the "recurring expenses" discussed above because these are things we won't purchase every month.
  • New computer: $12,800
  • Air purifier: $3,290
  • Scammed on Shopee: $1,705

I'm including these expenses in a separate category as "non-recurring expenses" because we won't buy a new computer every month (let's hope!). We were limited in what we could bring with us across the ocean and that means buying extra things in Taipei. We're really hoping that the non-recurring expenses part of our budget will go down. We'll see if that actually happens.

As for the scam, we bought something online and the seller didn't make good. Customer service was of little help. Finally, we had to give that money up as lost.

Grand Total: $71,855

  • Recurring Expenses: $54,060
  • Non-recurring expenses: $17,795

This is higher than I'd like, especially because of the non-recurring expenses. Then again, we moved across the ocean recently and had to leave a lot of things behind, so we knew that we'd be purchasing quite a few things on this end and we did budget for this. We'll have to write another post about the total cost of moving to Taiwan at some point. Stay tuned for expenses in upcoming months and see if our budget really does go down!