How NOT to Save Money

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #4: Stupidly buy things impulsively

September 3, 2014


We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #4 – Stupidly buy things impulsively

IMG_6824When you move somewhere, you typically don’t know where to buy anything.  You usually need help, and fast!  But that help isn’t always there for you at every moment and you inevitably find yourself out and about, all alone in your new city, making stupid purchases.

Let’s face it, you are basically a tourist when you first arrive at your new placement, and even the smartest tourist (most veteran international school teacher) can make mistakes. When you go out shopping for the first few times, you don’t know exactly what things should cost. You also don’t know exactly what is available in the whole city/area either.

Let’s say that you found some cranberries (not many countries have these readily available to buy in stores) and get super excited.  You think, yes I’ll buy this, I deserve it! You also may think that you will not be able to find them again.  We all know that scenario; the store has a product one week and not (or never again) the next!

You also many think in your head that the cranberries might be costing a crazy high price. However, it is sometimes hard to know because you may not completely understand how much money you are actually spending. In the first few months, you are not so familiar with the new currency that you are now dealing with just yet.  If that is the case, you typically decide to make this impulsive purchase.

Maybe you buy the cranberries because you think that no other store will have them for sale (even though there might be one right next to your school for IMG_0362example). Maybe you made a special trip to an inconvenient location in the city that day, a place that you wouldn’t normally be going to on a weekly basis, and that is the reason you make the purchase.  All of these scenarios add up to you potentially buying something that could be found cheaper somewhere else and maybe even at a place closer to your house (saving you even more money).

During the first few months, international school teachers find themselves spending money on things that can be found cheaper in another place/store. Your goal of saving some money is then put on hold, at least during this time of adjusting to your new city.

You can try and do your research to not let this happen to you; ask around, check out the expat websites for your city, etc.  Doing this before you go out shopping can help you stop making these impulse purchases at stores you don’t know so well.

Another way to not stupidly buy things: always go out shopping with a local (they know the best stores and they know the local language as well) or with another international school teacher that has been there a few years already.IMG_3905

Going shopping in another country can be quite exciting. So many new stores and new products that might very much interest you.  Just make sure to do your research as must and you can to stay the wiser, and you will not be wasting so much of your hard-earned money during the first few months!

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To save you some money, we do have a comment topic on our website related to this theme.  It is in the benefits section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Places, markets and stores where you can find really good deals.

Carrefour has quite a decent selection of imported products. There are also Metro supermarkets around although quite far from WISS. Smaller grocery stores also have good deals from time to time (nearest on Jinfeng lu). For quality meats and other products it’s also possible to shop online and have groceries delivered.” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 93 Comments

There are different areas of the city where sales items tend to concentrate, so ask a local. E-mart is the dominant local discount chain (a cross between Target and K-mart), with reliably low prices. Costco has several branches in Korea–reportedly they recognize US Costco cards.” – Yongsan International School of Seoul (Seoul, South Korea) – 39 Comments

There is a flea market that is on Sundays and Wednesdays, Jakuševac. It is like a bazaar selling everything and you can bargain for the right price. You never know what you will find there, but you will also find something.” – American International School of Zagreb (Zagreb, Croatia) – 29 Comments

In my experience, the best deals have not been deals at all because the quality is questionable. You get what you pay for in Asuncion. The better quality things are almost always more expensive. If something is too cheap, think twice!” – American School of Asuncion (Asuncion, Paraguay) – 58 Comments

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How NOT to Save Money

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #3: Send money home every month (Mortgage, College Debt, etc.)

May 25, 2014


We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #3 – Send money home every month to pay your mortgage, college debt, etc.)

DSC_9710Not all teachers decide to move abroad because they have a sense for adventure. It is because they need to save some money to pay off their debts; which we all know is something hard to accomplish as a teacher back in your home country!

Do you have a similar story?  You just finish getting your Bachelor’s degree and teaching license at a good university (working part-time as well of course). Then you take out one loan (a big one at that) to do your 15-month Master’s degree programme (while continuing to work part-time!).  Finally you receive your license and luckily get a teaching job straight away. You just start getting into the world of the working adult while just starting to pay off your student loans. The payment is so small each month, you hardly see any of your loan amount going down. Then you hear about a programme that states if you work continuously in a school of high poverty for five years, that your government will take some money off of your total loan amount. Finally after working six years and getting a part of your loan paid off by the government, you find it is the right time to finally teach abroad like your friends are doing.  Unfortunately, you DSC_4746still have some of your student loan left to be paid (even after you receive the help from the government).  Also during this time, you bought a house and now have a mortgage payment as well.  Deciding it might be a good idea to rent out your house while you teach abroad, you continue to own it while you set off to your first placement.  To make a long story short, you have two monthly payments that are not going to stop anytime soon.

So the big question is, do you work abroad to save money to pay off your loans or do you work abroad to enjoy the wonderful expat life of traveling and exploring the world?  Can you do both?  Many of us try!

Your original goal of paying off your debt with all this extra money you are making teaching abroad might not happen as quickly as you had originally hoped.  I mean there is always another break coming up and a trip to be planned! And I don’t need to remind you that you might also find your travel money dwindling away as you continue to make those student loan and house payments.  Thus the cycle continues; whatever savings you start to have to help you pay off your loans just gets sucked away into whatever you need to pay for at the time.  There are always things that come up here and there that you need to put your savings towards: deposit for your new apartment, helping a family member in need, etc.

Of course, the easy answer to finally pay off your loans is to just simply stop traveling and going out to eat all the time, but of course that is easier said than IMG_0061done.  Maybe you can earn some extra money by tutoring some kids at your school, but then that takes away from that wonderful expat life as well…causing you to stay late at your school.  I guess there needs to be some give and take somewhere to help you achieve your goal. Where are those international schools again where you can have it all (paying off debts while continue to live the wonderfully exciting life of an expat)?  I’m not for sure they exist.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Maybe after 8-10 years of working abroad you finally have your financial situation under control. You find that you have enough extra savings to make a one-time payment to pay off the rest of your student loan.  Yes, you’d rather use that money to take a trip to the Seychelles, but you know it is something you must do and the time is finally right to do it.

The goal of finally being debt free is a good goal to have. Can you just imagine the life of an expat international school teacher who is debt free?  Now at last you will be saving thousands each month!  {If only it were that easy!}

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10250675_670889319613030_1138008231_nTo save you some money, we do have a comment topic on our website related to this theme.  It is in the benefits section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Average amount of money that is left to be saved.

‘Depending on lifestyle and housing expenses you could save around $10,000US a year.’ – Green School Bali (Denpasar, Indonesia) – 44 Comments

‘The amount that can be saved depends entirely on how teachers choose to spend their money. It’s entirely possible to eat at nice restaurants daily and stay in accommodations that cost 50,000 baht per month or more. However, it’s also possible to stay in a decent condo or apartment for 20,000 – 30,000 baht per month, and spend much less on food and other necessities.’ – NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 29 Comments

‘You can save about 1000 USD a month once you are settled and are able to budget yourself. Of course, the less you do, the more you save.’ – Canadian International School Bangalore (Bangalore, India) – 18 Comments

‘A single person, if they choose to live modestly, could easily save $1000-$2,000 a month. The EPF program also is an automatic savings (retirement) which is an additional savings of $1,000 a month through school and self contribution. That money also earns interest while you live in the country.’ – Mont’Kiara International School (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – 27 Comments

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How NOT to Save Money

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #2: Go out to eat all the time!

March 16, 2014


We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #2 – Go out to eat all the time!

IMAG0333 When you are on a trip, it is easy to spend lots of money going out to eat. I mean most likely you are staying at a hotel or in a room at some hostel and not able to cook a dinner for yourself there.  So you can justify going to a restaurant for both lunch and dinner when traveling.  It is a luxury, that’s for sure, because you wouldn’t normally being going out to eat for lunch and dinner where you are living.  Not unless you are an international school teacher though!

In some locations in the world, you can indeed justify going out to eat for most meals during the week.  I mean it could be that you are living somewhere where the food is really ‘cheap’.  Even if you are making a lot of money (and have your housing, etc. all paid for), it is always nice to get a bargain for your meal and you would be a fool to not take advantage of this supposedly cheap and good-tasting food while you are living in your host country.

You could also justify going out to eat a lot in your currently location because going out to eat is more convenient than going somewhere to buy groceries, and then going back to your home to cook them (for maybe 1-2 hours let’s say…maybe you are short on time as well).

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Some international schools in Shanghai have deals with nearby restaurants which allows for easy ordering if you want to buy a lunch from them.  It is a nice perk if your school is waaaaay out in the suburbs somewhere.  And because it is cheap, why not go for it?

But even in these types of locations where many international school teachers eat out a lot, it can start to get a bit excessive.  All your pocket-money might start to dwindle away.  Additionally, in locations where there is cheap food and you are also making a nice salary, there are also going to be more expensive places to choose to eat at as well.  It is nice to live it up and take advantage of the expat life in most cities in the world, but there is a price to pay for that kind of lifestyle and you must be mindful of the amount of money you are actually spending!  At some of these ‘expat-priced’ restaurants you pay a premium to get the style of food that expats like.  Problem is that you most likely would NOT pay the same price for that same food in your home counties.  A ‘you deserve it’ attitude comes into play and your wallet pays the cost.

IMAG0117Now to the locations where it is ridiculously expensive to eat out, let’s say Norway.  What is an international school teacher to do then?  Going out to a restaurant in these expensive cities will really take a toll on our bank account.  Some people though still choose to do it.  I think it is related to the idea that they are still ‘traveling’ in their host country.  Like I said before, when you are traveling, you go out to eat all the time.  Not all teachers do it in these expensive cities, but some do and it can get out of control real quick.  Gotta be careful so that you are saving some money as well.

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To save you some money, we do have a comment topic on our website related to this theme.  It is in the city section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Name your favorite restaurants, favorite places to go to and favorite things to do in the city.

‘Spanish Stairs is the great place to hang out. It has many nice shops, restaurants and a beautiful view, especially in the sunset. For restaurants, I recommend Pastaritto-Pizzaritto in Via Quattro Novembre. Prices are decent and the food is delicious.’ – Marymount International School (Rome) (Rome, Italy) – 7 Comments

‘I like “Witwe Polte”. It’s a small restaurant in the 7th district. It’s called the Spittelberg area, where you can also find a beautiful Christmas market in winter.’ – AMADEUS International School Vienna (Vienna, Austria) – 13 Comments

‘There are some great places to eat near and in the main market, Mahane Yehuda. There are always people around there and it is very lively. Though it can be a bit touristy, there are also a lot of locals that are here as well.’ – Jerusalem American International School (Jerusalem, Israel) – 8 Comments

‘It is a bit touristy, but there are many restaurants around the Dam tram stop. Just a short 5-7 minute walk in many directions you can find some cozy restaurants to eat at. There are Christmas markets already set up right now, it is nice to walk around during the evening.’ – International School Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Netherlands) – 26 Comments

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How NOT to Save Money

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #1: Go travel crazy!

November 30, 2013


We all hear about the big possibility of saving while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t. So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

1269203_10151627517416587_2134762640_oHow NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #1 – Go travel crazy! (Take a trip during every break opportunity you get!)

We feel uncomfortable when we don’t have our next trip planned. Some of us even feel uncomfortable when we don’t have 2 or 3 trips planned to look forward to.

It is even worse when your colleagues have their trip planned and you don’t!

And even worse than that is when your colleagues copy the same trips that you are going on.  Ha ha!

So if you have enough money to travel with (because you are not paying for a car, car insurance, cable tv, etc…), then why not take this opportunity in your life and explore the world?  But all these trips can indeed add up and deplete your bank account, and you can’t necessarily be traveling to the Maldives during every break you have.

It depends a lot on where you are living too; how expensive these trips that you may be buying.  You might have to spend a lot of money if you are traveling from a rather small airport or from an airport that is in the middle of nowhere.  Flying out of those cities can really ‘break the bank’ in your feeble attempt to travel and also save money at your international school.

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Some say too that the day of finding cheap trips is over with.  Low cost airlines are not really so low cost anymore with all their extra add on fees *e.g. to check in a bag.  If you are not smart about when you buy the flights and what websites that you use to buy them on, then you will be paying a lot more money for your flights than you could be paying.

How sad when your friend has found a good airfare and then 5 minutes later when you buy the exact same trip, the price has gone up.  Flight prices change all the time and can change rather quickly.  Buying at the right times can help you save at least a little bit of money as you go travel crazy.

So, how many flights a year are international school teachers taking each school year?  It is probably between 15-20.  And to make things

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worse, we feel like any number less than 10 flights a year is hardly traveling at all (‘Groan’…said all your friends in your home country).  Maybe to save a little bit more money, we can try and cut down our number of trips a year, but that seemly is….unlikely!

To save you some money, we do have a comment topic related to this theme.  It is in the travel section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Sample travel airfares from host city airport to destinations nearby.

‘Just paid $2000 for round trip to U.S. in Dec.’ – Okpo International School (14 Total Comments)

‘It’s not the cheapest destination to fly from. Expect $1000 to fly internationally, and during holiday periods airfares to popular destinations (Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia) can get close to that.’ – Beijing BISS International School (32 Total Comments)

‘Since Bangkok is a major travel hub, airfares to surrounding countries are almost always available at less than US $1000, and deals can be found with just a bit of work.’ – Wells International School (Thailand) (17 Total Comments)

Checking out these comments before taking a job at an international school can give you a better idea of the amount of money that you can expect to pay for flights out of that city.

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