How to Live a Very Good Life Abroad on a Very Tight Budget
Whilst we can all sit and dream of a perfect life living overseas on a beautiful Caribbean island, surrounded by luxury and splendour, the reality for most of us is that we’d have to win the lottery to achieve a lifestyle like that. Despite this fact however, there is nothing stopping any of us from achieving a better life abroad – even if we currently live on a fairly tight budget!
The fact of the matter is, there are places where your current budget will stretch much further, there are places where you can perhaps increase the amount you have to live on each month, and there are some excellent expatriate tips that will see you living very well for whatever you have to spend each month, because you’ll learn how to live like a local abroad.
In this report we want to show you that you don’t have to be restricted by the financial constraints in your life – and if your dream is to one day escape from your current lifestyle and move abroad in search of adventure and fulfillment, money doesn’t have to be a barrier in your way and holding you back.
Where Will Your Money Buy You More?
The US dollar is in relatively good health these days, compared to the British pound and the ever more vulnerable euro – but whichever major currency you have in your pocket, there are places in the world where it can stretch far further. Britons looking to stretch their budget would be best advised against the eurozone at the moment, but Americans could certainly contemplate Eastern Europe if they want to buy more with their dollars. Countries such as Bulgaria, Romania and stunning Croatia remain very affordable if you’re prepared to step off the beaten track for example.
Other countries such as those in the Central and Southern Americas or in Asia can offer a good choice for all. Consider India, The Philippines, Costa Rica or Nicaragua if you’re really tight on money – or Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil, Panama or Belize if you have just a little more in your pocket and you want a bit more familiarity or accessibility in terms of your lifestyle.
Do your currency and country research, looking on forums and expatriate sites to compare the cost of living overseas to that which you’re used to paying at home – find out where your currency will buy you more, and where your tight budget is actually a small fortune in the local environment. Such research will literally pay dividends and allow you to find somewhere where you can afford to live well abroad.
There are a number of resources you can use to help you choose a country based on the cost of living, both Mercer and the Economist Intelligence Unit provide cost of living indices; summaries of both appear on the Internet for free. Full access is extremely costly however, so try a relatively new resource called Numbeo.com for a free cost of living comparison.
You’ll need to look at rental costs, basic food and fuel needs and once you are sure you can afford the basics in life, anything you have left in your bank account or wallet at the end of the month will be a bonus that you can put towards enjoying life and getting the very most out of your new destination abroad.
What Can You Do to Enhance Your Budget
In your current hometown perhaps you’re restricted by the local economy in terms of that which you can earn. Maybe there are few employers, few employment opportunities and you’d have to travel too far to find anything in the way of gainful and well paying work. Maybe you’re a stay at home mom who doesn’t have the luxury of expensive childcare available to you because of the budget you have to play with each week – naturally, caring for your kids means you have limited time available to offer to an employer. Alternatively, perhaps you’re living on a fixed pension income?
Well, it’s incredible how moving country and really setting out and committing to changing your life for the better can move mountains in all fundamental areas of your life. It can cement relationships, forge new friendships, and it’s an undertaking that can certainly open your eyes to a world of new opportunity.
Moving abroad seems to knock the blinkers off even the least blinkered people you know! In other words, you will find that by living overseas you’ll suddenly be able to sniff out and even create opportunities where once perhaps you would have seen none…
As a foreigner abroad you may be able to bring new skills and new experiences to the local people that they will pay or barter and swap to learn. You could swap English language lessons for a friend’s children after school for her babysitting your own children by night to allow you to go out and work a bar job occasionally. You could perhaps teach the sewing, cooking or homemaking skills you take for granted at a local college or school for much valued cash.
Maybe you could see an opportunity for importing something from your old home nation for sale to the new local community. Or, conversely, maybe there are crafts or goods that you can work with someone in your old home nation to export and sell on for profit?
If you find you move to an area of high seasonal tourism, maybe you can secure a seasonal job doing anything from acting as a tour guide to an entertainer in a tourism hotel. Alternatively, find out if there are there cash paying jobs available to those willing to help with a local harvest. Or could you write about your experiences abroad and sell your works to travel resources online of offline?
People often find that because they are no longer fettered by social constraints once they relocate, they can be far freer, far more open, creative and even pushy when it comes to requesting employment, or creating opportunities for paid work.
How Can You Make Your Money Stretch Further Abroad
Having identified a country you can move to live in and afford a decent standard of living, and perhaps having worked on ways you can enhance your budget, it’s time to explore some expatriate tips for living well on a tight budget – by learning to live as the locals do!
Never shop where the tourists shop – no matter how easy it seems to go to the local supermarket and fill your basket with named and known brands, you will be paying a massive premium for so doing! Set tolearning the local language and get out and practice it, take a phrase book or dictionary with you, and head for the local market, the local butcher, baker and greengrocer. As long as you don’t turn up at their busiest time and practice your new language skills on them, you will be amazed how positive and happy they will be to see you making a real effort to fully integrate.
Give it time – don’t expect friendly faces and customer loyalty perks immediately. But if you use the same shops and work hard at perfecting at least the basics of the local language, after a couple of months you will be enjoying the better prices and better deals.
If you’re going to purchase a big price tag item such as a new sofa, refrigerator or even perhaps a car, it pays to have some local knowledge, some local language skills and some bartering experience too. It can, in fact, make sense for you to take along a trusted local friend or colleague to help. Just as you would back home, make sure you shop around, ask for a discount, and then state the most that you’re willing to pay! Don’t be too forward or the shopkeeper/salesperson will think you’re rude and turn their back; but do be open, rather than cocky, and show that you’re really in the market and just want to find a good deal. If you can pay in cash you will find most places will be far more willing to give you a generous reduction in the cost of large purchases especially if you are buying more than one item.
If you’re moving to a very different climate than the one you’re used to you’re going to need to acclimatise to economise! Those who move to hot countries and live in air-conditioned ‘comfort’ will soon rack up a massive electricity bill for example. So, buy a fan, leave windows open, favour mosquito nets and blinds to a sterile, cold, air-conditioned reality and you’ll save massively on fuel.
At the same time, if you relocate somewhere colder, layer up, wear a hat, watch how the locals cope with the weather and find ways to save on fuel by perhaps having an open fire, and working to earn wood to burn on it at a local farm where they maybe have scrap wood lying around that you can legitimately take home with you at the end of the day.
The Number One Tip for Living Well Abroad on a Tight Budget
Perhaps the number one tip available, and the one that really sums up all that has been written above, is be adaptable when you relocate abroad. Don’t take all your old ways, beliefs, customs and habits with you – be prepared to change, to learn, to find ways around and ways forward, open your mind and see opportunity rather than obstacles. Those who are open, friendly, positive and adaptable will find it far easier to make good and lasting, true friends abroad, and through these contacts your life will be enhanced as well.
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.