Visiting a foreign country is exciting. The best way to experience everything a different culture has to offer is by going out to eat, visiting museums, taking tours around, and going to events.
Going on vacation is one thing; living abroad in a foreign country is another matter. Splurging a little while seeing the top-rated tourist sites is great for a short visit. And, while many expats feel the same desire to experience the best restaurants and museums of their new home, budgeting for living expenses and long-term savings must take higher priority. Here’s how to save more and spend less when living abroad for an extended amount of time.
Spend responsibly on living expenses
Living expenses can add up quickly, especially when you’re still finding your way in a new city or country. It’s tempting to dive right into new adventures, but keep an eye on your overall financial stability and savings goals.
Looking for some ways to save? Cook at home, and invite new friends over, rather than going out to a restaurant every night of the week. Limit the souvenirs you buy for yourself and your family members; too often, these trinkets simply end up as dust collectors. Spend money on affordable experiences, which matter more in the long-run. And lastly, when booking your flights home or to your new country, be flexible to save on travel costs. Explore cheaper alternatives to air travel for day or weekend trips. These little things can make a big difference over time.
Do your research on where to live
It can be intimidating to find a new place to live when you relocate for the first time. It’s tempting to sign for the first reasonably-priced apartment you see and call it a day. However, this can be an expensive mistake. Do some research to the place where you are moving to learn about public transportation options, proximity to grocery stores and other amenities, and to price out rentals in different neighborhoods. Ask some of these questions when considering where to relocate:
- Is it cheaper to live outside the city center? (Don’t forget to factor in travel costs!)
- Do your coworkers have any advice, insight, or leads on where to stay?
- Where do other expats live? Find out where others from your home country have settled to give you access to a built-in community when you arrive.
Use public transportation
Many expats assume they will need to purchase a car to get around in a new country. However, many cities (and even smaller towns) offer good public transportation. Save money by getting around on existing infrastructure; it’s also a great way to immerse yourself in the rhythm and daily life of your new culture. “Some countries are big on the whole bicycling scene, so make sure you weigh up the different transportation options in order to help you save as much as possible.”
When adjusting to life in a new country, many expats seek out the familiar. They’ll look for shops and products that are the same as where they shopped back home. Unfortunately, this can put a significant dent in your budget. In general, imports cost more than local products; supermarkets dedicated to expats tend to be more expensive than those used by the community.
Wherever you relocate, make an effort to shop where the locals do. In Europe, for example, expats can save a ton of money by shopping at discounters such as Netto or Aldi. Even seeking out clothing stores that offer decent quality at a lower price can lead to big savings. Not only can you save money by shopping at local retailers, but expats also get the chance to learn how people in their new country really live. Immerse yourself in the sights and smells of your local market – and take advantage of the fresh produce while you’re there!
Save on international exchange fees
Transfer fees can add up quickly. If you’re maintaining bank accounts in two separate countries, or sending money to family back home, make sure to pay attention to international transaction fees and exchange fees. The best general advice is to avoid sending international money transfers via your bank. The experts at NerdWallet found that you’re likely to pay lower costs, not to mention the money will arrive faster, if you use a licensed money transfer company. Here are some good options for you:
Living and working abroad is a great adventure and a big opportunity. Plan ahead for how you will save money, and enjoy your time exploring a new culture!