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So you want to travel the world? Or maybe make a life change? Live in a new country? You don’t have to be rich to do it, but if you don’t want to come running home in a few months you have to be smart and prepare to move abroad. Everyone wants to “save money” in life but there are some specific helpful ways to save money before moving abroad that can help you prepare for this life change.
These are all money saving tips that we personally used to save thousands of dollars before moving abroad. In the end, no matter how great of tips these are, what really makes the difference is all the little moments and small decisions you have to constantly make in the name of saving money.
It comes down to your priorities: how much do you want this? What are you willing to give up for this? And are you ready to become disciplined and financially responsible?
This is the number one rule of budgeting no matter what the end goal is and yet one of the hardest rules for people to follow. You need to set a budget for yourself and a goal for how much money you need to save before moving abroad. In order to reach that goal, you most likely will have to start eliminating or changing some habits from your lifestyle. And when it gets hard because everyone else is out at the bar or buying new clothes, remember, you don’t want what everyone else wants and thus your actions have to reflect that.
This can be hard because we grow attached to the “things” that make up our cozy little corner of the universe. However, unless you moving abroad for a very certain, short, fixed amount of time and already have a moving home plan, you will be best off selling most of what you own. This accomplished two things: you get money to put towards your moving abroad fund and you get rid of unnecessary things that you would have otherwise had to store.
I was hesitant to this one at first but quickly came around to it. Before moving abroad we lived in Philadelphia and found several dressers and a bookshelf in our back courtyard that someone put out for the trash because they were moving. We decided to take it, clean it up and were able to sell each peice of furniture for more than $100 dollars on Facebook Marketplace. We continued to do this with random furniture we would find that was put out on the side of the road as “trash.” The best places to sell your belongings (or things your find) are Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other apps such as Let Go.
No more “budgeting” by stopping spending money when your bank account gets to zero. If you want big results you need to put a strict system in place. Remember, this is not forever, but a budget is necessary to have in place so that you can refer to it and track your spending. Whenever friends want to go play mini golf, you can accurately look at your budget and be able to determine if you can go. No one said budget was fun, but it is necessary and will pay off when you are sippin’ on coconuts on a beach in Thailand this time next year.
This is by far the easiest and most obviously thing that you should ELIMINATE from your life completely. My friends would easily spend $100/night going out between drinks, taxis and late night food. I’m not saying be anti social and completely ditch your friends but you may need to skip out on the bars from now on and stop buying wine to have on Mondays while watching the Bachelor. Again, everything comes down to priorities. So if you are questioning if this one is necessary, just remember your goals in 6 months are to be flying to Barcelona for a weekend trip while your friends are not saving for a big life change like that. You have to make moving abroad your number one priority and anything that does not support that goal, is no longer a priority.
I know we are all tired of hearing people tell us to stop our Starbucks habit in order to save money but it’s true. Although the alternative coffee may not bring you as much joy and flavor, this tip is a no brainer. You most likely won’t be frequently Starbucks every day living abroad anyways so start the habit now and do your bank account a favor.
If you don’t yet have a credit card you NEED to get one. Despite building credit in your name, let’s talk about the other more fun benefits: travel hacking! Since you are moving abroad it is inevitable that you will be traveling quite a bit and purchasing flights, trains, hotels ect. You could be earning and using points for all of this! This is one of my favorite ways to save money. There are also often sign on bonuses for many travel points credit cards so I recommend getting a card a few months before moving abroad and trying to sign up when there is a deal. However, I do NOT recommend using the credit card to pay for things leading up to your move that you cannot afford with cash. Use it as much as you can to earn points, but don’t just use it if you are going to rack up debt. Debt does not balance out the travel points.
In America, like many other Western countries, it is more expensive to eat out than it is to buy groceries. Therefore, making all our meals at home became another staple money saving habit. Before moving abroad we limited ourselves to eating out one time per week. Everything else we cooked at home including preparing all out lunches for work. Just on lunces alone, this tip saved me almost $200 a month (per person)!
Putting all these new “rules” and tips in place in simply not enough. You need to map out your personal budget based on your goals and needs AND THEN track your spending. I do this as part of my life habits regardless of moving abroad. However, I always stress this for anyone struggling with budgeting and if you have a specific end goal in mind that you are budgeting for. I recommend NOT using cash. Only use your debit or credit card (even if you buy a stick of gum) that way you have all your purchases recorded in one place. Then each week you need to review everything you’ve purchased as well as your fixed expenses and track them in your tracker. It is important to do this weekly so that you are aware of how you are doing. If you had an expensive week, you can make up for it next week. But it is much hard to come to the end of a month and try and make up for 4 weeks of bad financial habits or mistakes.
Once you have a good handle on your current budget and tracking system, now you need to project your future budget, travel expenses and how much savings you need. You will need to make sure that you are making enough money with your job abroad to survive. Whether you are teaching English or launching your own digital nomad online business, you need to do some financial planning for estimated income and budget to give yourself some savings and wiggle room. I highly recommend downloading my Free Moving Abroad Budget Tracker in order to estimate these numbers as well as figure out how much you need to save!
Fixed costs are often something that we don’t think about when budgeting because the are not something you choose to go buy at Target one week. However these costs are flat rates and the easiest numbers to control your budget with because they are fixed, you don’t have to estimate anything. Go ahead and start cutting unnecessary fixed costs out such as cable and Netflix or maybe even your fancy gym. Although you can never eliminate utilities being aware of your usage throughout the month and the cost can also help cut down your bill each month. Again, many of these luxuries will be different or non existent when moving abroad so you are simple starting some of your new habit early! Just think about all the fun, exotic things you’ll be able to do with that cable bill money from every month!
This goes along with fixed monthly costs however this extends beyond Netflix and Hulu. Over time we often sign up for a million email lists, rewards cards and subscriptions. Do an overhaul of your inbox and monthly credit card charges to decide what subscriptions you still need to keep while living abroad as well as to find any hidden subscriptions you maybe forgot you were still paying for.
Instead of watching TV, read a business book or start learning new online skills, plus let’s be real, we all know SOMEONE who we can BORROW their Netflix password from for a few months
This tip can be a bit more of a gray area but is an easy trap to fall in to. When moving abroad you are most likely going to have to buy a few things before you go such as a new backpack, suitcase or maybe a jacket. However, don’t forget that your regular purchasing habits of buying clothes for next season are now an unnecessary purchase. Unless it is deemed necessary for moving abroad, is not available to purchase once you move abroad and it can fit in your suitcase/backpack, it should NOT be purchased. Otherwise it will be sitting in a bin in your parents basement in a few months time.
If you still need more ways to save money before moving abroad I recommend starting a side hustle. There are tons of ways to make money online that are quick, short term concepts rather than basises for online businesses. You can babysit, dog sit, pick up a weekend job, sell things etc. Try reading through some posts of ways to earn money online for short term goals and see what fits your schedule and budget goals.
Now you have all the tools and knowledge you need to get organized and get on top of your budget in order to be fully prepared before moving abroad.
Post in our Facebook group showing us you in action saving money before your move abroad and which tip helped you the most!
We are a couple that travels the world full time while running our own online businesses. We want to be your one stop shop for a location independent lifestyle full of travel inspiration and useful tools and knowledge to grow your own online business.