If you live abroad or you’re thinking about living abroad, and you want to save money, this article is for you. Stick around to find out my top 10 tips for saving money while living abroad, and read to the end to find out my 3 bonus pieces of advice, which if you follow, you can change your financial future!
One thing to keep in mind before we get started, is that spending money is often an emotional response. If you get to the bottom of why you are spending so much, and attack the issue at its source, you can overcome this problem once and for all.
10 Best Money Saving Tips for Expats
1. Cut out daily coffee.
This is a no-brainer, and it’s an easy adjustment to make. If you’re going to Starbucks once a day and spending $5 per day on coffee, that amounts to $140 a month and $1,820 per year. Make your own coffee at home and invest the savings!
2. Get rid of debt
Getting rid of student loans and credit card debt was the most important thing I ever did. It’s not easy, but if you make yourself a goal and even make some sacrifices to work in another country where you can earn more than your home country, you will be able to get out of debt.
Also, if you understand that spending with a credit card is an addiction, you can treat the problem at its source. Try and replace the activity of shopping and spending money with something else that’s productive, healthier and less expensive, like reading a book or taking a walk.
Then reward yourself each time you successfully avoid unnecessary spending. And if you want to go abroad to make more money and increase your saving potential, stick around until the end to find out my bonus tips for how I did it!
3. Use Splitwise
Splitwise is an app that allows you to track what you spend in conjunction with others, like your spouse or friends, and then splits the amounts for you. That way, you know exactly what you spend and what you owe.
You can also track additional expenditures that you make on your own, and the app gives you handy reports at the end of every month.
4. Have a budget
This is also a no-brainer and if you are not doing this already, you need to start doing it today. Here are some easy steps to start your budgeting system:
- Spend one month observing how much you spend normally, and add up your expenditures.
- Take a look at it. If you think your spending is too much in one area, make a goal to reduce it.
- Set limits for spending in each area.
- Track how much you spend during the month, sticking to your limits. You can use a simple excel spreadsheet or an app to enter in all of your expenditures.
- Try this for 3 months. Challenge yourself to stick to the limits you have set for this period, and reward yourself for sticking to them.
Check out my YouTube video “How to Save Money as an Expat”
5. Live minimally, get rid of excess stuff.
It costs too much to ship things from place to place, so if you’re an expat, you’re best off getting rid of your attachment to things. After all, happiness is not built by being surrounded by mounds of useless stuff! If you’re an expat or you want to move abroad, life gets easier the more stuff you get rid of.
Believe me, I used to be a pack-rat. I used to collect souvenirs from every place, and keep lots of clothing, books and other general “stuff.”
Then I got smart. I got rid of most of my stuff when I was making a transition from Italy to India, and here’s how I did it:
I had three months, so I made a goal to get rid of 4 bags of stuff every weekend until my departure.
Some of that was trash and some of that was giveaways, like books, clothes, and pieces of furniture.
By emptying out 4 bags of stuff per weekend, the whole ordeal was much more manageable, and less overwhelming. I also focused on ONE area per weekend.
For example, one closet, or one corner of my house.
By breaking up this huge piece of work into bite-sized pieces, I was able to evaluate–with a clear head–all of my belongings and properly decide what to do with them.
By the end of the 3 months, I had decluttered my whole house, downsized everything into 2 suitcases and I was ready for my departure for India.
6. Cancel monthly subscriptions and apps.
We may subscribe unknowingly to too many apps and services, especially if you are an apple slave with an iPhone. IPhone makes it too easy to subscribe to apps which may seem inexpensive—3 dollars here and 10 dollars there, but over time, those add up.
Well, my rule is that if I haven’t used an app or service in 3 months, it deserves canceling.
To check your subscriptions on iPhone and cancel them:
- Tap on Settings
- Tap on your name at the top
- Tap on subscriptions to view them
Whatever you’re not using, just cancel it!
7. Minimize expenditures on hair and beauty treatments.
This one and the next one are for the ladies out there. Maybe some guys too. You may be one of those people who likes to get highlights in your hair, but let’s just think about two things for one minute.
First the cost. If you spend $75 every 6 weeks to get highlights, well that amounts to approximately $650 per year!
And then, for the second thing, remember that natural is always better. Stop the highlights, let your natural beauty shine through, and your hair, as well as your wallet, will be much healthier!
Similarly, stop it with the manicures, pedicures, eyebrows, and other beauty procedures that you can do on your own. You can paint your own nails and you can pluck your own eyebrows!
If you spend $70 on a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow waxing, and you do that every 3 weeks, that’s approximately $1,200 dollars per year!
8. Choose restaurants carefully and minimize eating out.
I don’t want to underestimate the need to eat out once in a while, because let’s face it: cooking is tiring and time-consuming. That’s why eating out is important sometimes; after all, time is money! Just be sure to choose restaurants that don’t break your budget. My general rule is to limit eating out to two times per week, and to choose restaurants that provide good value for money. Sure, you can splurge sometimes on special occasions!
9. Go for budget travel vs. lavish vacations
You don’t have to give up your love of traveling to save money! I frequently go on trips but book everything myself on budget websites like skyscanner.net for flights, and booking.com or Airbnb.com for accommodation.
All other trips and adventures while traveling are self-organized and I feel this is the best way to travel and also explore new places.
The last one always gets some raised eyebrows and futile protests, so please, be sure you’re sitting down for this one.
10. Give up your TV!
I made a decision over 15 years ago to live without a TV. After all, TV is often:
- An addiction
- A time-waster
- A brain-drain
- A money-waster
If you think about how much you spend on cable channels per year, even if you spend on the low end of $25 per month for your boob tube addiction, that amounts to $300 a year, which could be spent on a round-trip air ticket!
Let’s not forget all the time you spend watching TV, which could be redirected towards building your business.
So there you have my 10 tips for saving money, but it’s not over! I also have 3 more pieces of advice which I left at the end for you die-hard savers. But first, let’s look at our totals from implementing just a few of the above tips.
If you do the following:
Cut out daily coffee = $1820
Minimize expenditures on hair = $650
Do your own beauty procedures = $1200
Cut out TV = $300
Total = Almost $4000 per year of savings!!!
Bonus Money Saving Tips for Expats
1. Give up driving!
Now, just like my number 10 in the main list, this tip is a little radical, and I realize, not for everyone. I often get a lot of mudslinging comments about this one, as anxious protestors insist: but, but but I need a car!
“How can I take my kids to their soccer practices and …and…how can I go anywhere?”
So before you start to hyperventilate, keep in mind that I realize not everyone can just give up their car.
It’s a lifestyle choice and one that every individual has to make.
I happen to live in Italy, in a small city, where you don’t need a car, and I can ride my bike or walk everywhere, but I CHOSE to settle here partially because of the fact that you don’t need a car.
If you want to become an expat who is perpetually traveling and seeing the world, you may want to choose your home base as one which can have a no-car lifestyle.
Speaking of living abroad, that brings me to number 2:
2. Work in a country with a high salary and low taxes.
In 2016 I made a choice to work and live in Saudi Arabia for a few years. Now, that country unfortunately gets a bad rap in the media, but actually it’s a wonderful place to live and work.
There are countless professional opportunities and the people are amazing.
Moreover, I earned enough to buy two apartments in Italy and put one of them on rent, which brings me to my third and final piece of advice:
3. Buy a piece of property and rent it out!
Developing real wealth means beginning to generate some passive income, and one great way to do that is to buy property and rent it out. Now of course, technically there are not many truly passive income sources, because there is always work involved in setting them up. But once you invest the time and energy into it, the earnings can be a great steady stream of earnings.
Why don’t you consider taking a job for a few years in the Middle East, where you can earn a high tax-free salary, get yourself out of debt, buy some property, and then start earning yourself some passive income!
In conclusion, as the cost of living abroad increases, expats should constantly review their expenses. These tips will help them save more and plan for the future.
Best of luck on your money-saving journey. Stay tuned for more articles on expat life, business abroad, and intercultural skills, and if you want to learn more, please be sure to check out the following videos:
Founder of Cheryl Obal & Associates
Cheryl Obal & Associates is a cross-cultural training and consulting company that helps businesses improve their cross-cultural competence.
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