8 Ways to Save Money as an Expat Living Abroad
There are plenty of reasons why people say goodbye to their family, friends and familiar routines – and hello to life as an expat. Perhaps it’s for a great job opportunity. Maybe it’s to immerse in another culture, embrace courage and tackle fears, and expand horizons.
But what’s more than clear is that no one trades in their comfort zone in order to become an expat pauper. Getting yourself set up from scratch in a brand new country is no cheap business, and without the right street smarts, research, tips, and advice, any financial gains can easily be gobbled up in a litany of unforeseen costs.
Not sure where to start for the best expat money saving tips? Why not right here?!
1. Stick to a budget
Perhaps you’ve embraced expat life because you’re a bit of a free spirit – and good on you! But if you take that free spirit attitude to your budgeting, you could find yourself penniless in no time flat.
Expat or not, we should all have some sort of budget and basically stick to it. But for the expat outside of the usual support network and facing a lot of upfront and unforeseen costs, it’s particularly important.
The key to a good budget is prioritization. Start with what’s important, which will often leave you with not too much left in the piggy bank for things you can probably do without. Anything saved, put into savings, investments or an emergency fund – because rainy days as an expat can be particularly rainy.
2. Compare prices
Like making a budget, comparing prices is also something everyone should do. But it’s especially important for an expat because you will lack a lot of the insider cultural knowledge that gives us a great intuition about what is a good price back at home.
We’re talking about the obvious things like mobile phone and other utility contracts, but also the less obvious ones like exchange rates. As an expat, you’re very likely to be transferring money quite regularly between Australia and your new home, and sticking to your familiar money transferring option like a major bank may give you anything but the best exchange rates.
For example, sticking with the Commonwealth Bank might be easy, but CBA exchange rates won’t stack up favorably against many specialist online providers – so long as you find the reputable ones with the best deals. So get comparing and save an awful lot of expat cash.
3. Review your expat lifestyle
Back home, you might have stayed home with Netflix on quite a few Saturday nights explicitly to save money. But suddenly, you’re in an exotic overseas location and tempted to live the high life – and not quite having the income to back up that expensive lifestyle.
So without saying goodbye to a bit of glamour altogether, don’t lose sight of your actual expat plan – which may be to advance your career, grab new opportunities that will pay off in the future, and try to put some money away.
A smarter option for you might be to simplify your life and not blow it all in the high street shops, cafes, and clubs – and look back at your expat life one day in the future as a time in which you embraced adventure and a new challenge without wasting boatloads of money.
4. Make smart local choices
Life as an expat may mean you’re out of your comfort zone, but that can’t be an excuse for making silly choices with your money and blaming it on local ignorance.
Let’s take a big up-front expense as an example: furniture. It may be cheaper to set sail overseas without your furniture and then buy second-hand once you’re there. But you won’t be making the most of this ‘smart’ decision if you wander into the wrong second-hand shops and end up with a room full of expensive gear that cost more than just shipping your existing stuff over from Australia.
Another example is your weekly shopping. Back home, you knew instinctively what supermarkets and items were the best value, so you’ll have to get up to speed pretty quickly about acquiring the same local knowledge in your new country. Our advice? Make smart local friends, quick-smart.
5. Don’t stop investing
If you invested back home, don’t stop purely because you’re becoming an expat. Don’t forget the reason you invest in the first place is to build wealth – and being in a new location is a new and exciting money-making opportunity to potentially embrace.
Even getting started as a brand new investor might make sense in your adopted country, given the different currencies, jurisdictions, markets and tax treatments you may be exposed and entitled to.
It might also make great sense to put on your investment hat with regards to the life you’re leaving behind back home. For instance, you might consider renting out your house and investing the income in shares, stocks or another mortgage. Just make sure you can afford what you’re getting yourself into, do your research, seek some expert advice, and understand both the rewards and the risks.
The final tip: Never stop looking for expat tips!
Of course, there are plenty of other money saving tips out there for expats, so the final tip is to never stop looking for them and putting them to good use! The expat lifestyle may be exciting and horizon-expanding, but with the right planning and advice, it can definitely make great money sense too. Good luck!