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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Comment Topic Highlight

How much can international teachers actually save?

July 26, 2019


A lot of us have the idea that working at international school is a way to work and then save way more money than we used to working in our home countries.

Is that reality or fantasy?

We have seen and read many discussion boards, Facebook groups, review websites, published books all discussing this topic, and the reality of this savings potential gets confusing and complicating to fully understand or predict.

There are some people that state they are saving upwards of USD 60000 a year at certain international schools. Many other people are stating that they are struggling to save USD 1000 or even USD 500 a month working at their international school. Even others state that they are saving USD 0!

Of course there are many factors at play. Veteran international school teachers will state that if you limit the number of times you go out to eat, travel during your many vacations, ect. then the possibility of saving money is higher. That is obvious, but a large number of us aren’t always willing to do that, at least not in the first few years of teaching abroad.

Another main factor for savings potential is the amount of money you are getting in your take-home salary versus the cost of living where you are stationed. Seems like fewer and fewer schools are getting that “amazing salary and benefits package” that we all hear about, and landing a job at one of those schools is getting increasingly difficult.

There are also many, many other ways to NOT save money while working abroad; many of these factors having nothing directly to do with the school’s salary and benefits package. We have a whole ISC blog series about that here.

But if one of the main goals of teaching abroad is saving some money, then we need something to help us figure out how it all works and how we can set up an opportunity that will help us actually save.

ISC has done their best to create an online community that can help us figure things out easier with regards to saving money while teaching abroad. Besides the comments that members submit about the savings potential on the school profile pages at their international schools, premium members are also able to compare these comments on savings potential using our unique Compare Schools page on our website. The Compare Schools page is really helping prospective teachers figure out exactly how much teachers are saving at those international schools and which school that they would prefer working at in the future.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to this topic of saving money while work at international schools. Our members can share what their experience has been working at various international schools around the world. There are a total of 630 comments (July 2019) that have been submitted by our veteran international school teachers in one of the 66 comment topics called – “Average amount of money that is left to be saved.”

Here are a few of those submitted comments:

“The ability to save changes each day, and has dropped by 1/2 this year. With the current inflation rate, I hope to save about $10,000 this coming year…” –
Escuela Bella Vista Maracaibo (Maracaibo, Venezuela) – 25 Total Comments

“I would be surprised if you can save any money here. But on the other hand – you get to live on the one of the most beautiful islands in the world…” – Boracay European International School (Boracay, Philippines) – 17 Comments

“If staff leads a very humble lifestyle it is possible to save your dollars (approximately 23% of salary). The city provides so much to do, and there are so many travel opportunities and so much time given off that many teachers actually struggle to save any money at all…” – Columbus School Medellin (Medellin, Colombia) – 53 Total Comments

“While the money affords a very nice lifestyle in South-East Asia, saving money for a house or retirement in North America or Western Europe is nearly impossible…” – ELC International School (Selangor, Malaysia) – 48 Comments

“The package is based on the Canadian Dollar, so after you are deducted transfer fees to your bank in the West and you consider the conversion of the CAD to RMB, the savings is minimal…” – Canadian International School Kunshan (Kunshan, China) – 43 Comments

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