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September 21, 2017

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How to live off 35K in Taipei (as a family of four)

Taipei's cost of living has oft been criticized as too high, making it difficult for young people to get by on a typical salary.

The point couldn't have been illustrated better than by a recent post on online discussion board PTT.

A mother posed the question of whether it was realistic to have another child when she already had one, her family income was NT$100,000 (approximately US$3,238) a month and they only had NT$20,000 left after paying the bills.

In a reply, another mother (alias windtop2) wrote that in her family of four, she and her husband were able to make ends meet on his monthly salary of NT$35,000 (US$1,133), despite spending NT$17,000 renting a flat in Taipei City.

"It's fine," she wrote, "except that everything is spent by the end of the month."

She said that the family enjoyed recreational activities (playing in the local park, shopping) and also ate out frequently, but didn't have major household appliances. She was resigned to the fact that the kids wouldn't have vacations abroad.

"Money is not what's critical. What's critical is if there's someone to really put an effort into taking care (of the children)," she said.

The reply generated immediate debate on the sustainability of these home economics: how the family could continue on this arrangement. Other forum users expressed amazement and respect.

Windtop2 later posted a detailed list of monthly expenditures excluding rent: diapers for her two children (NT$2,300), milk powder (NT$2,500), meals (NT$9,000), utilities (NT$1,700-1,800) and combined phone bills (less than NT$1,000), amounting to approximately NT$18,000.

She added that if expenses went over budget, the couple would dip into existing savings. The children were insured using the husband's end-of-year bonus. With her husband's incremental salary increases and the future income of the children, the economic burden would eventually ease, she said.

"But I have to emphasize to everyone that the point is still about really bringing up the kids well. Money is of secondary concern! If you teach your kids well, they won't be a problem to society. But if you think it's going to be a drag, it's better to not have kids, because it really requires effort."

Windtop2's detailed post caused a stir online, drawing expressions of shock, praise and criticism.

"NT$18,000 was less than I spent as a college student and I could barely live off that. How could you get by?" wrote one user.

"Taking care of and educating your children is one thing, but what if there's an emergency or accident and you need a lot of money in a hurry?" another said.

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