Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #4 (Extravagant Vacations)

December 19, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last month we introduced the avoiding large purchases topic as a way for international teachers to save $$.

Helpful Hint #4: Extravagant Vacations

The final savings destroyer is extravagant vacations.

Now, these are far less common because of the COVID global pandemic, but revenge vacations are starting to emerge. We all need vacations, they are good for us physically, mentally, and emotionally. There is however a wide range on what international teachers can spend on a vacation.

A family of 4 can spend anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 USD on a vacation. Following the Silk Road, exploring Japan tip to tip, and cruising the Galapagos Islands are memorable once-in-a-lifetime vacations. They will make your Facebook account look great, and will make you the envy of all your friends back home in the snow, but is it worth it? The answer to that is a personal choice. For some, those vacations are why we became international teachers in the first place, so the answer for them is YES – It is worth it!

As a super-saver, I’ve done all those vacations without breaking my savings pledge. I’ve backpacked the Silk Road with our 3-year old boy, I’ve hitchhiked across rural Japan, and used local ferries to ping pong around the Galapagos Islands. We got some strange looks, got lost more times than I can remember, and made great friends along the way.

When borders re-open, and travel begins again for you in your host country, look at your bank account and see how much you saved on not going on vacations last year during the big lockdown.

Finding a vacation that provides you the necessary physical and mental recharge is important, just make sure it doesn’t drain your bank account and put you in a financially vulnerable position. International school enrollment is down globally because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and schools are looking at any way to get financial relief. Having a good nest egg to carry you for 6 months can offer a lot of comfort in these unstable times. 

Stay tuned next month for Tip #5 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #3

November 11, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last month we introduced the housing package topic as a way for international teachers to save $$.

Helpful Hint #3: Avoid Large Purchases

As an expatriate teacher, I have never needed a car, even though many of my colleagues have one. It’s a great luxury, but also a great expense when you consider gas, insurance, maintenance, license plate, and the loss in resale value. Uber is available in just about all counties now, and if a car is really necessary, a short-term rental can be obtained economically.

Avoiding the big purchases will make for better savings and fewer inconveniences when it comes time to move to the next assignment. Anyone who had to move without a shipping allowance understands the pain of letting go of your expensive cappuccino machine for pennies on the dollar.

Never own anything you can’t walk away from in 20 minutes. When the COVID-19 pandemic first came, and many teachers were locked out of their work country, saying goodbye to everything was very real. Teachers lost baby photos, family heirlooms, and all their personal belongings. One friend of mine who got locked out of China told me, “All my stuff wasn’t worth anything anyway”, and moved on happily. Others are still fighting with schools and governments to get back what was lost.

Having some creature comforts are important, especially with lockdowns and quarantine. Just be aware that having a new 80’ Smart TV is great, but you’ll never get back the money you invested. Avoiding large purchases can help you reach your savings goals.

Stay tuned next month for Tip #4 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #2

September 29, 2021


As a career international teacher, I am happy to continue this series on Save $$$ ANYWHERE! Last week we introduced the 70% target for savings as an international teacher.

Helpful Hint #2: Housing Package

When moving to a new country for a new teaching assignment, there is always a transition period. Culture shock is real and different for everyone. Some teachers can hit the ground running, some take a few weeks or months, and some break contract and never transition. Moving is hard, and international schools understand that a proper induction program can make-or-break a new teacher. The first impulse when arriving is to surround yourself with “comfort stuff”.

When relocating to a new country, housing is one of the most important factors in accepting an assignment. Some schools offer a housing allowance, others offer discounted housing, and some offer fully furnished, and fully subsidized housing. These details are important and often glazed over during the recruitment phase. Asking lots of questions is important to understanding the full cost of relocation.

A colleague of mine was looking for a new school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he asked the school for a larger housing allowance, as he did the research and found out the allowance would only support a studio apartment. Living in a studio was unacceptable for him, so he asked for a housing allowance that would pay for a 1 bedroom. The answer was a harsh “NO – the terms of the contract are non-negotiable”. My friend smiled at me and said, “Wow I guess the reports on this school were true, no wonder they are struggling to find teachers”. Doing your homework and due diligence can uncover many red flags, and set you nicely up to reach your savings goals.

International teachers generally only stay at an International School for an average of 2.4 years. The money that you spend on your relocation, you will almost never get back. This is a sunk cost, and understanding what you are moving into can help increase your savings, and speed up your acclimatization to your new home.

Stay tuned next month for Tip #3 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Save Money Anywhere

Save $$$ at International Schools ANYWHERE: Tip #1

August 30, 2021


As a career international teacher, I have had to learn the hard way about international school finances and savings. As an established teaching nomad, I have made the conscious choice of forgoing my national teachers’ pension and accepting the reality that when retirement comes, I will be fully responsible.

Having worked in 4 schools, on 4 different continents, I have learned that work contracts never tell you enough about the real cost of living. Many international teachers find it hard to save money, as the cost of an expat-lifestyle can be more costly than our home country.

It is possible to save ANYWHERE, but it does require a plan and some helpful hints from teachers that have worked in the international teaching circuit for a number of years.

Helpful Hint #1: Save 70% of your Salary (Anywhere)!!!!

In every country, I have always saved at least 70% of my salary.

For countries around the Indian subcontinent of South Asia, that is very easy because of an exceptionally low cost of living. I managed to save 97% of my salary simply by eating locally, avoiding restaurants that never agreed with my gastrointestinal tract, and only succumbing to the $9 bag of Doritos on super special occasions. 

While working in China, the online food applications were a lifesaver, as the food was at your door faster than you could walk to the grocery store. A little help from locals with a basic understanding of Chinese was needed, but after the learning curve was mastered, the savings were exponential.

Many of my colleagues would shop exclusively at the expat grocery store and spend more on one meal than I would for an entire week. The high cost of expat food is justified in the name of organic, natural, GMO-free food, that was grown with the same soil and water as everything else. Yes, you can buy the $5 green pepper if it makes you feel better and safer, but that security is mostly an illusion. In China, you can easily spend half your salary on food and daily living. Starbucks can be delivered to your school, but the local apps are just as good and less than half the price.

Anywhere you live, saving 70% of your salary is not only possible but easy to achieve.

Stay tuned next month for Part 2 on Save $$$ ANYWHERE!

This article was submitted by an ISC member and veteran international school teacher. If you are interested in being a guest author on our blog, please contact us here.

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Highlighted Articles

Be a Financially Empowered Expat Teacher!

September 19, 2020


My name is Sorcha Coyle and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the last 8 years. I have always taught local students and I love the unique cultural insight that this has given me. Outside work, I love travelling (not at the moment, of course! #flattenthecurve) and the sunny expat lifestyle! In my time abroad, I have been fortunate enough to save six figures, which I have used to purchase 2 properties (a 4-bedroomed house in my home country and a 3-bed apartment in Spain), start a profitable investment portfolio, complete my Masters, set up a side business, and travel the world. Today I will talk about my “why” and how it pushes me to save more and more each year. Then I will share my “how” with you, so you can boost your savings too!

Why?

9 years ago, when I lived in the UK, I was working at a lovely school but because of my long hours and low pay, I was incredibly stressed and overwhelmed. I was spending well over 50% of my salary on rent (in a shared apartment) and after council tax and bills; I was barely breaking even each month. Meanwhile back in my home country of Ireland, we were facing our worst economic crash. In 2008, the construction industry collapsed. Businesses went bankrupt. Property values plummeted. Almost overnight, hundreds of thousands of citizens lost their jobs. Honest hardworking people couldn’t repay their mortgages. Many lost their homes. From that moment on, I swore to myself that I would be financially empowered. I wanted to have peace of mind no matter the state of the economy. Soon I realised that I had to take a drastic step to fulfill this goal, so after much research, I moved to the Gulf region in 2011. As an expat there, I have job security, a great salary, zero rent, and zero tax- what is not to love about it?

It is true that the expat life has so many wonderful aspects- the high salary, the job security, the sun, and the standard of living. However, it has one downside- it is unpredictable. We might plan to teach here forever with its tax-free salary and perks, but life here can change in the blink of an eye. We might lose our job (sadly more common since COVID reared its ugly head), do something silly and get deported, or we may have to go home for family reasons. Whatever the reason, we want to have something to show for all our hard work.

Moreover, many of us are no longer paying into our private teaching pension at home, which means we must have alternative methods to fund a comfortable retirement that will allow us to lead the kind of life we have now. Speaking of pensions, right now we have longer to work before retirement (until 68 instead of 65) to qualify for the state pension. Unfortunately, by the time we get closer to retirement, the state pension age may even have been pushed up to 74 years.

From the day I began teaching abroad, I realised the incredible saving potential that this situation gave me and made a decision there and then to maximise it to its fullest.

How?

Regardless of where we work, us single teachers have a great opportunity to save tonnes and set ourselves up for life, financially.

How much you save all depends on 2 factors:

1) How much you want and plan to save

2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can

Let me go into more detail…

1) How much you want and plan to save

Saving does not happen by chance; you must absolutely plan for it. You need to set a financial goal, make a budget, and then work hard to stick to it to achieve it. I highly recommend setting SMART financial goals. This means that your goals are:

  • Specific: You have a specific amount of money in mind.
  • Measurable: You can break your goal down and set yourself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart your progress.
  • Attainable/achievable: This is REALLY IMPORTANT! Look at your monthly salary to make sure your monthly saving allows you to live as well!
  • Realistic: AGAIN, this is REALLY IMPORTANT! While you are working abroad, you have to enjoy yourself too by socialising, travelling, etc., so if what you need for a house deposit is completely unrealistic in a 2-year timeframe, then either look at a smaller and cheaper property or decide to commit to living abroad for 3 or 4 years instead. Sometimes, you will be homesick and lonely as an expat teacher, so feeling like you’re broke all the time while you save will probably discourage you from staying and ruin your expat experience!
  • Timed: If you plan to work abroad for 2 years, break it down into months and weeks, i.e. 24 months = 104 weeks to save it up. This makes your goal seem a lot more attainable. If 2 years is not enough to save for your house deposit, then perhaps extend your timeframe to 3 or 4 years of teaching abroad? Again, break it down into months and weeks to know how much to save each week, month, etc.

From Day 1 in Qatar, I told myself I’d save €100,000 before I turned 30. I don’t even know where I plucked that number from- it just seemed like a nice round number! By having this SMART financial goal, I was focused and knew that I had to save a certain amount each month. It also continuously motivated me as I would have a competition with myself and try to beat my previous month’s savings! I was 25 when I moved to Doha and I managed to smash that goal when I left 4 years later at the grand old age of 29. However, I didn’t reach my savings goal just from sticking to a budget and saving as much of my teaching salary as possible. I knew that if I wanted to accelerate my ability to save, I would have to increase my (streams of) income! Read more below….

2) Your desire to do extra to save as much as you can

In addition to saving as much of my teaching salary as possible, I do a few more things too…

  • I only apply to schools whose packages include a decent rent allowance rather than school accommodation because I know how much it can boost my savings provided the amount is equal to or above the rent of a one-bed apartment in a nice part of the city in question. I then rent a studio, so I can pocket the difference! Last year, I saved $7900 of my rent allowance by doing exactly that.
  • During my summer holidays, I always spend a month working as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Teacher at a summer school in the UK.
  • I have a side business called Teach Abroad Transformation, which teaches future and current expat teachers how to craft an outstanding CV and cover letter that guarantees them an interview for every single teaching job abroad they apply to.
  • I tutored students of all ages most evenings in Qatar.
  • For a few years, I would work in a friend’s parents’ shop in my hometown for a few weeks in the summer (after my month at the summer school in the UK!), which I absolutely loved!

All those actions above have helped me reach my target of saving six figures in 8 years, so these small “sacrifices” are 100% worth it! What can you do this year to boost your savings?

As well as teaching full-time, I am also the founder of Empowering Expat Teachers and my mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives! Follow me on Facebook, IG, and my blog for lots of helpful tips and advice to help you become an empowered expat teacher too! I have recently set up the Financially Empowered Expat IG that focuses exclusively on saving more, earning more, and retiring with more and you can find me @thefinanciallyempoweredexpat on IG!

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