Tips for saving money while teaching abroad

Teaching English in a foreign country 'can' be a great way to save money or to pay off debts. A lot of the overseas teaching positions offer a decent salary, free airfare, free or subsidized accommodations, free medical insurance, and many other employment perks that can reduce your expenses while living abroad. So everyone who teaches English must save money or pay off debts while abroad, right?

Wrong...Saving money abroad, like saving money at home takes discipline and sacrifice. Although it seems like expenses are very low in many teaching positions, that doesn't mean that there isn't a lot of things that you can spend (or waste) your money on. Likewise, there are some expenses that come along with living abroad that have to be kept up with to prevent new debts.

In this blog entry, I just want to provide some simple, easy-to follow tips for saving money while teaching English in a foreign country. By following some of these tips I was able to pay off half of my student loan in 3 years, while living in South Korea.

1. Plan ahead and create a monthly budget 
Before going abroad it's a great idea to set some financial goals while working abroad and then create a plan or budget to reach these goals. You can do this by doing some research before you go about the cost of living. Granted this will probably change when you arrive and you see exactly how much you will need each month, but creating this plan gets you started on the right foot to saving money. One thing to consider before you go as well, is that many employers just pay their teachers once a month, not bi-weekly like in North America. It's all too easy to spend too much money at the beginning of the pay cycle and be left struggling the last two weeks before getting paid again.

2. Pay your bills on-time
This applies to the bills you have back at home and the new bills (cell phones, electricity, cable/internet, etc.) that you will have while living abroad. Debt, and the accompanying interest, can quickly accumulate if your not careful, which are both counter-productive to saving money. Also by staying on top of your bills you'll be able to stay within your planned budget.

3. Eat wisely 
One of the big expenses anywhere you live in life is going to be food. When many people move abroad (especially if its the first time abroad) they spend way too much money on Western food. Whether it's at the grocery store or in Western restaurant chains, foreigners will spend far too much money on this comfort food. My advice is to eat the local food, as its almost always cheaper than Western food. Also one of the greatest things about traveling is trying new foods. By eating the same thing you'd eat at home, you'll really miss out on the experience. Also, a great way to save money on food anywhere in the world is to cook at home. Restaurants are more expensive than preparing the same meal at home.

4. Shop locally as well
Buying anything that is produced and sold in North America or Europe, in the country you are teaching in, is going to cost significantly more than what you would pay at home. Don't be afraid to try the local brands.

5. Traveling
When people go abroad to teach, they are also usually presented with the opportunity to travel to nearby countries during vacation times. While I have a hard time arguing against travel, if you want to save money you may have to pass up on these opportunities or just travel less. Flights, accommodations, entertainment, etc. while traveling in a new country can be very expensive and eat into those savings that you have worked hard to earn. If you are going to travel, do your research before you go and look for more budget friendly places to visit. Another great suggestion would be travel locally instead. There is probably so much to see and experience in the country you are teaching in. If you live in a big city, travel to the countryside, where life and the culture are probably much different. If you teach in a rural area, visit the big cities.

6. Pick up some extra tutoring work
In many countries, there is often an abundance of private tutoring work available for people who want to work more and earn more money. Often times, you can actually make more money per hour tutoring than in your day job. My only advice on this is make sure tutoring is legal before looking for extra work.

These are just a few of the tips that are out there on saving money while teaching abroad. I'd love to hear some of your tips and strategies if you have taught abroad in the comment section or on my Google+ account.


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