CY Leung Says a Hong Kong Family of 5 Can Eat on $9,000 a Month and Save Money. We Take His Claim and Put It to the Test
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying attended a workshop last weekend that gave participants a taste of living in poverty. In his Facebook post, Leung talked about how he role-played as a single father with four dependents under his care. He talked about how, with a lot of effort, his imaginary family managed to save a small sum from their $9,000 household income after spending the rest on rent, school fees, canned food, transport and instant noodles.
Here, we try to replicate our CE’s incredible feat. Imagine we have a five-person household that includes a single mom, her two kids and elderly parents. With the Rent Assistance Scheme, rent for a 400-square-foot New Territories Public Rental Housing apartment would cost about $910. A family of four living in a public rental housing estate told us utilities cost around $1,500 a month, so for a five-person household, that number is around $1,875. That leaves us with food.
Every day, breakfast is a hearty, Hong Kong favorite—instant noodles with luncheon meat and eggs; lunch—a light combination of rice, baked beans and tofu; and dinner is a little fancier with rice, vegetables and pork. This wholesome selection racks up $5,683.50 worth of food expenses per month for our family of five. Throw in utilities and rent, and that brings the total dangerously close to $9,000, at $8,468.50. But mind you—that number excludes transportation, clothing, books, stationery, extra-curricular activities, medical bills and more.
Alternatively, to cut time and costs, everyone in the family could have instant noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner for only $4,180 a month, including utilities and rent—but would they be able to afford multiple trips to the gastroenterologist? And, forget about eating out: If every member of the family had two $35 cha chaan teng meals a day for every day of the month, that alone would cost $10,850.
We don’t know how CY Leung and his imaginary family did it, but if there’s something to be learnt from our CE’s experience: Poverty can be made easier by savvy budgeting.