Friday, 10 October 2008

Budgeting Tips for Teachers Abroad

Updated 12 February 2013  

Things That Your Employer Might Provide
The Middle East offers the best teaching packages with higher salaries and a lot more perks and benefits than the ones you'll find below. What's the best country to teach in? has more information.
  • Pre-Paid flight
  • Furnished housing
  • Meals at the school
  • Settling-in allowance
  • Settling-in loan
  • Transportation allowance
  • Medical / health insurance
  • Contract completion bonus
Your Start-up Budget
Costs vary depending on where you go and who you will be working for. Some countries prefer to hire teachers who are already in the country, such as Taiwan and Japan. In that case you'll need more money to survive until you find a job and get paid.
    • Flight: Around $1000, depending on where you're going.
    • Housing: Don't forget that many places are completely unfurnished. Some places require the first and last months' rent, key money (a deposit), or real estate agent fees. In Korea you pay key money and the first month's rent. Key money varies widely. The more key money you put down, the lower your rent. If you put enough down (usually $80,000 and up) you live there rent free for two years. Think of budgeting about $400 to $800 dollars for rent. In China you'll probably have to the pay first and last months' rent, plus the realtor fee. Rent is around $250-$500 a month. In Japan key money is more like a bribe that you pay to the apartment manager and realtor. This fees varies between 2-5 times as much as 1 month's rent. Rent can be from $500 to $700 a month.
    • Meals are often cheap if you eat the local food. You can also eat cheaply if you cook your own food.
    • Transportation: Often if you buy a bus / subway pass, you can get a bit of a discount on the local transport.
    • Travel: Be sure to budget enough for all the flights, transport, and meals. Checking out make money to travel for more ideas.


    • First month: You probably won't get paid until you work for an entire month so bring enough money to live on.

    Saving for the Future


    Are you ready for the future? Budgeting in the Fun Stuff has a quick test for you to take. Getting rid of debt, spending less than you make, getting insurance, and setting aside money will help you. Some people are able to build a nice nest egg while teaching overseas, especially those in the Middle East, parts of Asia, or international schools.

    The best advice is to diversify. There are lots of ways to save: CDs, ETFs, mutual funds, index funds, Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs, stocks, bonds, high interest savings accounts, property, and the list goes on. Check out eToro, Vanguard, Etrade, ScotTrade, and Fidelty. 20 Something Finance, Money-Zine's Index funds, and Smart Passive Income's free ebook are good places to start.

    Creating a Budget
    Think about all your expenses: rent, food, transport, going out, cell phone bills, etc and then allocate how much money you need for each item. Create a savings section on your budget and cut down on unnecessary items, such as coffee or clothes. Try creating a "treat" section on your budget where all the extras like shopping or nights out fall can go. Go for quality not quantity. Instead of buying a $3 every day buy new shoes for $50 once a month.

    Look over your budget and see where you can cut back. Try bringing your lunch three times a week? You can then put that money into your savings account, towards your retirement, credit cards, or paying for a large purchase like a car. If you can save $15 a week that's $780 a year. Creating a budget is the easy part but sticking to it is the hard part. When you go out only take the money you need.

    One thing that's helpful is separating your money. Use envelopes: one for rent, another for bills, such as water, phone, etc. Paying with cash is probably the best thing to do. Although it's hard at first it gets easier and you'll find you have money left over at the end of the month. For more ideas check out 10,001 ways to live large on a small budget and budgeting tips from self-made millionaires.

    Also published in . . .
    This article has also been published in the ELT Times.

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