The one expense that you should not forget is to have medical insuarance. Most expats (or locals) can tell you that apart from education and buying an apartment the biggest expense you may have is hospital bills. If you have to use the hospital system here for anything other than very simple things you will find it's very expensive. If you need to be medically evacuated out of China then budget for a 100K USD PLUS bill for the flight, which is why you need insuarance.
If you have no kids (or yourself) to educate, dont want to buy an apartment and don't include international travel or rent (this depends so much on what you level of place you want to rent) or medical insuarance in your budget then 3-5K rmb a month would allow you to have a basic western style (mainly eating western food out of home) life in Kunming.
TRAVELGUARD WORLDWIDE HEALTH $1,000,000 medical insurance policy costs me less than $100 USD /month. includes evac to my home country and will pay for my wife to accompany me.
I wish the isolated few would treat this question seriously. One and two bedroomed apartments seem to be available at 1,500/month to 2,000/month, are they worth living in? The insurance comment is welcome. But why do we need 10,000 yuan/month ... to live in Kunming?
Unfortunately,Tiger, the "isolated few" "troublemakers"seem to dominate these forums with their smart ass comments! The insurance is definitely worth noting. I have yet to visit one hospital here in Kunming that I would send my dog to,let alone send my loved ones or myself. Any major accidents or serious illnesses and we want to be medevaced out.
If ultimately people are asking this question to judge others' way of life, then better not asking...
Tiger, it is just that people don't have the same vision of "comfortable". Personally, I don't expatriate myself to have a lower standard of life than what I would expect in my home country.
A rather more relevant question would be: what is your budget breakdown ?
I think the comments about the "isolated few" are uncalled for. I re-read the thread again and every comment seemed legit. Most of us probably do on a 4-7000 salary but of course there are foreigners here who own businesses or work for foreign companies and I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of them felt that less than 15.000 a month wouldn't do the trick, and if you want to travel regularly within China AND 1 or 2 annual trips back home, well you'd be hard pressed to do that for less than a wan a month, while 15.000 seems more on par with a more "Western" life style.
If you don't mind a half hour commute you can get 150-200 sqm apartments in brand new high rises for 1500-2500 (unfurnished). To me "comfortable" has a lot to do with the place I live and I don't mind the commute. To live here comfortably I would say around 5000 a month is probably a minimum. Take home 7-8000 and unless you are especially picky you'd do well.
Forgot the OP said "a couple". If your combined income is 10-12.000 you'll be fine if you aren't into hanging out at wen lin jie 30 days a month.