Moving abroad is the culmination of a lot of planning and preparation and also, for many people, the result of lots of dreaming to land the job they really want.
The expat may have landed a fantastically well paid position but they still need to prepare thoroughly to avoid serious financial problems since they will need to manage their money between two countries with differing economies and currencies.Indeed, one of the main motivations for expats to move overseas for work is to earn substantially more than they would do otherwise which should, in theory, give them a great opportunity for saving money.
However, that is not always the case and financial experts in the Middle East say that many expats moving there get drawn into the expat lifestyle of spending everything they earn, driving expensive cars, having a large house and eating out in fine restaurants every night. That’s not the best way to go about saving.
So, here’s the Expat Focus guide to saving oodles of money.
1. Make a budget
Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. We should all really make a budget to plan how we are going to spend our income regardless of whether we are expats or still working in our home countries.
To make a successful budget, write down every expense and ensure these have been paid before spending money on anything else. This will force the reality of a financial situation because you’ll appreciate where your money is being spent.
By not spending money on unnecessary items, it’s easier to regain control on spending; and that creates a surplus which means saving is more likely.
A budget also enables the setting of priorities so if there is a particular financial goal, for instance, that you are aiming for then this particular process will enable the saver to reach their goal more quickly.
Another piece of advice when setting the budget is to allocate an amount of money to save every month so that the practice of actually saving money becomes a habit and the saver is creating what is effectively a rainy-day fund which may then pay for travelling or help pay for studies, for instance.
Another aspect when it comes to an expat saving money is to appreciate the local taxes you will be subject to. If you are unsure what these are, then get expert financial advice; most firms sending employees overseas will offer a financial expert with their relocation package which should include the provision of money advice.
This means the expat is not just budgeting on what they think they will be paid but on the actual amount, i.e. net, which is their income after tax so their budgeting is not only accurate but will enable the savings process to be easier.
Expats should not believe that by working overseas they will not be liable for local income tax because they will be making a huge, and probably very expensive, mistake in this instance.
Finally, on this tip of making a budget, it’s important that the expat keeps records of their expenses so they can track spending patterns. This way, when they need to create accurate budgets, which will vary through the year because of seasonal demands on their wallet such as Christmas, for instance, then they will be able to budget accordingly.
2. Compare prices
Again, a tip that is crucial for expats and non-expats alike is for them to compare prices for just about everything they need to buy.
This is a particularly good tip for expats who are new to their country because their lives are still disorganised and complicated and they are still really finding their feet. However, this doesn’t mean that they should simply accept the first offer for things like mobile phone providers.
This process is made much easier by using online price comparison websites which cover most needs including toiletries, cars and utility provision in most countries.
One good way for comparing prices is to speak with other expats, so networking could be crucial. The other expats may have saved lots of money on something an expat is about to spend a small fortune on. Don’t be shy about asking since they will usually be proud about how much they saved and how they managed to do it.
Networking with other expats also leads to other money saving ideas which can be easily applied and will help boost the prospect for saving money while working overseas.
In addition, many countries now have their own expat online forums where long-term residents exchange ideas freely to help save money and boost the enjoyment levels for the expats staying there.
Moving overseas also brings with it other expenses that some expats may not be prepared for; for instance they may be legally required to take out private healthcare insurance cover. Some employee relocation packages will provide this but it’s always wise to check since the expat may be left with a hefty medical bill if they do not have cover.
3. Change your lifestyle
We’ve already mentioned that many expats are drawn into an expensive lifestyle because they believe that is what’s expected of them but they don’t just work overseas to further their career as saving money is important so they shouldn’t turn their back on this opportunity.
This means that by living a simple lifestyle the expat should be able to save money on everyday living costs. Indeed, just because an expat is working overseas does not mean they should not be living within their means.
Even if they have moved to a country that has a higher cost of living than their own, they should make lifestyle changes if they want to save money and enjoy their posting.
One of these ideas may be to live closer to work so the expat has a short commute time with little cost. It also means they don’t need a car, which can be very expensive in some countries, and they can walk to work or use public transport. They will also be saving time.
Indeed, in some towns and cities it may make more sense to ride a bike to work; these can be bought or hired in many places. For instance, in Zürich cycling to work is the cheapest option for a commute and other European cities also have hefty public transport costs and make driving and owning a car expensive to deter people from doing so.
Also, expats who move to the Netherlands will appreciate that the Dutch cycle everywhere and most cities are geared to delivering a safe cycling experience so the expat will save money and get fit as well. Again, there are lots of second-hand bike outlets with cycles on offer at a range of prices.
Some expats may be given a travel allowance by their employer and they may not insist on it being spent just for that purpose which means, effectively, the money can be saved.
4. Find cheaper housing
The previous tip of changing an expat’s lifestyle also means they should consider the subject of housing. This is likely to be the largest expenditure for all expats.
Finding affordable housing is going to be challenging if the expat has not been helped by their employer, but the struggle to find a cheap home also extends to the local people as well.
And because the expat is new to the country they may use an agent who might not be cheap and will offer relatively expensive properties.
However, if the expat could compromise on the type of property they want to live in and save a substantial amount on the rent, their living costs are much lower and they will save more.
5. Buy second-hand
This tip will not be at the forefront of most expats’ plans when they are thinking of moving overseas but there are two considerations why it should be; do they really need to take their belongings with them to a new country and do they really need to buy brand-new items for their new home?
Let’s be honest, having to buy furniture, a bike or electrical items is not going to be cheap so it makes sense to buy second-hand goods which are probably fairly new anyway. It may also help to make contact with other expats, particularly those who are leaving the country, and offer to buy their belongings (May and June are, apparently, popular months for expats to move on and many will be looking to sell their goods before starting life in a new country).
Once in the new country, an expat can find out where the best places are for buying second-hand goods. However, it may be a good idea to take along another expat who’s lived in the country for some time or a local person to ensure that the expat is not being fleeced with higher prices or with dangerous goods.
This is also a good opportunity to visit things like flea markets which offer a wide range of quality items at a very cheap price. Most countries also have the equivalent of charity shops or dollar stores.
It may sound trite but expats can save lots of money by choosing carefully where they shop for their groceries and clothes. Many Pacific-region countries have supermarkets dedicated for expats but they are much more expensive than those used by local people.
Indeed, even in Europe expats can save a small fortune by using discounters such as Netto or Aldi rather than larger, better known supermarket chains. This may mean eating food the expat is unfamiliar with but this is part and parcel of moving overseas.
This idea of saving money on shopping also extends to saving money on clothes; lots of cheaper retailers offering decent quality clothes at a much lower price than many better known chain stores. Expats should always consider shopping for cheaper items so they can save money.
Also, when out shopping, expats should regularly use markets where the produce is fresh and cheap and offers a great insight into how local people actually live.
7. Offshore bank accounts
There are lots of reasons why expats working and living overseas should get themselves an offshore bank account but the main ones include having easy access to cash and managing transactions more easily.
There also various tax advantages for holding funds offshore while working overseas and most accounts enable an expat to manage their investments and savings in a tax efficient way.
Offshore bank accounts also enable the expat to convert currencies easily and cheaply when sending money home.
However, expats should also open a local bank account which will help with day-to-day banking needs.
Also, those expats who may not meet the criteria for an offshore bank account need to sign up with a forex platform so they can exchange currency at better rates or at least for a smaller fee. Many forex broker platforms also enable clients to choose when the best time for exchanging currency is, which helps bring down fees so changing money is much cheaper.
To help deal with the currency fluctuations, it may be worthwhile for the expat to consider having their savings in US dollars which may be a better long-term option for expats who believe they will be overseas for several years, particularly in the Middle East. They will save money in currency transactions and the stability of the US dollar may save them a small fortune compared to if they had been transferring their money into sterling, for instance.
We all know that saving money as an expat is not always an easy task but financial experts will tell their clients that saving is an important habit to fall into even if the amount being saved is not very large. It’s also important to start saving early and to begin investing in pensions and other long-term investments to pay for an expat’s retirement.
Saving early also gives time for the money to grow and help smooth out market volatility; there’s no doubt that by saving a small amount over a long period time will grow into an effective and significant nest egg for an expat’s retirement plans.
Essentially, those are the best practical tips for saving oodles of money as an expat and help ensure that a lucrative overseas posting becomes a lucrative savings plan too. Good luck!