Chinese college students choose a 'low-cost' life

Updated: 2010-10-23 18:52
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BEIJING - With limited pocket money in hand, many Chinese college students are increasingly opting to live life "low cost."

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One way to do that, it seems, is team-buying. Online team-buying offers huge discounts and, not surprisingly, is gaining wide popularity on campus.

Li Jing, a student at the Beijing-based China Youth University for Political Sciences, for example, says she often buys movie tickets online.

Recently, she bought two tickets for 40 yuan ($5.88) on the Internet - including a bag of popcorn - to see "Aftershock", a movie by Chinese director Feng Xiaogang.

The tickets were purchased on, one of the most popular team-buying websites. In contrast, a prime-time movie ticket sells for about 80 yuan in Beijing's downtown cinemas.

Li said she also often searched for team-buying information on cosmetics of international brands on various websites, including

"At online stores, which buy directly from overseas retailers, cosmetics are sold at about 70 percent of the shopping-mall prices," she said.

But while they offer a good opportunity to save money, Li said she would "think twice before buying them from online stores" because many of them were "a bit chaotic," and had fake goods mixed among them.

So why don't the students just earn more pocket money by taking up part-time jobs? Guo Jingna, a teacher at the Communication University of China, said most Chinese college students were unlikely to choose work-study programs to earn pocket money because of their intensive study schedules.

Most of them, therefore, were still members of the NEET group - able to work but still needing financial support from their parents, who believed it was their mission to ensure that their children completed higher education by providing full financial assistance.

Students of the post-1980s and 1990s generation depend primarily on monthly sums given to them by their parents. For them, saving money to live a better life has, therefore, become a goal, and the Internet has become a useful tool to help them achieve that, Guo said.

Forever discounts

For instance, a "VELO" card has become another ideal choice for many money savers. It provides all-round discounts while dining out or shopping in general,

The electronic coupon service, produced by street machines, was developed by a Shanghai information technology company.

Ding Jiawei, a student at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said he has been using the "VELO" card for about two years to purchase coupons when dinning out and having fun with friends.

Ding said it was "very convenient," as the coupon machines were located in highly visible locations at shopping malls and could issue coupons for major fast-food chains, including KFC and the Chinese Kungfu restaurant.

The VELO machine also offers information about free-trial products and gifts from retailers. Customers can use these coupons to get these gifts.

However, such discount services are only available in large cities. But students in less developed regions have their own ways of reducing daily expenses.

Cao Zuyang, a student at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, in Chengdu, southwestern Sichuan province, often searches for sales online and buys things together with friends to cut down on delivery costs.

Cao once wanted to buy an electro-magnetic oven, which was on sale at, one of the largest online shopping platforms in China and's Chinese partner.

He then asked five dormitory roommates to pitch in for the oven. Each student only paid 25 yuan. Once they bought the oven, all of them used it.

"It not only saves money, but also helps me to manage my life more economically," he said.

He added that information on sharing things and buying items collectively could often be found in school bulletins, both on- and offline.

Low-cost travel

Again, most students find it difficult to cope with the expense of accommodation while traveling. So frequently, they will choose to travel to cities where they have classmates and friends and live in their (friend's) dorms.

For instance, Ge Rui, a student at the Hebei University of Technology in northern China, has been to many cities where he has friends.

"Friends can act as free guides, offer me free accommodation and give me valuable tour information, which saves money, time and energy," he said.

Ge said he could "buy fewer beverages and clothes" while traveling, and "broaden my mind" at the same time.

He said he, too, had friends from other cities coming over and living with him when they visited his city.