Holiday spending puts some on edge

Updated: 2012-01-19 08:00

By Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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BEIJING - With tens of millions of travelers on the move during the world's largest seasonal migration for Spring Festival family reunions, many are worrying about spending too much during the weeklong holiday.

Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, which begins on Monday, is treasured as a time of homecoming, a holiday when many migrant workers return to visit family each year, or for some, every few years. But for Zhang Yaran, a 28-year-old software engineer in Beijing, going home is a big challenge to his wallet.

It's hard for Zhang to get away because his work is always busy. The upcoming trip to his hometown in East China's Jiangxi province will be his first in two years.

"I'll see almost 20 relatives during the festival. And it goes without saying I'll have gifts for them," he said.

Most of the gifts Zhang will bring this year will be famous Beijing snacks, at a cost of about 1,500 yuan ($238).

Another 2,000 yuan went to buying woolen sweaters for his parents, he said.

"Although the gifts are common items in big cities, they're attractive and special for people living in small cities," he said.

He'll also need an additional 5,000 yuan for hongbao (red envelopes stuffed with cash) to give to elderly people and children.

Zhang has an annual salary of more than 120,000 yuan, nearly double what he earned just after graduating in 2009.

"But life is not easy for me as a migrant in the city, and I have a hard time saving much because prices for almost everything keep rising. As an extra expense, the cost of going home for the festival is really too high to afford," he said.

Zhang is one of a legion of white-collar and migrant workers who feel financially pressured.

In a recent online survey conducted by Sina weibo, a popular micro-blogging service, 40 percent of respondents said the high expenses are their top concern during the festival.

Nearly 8,000 people had participated in the survey by Wednesday afternoon.

Other major worries include fatigue from the rounds of social visits, heavy traffic and being pressured by family members to marry.